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Open Linguistics Series

The Open Linguistics Series, to which this book makes a significant contribution, is
'open' in two senses. First, it provides an open forum for works associated with any
school of linguistics or with none. Linguistics has now emerged from a period in
which many (but never all) of the most lively minds in the subject seemed to
assume that transformational-generative grammar - or at least something fairly
closely derived from it - would provide the main theoretical framework for
linguistics for the foreseeable future. In Kuhn's terms, linguistics had appeared to
some to have reached the 'paradigm' stage. Reality today is very different. More
and more scholars are working to improve and expand theories that were formerly
scorned for not accepting as central the particular set of concerns highlighted in the
Chomskyan approach - such as Halliday's systemic theory (as exemplified in this
book) Lamb's stratificational model and Pike's tagmemics - while others are
developing new theories. The series is open to all approaches, then - including
work in the generativist-formalist tradition.
The second sense in which the series is 'open' is that it encourages works that
open out 'core' linguistics in various ways: to encompass discourse and the descrip-
tion of natural texts; to explore the relationship between linguistics and its
neighbouring disciplines such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, artificial
intelligence, and cultural and literary studies; and to apply it in fields such as
education and language pathology.
Open Linguistics Series Editor
Robin F. Fawcett, University of Wales College of Cardiff
Modal Expressions in English, Michael R. Perkins
Text and Tagmeme, Kenneth L. Pike and Evelyn G. Pike
The Semiotics of Culture and Language, eds: Robin P. Fawcett, M.A.K. Halliday,
Sydney M. Lamb and Adam Makkai
Into the Mother Tongue: A Case Study in Early Language Development, Clare Painter
Language and the Nuclear Arms Debate: Nukespeak Today, ed: Paul Chilton
The Structure of Social Interaction: A Systemic Approach to the Semiotics of Service Encounters,
Eija Ventola
Grammar in the Construction of Texts, ed.: J ames Monaghan
On Meaning, A.J. Griemas, trans. by Paul Perron and Frank Collins
Biological Metaphor and Cladistic Classification: An Interdisciplinary Approach, eds: Henry
M. Hoenigswald and Linda F. Wiener
New Developments in Systemic Linguistics, Volume 1: Theory and Description, eds: M.A.K.
Halliday and Robin P .. Fawcett
Volume 2: Theory and Application, eds: Robin P. Fawcett and David Young
Eloquence and Power: The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Language, John Earl
Functions of Style, eds: David Birch and Michael O'Toole
Registers of Written English: Situational Factors and Linguistic Features, ed.: Mohsen
Pragmatics, Discourse and Text, ed.: Erich H. Steiner and Robert Veltman
The Communicative Syallabus, Robin Melrose
Advances in Systemic Linguistics: Recent Theory and Practice, eds.: Martin Davies and
Louise Ravelli
Studies in Systemic Phonology, ed: Paul Tench
Ecolinguistics: Towards a New Paradigm for the Science of Language, Adam Makkai
Theory and Practice
Edited by
Pinter Publishers
London and New York
Distributed in the United States and Canada by St. Martin's Press
Open Linguistics Series
The Open Linguistics Series, to which this book makes a significant contribution, is
'open' in two senses. First, it provides an open forum for works associated with any
school of linguistics or with none. Linguistics has now emerged from a period in
which many (but never all) of the most lively minds in the subject seemed to
assume that transformational-generative grammar - or at least something fairly
closely derived from it - would provide the main theoretical framework for
linguistics for the foreseeable future. In Kuhn's terms, linguistics had appeared to
some to have reached the 'paradigm' stage. Reality today is very different. More
and more scholars are working to improve and expand theories that were formerly
scorned for not accepting as central the particular set of concerns highlighted in the
Chomskyan approach - such as Halliday's systemic theory (as exemplified in this
book) Lamb's stratificational model and Pike's tagmemics - while others are
developing new theories. The series is open to all approaches, then - including
work in the generativist-formalist tradition.
The second sense in which the series is 'open' is that it encourages works that
open out 'core' linguistics in various ways: to encompass discourse and the descrip-
tion of natural texts; to explore the relationship between linguistics and its
neighbouring disciplines such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, artificial
intelligence, and cultural and literary studies; and to apply it in fields such as
education and language pathology.
Open Linguistics Series Editor
Robin F. Fawcett, University of Wales College of Cardiff
Modal Expressions in English, Michael R. Perkins
Text and Tagmeme, Kenneth L. Pike and Evelyn G. Pike
The Semiotics of Culture and Language, eds: Robin P. Fawcett, M.A.K. Halliday,
Sydney M. Lamb and Adam Makkai
Into the Mother Tongue: A Case Study in Early Language Development, Clare Painter
Language and the Nuclear Arms Debate: Nukespeak Today, ed: Paul Chilton
The Structure of Social Interaction: A Systemic Approach to the Semiotics of Service Encounters,
Eija Ventola
Grammar in the Construction of Texts, ed.: J ames Monaghan
On Meaning, A.J. Griemas, trans. by Paul Perron and Frank Collins
Biological Metaphor and Cladistic Classification: An Interdisciplinary Approach, eds: Henry
M. Hoenigswald and Linda F. Wiener
New Developments in Systemic Linguistics, Volume 1: Theory and Description, eds: M.A.K.
Halliday and Robin P. Fawcett
Volume 2: Theory and Application, eds: Robin P. Fawcett and David Young
Eloquence and Power: The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Language, John Earl
Functions of Style, eds: David Birch and Michael O'Toole
Registers of Written English: Situational Factors and Linguistic Features, ed.: Mohsen
Pragmatics, Discourse and Text, ed.: Erich H. Steiner and Robert Veltman
The Communicative Syallabus, Robin Melrose
Advances in Systemic Linguistics: Recent Theory and Practice, eds.: Martin Davies and
Louise Ravelli
Studies in Systemic Phonology, ed: Paul Tench
Ecolinguistics: Towards a New Paradigm for the Science of Language, Adam Makkai
Theory and Practice
Edited by
Pinter Publishers
London and New York
Distributed in the United States and Canada by St. Martin's Press
Pint er Publishers
25 Floral Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DS, United Kingdom
First published in 1993
The editor and contributors, 1993
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Distributed exclusively in the USA and Canada by St. Martin's Press, Inc., Room
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 1 85567 123 9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Register analysis: theory and practice / edited by Mohsen Ghadessy.
p. cm. - (Open linguistics series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-85567-123-9
1. Register (Linguistics) 1. Ghadessy, Mohsen, 1935-
n. Series.
P302.815.R45 1993
Typeset by Mayhew Typesetting, Rhayader, Powys
Printed and bound in Great Britain by BiddIes Ltd., Guildford and King's Lynn
to my father
List of contributors
Mohsen Ghadessy
Part I. Practice and theory
1. 'Register' in discourse studies: a concept in search of a theory 7
Robert de Beaugrande
2. The specification of a text: register, genre and language
Helen Leckie- Tarry
Part H. Controlling and changing ideologies
3. Drama praxis and the dialogic imperative
David Birch
4. Evaluation and ideology in scientific writing
Susan Hunston
Part HI. The role of metaphor: grammatical and lexical
5. The discourse of history: distancing the recoverable past
Suzanne Eggins, Peter Wignell and j. R. Martin
6. Species of metaphor in written and spoken varieties
Andrew Goatly
Part IV. Quantitative evidence for register analysis
7. On the nature of written business communication 149
Mohsen Ghadessy
8. Pragmatic and macrothematic patterns in science and popular
science: a diachronic study of articles from three fields 165
Britt-Louise Gunnarsson
Part V. Computer applications
9. Text processing using the Functional Grammar Processor (FGP) 181
Jonathan J. Webster
10. Collocation in computer modelling of lexis as most delicate
Marilyn Cross
Part VI. A unified theory of register analysis
11. Register in the round: diversity in a unified theory of register
Christian Matthiessen
Name index
Subject index
List of contributors
David Birch, School of Humanities, English Department, Murdoch Univer-
sity, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
Marilyn Cross, School of English and Linguistics, Macquarie University,
NSW 2109, Australia
Robert de Beaugrande, Institute fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Univer-
sitatsstr. 7., A 1010-Wien, Austria
Suzanne Eggins, Linguistics Department, Sydney University, Sydney,
Mohsen Ghadessy, Department of English Language and Literature, National
University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore 0511
Andrew Goatly, Department of English Language and Literature, National
University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore 0511
Britt-Louise Gunnarsson, Uppsala University, FUMS, Box 1834, S-751 48
Uppsala, Sweden
Susan Hunston, English Language Institute, University of Surrey,
Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH, England
Helen Leckie- Tarry, Clo Dr David Birch
Christian Matthiessen, Linguistics Department, Sydney University, Sydney,
J R Martin, Linguistics Department, Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
J J Webster, Department of Applied Linguistics, City Polytechnic of Hong
Kong, 83 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Peter Wignall, Linguistics Department, Sydney University, Sydney,
As a sub-discipline of linguistics, Register Analysis has been developing
very fast in the last few decades. Many people are now working with
examples of genuine texts in the hope of establishing the linguistic features
that characterize each. This book includes a number of such attempts. The
first two chapters are introductory; the next eight are examples of how
register analysis can be carried out. The final chapter brings the different
approaches to register analysis under a unified theory of register. Several
of the chapters base their analyses on the Systemic Functional Theory of
grammar proposed by Michael Halliday.
Mohsen Ghadessy
Singapore, February 1992
The analysis of genuine texts has for some time been a necessary part of
several courses in the study of language. Text linguistics, discourse
analysis, pragmatics, and register and genre variation all depend, except
in the case of examples from fiction, on communicative events that have
actually taken place. The purpose of this book is to focus on register
analysis, which has been a strong research area in linguistics for several
decades. The book will provide some background information and
\ guidelines for the student - undergraduate/graduate - interested in the
functional varieties of the English language. The first two chapters
introduce the subject; the others show how register analysis can be carried
out. All the chapters are self-contained and draw upon a number of
theories and models proposed by modern linguists. The systemic functional
model of Michael Halliday plays a prominent part in several of these
Background: practice and theory
In the first chapter, de Beaugrande provides a detailed account of the
emergence and development of the concept of REGISTER. Through a
critical analysis of similar concepts proposed by Pike, i.e. 'the universe of
discourse' and Firth, i.e. 'restricted languages', de Beaugrande highlights
some of the inherent problems these early linguists encountered in their
respective descriptions. The bulk of this chapter, however, is given to a
discussion of Michael Halliday's approach in register analysis and the
central problem of how the concept of register can account for the
'processes' which relate 'the features of the text' to 'the abstract categories
of the speech situation'. In relation to the latter, the categories of FIELD,
MODE and TENOR are then introduced and discussed. De Beaugrande
quotes Halliday that field, mode and tenor can 'make explicit the means
whereby the observer can derive the systematic norms governing the
particulars of the text'.
De Beaugrande maintains that in most register analyses 'The practical
has run well ahead of the theoretical ... ' and that 'Halliday's own central
theoretical work, An Introduction to Functional Grammar, so far backs away
from it in a somewhat disappointing way'. De Beaugrande calls for a
reassessment of the concept of register in the light of recent developments
in discourse analysis, text linguistics, and discourse processing. ' ... future
work must include having everyday speakers describe the registers they
know and the ways they use them'. Regular 'systematic assistance' should
be given to school children in 'developing or diversifying their range of
registers'. De Beaugrande concludes by giving a few guidelines for register
analysis with the 'vital' criterion being ' ... how the participants in situa-
tion types view their discourse and how far they in fact adapt their general
discourse strategies to fit the type ... '. Thus a 'more comprehensive
engagement with the notion of register' is called for.
In the second chapter Leckie-Tarry compares the concept of REGISTER
with the concept of GENRE and discusses some of the implications for the
teaching of English in ESP courses. As in the first chapter, due credit is
given to the pioneering work of Michael Halliday on register analysis.
However, consequent 'theoretical changes and developments' are made the
focus of her following arguments - the central issue being the development
of 'a model that shows systematically how text is related to context'.
Leckie-Tarry maintains that there is 'considerable variation in the defini-
tions and conceptualizations of "register" and "genre"'. There is some
overlapping; a basic misinterpretation being that 'register' refers primarily
to 'linguistic features'. Leckie-Tarry suggests that the term register is now
associated with 'primary or simple genres' while genre is related to 'secon-
dary or complex genres'. Also, many practitioners use the two terms 'inter-
changeably'. The firm conclusion of this chapter is that ' ... any attempt
to characterise language, or variation within a language, must work
through the concepts of register and genre, and ... any characterisation
of register/genre ... must specify both contextual features at various levels
as well as linguistic features'.
