An overview of Systemic-Functional Linguistics By Prof. Mariángeles Salazar
FUNCTIONALISM • The interest for semantic component, as conceived in Chomsky’s m in their model (Transformational-Generative Grammar), has originated much research in the field of meaning. In this sense, linguistic studies have been placed in a multidisciplinary field where psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics have been very productive in their contributions to an understanding of the reality of human language. Michael Halliday is one of the most relevant authors who have devoted themselves to the study of language from a functional perspective with a strong emphasis on the social aspect.
FUNCTIONALISM • Is the theory underlying systemic-Functional Grammar. • Language is a system in which «linguistic elements are viewed and classified according to their function» (Pei and Gaynor, 1980, p.79). • Systemic-Functional Linguistics is based on a conceptual framework that is functional rather than formal. «It is functional in the sense that it is design to account for how language is used» ( Halliday, 1985, p. Xiii) It is concerned with the way language is organized in order to fulfill communicative functions in the total linguistic system. Each part is functional with respect to the whole system.
Some Basic Tenets • Systemic functional linguistics views language as a form of doing rather than knowing: • CAN DO versus DOES • L.B.P A.L.P
Some Basic Tenets • Meaning Potential • According to Halliday (1976, p.9), the human being has a potential capacity to mean what s/he wants to mean in a certain context, therefore, meaning potential is defined as a set of options and the ability to select appropriately within them. • «It is very important for you to write your papers. They will give you the opportunity to learn about a theme and to practice your writing skills» A. L. B
Some Basic Tenets • Language: Is a system: a range of options available to the individual (L.B.P) which fulfills social functions and which is reflected in the linguistic structure of actual speech (A.L.B) • SITUATION Will determine • LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS • LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS • LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS Which will be fulfilled by • LANGUAGE SYSTEMS (options) • LANGUAGE SYSTEMS (options) • LANGUAGE SYSTEMS (options) Which contain • GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURES
Some Basic Tenets • CLINES: Scales on which all the points shade into each other- • GRAMMATICALITY: Is a continuum rather than a dichotomy grammatical/ungrammatical. Therefore, a scale (a cline) of grammaticality is presented: • DELICACY: Determines the degree of detail in the analysis (Morley, 1985, p. 24) UNGRAMMATICAL MORE UNUSUALL GRAMMATICAL LESS UNUSUAL LESS USUAL (UNUSUAL) GRAMMATICAL MORE USUAL (USUAL) LESS DELICATE MORE DELICATE Berry, 1977, p.28
Some Basic Tenets The scale of delicacy can also be applied to rank: THE BOYS WASHED THE CAR THE GIRLS CLEANED UP THE FLOOR Each of these groups, except one, contains two words. This is the simplest segmentation. The highest degree of analysis in this case show that the sentence consists of eleven words. • SENTENCECLAUSEGROUPWORD Less delicate More delicate
Some Basic Tenets • Another important aspect of Systemic-Functional Linguistic is the view that language has three primary levels: SUBSTANCE, FORM and SITUATION. • SUBSTANCE: Is the material of language, the sounds we use when we speak and the symbols when we write. It can be divided into PHONIC substance and GRAPHIC substance. • FORM: Is concerned with the arrangement of the substance into recognizable and meaningful English patterns. It can be divided into LEXIS and GRAMMAR • LEXIS: Individual items of language and the patterns in which those items occur.
Some Basic Tenets • GRAMMAR: It has to do with MORPHOLOGY (linguistic items: nouns, verbs, etc.) (classes of ling and SYNTAX (arrangement of patterns in which classes of linguistic items occur) • EXAMPLE: A) Betty drives well B) Maria dances elegantly The first item is a proper name, while the second item is a verb and the third term is and adverb: Betty and Maria belong to the same class of item (proper name) as well as drive and dances (verb), and well and elegantly (adverb). Betty drives well has the same grammatical pattern as Maria dances elegantly. This grammatical pattern is a common one in English: a member of the proper name class of item is followed by a member of the verb class of item and an adverb in final position. The fact that two utterances are grammatically equivalent does not mean that they are also lexically equivalent.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • Examine the following pairs of utterances. For each of them, identify differences and /or similarities in FORM: Are the two groups grammatically different/same? Are they lexically different/ same? Can you identify any uncommon collocation? a) The pregnant lady/ The pregnant table. b) The man slept/ The sleeping man c) The girl pretty/ The pretty girl d) The icy sun / The burning sun
Some Basic Tenets • SITUATION: The situation in which a stretch of language is used. It can be divided into: • THESIS: Is what is being talk about • INMMEDIATE SITUATION: Is precisely the situation in which an utterance is actually used. • WIDER SITUATION: Includes anything in the past experience of the speaker or writer which leads him to choose that particular utterance and to formulate it in the way that he does.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • Provide suitable immediate and wider situations for the following utterances. Feel free to use your imagination. a) Oh, that crying baby b) May I have some coffee before we start? c) You’d better go to the doctor d) What? Right now? Great! See you there!
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • Study the following pairs utterances. Which interlevel is acting between substance and form in each case? Phonology? Graphology? Both? a) She is leaving tomorrow. Is she leaving tomorrow? b) Their progress was remarkable They progress remarkably c) The prophecy was accurate They are able to prophecy accurately d) Form/fork; Like/bike; bet /vet
Some Basic Tenets • CONTEXT: Is the interlevel which links form and situation. It is concerned with the relationships between form: lexical items, word classes and patterns, on the other hand, and the situation: thesis, immediate and wider situation, on the other. Such functions are explained below: • The relationship between the elements is known as MEANING. • Context also links the elements of lexis and the elements of the immediate situation. i.e. Cigarette and fag.
Some Basic Tenets • Context also links the elements grammar and immediate situation. i.e. a) bring the book. B) Would you bring the book? Same thesis, different immediate situation. • The relationship between grammar and the wider situation. i.e. he’s a good lad is Ross (North of England)
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • A. think of any situation that requires language use and specify the meaning potential associated with it, as well as the possible options of actual linguistic behavior. • Give explanations of the use of the terms systemic and functional to describe this trend of linguistics. • The English system of tense is: • TENSE: PRESENT-PAST-FUTURE Using the scale of delicacy, what other segmentations are possible?
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • Examine and describe form in the following utterances: • The hard cotton • The house huge • The man works hard/ the hard working man • The sun gleamed brightly/ The sun's bright gleam • A black girl/ A black Blondie • How are substance and form linked in the following pairs of utterances? • Hi./hi • Thing/ sing • You do!/ Do you? • Those are his new devices/ He devices a new plan every week.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY • What kind of relationship is context concerned within the following pairs of utterances? • Nice to meet you/ How do you do? • Hi, doc./ Good morning doctor. • Pick me up at six. / Will you pick me up at six?