Controlling and changing ideologies
David Birch initially puts forward a forceful argument for 'deictic shifts'
which 'signal different points of view' which then 'signal different realities'
which subsequently 'determine and are determined by (multiple)
ideologies'. Defining PRAXIS as 'a process of analysis and action designed
to bring about change', and 'Bakhtin/Voloshinov's DIALOGIC IMPERATIVE
as the process by which 'one meaning - one voice - is able, always, to
influence, and be influenced by, another meaning, another voice', he then
selects passages from several modern playwrights such as Pinter, Beckett,
Harris, and Albee and shows that there is in any use of language 'a strug-
gle for dominance; a struggle to bring about change'. For example, he
discusses how 'control' is exercised by a number of linguistic devices in the
language of drama. His firm conclusion is that all types of texts are
'distinct imperative acts aimed at influencing the thoughts and actions of
other people'. Our lexical and grammatical selections are not 'innocent
choices'. There is always 'a struggle for power which results in
ideologically conflicting registers; ideologically different systems of classify-
ing and controlling the world ... '.
Susan Hunston's contribution deals with the complexity of 'scientific
ideology' and how writers in the field attempt to follow the
conventions in this register. Considering a written text as representmg an
'interaction between a writer and a reader' and as playing 'a role in a
particular social system', she further develops. the. argument . the
'ideologies' surrounding a text 'constrain choices m dIscourse orgamsatIOn,
grammar and lexis'. One important aspect, i.e. 'the is then
analysed in terms of 'evaluation' in a number of sCIentIfic texts
experimental research articles. Arguing that is 'one. of the
chief functions' of a research article, Hunston considers three kmds of
evaluation which she calls 'evaluation of STATUS, evaluation of VALUE',
and 'evaluation of RELEVANCE'. Each kind is then defined and
exemplified extensively by using appropriate texts .. In her
remarks Hunston discusses the relevance of her findmgs to the teachmg
of in general and scientific register in particular. She stresses,
others, that the 'interpersonal function', especially w.hen the
system is used, is of crucial importance in writing. The Ideology of
'is not a monolithic homogeneous entity but a complex of subtle meshmg
of contradictory notions'. Hunston unravels some of this complexity by
showing how the 'internal evaluation' is linguistically realized m
experimental research articles.
The role of metaphor
The chapter by Eggins et al. is a good example of how can do .register
analysis by looking at the language of one type of discourse, l.e: the
discipline of history. By using passages from high school hlsto?
textbooks used in New South Wales, AustralIa, they show how thiS
discourse 'maximises the distance between what people actually did and
how it gets written about'. Fundamental to their analysis and conclusi?ns
is the notion of GRAMMATICAL METAPHOR, i.e. 'the incongruent realIsa-
tions of semantic choices'. Grammatical metaphor is then exemplified
through several processes which include 'nominalising actions, giving
things existence, making things act, setting in time, phase, doings acting,
doings acted on' and 'people as actors in history' - the 'cumulative effect'
being 'to remove the story from history'.
Claiming that 'the removal of people as actors' in history 'can be seen
as a cline'. Eggins et al. then examine in some detail four different types
of text to show how the technology of history shunts along the scale
between 'the more story-like' to 'the more abstract'. In the final part of
the chapter, the technology of history, i.e. 'the process of a story
into history' - 'a process of abstraction', is further discussed With reference
to the register variable of MODE. Two kinds of 'distance', i.e. 'inter-
personal' and 'experiential' are then highlighted con.clusi?n that
'highly incongruent language' would be produced If m a SituatIOn the
above two 'distances' were maximal. 'The "story of people" serves only
as the point of departure in (the) process of distancing the recoverable
past', they conclude.
In contrast to describing the linguistic features that are distinctive of one
register, Andrew Goatly discusses the role of metaphor in a number of
registers. First he establishes metaphor varieties such as 'word class,
syntactic, interpretative, functional', and then analyses several passages in
relation to them. The registers considered include conversation, news
reporting, popular science, advertising and poetry. He concludes that there
is a concentration of one or more of the above metaphors and their sub-
types in each variety under discussion. For example 'explanatory and
theory - constitutive metaphors' are distinctive of the register of popular
science whereas 'revitalised and punning metaphors' distinguish the
register of advertising. Goatly adds' a 'post-script' that 'many features of
metaphorical style . . . can be explained by considering the time pressure
under which encoders and decoders are working'.
Quantitative evidence for register analysis
If a register is the result of constant and cumulative selections from the
field, mode, and tenor of discourse presented in a 'unique' structure, then
it is possible to quantify these selections. The assumption here is that there
should be similarities in the above respects between texts that most of us
subconsciously categorize as belonging to the same register.
Ghadessy's chapter deals with the 'similarities' found in sixty letters in
written business communication. After discussing the related field mode
and tenor of discourse, an attempt is made to establish the 'elem'ents' of
structure shared by these letters. Each letter is considered as an 'extended
turn' in the CHAIN of communicative events for which a suitable Generic
Structure Potential (GSP) is then proposed. It is concluded that the chain-
like quality of this type of communication is a function of two obligatory
elements, i.e. REFERENCE and CLOSING, found in all the examples under
Gunnarsson's contribution deals with some diachronic and synchronic
changes in three types of science and popular science articles in Sweden.
Her investigation covers the fields of medicine, technology and economics
from three periods, 1895-1905, 1935-1945, and 1975-1985. Forty-five
articles from scientific journals and forty-five popular scienGe periodicals
were used in the study. Four dimensions of 'message structure' are focused
upon. They include 'cognitive (schema concept)', 'pragmatic (illocution,
purpose)', 'macrothematic (super/macro themes)', and 'microthematic
(cohesion pattern)'. Gunnarsson points to several factors responsible for the
changes in the genres under discussion. They are 'specialisation, interna-
tionalisation (Americanisation), educational expansion, and information
explosion'. Based on the statistical evidence presented, she concludes that
' ... changes in text patterns are a reflection of changes in the contextual
frames within which the texts function'. Finally four hypotheses based on
some social trends are presented. They include, (1) 'clearer genre boun-
daries', (2) 'pattern shift after 1945', (3) 'greater expert character', and (4)
'firmer genre conventions'.
Computer applications
Jonathan Webster shows how a computer programme - Functional Gram-
mar Processor (FGP) - can analyse texts based on the approach proposed
by Michael Halliday in his Introduction to Functional Grammar in terms of
theme-rheme structure, mood-residue and transitivity. The analytical unit
for the FG P is the clause which according to Halliday is 'a text in
microcosm'. Webster's FGP facilitates the analysis of longer texts which so
far have not been used by researchers working within the Hallidayan
model. It is invaluable especially for the comparison of different registers.
Stating that FGP resembles 'the blackboard model of problem solving',
Webster concludes that 'the three kinds of structural analysis that together
comprise the FGP are each a knowledge source, a knowledge module'. By
saving the analyses of various clauses in an external database - the
blackboard - the researcher creates a source with which subsequent
modules can interact and respond to changes where and when necessary.
Marilyn Cross presents a register-based model and implementation of
lexis for text generation in her chapter. Accepting the definition given for
lexis as 'the resources of the vocabulary . . . covering both the static
organisation of vocabulary and the process of lexical choice', she discusses
the traditional treatment of lexis as an open system and contrasts it with
the treatment of grammar as a closed system - 'grammar is characterised
by closed relations where there is a choice among a fixed number of
possibilities'. The range of collocation is then correlated with different
grammatical forms which are predicted by the register of language under
discussion. Cross exemplifies her argument by providing a detailed account
of several 'transformation Processes' i.e. heat, cool, evaporate, condense,
transpire, etc. in the Material Process Network - the critical event is these
processes being that the Medium is transformed in some way. She
concludes that the 'collocation of lexical items within a register may be
handled through preselections when the lexical networks are developed for
all grammatical classes'.
A unified theory of register analysis
The main purpose of the last chapter by Matthiessen is to bring the
various approaches to register analysis under a unified theory of register.
In section (1) he first states that the concept of 'register' can be
fore grounded 'as one way into the complex of language'. Then he reviews
the theoretical origin of the notion of register as 'part of our metalanguage
for construing language'. He emphasizes one fundamental aspect of
Firthian theory which de Beaugrande 'does not mention' in relation to
register analysis, i.e. polysystemicness. Matthiessen argues that there has
been 'considerable theoretical development of register theory since the early
60s'. In contrast to de Beaugrande's position, he emphasizes 'the need for
extensive and detailed descriptions of register' as 'we now have the
theoretical resources for undertaking such studies'. Other sections in this
chapter include (2) The semiotic space in which register is located, (3)
Register variation, (4) Register and stratification, (5) Register variation
and semohistory, (6) Register and potentiality, and (7) Register descrip-
tion. Throughout the chapter Matthiessen's main focus is 'theory review
and development with some descriptive excursions as illustrations and a
note on descriptive strategies and tools'.
It is only appropriate that we conclude this short introduction by a
quotation from Michael Halliday who, among modern linguists, has been
most responsible for new developments in the analysis of genuine texts. In
a recent article (1991) once again he emphasizes the importance of register
'Register variation can in fact be defined as systematic variation in
probabilities; "a register" is a tendency to select certain combinations of
meanings with certain frequencies, and this can be formulated as the
probabilities attached to grammatical systems, provided such systems are
integrated into an overall system network in a paradigmatic interpretation
of the grammar.'
Halliday, M.A.K. (1991), 'Corpus Studies and Probabilistic Grammar', English
Corpus Linguistics, Karin Aijmer and Bengt Altenberg (eds), London: Longman.
Part I. Practice and theory
1 'Register' in discourse studies: a concept In search
of a theory
Robert de Beaugrande
1. The early heritage
Throughout much of linguistic theory and method, the concept of 'register'
has led a rather shadowy existence. The term itself is not used at all in
early foundational works, such as those of linguists like Saussure (1916),
Sapir (1921), and Bloomfield (1933), nor do we find there any term we
might classify as roughly equivalent. In such works, the lack is not too
surprising. When linguistic theory is declared to be mainly concerned with
abstract systems, as envisioned by Saussure, or with taxonomies of
minimal units, as envisioned by Bloomfield, 'register' would be likely to
seem a troublesome or even disruptive concept. It implies that the valence
of systems or minimal units might not be established in the language as
a whole but in some sub domain or constellation of contexts. A 'register'
is certainly not a language unit, and is hard to define as a system of such
units comparable, say, to the 'system' of 'phonemes' of a language, or to
its 'system' of noun declensions or verb conjugations, and so on. Thus, a
concept like 'register' would have contravened the early aspirations of
linguistic theorists to make statements and set up schemes of the highest
possible generality and abstraction.
However, we would expect to find the term, or some rough equivalent
for it, in foundational linguistic works where the interest in discourse was
quite pronounced, such as the collection-volumes by Pike (1967 [1954-60])
and ].R. Firth (1930, 1937, 1957 [1934-51], 1968 [1952-59]). Such
linguists emphasized that they did not share the 'theoretical' commitments
of their more conventional (or 'mainstream') colleagues, and that the
major motive for this 'heresy' was a vital concern for actual speech and
discourse and hence a mistrust of the drive toward abstraction.
In Pike's work, a possible equivalent for 'register' is 'the universe of
discourse', which he considered able to 'condition' the 'meaning' even of
his fundamental unit, 'the morpheme' (1967: 599). Such a thesis followed
from his characteristic argument that 'the meaning of one unit in part
constitutes' and 'is constituted of the meaning of a neighbouring unit'; and
that 'meaning' is 'one contrastive component of the entire complex' (1967:
609, 148 ff., 430).
Thus, Pike's interest in discourse domains or 'universe' reflects his
awareness of the dependence of meaning on context. He suggested that
units have a 'central meaning' with 'greater frequency' among 'the
community' than 'marginal meanings', but 'special universes of discourse'
can alter this proportion (1967: 601). Therefore, we might try to 'find a
statistically' measurable 'set of common contexts', or set up 'a hierarchy
of universes of discourse with progressive degrees of centrality' (1967: 600,
602). However, we might find 'no specific number of distributional orbits,
or degree of remoteness from the central' (1967: 604). Pike's criteria for
central versus marginal actually give prominence to the latter: 'the outer'
'orbits carry the greater communication energy' for 'hearer impact' (1967:
604). Major examples of the outer 'dependent or derived meanings' are
'idiomatic' meaning not 'predictable' from 'the meanings of its parts', and
'metaphorical meaning', along with 'poetry', 'puns', and 'slang' (1967:
601 ff.). Notice here that the marginal surpasses the central in ways
reminiscent of the 'foregrounding' described by the Prague structuralists.
Hence, what makes a domain of meaning or discourse special is the kind
and degree of response and attention it receives in my view, an outlook
we should still keep m mind in our search for a conception of 'register'
In Firth's work, a possible equivalent of 'register' might be the
'restricted language', which he defined as 'serving a circumscribed field of
experience or action' and having 'its own grammar and dictionary' (1957:
124, 87, 98, 105 ff., 112). The emphasis here was on practical method.
Such a domain is easier to manage then 'when the linguist' must draw
'abstractions' from 'a whole linguistic universe' comprising 'many
specialized languages' and 'different styles' (1968: 30, 97, 118). 'The
material is clearly defined: the linguist knows what is on his agenda', and
can 'set up ad hoc structures and systems' for 'the field of application'
(1968: 106, 116). In fact, once 'the statement of structures and systems
provides' 'the anatomy and physiology of the texts', it is 'unnecessary' 'to
attempt a structural and systemic account of a language as a whole' (1968:
As domains of 'restricted languages', Firth looked to 'science,
technology, politics, commerce', 'industry', 'sport', 'mathematics', and
'meteorology', or to 'a particular form or genre', or to a 'type of work
associated with a single author or a type of speech function with its
appropriate style' or 'tempo' (1968: 106,98, 112, 118 ff.). To counter the
possibly divisive effects of such an outlook, Firth seemed to favour a
compromise of sorts: 'linguistics' can regard each 'person' 'as being in
command of a constellation of restricted languages, satellite languages'
(compare Pike's 'orbits'), but these are 'governed' by 'the general
language of the community' (1968: 207f).
Also possibly relevant for the concept of register is Firth's prominent
notion of 'collocations': he suggested 'studying key words, pivotal words,
leading words, by presenting them in the company they usually keep'
(1968: 106 ff., 113, 182). This 'study' may range between 'general or
usual collocations and more restricted technical or personal' ones, between
;normal' and 'idiosyncratic' ones (1957: 195; 1968: 18). At times, the
restricted end seems to herald a profusion of varieties: 'characteristic
distributions in collocability' can constitute 'a level of meaning in describ-
ing the English' of a 'social group or even one person' (1968: 195).
'The study of the usual collocations' resembles that of 'restricted
languages' by making 'a precisely stated contribution' to 'the spectrum of
descriptive linguistics' and by 'circumscribing the field for further
research', e.g., by 'indicating problems in grammar' or aiding 'descriptive
lexicography' with 'citations' for 'dictionary definitions' (1957: 195; 1968:
180 ff., 196). We should state 'first the structure of appropriate contexts
of situation', 'then the syntactical structure of the texts' and 'then' 'the
criteria of distribution and collocation' (1968: 19). Yet Firth repeatedly
warned that 'collocation is not to be interpreted as context' (1968: 180,
1957: 195); apparently, he wanted 'collocation' to remain at a more
abstract systemic level than that of text and discourse.
2. Propagation by Halliday: dilemmas of linguistics and semantics
It was a pupil of Firth's, Michael Halliday, who, along with his associates,
eventually gave currency to the term 'register' as such. According to Halli-
day, 'the term' 'was first used' for 'text variety by [Thomas Bertraml Reid
(1956); the concept was taken up and developed by Jean Ure (Ure and
Ellis 1977) and by Halliday et al. (1964), (Halliday 1978: 110). Another
source was the work of Basil Bernstein, who used the term 'variant'
instead (cf. Bernstein [ed.l 1973).
In Halliday's view, 'the notion of register is at once very simple and
very powerful' and 'provides a means of investigating the linguistic founda-
tions of everyday social interaction from an angle that is complementary
to the ethnomethodological one' (1978: 31, 62). 'The theory of register'
'attempts to uncover the general principles which govern' the ways 'the
language we speak or write varies according to the type of situation' (1978:
32). 'But surprisingly little is yet known about the nature of the
involved, largely because of the difficulty of identifying the controllmg
factors' (ibid.).
Though he sees a possible parallel between the notion of what 'the
member of a culture typically associates' and Dell Hymes' notion of
'''communicative competence"', Halliday evades the latter notion as an
'artificial concept' which 'merely adds an extra level of psychological inter-
pretation to what can be explained more simply in direct sociolinguistic or
functional terms' (1978: 32). Halliday's uneasiness about 'psychological
interpretation' (as stressed also in his discussion with Parret, cf. Halliday
1978: 38f), presumably influenced by Firth's similar attitude, creates
predictable problems for any conception as complex as 'register', where the
'psychological interpretation' of language users is so essential and where
agreement is harder to obtain than about other aspects of a language (see
sections 3 and 4).
The central problem is how 'the "register" concept' can 'take account
of the processes which link the features of the text' 'to the abstract
categories of the speech situation' (1978: 62). The 'original' approach was
to define 'register' directly in 'lexicogrammatical terms' (Halliday 1978:
111). For example, Jean Ure (1971) proposed a connection between 'lexical
density and register differentiation' where the 'density' was measured by
'rh" proportion of lexical items (content words) to words as a whole' (1978:
32). Such work was typical of the classify-and-count methods that
understandably dominated much of linguistics during the absence of more
elaborate theories and methods of discourse.
Halliday warns against 'posing the question the wrong way': '''what
of language are determined by register?'" (1978: 32). Nor would
It be fully adequate to ask 'what peculiarities of vocabulary, grammar, and
pronunciation can be accounted for by reference to situation?' (ibid.).
Instead, the really pressing question is 'which kinds of situational factor
determine which kinds of selection in the linguistic system?' (ibid.). Stating
the question this way is a major step forward, but makes answering it
particularly difficult in that we now have, as it were, unknowns on both
side of the equation, i.e., both for the situation and for the language.
Another approach to 'register' was to circumscribe it by comparing and
contrasting it with 'dialect'. 'Dialect' was defined 'according to user', and
'register' 'according to the use' (Halliday 1978: 110). Also, 'dialects'
'differ in phonetics, phonology, and lexicogrammar, but not in semantics';
'registers' 'differ in semantics and hence in lexicogrammar and sometimes
phonology, as a realization of this' (1978: 35, cf. p. 67). These definitions
signal an important dualism in Halliday's work: 'lexicogrammar' differs
both for 'dialect' and 'register', but for 'register', 'semantics' is interposed
as the controlling factor. We thus encounter such formulations as these:
'register' .is 'the clustering of semantic features according to situation type';
or 'a regIster can be defined as a configuration of semantic resources that
the member of a culture typically associates with a situation type' (1978:
68, 111, 123). These formulations do not, I think, necessarily 'point in the
direction of a functional semantics' following 'the theories of the Prague
school', though Halliday says they do (1978: 63). The role of cultural
situations was not prominently worked out in the Prague group's notion
of 'functional sentence perspective' (cf. Beaugrande 1992).
Hallidayan argument, on the other hand, insists that 'the features of the
should be 'considered as the realization of semantic patterns', and so
thIS holds for 'register' as well (cf. 1978: 62). In his Introduction to Functional
Grammar, he says: 'the relation of grammar to semantics' is 'natural not
arbitrary, and both are purely abstract systems of coding'; so, 'there is no
clear line between' them, and 'functional grammar' is 'pushed in the direc-
tion of semantics' (1985: xix, xvii). In Explorations in the Functions of
Language, he says: 'in principle, a grammatical system is an abstract (is as
"semantic") as possible given only that it can generate integrated struc-
tures', i.e., 'its output can be expressed in terms of functions mapped
directly onto others' to yield 'a single structural "shape'" that is 'multiply
labeled' (Halliday 1973: 95). The equation of 'semantic' with 'abstract'
occurred again when Halliday called for 'register' to be given 'a more
abstract definition in semantic terms', rather than 'lexicogrammatical' ones
(1978: 111).
Halliday's equation has noteworthy implications. Just as the history of
'general' linguistics has been marked by disputes over how 'semantic' the
approach should be, the history of semantics has been riddled with
controversies over how 'abstract' the approach should be. Semantics was
often dominated by positivist and behaviourist proposals to make it more
concrete by tying it to 'real states of affairs', 'features' of 'objects' (like
chairs), or 'observed behaviours' (cf. survey in Beaugrande 1988).
Halliday's views are more complex and subtle. He suggests that 'seman-
tic systems' 'relate' to 'grammatical systems' through the 'pre-selection' of
'options' (1973: 98). 'In some instances' we can go from 'semantics'
'directly to the "formal items": to the actual words, phrases, and clauses
of the language', with 'no need' for 'grammatical systems and structures'
(1973: 83 ff.). But this 'happens only' with 'a closed set of options in a
clearly circumscribed social context', e. g., 'a greeting system in middle-
class British English' or in a 'closed transaction such as buying a train or
bus ticket' (1973: 83 ff.). In genuine 'language, such systems are
marginal', 'a small fraction of the total phenomena' among 'much more
open' and 'general settings'. Due to 'indeterminacy between the strata',
we find not 'one-to-one correspondences' between 'grammar', 'semantics'
and 'phonology', but rather 'neutralization and diversification' 'many-
to-many' (1973: 82, 93, 56 ff.).
Nonetheless, Halliday retains a conventional provision when he
stipulates the 'principle' 'that all categories employed must be clearly
"there" in the grammar of the language', 'not set up simply to label
differences in meaning' (1985: xx). Without some 'lexicogrammatical
reflex', such 'differences' are not 'systemically distinct in the grammar'
(ibid.). However firmly 'based on meaning', 'a functional grammar' is 'an
interpretation of linguistic forms': 'every distinction' 'every set of
options, or "system'" - must 'make some contribution to the form of the
wording', i.e., of the 'sequence' of 'syntagm' of 'lexical' and 'grammatical
items' (1985: xx, xvii). Such provisions suggest that Halliday too is a bit
worried about semantics getting overly 'abstract'. But instead of looking to
reality or real objects and behaviours, he sees 'grammar' as the anchor to
hold semantics down.
At stake here is a crucial issue in the emergence of 'modern linguistics'.
Traditional grammarians had drawn their distinctions on the basis of the
formal organization of their own language, or their own dialect of it.
Moreover, as Bloomfield complained, 'a good deal of what passes for
"logic" or "metaphysics" is merely an incompetent restating of the chief
categories of the philosopher's language' (1933: 270) (a practice which the
philosophers associated with Chomsky's 'grammar' were later to
demonstrate all too clearly).
What makes modern linguistics distinctive, I think, is the willingness to
recognize distinctions as long as they are formally made in any language.
This factor suggests why the study of Amerindian and Afro-Asian
languages provided such a major impetus: they made it possible and
necessary to recognize whole new types of forms and of formal organiza-
tion. For example, Bloomfield (1933: 175 ff.) contrasts the 'sentence types'
of English with those of Menomini and names 'surprise' and 'disappoint-
ment' as 'types of sentence' (1933: 175 ff). Here, a virulent 'anti-
mentalist' felt justified in introducing psychological states into his 'gram-
mar' because he saw formal markers for them.
Chomsky and his group, on the other hand, were avowedly mentalist,
but were far less inclined than Bloomfield toward the kind of form-
function compromise we just saw in describing Menomini. Instead, they
wanted the formal aspects to be foregrounded in principled independence
from semantic ones, as well as from psychological states. Since Chomsky's
original approach was designed only from English, a formally sparse and
frugal language, he was obliged to invent an explosion of 'underlying'
forms and structures to nail down the kind of distinctions needed to attain
'formality'. In consequence, he became entrained in a steadily narrowing
spiral of underlying formality until language as such disappeared, taking
with it much of what Bloomfieldian and Saparian linguistics would have
been willing to admit under 'grammar', but which now appeared to be at
best 'surface structure' - and of course 'register' (or any similar concept)
could have no place either.
As we can readily see, it is not Halliday's predicament that is new, but
the solution he favours: to have semantics and grammar linked at every
step. The problem of how to keep the two domains linked must of course
be raised specifically for every language. Significantly, Halliday's own
Introduction is entirely and explicitly constructed on English, as were many
of his earlier works, de facto at least, though he started out as a Chinese
linguist. However, he left open the prospect that his 'functional grammar'
might be a 'general' one, for which he happened to be 'using English as
the language of illustration' (1985: xxxiv). A similar approach might work
for other languages, and appropriately enough, a 'functional grammar' for
Chinese has recently been devised (Li and Thompson 1981), much in
Halliday's spirit even if he is not cited there. The otherwise mysterious
systems of particles in Chinese become much more tractable when we
consider their functions for indicating the status of the message in context
(cf. also Beaugrande and Dressier, forthcoming).
Halliday breaks down the 'register' by saying it is 'predicted' or even
'determined' by 'the categories of field, tenor, and mode' (1978: 62, 125).
According to one formulation citing John Pearce (in Doughty et al. 1971:
185 ff.), 'field refers to the institutional setting in which a piece of language
occurs'; 'tenor refers to the relationship between participants'; and 'mode
refers to the channel of communication adopted' (1978: 33). In Halliday's
own diagram, however, 'field' is the 'type of social action', 'tenor' is the
'role relationships', and 'mode' is the 'symbolic organization' (1978: 35).
Later, we read that the three concepts are 'related respectively to the idea-
tional, interpersonal and textual components of the semantic system' (1978:
125). 'Mode' gets special consideration: it is 'the rhetorical channel with
its associated strategies'; it is 'reflected in linguistic patterns', but 'has its
origin in the social structure'; and 'the social structure' 'generates the
semiotic tensions and rhetorical styles and genres that express them' (cf.
Barthes 1970) (1978: 113). Also, 'mode covers roughly Hymes' channel,
key, and genre' (1978: 62).
Once more, we have difficulties determining exactly what the status and
designations of Halliday's terms may be. 'Field, tenor, and mode' were
evidently proposed as categories for describing situations rather than
language per se, but the inconsistencies, especially in regard to 'mode',
reflect the usual perplexities of making 'social' categories correspond with
language forms ('linguistic patterns'). Notice also that 'stylistic' and
'rhetorical' parameters are introduced, but their valence with respect to
'register' is not clarified. The 'social' categories are naturally far broader,
and I doubt that we can insist, as Halliday did for 'semantics' (see above),
that 'every distinction' must 'make some contribution to the form of the
wording' in terms of 'lexical' and 'grammatical items'. In fact, Halliday's
claim is a bit weaker, but still quite demanding: 'field, tenor, and mode'
can 'make explicit the means whereby the observer can derive' the
'systematic norms governing the particulars of the text' (1978: 62). Thus,
while 'deriving the situation from the text', 'the participant' or 'the
observer' can 'supply the relevant information that is lacking' (ibid.).
3. Recent trends
In terms of prospects for further work, we have two opposed options. The
first option is to widen the scope by examining a variety of languages in
terms of 'those features' of 'functional grammar' that are 'explicitly
claimed as universal', notably the 'hypothesis' that the three '''metafunc-
tions" , 'the textual', 'the ideational', and 'the interpersonal'
'organize' 'the content systems' 'in all languages' (Halliday 1985: xxxiv).
This option would be helpful if these 'metafunctions' are indeed 'related'
to the three categories of 'register' (see section 2), but as far as I can
discover, this option has not formed the major part of Hallidayan research.
Perhaps one reason for this hesitancy is that earlier work on 'universals'
was typically naive and premature. In fact, if we read Chomsky's Aspects
closely, we may suspect the real attraction of 'universals' lay in the argu-
ment that they 'need not be stated in the grammar' of individual
'languages' but 'only in general linguistic theory as part of definition of the
notion "human language'" (compare Chomsky 1965: 6, 35 ff., 112, 117,
144, 168, 225). So they were in effect one more dumping ground,
alongside 'surface structure', 'performance', and so on, for putting aside
messy or intractable issues, notably - again, Aspects reveals this clearly -
'semantics', which was handed over to the 'universals' pretty much
wholesale (see Chomsky 1965: 160).
Moreover, the first option leads away from the concreteness that
characterizes the Hallidayan approach and that motivated the notion of
'register' in the first place. To maintain that anyone particular 'register'
is 'universal' would strain the audacity of even the most hand-waving
linguists, since 'register' is by its very definition firmly embedded in
cultural situations. The overall fact that registers differ might be a univer-
sal, but to say so is simply to argue that 'register' is a generally justified
concept. That cultural situations fall into different types is hardly open to
serious dispute: these types are what culture is all about. Nor would many
people deny that language and culture influence each other, though some
might say (and have said) this influence is not the concern of linguistics.
Hence, it is the second option which Hallidayan linguistics would be
likely to pursue and has in fact done. This is a return to a narrower scope
by developing 'a grammar' for the 'analysis' and 'interpretation of texts
of a broad variety of registers in modern English' (Halliday 1985: x, xv,
xx). By his own reckoning, Halliday's 'account' has already served both
'practical' and 'theoretical' purposes' such as probing 'the relation between
language and 'culture'; 'comparing registers of functional varieties of
English'; 'studying socialization' and 'functional variation'; and 'analysing
text, spoken and written', notably 'spontaneous conversation' (1985: xv,
xviii, xxx).
My impression is that in most of this work the practical has run well
ahead of the theoretical just the converse of formal (Chomskyan) gram-
mar. A decisive case here is precisely the concept of 'register'. Its practical
value is beyond dispute, but Halliday's own central theoretical book so far
backs away from it in a somewhat disappointing way: the Introduction to
Functional Grammar does not 'go into questions of register structure', which
'we are only beginning to be able to characterize' (1985: 290, xxxv). Halli-
day is content to remark in passing that 'register' is a key domain for
examining how 'elements', 'configurations', 'collocations', and 'the
patterning of clause themes throughout a text' may 'vary'; how 'a text'
might 'deploy the resource of cohesion'; and how to give an 'account of
English semantics' (1985: 318, 313, 315, 372, ix). He assumes that 'a
speaker of the language' 'knows' 'how likely a particular word or group
or phase is' 'in any given register'; but the 'treatment of probabilities' is
also 'outside the scope' of the 'grammar' (1985: xxii; cf. Halliday 1973:
114). We thus cannot evaluate his view that 'registers select and
foreground different options, but do not normally have a special grammar';
yet 'some registers do', such as 'newspaper headlines' (1985: 372; cf. 1985:
373-77). The reference to 'narrative, transactional, expository', and so on
(1985: 372, ix, 318, i.a.) is not very illuminating since these are not
'registers', but modes which may vary widely within one register as well
as from one register to another.
The 'restricted languages' proposed by Firth (section 1) were construed
by Halliday as 'extreme cases' of 'register' (1978: 35). Even so, Halliday
acknowledges that they make up 'much of the speech' of 'daily life' in
'contexts where the options are limited and the meaning potential' is
'closely specifiable' and 'explainable' (1973: 25 ff.). Exploring them might
'throw light on certain features in the internal organization of language'
(1973: 27). Halliday lists 'games', 'greetings', 'musical scores', 'weather
reports', 'recipes', 'cabled messages', and so on, along with 'routines of
the working day' like 'buying and selling' (1973: 25 ff., 63). 'The language
is not restricted as a whole' in such domains and 'the transactional mean-
ings are not closed', but 'definable patterns' and 'options' do 'come into
play', e.g., for 'beginning and ending' a 'conversation on the telephone'
(1973: 26).
In discourse analysis and text linguistics, such issues have been typically
treated as a matter of 'types' of discourse or text. The discourse analysts
like Longacre and Grimes were chiefly interested in conducting fieldwork
and realized that, however strong the allegiance of 'mainstream' linguistics
might be to the abstract, 'isolated' sentences, the data on otherwise little-
studied languages had to be extracted from discourse, and there were no
a priori grounds for telling how general or specific any body of data might
be unless its relation to discourse types was taken into consideration. In the
work on twenty-four Philippine languages of Luzon, Mindanao, and
Palawan, Longacre and thirty-two colleagues from the Summer Institute of
Linguistics identified 'discourse structures' in types they called 'narrative',
'procedural', 'expository', 'hortatory', and 'explanatory' (Longacre et al.
1970). These notions were set up because the group found evidence that
language structures correlated with discourse types, and that the correla-
tion was clearly significant, not merely for the data analysis, but also for
the discourse participants themselves. The point was therefore not so much
to offer a 'universal' or complete typology of discourse, but to show that
at least some types can be reliably identified in groups of languages and
cultures. Much the same point can be made for the studies by the Grimes
group (see Grimes 1975, 1978), where the main focus fell on 'narratives'.
In its early stages at least, 'text linguistics' hardly engaged in the kind
of fieldwork the discourse analysts were doing. Most work was done closer
to home, mainly on English, German, French, Czech and Russian, and
proceeded by the usual methods of grammatical analysis originally
developed for sentences, with minor modifications. Since linguists were
accustomed to setting up schemes of types, the same principle was readily
extended to texts, especially when the text was seen merely as a 'unit' or
'level above the sentence' (e.g. Heger 1976). Traditionally, a main attrac-
tion of the sentence was the ease grammarians had sorting it into clear-cut
types - declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory. The
recognition that such classifying might be quite a different matter for texts
had to wait upon the hesitant realization that texts were fundamentally
different entites from sentences (Beaugrande 1980).
A conference on text types (,Textsorten') had been held in Germany in
1972 to find 'differentiating criteria from a linguistic point of view'
(proceedings in Guelich and Raible reds] 1972). On the whole, the results
of the conference were meagre: mainly just a general realization that the
question was far more complex than prevailing 'linguistic points of view'
were equipped to handle. If we follow through the arguments brought
forward by Pike, Longacre and Grimes, then linguistic abstractions, such
as units, features, and structures, are at least as much a product of discourse
or text types as the other way around. Linguistics - especially the
'generative' kind - has been a bit glib and naive in jumping from data sets
to the language as a whole and skipping over the types as theoretically
unimportant (or, what is more to the point, unmanageable).
One text linguist, Siegfried Schmidt (1978), contemplated two methods.
Either we start with the intuitively given types and try to build a theory
or model for them; or else we set up the theory or model and then try to
deduce, construct or reconstruct the types from there. Today, when the
weakness and diminishing returns of deductive linguistics have been
generally realized, the consensus runs clearly in favour of the first
approach, the more inductive one. We pick one or more types that seem
to be given in social practice and attempt to systematize some salient
characteristics. The most active field here today is 'language for special
purposes' (LSP), which has become one of the most conspicuous and
successful areas of text linguistics, discourse analysis, and applied
linguistics (cf. Hoffmann 1987; Beaugrande and DressIer, forthcoming).
Even so, neither text linguistics nor LSP claims to have more than a
very rough and ready classification of text or discourse types. Few people
in those fields today hold high hopes that a rigorous typology will appear
soon, and fewer still would insist that research cannot proceed without one.
On the contrary, we have more than enough work to do if we are to
systematize readily accessible text types. And in general, linguists today are
less convinced that the goal of linguistics is the construction of abstract
typologies of any kind, nor the creation of abstract systems of formal
features or rules divorced from social or practical application. The surviv-
ing, unregenerate formalists have turned to computer programming, but
even there, special-purpose domains have become a centre of attention,
witness the fact that expert knowledge systems are by far the most domi-
nant concern in 'artificial intelligence' in recent years.
A further trend of decisive importance has emerged in 'discourse
processing'. This research undertakes to show not merely that certain types
can be found to correlate with language structure, but that these structures
are relevant for the cognitive and communicative processes people actually
perform in discourse. An eminent case is the 'strategic' model of van Dijk
and Kintsch, which cites 'register' alongside 'style', 'text type' and
'communicative context' as factors affecting the 'selection of appropriate
lexical items to express the concepts of the propositions' (1983: 292). As
a central notion, van Dijk and Kintsch postulate 'superstructures': 'typical
schemata' for conventional text forms', which 'consist of conventional
categories, often hierarchically organized', 'assign further structures' and
'overall organization to discourse', and 'facilitate generating, remember-
ing, and reproducing' (1983: 16, 54, 57, 92, 104f, 189, 222, 236 ff., 242,
245, 275, 308, 336, 343). These 'superstructures are not merely theoretical
constructs of linguistic or rhetorical models' but also 'feature in cognitive
models' as 'relevant' 'units' (1983: 237). 'During comprehension', they are
'strategically' 'assigned on the basis of textual' 'information, i.e., bottom-
up', yet also create 'assumptions about the canonical structure' and
applicable 'schema', i.e., 'top-down' (1983: 237, 105). The 'superstruc-
tures provide the overall form of a discourse and may be made explicit'
as 'categories defining' the 'type' (1983: 189, 235 ff.). They are 'acquired
during socialization' with 'discourse types'; 'language users know' the
'categories' and 'schemata' 'implicitly' or even 'explicitly' and 'make
hypotheses' about them 'when we read' (1983: 57, 92).
Although here, too, the details are not worked out for any large spec-
trum of types, the findings do indicate that we should enrich the mainly
sociological approach proposed by Halliday and his associates with a
psychological one, which (as we saw in section 2) he rejected. The
compromise will be unavoidable because the social manifestations and
situation types by themselves cannot provide all the criteria we need, and
because the criteria they do provide require interpretation. This interpreta-
tion cannot be left up to the linguists or analysts alone, but must be traced
in terms of the operations people in general carry out when processing
discourse types.
Admittedly, the cognitive and psychological methods are not likely to
produce any comprehensive formal typology. Experimenters are content if
they can isolate at least some crucial differences between pairs of fairly
uncontested types, such as narrative and expository (see also Freedle and
Hale 1979). The project of isolating all the types and stipulating all the
processes that may and may not apply to each is certainly quite remote
and may remain impracticable for the foreseeable future.
4. Future prospects
The trends I have outlined indicate that the concept of 'register' still needs
to be reassessed. To begin with, we should grant what has generally been
conceded for the types addressed - discourse analysis, text linguistics, and
discourse processing - that we are dealing with phenomena that cut across
the usual schemes of 'levels' or 'components' and that involve far more
than 'purely linguistic' factors. A register can at most be an open system,
not a closed one or even a tidy one in which (to paraphrase a Saussurian
formulation about language) 'everything holds everything else in place' (un
systeme ou tout se tient). When we select a register to investigate, we must
not expect or demand that we should list all the aspects it must have, and
still less all the aspects it must not have. Instead, we must be content to
postulate a register when a representative group of language users agrees
that certain aspects are typical and predictable. The occurrence of a
non-typical aspect does not undermine the register or suddenly transpose
the discourse into a different register, but it will be likely to attract notice
and to elicit some response.
By this line of argument, a 'register' is essentially a set of beliefs,
attitudes or expectations about what is or is not likely to seem appropriate
and be selected in certain kinds of contexts. This explication may seem
vague, but the phenomenon itself is inherently fuzzy. Like the 'superstruc-
tures' posited by van Dijk and Kinstch, registers are 'acquired during
socialization' with 'discourse types' (cf. van Dijk and Kinstch 1983: 57).
Registers 'may be made explicit' as 'categories defining' the 'type' (cf.
1983: 189, 235 ff., 92), but they usually are not; and in practice people
often command registers that they could not describe very well, let alone
justify by means of a theory. For example, virtually everyone knows that
certain registers they use with family and close friends will not do in situa-
tions calling for written examinations or official documents; but how people
know this and exactly how they carry it into practice is a predominantly
indeterminate and intuitive matter.
Nonetheless, future work must include having everyday speakers des-
cribe the registers they know and the ways they use them. This kind of
fieldwork will not provide all the data we need to understand how registers
arise or how they are put to work. But we urgently need a more general
perspective than anyone linguist or school of linguists can bring to bear
by attacking the problem among themselves.
Obviously, we need to clarify the social implications of registers. Solidarity
is one important factor: the use of a particular register preferred among a
group with which one wishes to be identified. Conversely, dominance is
important when a register is deployed to signal that one speaker or group
has the right to assert priority over those who do not command the
register, or at least do not command it as well.
We can therefore postulate a gradient between insider and outsider func-
tions of registers in use. In this sense, command over a wide range of
registers is a major implement of social power, and command of only a
few is a typical drawback among the disadvantaged. In view of this fact,
the lack of explicit attention to matters of register, especially in the educa-
tional system, is an effectual contributor to the maintenance of social
inequality (Beaugrande and Dressier, forthcoming).
In schooling, the issue of register is usually treated on a purely negative
basis. Learners are alerted when they have committed a violation of
register, but are given fairly little systematic assistance in developing or
diversifying their range of registers. This neglect is all the more grievous
in that the entry to specialized fields of knowledge, particularly to
prestigious ones like science and technology, depends materially on
commanding the appropriate register. Yet even institutions that explicitly
recognize the importance of the issue by building up programmes like
'writing across the curriculum' seldom offer courses of study in, say, 'the
register of physics', or 'the discourse of computer science'. Only the
learners whose social background has already provided them with a wide
command of registers are well-equipped to succeed, while the others tend
to fall further behind than ever.
Science and technology also provide useful illustrations of domains
wherein each register is associated with a corpus of prestigious or
authoritative texts. The acquisition and skilled use of the strategies for the
register decides who will be admitted to the domain in terms of who is
authorized to contribute to that corpus as a profession. Yet authorities are
understandably reluctant to acknowledge how far their status depends not
just on 'knowing the facts' or carrying out research or design, but on
producing and using texts about facts and on reporting or discussing
research or design (a consideration Firth was fond of raising). Perhaps too,
the authorities lack an explicit awareness of their own textual strategies and
fail to appreciate (or to sympathize with) the problems confronting the
outsider or the initiate.
On the other hand, we also need to clarify the linguistic implications of
registers. It remains to be seen whether a theoretical framework can be
found and developed that could subsume and situate already established
practices, and if so, along what lines. This question can be broken down
into several, and even then, answers are difficult to come by.
One major question is where every instance of language in discourse
belongs to some register. Few linguists would want to commit themselves
to such a strong assertion, because the generality and 'abstractness' they
claim for their theories and models would be endangered. Besides, it
would no longer be admissable to present samples, say of 'English
sentences', unless we also identified what register they belong to. In this
regard, Halliday would be probably no different from anyone else working
in 'general linguistics'. If the Introduction is a reliable indicator, he wants
his 'functional grammar' to extend across all kinds of registers.
The alternative question would be whether only certain instances of
language should be considered specific to some register. Here, we
immediately confront the formidable problem of finding the criteria for
telling which instances are and are not of such a nature. Halliday's
statements are not utterly clear regarding this problem. If he tells us a
'register' is 'a' configuration of semantic resources that the member of a
culture typically associates with a situation type' (1978: 123), he seems to
be invoking some 'psychological interpretation' of the type he elsewhere
repudiated (see section 2). If, on the other hand, he depicts a 'register'
as 'a cluster of associated features having a greater-than-random (or
rather, greater than predicted by their unconditioned probabilities)
tendency to co-occur' (1988: 162), he seems to raise the prospect of
deciding the matter by means of statistics. But he says the 'treatment of
probabilities' is 'outside the scope' of his 'grammar', and he points out
that 'the probability of such terms occurring in the discourse is also
dependent on what' the speakers 'are doing at the time' (1985: xxii, 1978:
33). So we cannot expect to get the issue under control merely by
statistical counts, such as Ure's 'lexical density' method (see section 2),
because total frequencies may not be relevant for what seems likely or
expected in concrete discourse situations, and may not yield the criteria we
need to identify a register.
A more viable approach to 'the notion of register' would be to correlate
the issue of 'probability' with some 'form of prediction' and to ask: 'what
exactly do we need to know about the social context in order to make such
predictions?' (Halliday 1978: 32). So far, however, Halliday's illustrations
- again quite typical of linguistics - are commonsensical and intuitive, or
merely assertive, and the 'we' in his 'we need to know' does not include
the general public or does so only by implication. For example, he says:
'by and large, "scientific English" is a recognizable category, and any
speaker of English for whom it falls within the domain of experience knows
it when he sees or hears it' (1988: 162). Yet this 'recognition' is precisely
what we still need to establish: not merely that 'any speaker' with
'experience' can do so - already a stronger claim than we have empirical
evidence for at the moment but by what standards and criteria. Halliday
bypasses 'the problem by taking samples he considers clear instances of the
register and relating the development of clausal strategies t6 the trends in
science itself, for instance, the trend from speculation to experimentation,
when 'doing and thinking' were 'brought together' (1988: 175).
Halliday's warning, cited in section 2, stresses that we should make
'situational factors' our point of orientation and work from there toward
'selections in the linguistic system'. But the speakers of the language might
well be working just the other way: by picking out incidental features, such
as the 'peculiarities of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation' Halliday
does not consider really decisive, and using them to set up hypothesis or
conclusions about what the situation (or the register) is likely to be.
We thus need to make allowance for distinctions among speakers in
terms of their specialization. The way a trained analyst like Halliday
recognizes a register is doubtless different from the way naive language
users do, especially non-scientists or quasi-scientists, to say nothing of the
decorative use of 'scientific language' for special purposes such as advertis-
ing. As a member of editorial boards, I frequently have to review submit-
ted manuscripts for which the handling of the applicable register is a
conspicuous problem. The most frequent tendency is to salute the register
without really using it, that is, to introduce specialized terms in order to
show that one is or aspires to be an insider, but then to either apply the
terms in vague and obscure ways, or to leave them aside in the subsequent
discussion. In addition, many writers seem to believe that the 'scientific
register' requires things to be stated in the most complicated and difficult
manner. So when I approve a manuscript, I often edit it heavily to
enhance clarity and readability and to insist that special terms either be
used appropriately or replaced with ordinary language.
How may interventions are accepted by the authors I usually don't find
out, but the issue is doubtless sensitive, because the tendencies I rebuke
may form part of the author's own self-image as 'a scientist'. The editors,
however, seem to agree with me, since they keep sending me more
manuscripts, and frequently the ones they think 'need some rewriting'.
Sometimes I have completely revised a manuscript which editors had
already accepted on the basis of the author's professional standing, but
which they couldn't bear to print in such clumsy or opaque styles.
Though this evidence is merely anecdotal, it does suggest two points.
The first point is that 'register' is evidently not just an issue beset by
'mixed or borderline cases' (Halliday 1988: 162), but a fundamentally
indeterminate domain, directly subject to the current motives and aspira-
tions of both potential and actual users, of both outsiders and insiders. I
find a wide variation in what is evidently judged to belong to the 'scientific
register' and its subdomains ('psychology', 'educational research',
'linguistics', etc.), and in my view, a good deal of it is inappropriate for
the goal of effective communication, as opposed to the goal, say, of laying
claim to prestige or 'insidership' for the author.
The second point is that even established insiders do not agree about
their own register, or do so at best in holistic and intuitive ways. Odd
biases get carried over not from science, but from quirkly handbooks on
grammar and style, such as that the 'scientific register' disallows the use
of the first person singular, and perhaps the second person as well.
Imaginary 'rules' no professional linguist or grammarian seriously upholds
appear suddenly in the judgments of editors and copy-editors for scientific
publications. In my role as author, I have had many skirmishes over this.
And yet the 'scientific register' is typically picked out as a prize example
and taken at face value much as we saw Halliday doing. If even that
register is so disputatious, what about others? Is there such a register as
'unscientific English', as the prescriptive responses of copy-editors seem to
imply? Or, is the 'scientific' actually a very loose agglomerate of registers,
divided not merely for the various fields, such as those for physics,
psychology, and so on, but in still finer detail for particular professional
organizations, proceedings, journals, roundtables, and so on?
It is plainly time to re-open the case for 'register' in the broadest possi-
ble terms. This time, we should be keenly aware that demands for
generality and abstractness involve strategic trade-offs, of which 'normal
science' tends to focus only on the more favourable side. The abstraction
sought across the board - in psychology, linguistics and philosophy,
especially logic - has always been a two-edged sword. The same contextual
factors which control everyday processing and communication and thus
make things simpler are typically viewed by researchers as additive and
unmanageable complexities that make things more complicated. Therefore
(to stay with the metaphor) the 'sword' that is wielded to clear the field
cuts away the vital supports needed to keep the issue securely under
Halliday's 'functional grammar' thus already marks a great step forward
by showing a richer range of factors whereby the organization of
discourses, and of clauses in particular, is affected by the current status of
the knowledge involved: its relative degrees of importance, newness, and
topicality (or 'thematicity'). However, Halliday has hesitated to state
whether or how these factors apply across different registers and whether
or how far they are modified. The really thorny task of determining how
this might be the case is only just beginning to be undertaken. As my
illustrations for' scientific English' indicated, the handling is still a bit too
facile and speculative, and even the seemingly 'obvious' registers can be
disturbingly indeterminate.
An elaborate combination of strategies will be needed to get a handle on
the issue of 'register'. Undoubtedly, we need to consult in great depth and
detail with people who, by some reasonably secure measure, are recognized
as skilled users of a given register. These experts should act in several
roles. First, they can be observed giving advice to their students or other
initiates on register use. Second, they can report their own prior
as students or initiates trying to enter the domain, and
espeCially on any problems encountered along the way. Third, they could
respond to or rate the appropriateness of sample texts which are
systematically varied along whatever lines are believed to be involved in
the register, including lines they may themselves suggest. These three uses
of register experts would do much to fill in the gap which now exists
between the intuitive appeal or plausibility of the notion of register and the
body of evidence needed to give the notion some socially documented
Another tactic would be to gather data which might help to indicate
what registers can be identified in the first place, and if so, by what means.
I have been applying this tactic for some time by directing my own
students on numerous small projects of this kind. In some cases, the
students were themselves accredited users in the register, as for the projects
on the discourse in pool-hall gambling or in a certain 'fraternity' house,
or the social 'small-talk' among users of university VAX computer system
('YAXers'). Here, the students had the advantage of being familiar with
usmg the register, but in no case did they have a very clear idea of the
factors involved before the actual data-gathering began.
The controlling influence of the social situation was certainly as powerful
as Halliday or Firth could wish. Pool-hall betting is illegal in Florida and
therefore requires a register outsiders will not understand. The fraternity
house had made a point of developing a register not even known to other
fraternities, though more for motives of upholding exclusivity than
shielding illegality. The dialogue among VAXers, who cannot see or hear
each other, reflects a shift in social pressures, including the freedom to
either reveal or conceal oneself without the usual worries about possible
The findings showed, as might be expected, a characteristic mix of
special lexical items with specialized strategies covering whole discourses.
In pool-betting, the turns of the betting negotiation - to establish the type
of game, the rules, the handicaps, and the amount of money at stake -
were found to be carried out in almost every recorded case, though specific
words were not usually prescribed except for the game names, e.g.,
'nineball' versus 'snooker', which themselves said a good deal about the
kind of player and the amount of money likely to be involved. In the 'frat',
special terms clustered around activities which in the American middle-
class environment are not so much talked about, such as drinking alcohol
(e.g., 'turbo-slam', a way to drink beer upside down), having casual sex
(e.g., 'to bust'), and stealing (e.g., to 'schwartz' or to 'ninja'). The
V AXers were most clearly characterized by their choices of special names
and descriptions for themselves, borrowing heavily on science fiction and
popular movies and television.
In other projects, the students were outsiders, as in the study of prison
discourse by a student whose husband happened to be a sports director in
a Florida prison. This method has the advantage that special factors of the
register stand out by virtue of their seeming unfamiliarity. My student was
'shocked' at the extent of what she called 'obscene language', though how
far this aspect was due to the hostility the inmates sensed in the situation
and how far it might have reflected the dialects of the predominantly
lower-class inmates could not be determined from the sample, and we did
not use direct interviews to gather the data. Aside from special terms like
'e.o.s.' (,ee-oh-ess') instead of 'end of sentence', higher-level strategies
included thematic attempts to impress other inmates with claims about
what one was or did in the outside world, matched up with numerous
blunt formulae showing disbelief; and formulations for maintaining that
one went to jail for some unjust accusation or mistake in the legal system,
rather than for some real fault or crime of one's own.
Whether we have solid theoretical justification for maintaining that the
data gathered in such fieldwork belong to or even constitute a 'register' can
of course be debated. The same question must continually be raised for any
research concerned with 'register', since society itself has no exact criteria
for deciding what the necessary and sufficient conditions of a register must
be. The vital criterion is how the participants in situation types view their
discourse and how far they in fact adapt their general discourse strategies
to fit the type, and both factors were evidently operative in the domains
we studied.
This twofold strategy of working directly with actually accredited insiders
on the one hand while doing indirect grassroots fieldwork among presumed
insiders on the other hand can offset the trade-off I cited between abstrac-
tion versus control. The insiders can describe how they in practice fit their
own discourse to a register and vice versa. The fieldworkers can strive to
notice any aspects that seem special or specific and hence potentially rele-
vant for a register. I suspect that we will still have a good deal of indeter-
minacy in the data, somewhat along the lines of centres versus 'orbits',
'margins', or 'satellites' envisioned by linguists like Pike and Firth (section
1). And we will probably find more registers and more shadings within
registers than we would like, especially variations which do not show up
reliably in lexicon or grammar as Halliday stipulated for his approach
(section 2).
In return, however, we stand to gain a firmer empirical base for treating
linguistic data at large, and for deciding how wide our claims should be.
We have, I fear, been much too eager to make wider claims than were
really justified by the materials we had at hand. A more comprehensive
engagement with the notion of register can materially brighten the future
of language study not merely as a factory for turning out formalisms and
sentence diagrams, but as a participant in broad social research and educa-
tion programmes.
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2 The specification of a text: register, genre and
language teaching
Helen Leckie- Tarry *
Process and product
In a functional theory of language, analysts are not just interested in
what language is, but why language is; not just what language means,
but how language means (Birch 1989: 1).
In this chapter I propose that an understanding of language, and the
teaching of that language, must take into account not only the nature of
the finished product, the text, but also the by whIch
text is produced and interpreted. One of the major ways of explonng thls
is by developing more delicate theoretical and practical accounts of register
and genre. To that end I have three preliminary, but principal, concerns.
One the FUNCTIONAL role of text in society. Two, the INTERTEXTUAL
role the relationship between texts, both in terms of their social functions
and in terms of their linguistic similarities and differences. Three, the
IDENTIFYING role of specifying texts, spoken and written, in terms of both
their social functions and their linguistic structures.
To specify, for example, the identifying features of the registers of writ-
ten English from those of spoken English, it is essential to have a
commonly accepted basis for comparison. In the past, discussions .of
ten literary texts, for example, were traditionally based on the specIficatIOn
* Helen Leckie-Tarry obtained a BA in Latin and History and a Post Graduate Diploma in
Education from the University of Melbourne; a First Class Honours Degree in Communica-
tion Studies from Murdoch University and her Ph.D, Register: A Functional Linguistic Theory,
was awarded posthumously in April 1992 following her death in October 1991. From 1974
she taught English as a Second Language in both W.A.I.T. and the Tafe system, as well as
tutoring part-time in linguistics at Murdoch University.
Helen Leckie-Tarry was an exemplary student and a scholar of immense capabilities and
insight, and she leaves in her work, as a legacy to the world of learning that she loved so
much, an outstanding contribution of original thinking.
of genre. Discussions of non-literary and spoken texts are a rather more
recent phenomenon, and such texts have received little generic attention,
but, particularly within systemic functional linguistics, have been included
within register studies.
More recently, both concepts have been elaborated so that the terms
'register' and 'genre' appear at times to be of equal importance in the
analysis of written and spoken, literary and non-literary texts. 'Genre',
particularly with the work of some Australian systemic linguists, has
assumed an important place within functional linguistics, a place which
might, at one time, seem to have been firmly, and exclusively, reserved by
'register' .
This paper is a discussion of some of the theoretical changes and
developments that have been taking place in register and genre studies in
the last few years, particularly within the context of functional linguistics
and its application in the language teaching classroom. In the ESL
classroom, the teaching of the registers of written English is broadly
contained within the more specific areas of EAP (English for Academic
Purposes) or ESP (English for Specific Purposes), which place a particular
emphasis on the language of formal expository prose.
It is not a co-incidence that the genres of casual conversation on the one
hand and expository prose on the other have been associated with
spoken and written language respectively (Tannen, 1985: 129).
In order to teach students how to operate in an academic context, they
must know the language of English academic texts, and this in turn will
involve developing in them an understanding of how academic texts func-
tion in society; how academic texts are produced; how academic discourse
relates to the English language as a whole, and how registerially specific
are the linguistic structures of academic discourse.
We may assume that with all natural languages the speakers are able to
adapt themselves verbally to different situations. This is a fundamental
assumption and may be said to be part of the 'the theory of register'.
But how far these kinds of verbally appropriate behaviour are recognized
consciously by the native speaker, or how far he (sic) merely responds
intuitively, and how far the contrasts are readily perceived by linguists
may vary from language to language and pose problems of linguistic
description (Essex, 1978: 54).
Students of language need to develop a conscious recogmtIOn of the
mechanisms of adaptation, and a conscious recognition of the differences
between these mechanisms from one language to another. For language
teachers to develop this recognition in their students, the teachers
themselves need 'a model that shows systematically how text is related to
context' (Martin et al, 1987: 63), and this model must be of such a kind
that it may be effectively applied to classroom use.
Much has been done towards developing models which relate text to
context. One of the most influential is that of Halliday (1978: 142) who
believes that the question is 'one of characterizing the context of situation
in appropriate terms in terms which will reveal the systematic relationship
between language and the environment. This involves some form of
theoretical construction that relates the situation simultaneously to the text,
to the linguistic system, and to the social system.' This emphasis on the
relations between the linguistic and the social is an important one, because
without 'immediate and direct relations to the social context, the forms and
functions of language are not fully explicable' (Kress and Hodge 1979: 13).
And it is here that an important 'latter-day' Hallidayan development has
taken place. In the early Hallidayan literature, descriptions of 'the social
system' concentrate, for the most part, on an analysis of the context of
situation; more recently, descriptions of 'social context' focus more strongly
on the broader 'culture' which is seen as 'a homogeneous entity uniting a
harmonious society' (Kress and Hodge 1979: 13). A language then is a
'system of categories and rules based on fundamental principles and
assumptions about the world' (1979: 5). So close is the bond between
language and its social context that 'these principles and assumptions are
not related to or determined by thought: they are thought .... Such
assumptions are embodied in language, learnt through language, and rein-
forced in language use' (1979: 5). This 'systematically organized presenta-
tion of reality' is now generally understood to be 'ideology', which is built
into language at the deepest, hence unconscious, level (1979: 15).
It is this complex system of linguistic, social, cultural and ideological
relationships between text and the various levels of context that must be
accounted for by any theory of language, and its consequent application to
language teaching. The exploration of these relationships was, for some
thirty years or so, considered the province of the theory and study of
register; more recently it has become the province also of theory of genre.
Both have much to offer in revealing the nature of the relationships, and
as a consequence I examine both in some detail.
A theory of register aims to 'uncover the general principles which govern
[the variation in situation types], so that we can begin to understand what
situational factors determine what linguistic features' (Halliday 1978: 32).
In other words, theories of register, according to this position, aim to
propose relationships between language Junction, (determined by situational
or societal factors), and language Jorm. .' .
The term 'register' first came into general currency m the SIxtIes.
According to Halliday, it was first used by Reid in 1956 and later
developed by Ure (Ure 1968, Ellis and Ure 1969). He himself, in 1964,
described register as 'a variety according to use, in the sense that each
speaker has a range of varieties and chooses between them at different
times', to distinguish the term from dialect, which is 'a variety according
to user, in the sense that each speaker uses one variety and uses it all the
time' (Halliday, MacIntosh and Strevens 1964: 77).
Hence this concept of register has been seen by Halliday as bound to
a particular situation.
When we observe language actIVIty in the various contexts m which it
takes place, we find differences in the type of language selected as
appropriate to different types of situation (Halliday et al. 1964: 87).
A register is constituted by 'the linguistic features which are typically
associated with a configuration of situational features - with particular
values of the field, mode and tenor' (1976: 22). In general, these defini-
tions take as their point of departure the linguistic structure of a text and
relate it to elements of context, more specifically the context of situation
of the text.
Halliday's later definition tends to place the more primary emphasis on
semantic patterns and context.
[Register] is the set of meanings, the configuration of semantic patterns,
that are typically drawn upon under the specified conditions, along with
the words and structures that are used in the realization of these mean-
ings (1978: 23).
Register is determined, by what is taking place, who is taking part and
what part the language is playing (1978: 31). There is also a greater
emphasis on the broader social context:
A register can be defined as the configuration of semantic resources that
the member of a culture typically associates with a situation type. It is
the meaning potential that is accessible in a given social context.
Halliday further makes the point that, while register may be recognized by
its formal (i.e., linguistic) characteristics, its structure is semantic (ibid:
111). Hence, in this definition, the critical elements are seen to be firstly
contextual, and secondly, linguistic.
Following closely the work of Halliday, Gregory and Carroll (1978) see
register as 'a useful abstraction linking variations of language to variations
of social context' (1978: 64), 'a contextual category correlating groupings
of linguistic features with recurrent situational features' (1978: 4). A
further interpretation which similarly relates text to context defines register
as 'a linguistic category, a property relating a given text, in terms of its
formal, phonological or graphological, or substantial, features to similar
texts in comparable situations, and thereby to features in the situation of
utterance or composition', qualifying this with the statement that 'a given
language will be said to have a register distinction at a certain point only
if there are both linguistic and situational differences there' (Ellis and Ure
1969: 252). The common factor in these definitions of register is the view
that both situational and linguistic variables should be an essential part of
the process of register characterization.
Moreover, it is these situational variables that determine the function of
the utterance, that specify register as a variety according to use. 'Language
varies as its function varies; it differs in different situations. The label
given to a variety of a language according to use is "register'" (Chiu
1973: 54); that is, function is a product of inter-relating situational
variables, and register is the product of functional variation.
However, for some theorists, the concept of 'register' is not sufficient to
capture this mediating phenomenon. In more recent times, these theorists
have found the concept of 'genre' more effective in representing that
theoretical construct which intervenes between language function and
language form. As a consequence, there is considerable variation in the
definitions and conceptualization of the two terms, with some degree of
overlap between the two concepts, as well as some basic differences in the
usage of the concepts and terminology.
The emphasis of genre theorists is firmly on social and cultural factors
as the generating factor of all action, including linguistic action. 'Genres
are primarily defined as the socially ratified text-types in a community'
(Kress and Threadgold 1988: 216). For genre theorists, the value of
concepts of genre is that they offer
. . . certain theoretical categories to describe . . . the interface between
the socio-cultural world and textual form ... ways in which texts and
the social agents which produce them construct and are constructed by
the social and the cultural (1988: 216).
Halliday, however, still employs the term 'register' to encapsulate that
relationship between texts and social processes. He employs 'genre' in a
more limited sense, in the sense which has been common in literary discus-
sions in the past. He sees 'generic structure' not as the embodiment of the
text as social process, but as a single characteristic of a text, its organiza-
tional structure, 'outside the linguistic system'. It is one of three factors,
generic structure, textual structure and cohesion, which distinguish text
from non-text, and as such can be brought within the general framework
of the concept of register (Halliday 1978: 145). However, he sees it as a
feature of all texts, even spontaneous conversation, and not as simply
confined to literary texts. In other words, for Halliday, genre is a lower
order semiotic concept; register the higher order semiotic concept, thus
subsuming genre. The genre of a text, therefore, contributes to its register.
He thus considers 'register', as he has defined it in the past, to be the
concept which best represents the text-context relationship.
Genre theorists, however, reject any privileging of discursive structure in
discussions of text. They reject concepts of genre which are confined
mainly to discussions of literary texts, 'where genre is conceived of largely
as a schema for action, a recipe for producing a text, ... an autonomous
characteristic of texts' (Threadgold 1989: 93). Typical of earlier
mterpretations of 'genre' is that of Hymes (1974), who sees genres as
categories such as poem, myth, tale, riddle, etc. He says that 'the notion
of genre implies the possibility of identifying formal characteristics tradi-
tionally recognized' (Hymes 1974: 61). This limitation to purely' formal
is rejected as unable to account for the nature of language as a
SOCial process.
Genres are not simply schemas or frames for action. They involve,
always, characteristic ways of 'text-making' (what in systemic-functional
terms we could call mode), and characteristic sets of interpersonal rela-
tionships and meanings (Threadgold 1989: 96).
However, although genre theorists (such as Martin, Threadgold, Kress,
Reid,) perceived register as insufficient to explain the relationship of text
and context, they nevertheless acknowledge 'the Hallidayan tradition of
linguistics' as the basis of their theories.
genre theory underlying the so-called 'genre-based' approaches to
wntmg development was deVeloped by Hasan 1978, Kress 1982, Martin
1983 and others as an extension of earlier work on register by systemic
linguistics including Halliday, Gregory, U re and Ellis (Martin, Christie
and Rothery, 1987: 119).
Furthermore, Threadgold freely admits that 'the use of the term genre in
systemic theory full of unresolved problems' (Threadgold 1986: 56).
One of the claims of genre theorists is that 'genre theory differs from
register theory in the amount of emphasis placed on social purpose as a
determining variable in language use . . . . In essence genre theory is a
theory of language use' (Martin, Christie and Rothery 1987: 119). In other
words, they see register theory as placing too little weight on social
processes and hence functional aspects of texts. They see that register
privileges linguistic features of texts over social context (,Linguistic
chOIces ... may well have generic implications; but genre does not result
from linguistic choices' (Reid 1988: 34)), and context of situation over the
broader social context (,they fall short of offering any explanation of action
and institutions as social contexts in which subjects are constituted and
pursue their aims within the parameters made possible by institutional
and th.e various constraints which these exert on the media by
which discourse IS transmitted' (Threadgold 1986: 34)).
Given the original insistence by Halliday, Gregory and Carroll and Ure
on the initiating force of contextual factors and linguistic function in the
process of realization of meaning, this initially seems surprising. Halliday
defines register in terms of the association of linguistic features with
'different types of situation' (Halliday et al. 1964: 87), Gregory and Carroll
(1978: 64) see it as 'linking variations of language to variations of social
context', and Ure (Ellis and Ure) 1972: 252) perceives it as an association
of linguistic features and 'features in the situation of utterance or composi-
tion' .
It may, however, be a product of the earlier emphasis on the linguistic
characteristics of register, at the expense of contextual or functional
characteristics. While Halliday has always insisted on the determining
nature of contextual factors in specifying register, he also says in an early
work (1964: 89) that 'if two samples of language activity from what, on
non-linguistic grounds, could be considered different situation-types show
no differences in grammar or lexis, they are assigned to one and the same
register'. This apparent downgrading of contextual factors in the specifica-
tion of register is perhaps partially responsible for the interpretation over
the intervening years of register as referring primarily to linguistic
An example of such an interpretation is that of Wallace (1981: 267) who
defines register as 'a complex of features including appropriate lexical
items, stylistic devices, frequency of certain grammatical transformations,
discourse structure, etc.', indicating the emphasis on linguistic features
without reference to the contextual background giving rise to such features.
Such interpretations formed the basis in those intervening years for theory
and practice, particularly in the field of language teaching, which was
based on linguistic analysis, paying little heed to contextual factors at any
Halliday himself acknowledges this early over-emphasis on lexico-
grammar (1978: 110), and attempts in a later work to correct it, asserting
that, while a register is 'recognizable as a particular selection of words and
structures', it must be defined 'in terms of meanings .... It is the selec-
tion of meanings that constitutes the variety to which a text belongs' (1978:
111). He goes on to say that 'instead of characterizing a register largely
by its lexico-grammatical properties, we shall suggest ... a more abstract
definition in semantic terms' (1978: 110-111). This definition places the
emphasis on register as the configuration of semantic resources; the mean-
ing potential accessible in a given social context. However, despite this
later revision of emphasis, the term register has become identified in the
minds of many language specialists as being involved primarily with
linguistic characteristics rather than on the contexts which generate them.
There is a further difference in emphasis in the application of the two
concepts of register and genre which involves the 'confusion ... between
context in the sense of "immediate context of utterance" and the wider
context of culture', referred to briefly above (Kress and Threadgold 1988:
226). Genre theorists move away from the emphasis of register theory on
the context of situation, as they stress the interactive and cyclical nature
of text-context relationship, and perceive context in its broadest sense as
reaching out to the wider culture. Threadgold asserts that it is insufficient
to discuss the linguistic process in terms of situation types and their
corresponding genres.
What we need to know is how institutions and institutionalized power
relationships and knowledges are both constructed by and impose
constraints on (and restrict access to) possible situation-types and genres
(1989: 97).
Kress and Threadgold draw attention to the paradoxical situation where
'literary texts are usually supposed to elide in some way the former
[context of situation], while still being constrained by the latter [context of
culture]. On the other hand, the texts of casual conversation are often
described as if they were constrained only by the former' (1988: 226).
Any theory which seeks to dichotomize form and content is rejected by
genre theorists. A text cannot be 'separated from [its] participation in
historical, social, and political processes' (Threadgold 1989). Instead genre
theorists seek to 'understand the ways in which lexico-grammatical patterns
in texts are globally contextualized so as to [realize particular important
social functions]' (Kress and Threadgold 1988: 216). Genres are seen to
derive their conventions 'from a general and differentiated semiotics rather
than from a linguistics' (Freadman 1988: 91).
Text and context
The nature of text m the View of genre theorists is neatly summed up by
Kress (1985: 18).
Texts arise in specific social situations and they are constructed with
specific purposes by one or more speakers or writers. Meanings find
their expression in text - though their origins of meanings are outside
the text - and are negotiated (about) in texts, in concrete situations of
social exchange.
These situations, he claims, in 'their characteristic features and structures,
... the purposes of the participants, the goals of the participants' (1985:
19) determine the form of the resulting text. It is from the conventionalized
forms of such situations or occasions that genres, or conventionalized forms
of text, arise.
Kress characterizes genres as providing 'a precise index and catalogue of
the relevant social occasions of a community at a given time'. He sees that
the meanings of texts are not only derived from the meaning contained
within the discourse (systems of meanings arise out of the organization of
social institutions), but also from the meanings of the genre, or meanings
about the conventionalized social occasions from which texts arise (1985:
The interaction between text and context is seen in the form of the 'nexus
between language and society', where 'language fixes a world that is so
much more stable and coherent than what we actually see that it takes its
place in our consciousness and becomes what we think we have seen'
(Kress and Hodge 1979: 5). So firmly established is that nexus that
'language, which is given by society, determines which perceptions are
potentially social ones. These perceptions, fixed in language, become a
kind of second nature. We inevitably impose our classification on others,
and on ourselves' (1985: 5).
It is very clear, then, that any description of linguistic form is mean-
ingless unless it incorporates an acknowledgement and description of the
broader social context, 'the social occasion' of the text: 'without immediate
and direct relations to the social context, the forms and functions of
language are not fully explicable' (Kress and Hodge 1979: 13). In contrast,
it seems that, in discussion of register, it has been the case that the form
of the text frequently takes prior place, and context and linguistic functions
follow: for theorists of register, a register is primarily essentially constituted
by linguistic features which are then 'associated with a configuration of
situation features' (Halliday 1976: 22).
The tendency of register theorists to privilege linguistic structure in
theory and consequently in the practice of linguistic analysis has been
conducive to a concentration of such work on text as a linguistic product.
The outcome of this position is the assumption of a primarily synoptic view
of texts which ignores the probabilistic, dynamic aspects of their perfor-
Genre theorists claim that the concept of genre, with its dual emphasis
on all contextual levels and linguistic structure, allows a dual focus, the
synoptic focus of text as product, and the dynamic focus of text as process.
Genres are both 'products' and 'processes' - 'systems' and 'perfor-
mances'. Each time a text is produced so as to realize and construct a
situation-type it becomes the model for another text and another
situation-type. As a model, it functions like a static, finished product or
a system according to which new texts can be constructed. Once the
constructing begins it becomes again a dynamic process, a 'performance'
which will inevitably change the model with which it begins. This means
that we have to teach the interpersonal and textual characteristic of
genres, the probabilistic, dynamic aspects of their performance as well as
their schematic structures (Thread gold 1989: 100).
The concept of genre has undoubtedly been associated with whole
interactions, or whole texts, whereas the term register is frequently used to
refer to sections within a text which are characterized by certain linguistic
forms. I believe that this is a useful distinction to retain, in order to allow
for discussion of passages or sections of texts; it frequently occurs that
certain sections of a text show patterns which are not characteristic of the
text as a whole:
register patterns may be borrowed into a shorter stretch of a longer text,
so that the shorter stretch is marked by features other than those that
characterize the text as a whole (Essex 1972: 52).
Birch and O'Toole (1988: 2-3) see genre as 'the social relevance of a text,
but refer to 'the different registers in the poem' and 'shifts in lexical
register' (1988: 11).
This distinction between whole texts and sections of texts is made by
Bakhtin (1986), although he universally applies the term 'genre'. Bakhtin
distinguishes between primary (simple) and secondary (complex) genres,
where secondary genres 'absorb and digest various primary (simple) genres
that have taken form in unmediated speech communion' (1986: 82).
Although he claims no difference in function, he perceives that primary
utterances or genres lose their immediate relation to actual reality when
they constitute a section of a secondary genre, such as when a rejoinder
of everyday dialogue (primary) is contained within a novel (secondary). I
suggest that the term 'register' has developed an association with primary
or simple genres, that is texts or sections of texts which take the form of
shorter utterances, spoken and written, while secondary or complex genres
have become identified with the term genre proper.
Bakhtin used the concept of 'speech genres' to refer to the 'relatively
stable thematic, compositional and stylistic types of utterances' which are
determined by a specific nature of the particular sphere of communication
(1986: 64), as well as 'semantic (thematic) considerations, the concrete
situation of the speech communication, the personal composition of its
participants and so on' (1986: 78). Diversity arises in everyday genres such
as greetings, farewells, etc. as they vary according to 'the situation, social
position, and personal interrelations of the participants in the communica-
tion' (1988: 79). A comparison, therefore, between Halliday's definition of
register and Bakhtin's definition of genre shows that there is a considerable
degree of commonality: both hinge the definitions on linguistic and situ a-
tional characteristics. What is at issue, of course, is the nature of the
What emerges from the arguments put forward by both schools is that,
while registers are free to mediate in any communicative event, socially
identified or informal, complete or incomplete, genres are taken to repre-
sent those events which have been culturally recognized. While the concept
of register is postulated as a relationship between text and context, genre
is defined as 'a staged, goal oriented social process' which is used 'to
embrace each of the linguistically realized activity types which comprise so
much of our culture' (Martin, Christie and Rothery 1987: 120).
It is Halliday's view that such a distinction is unnecessary (personal
communication), and he adheres to the concept of register as a sufficient
concept to specify the relationship between text and context at all levels.
While I believe that this is undoubtedly true, it is inescapable that for
many the term 'register' has developed a semantic value over the past
twenty-five years of usage and application. No definitions, no matter how
influential, can override this semantic value, which includes constraints,
limitations and restrictions of its original conceptualization. Hence the
semantic value with which it is attributed by theorists and practitioners in
the field today does not necessarily coincide with the original value
attributed to it by Halliday.
However, there are those who accept Halliday's definitions and remain
uninfluenced by later interpretations and practice. The two terms are often
used interchangeably. Frow (1983: 93), working from Halliday's 'develop-
ment of the concept of register', says that
Discourse genre or register is a conventional institution: a normative
codification of different levels of meaning appropriate to a type of situa-
tion. Discourse ... is the production of a unified cluster of semantic,
structural, and contextual meanings in accordance with generic norms.
The codification of meanings appropriate to a situation is ultimately a
function of the ideological formation, and different social classes and
sexual classes will encode the genres of discourse with different semantic
Frow, then, finds it unnecessary to make distinctions between whole and
part texts in this way, and accepts the interpretation as originally offered
by Halliday.
Fairclough (1985, 1988) interprets register as 'an ideologically particular,
situation-specific meaning potential' (Fairclough 1985: 112), preferring this
to Halliday's interpretation, as 'it ties register to ideological diversity and
relations of power' (p. 116). It is 'ideological' in that it represents a
particular social base. He claims that 'it makes little sense to study verbal
interactions as if they were unconnected with social structures' (Fairclough
1985: 746). He sees verbal interaction as a mode of social action which
presupposes a range of structures which are reflected in the 'knowledge
base' or 'background knowledge' (BGK) which incorporates:
- knowledge of language codes
- knowledge of principles and norms of language use
- knowledge of situation
- knowledge of the world
(1985: 744).
However, BGK often becomes 'naturalized' or assumed to be non-
ideological 'common sense' and hence dissociated from that social base. To
incorporate both ideological and discourse structures in the discussion of
register, he develops the term 'ideological-discursive formation' (1988:
'------+-----------,-1 -- - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -1
reg Ister mode
Figure 2.1 Language and contex
(Martin, 1988: 17)
An attempt to resolve this conflict in terminology and hence in concep-
tualization is made by Martin (1982: 2), who perceives the two concepts
in mutual relationship. He accepts the Hallidayan concept of register as
'the study of the [systematic] relation between language and its context'
(1980: 7):
There are two aspects to knowledge of register. Firstly, it entails
understanding how the context of situation influences fanguage use and
secondly, it involves knowledge of a description of English (1981: 7).
This definition is consistent with definitions of Halliday, Gregory and
Carroll and Ure. However, in view of the constraints on the term
discussed above, Martin goes further, distinguishing register from genre,
and placing register as a semiotic system intervening between genre above
and language below, where 'language is treated as the phonology of
register and register the phonology of genre' (1982: 2).
For him, the advantage of using the concepts of both register and genre
means that 'instead of setting field, mode and tenor variables for whole
texts as has been customary in register theory, values can be adjusted from
one state to the next' (Martin 1986: 40).
Language teaching
Language teaching, which traditionally deals with the non-literary genres,
has tended to favour register theory, and hence has incorporated the
emphases described above. This has involved a privileging of linguistic
features at the expense of contextual features, a focus on partial rather than
complete texts, and little acknowledgement of the influence of the broader
context of culture, some of which has been recognized by certain language
teaching theorists.
Swales (1985) and Widdowson (1983) have both drawn attention to the
inadequacy of register analysis as it has been practised in the past as a tool
for developing ESLlEAP/ESP syllabuses and methodologies. Like the genre
theorists, Swales (1985: 12) too perceives that the term 'register' is
associated with an emphasis on linguistic structure at the expense of
contextual features and thus prefers to employ the concept of genre. He
claims that studies in genre analysis 'differ from traditional register or sub-
register analysis in the importance they attach to communicative purposes
within a communicative setting'. For him, genres place an emphasis on
communicative purpose which he feels is lacking in traditional views of
language teaching:
Within language across the curriculum there are many recurring com-
municative situations that involve types of task and types of text ....
Such regularized text-task interactions I shall call genres .... I accept
that they can be differentiated according to the sort of information
represented, but I do not so easily accept that topic-typing (classification,
structure, etc.) is the only or even the main criterion for this differentia-
tion. I think we have also to take communicative purpose very much
into account (Swales 1988: 12).
Swales then goes on to define genre explicitly m relation to his own
concept of language teaching (1985: 13):
a. A genre is a recognized communicative event with a shared public
purpose and
b. A genre is, within variable degrees of freedom, a structured and stan-
dardized communicative event with constraints on allowable contribu-
tions in terms of their positioning, form and intent.
c. Overt knowledge of the conventions of a genre is likely to be much
greater in those who routinely or professionally operate with that genre
rather than in those who become involved in it only occasionally.
d. Societies give genre names to types of communicative event that they
recognize as recurring. Named genres are manifested through spoken or
written texts (or both) and their associated text-based tasks.
e. Modified genre-names (survey article, issue memo, panel discussion)
indicate features that a speech community finds salient and thus provide
a way into sub-genres.
The difference between this definition of genre and previous definitions
of registers lies less in intent than in emphasis. While definitions of register
attempt to relate situational factors, from which communicative purpose or
function is assumed or recognized, with linguistic structure, Swales' posi-
tion seems to interpret genre as referring to socially recognized
communicative events where communicative purpose appears to be explicit
or overt (' a standardized communicative event . . . with aims mutually
understood by the participants within that event' (1985: 13. Swales also
emphasizes the nature of genre as a complete text, referring to genre
names such as survey article, issue memo and panel discussion. Register
on the other hand seems to refer just as easily to incomplete events, or
sections of texts, as to whole events or texts.
Similar limitations in the application of the term 'register' are also seen
by Widdowson. He says (1983: 28), 'there is no reason why registers, or
varieties, or rhetorical types should not be characterized by reference to the
communicative properties of linguistic forms in context'. However, he goes
on to say that traditional register analysis has not done this, with the result
that register analysis as a basis for course design cannot account for the
function of linguistic items as components of discourse. It incorporates only
'what aspects of the language system accompany certain activities' but does
not incorporate any understanding of 'HOW they are used as an intrinsic
element of these activities' (1983: 33), and that 'register analysis ... is an
operation on text and does not, as such, reveal how language is used in
the discourse process' (Widdowson 1983: 28).
Widdowson sees that basing analysis on the concept of genre may offer
The value of such analysis is that it provides a characterization of the
communicative conventions associated with particular areas of language
use and takes us beyond the itemization of notions and functions into
larger schematic units upon which procedural work can effectively
operate (Widdowson 1983: 102).
However, he also sees limitations or possible dangers in the application of
genre analysis in that 'in revealing typical textualizations, it might lead us
to suppose that form-function correlations are fixed and can be learned as
formulae, and so to minimize the importance of the procedural aspect of
language use and learning' (Widdowson 1983: 103).
Hence, in understanding the process of linguistic realization of meaning,
and further the process of language learning and language teaching, it is
critical that the theoretician and the teacher are aware that 'the relation-
ship between the form and content of texts is not arbitrary or conventional,
but that it is determined (and constrained) culturally, socially and
ideologically by the power of institutional/discursive formations' (Birch
1989: 1). One must understand, according to Threadgold, that 'to teach
genres, discourses and stories is inevitably to make 'visible' the social
construction and transmission of ideologies, power relationships, and social
identities' (1989: 100).
I propose that both the terms register and genre have their place for the
language theoretician and practitioner, as both offer slightly different
insights into the linguistic process. The term 'register' tends to be the more
neutral, generalized and embracing term, having a wider currency in the
language teaching area, and a stronger historical basis. It tends to suggest
a focus on the linguistic side of the text-context paradigm, on patterns of
lexis and syntax rather than on discourse structure or textual organization,
and on sections of discourse smaller than the whole text. 'Genre', in
contrast, has the force of suggesting the priority of the context as a
'conventionalized occasion' over linguistic forms and patterns, the text as
a complete event, with formalized organizational schemata.
We must be able to analyse both the linguistic components and the
situational components of language events, each on a number of dimen-
sions at the same time; this is necessary to enable us to identify which
linguistic variables co-vary with which situational variables (University
of Essex 1972: 54).
On this basis, I conclude firstly that any attempt to characterize language,
or variation within a language, must work through the concepts of register
and genre, and secondly that any characterization of register/genre, or
particular registers/genres must specify both contextual features at various
levels as well as linguistic features.
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Genres and Other Late Essays (trans. Vern W. McGee) Austin, Texas, University
of Texas Press, 60-101.
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Selected Theoretical Papers, from the Ninth International Systemic Workshop,
Norwood, N.J., Ablex.
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Language Teaching Methodology for the Nineties, Singapore, SEAMEO Regional
Language Centre, 157-177.
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Chiu, R. (1973), 'Measuring Register Characteristics', in IRAL Vol XII1 Feb
1973, 51-68.
Ellis, J.N. and Ure, J. (1969), 'Language Varieties: Register, in A.R. Meetham
(1969), (op. cit.) 251-259.
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and M. O'Toole (eds) (1988), 111-125.
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1983, 87-105.
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their Social Contexts, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul.
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Language and Meaning, London, Arnold.
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and Language Teaching, London, Longman.
Hymes, Dell (1974), Foundations in Sociolinguuistics: An Ethnographic Approach,
Philadelphia, University of Pennyslvania Press.
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sity Press.
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& M. O'Toole (eds) (1988), 126-141.
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Southern Review 21/3 (1988), 215-243.
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Benson and W. Greaves (eds), 248-274.
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Pointer and J. Martin (eds) (1986), 11-43.
Martin, J., Christie, F. and Rothery, J. (1987), 'Social Processes in Education',
in I. Reid (1987), 58-82.
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Oxford, Pergamon Press.
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Pointer, C. and Martin, J. (eds) (1986), Writing to Mean: Teaching Genres across the
Curriculum, Applied Linguistics Association of Australia, Occasional Papers No.
Reid, I. (ed.) (1988), The Place of Genre in Learning: Current Debates, Geelong, Deakin
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in M. Tickoo (ed.) (1986), 10-22.
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in M. Tickoo (ed.) (1988), 14-20.
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Literacy, Language and Learning, Cambridge, CUP, 124-147.
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Threadgold et al. (eds) (1986), 15-60.
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Part 11. Controlling and changing ideologies
3 Drama praxis and the dialogic imperative
David Birch
Keir Elam talks about drama as being about '. . . an I addressing a you,
here and now'. (1980: 139), as a way of distinguishing it as a different
GENRE of discourse from, for example, third person narratives. Drama,
seen in these terms, is about a present rather than a past determination
of person, time and place, because it occurs as performance in the here
and now.
But the here and now, I would suggest, contrary to this view, is not a
'natural' event. It is discursively (and hence institutionally) determined by
a number of different semiotic signals and markers only some of which are
linguistic. The notion of person, i.e. subjectivity, like time and place, is
not simply riflected or represented by language, it is determined by language and
the various other semiotic means we have of making meanings.
This determination of person, time and place - traditionally thought of
in terms of deixis - involving the who, where and when of the action/interac-
tion can account for a large percentage of text involving deictic determiners
of personal, possessive and demonstrative pronouns; tense; adverbials of
place and time; discourse referencing; terms of address and naming
strategies; honorifics and social markers, and so on. These, and other
linguistic and non-linguistic means, are crucially important in establishing
role and status relationships, subjectivities, and points of view - in other
words: realities. Deixis is not simply about linking language and situation
by 'anchoring' utterance to context (Levinson 1983: 55), a traditional but
critically limiting view within sociolinguistics/pragmatics, but might better
be thought of in terms of its establishing subject/object relations in interac-
tion. It then becomes a discursive, cultural and, therefore, political/critical
process, and not simply, as is often thought to be the case in non-critical
theories of discourse/language, an innocent, disinterested means of
establishing spatio-temporal relations, or ensuring that verbs agree with
their grammatical subjects. Deictic shifts signal different points of view;
these in turn signal different realities, and these realities determine and are
determined by different (multiple) ideologies. Understanding deixis,
therefore, like understanding all processes of making meaning, is about
understanding multiple, rather than single, realities; about conflict, rather
than co-operation, between an I and you, a here and there; a now and then;
a this and that.
'It is in and through language that man (sic passim) constitutes himself
as a subject, because language alone establishes the concept of 'ego' in
reality ... ' (Benveniste, 1971: 218). The reality to which words like I and
you refer is, therefore, a discursive reality. Language is only possible
because speakers - users - are 'set up' as subjects with words like I and
you, and with the various other discourse markers for person/subjectivity.
A contemporary critical position argues that we are interpellated as
subjects, rather than arguing that we are born with a unique and specific
social and cultural identity. We are constructed not just as a single subject,
but, in many different situations and contexts, as many different, multiple,
subjects. This multiple subjectivity is made possible only by discursive
means - amongst them, language. It is therefore about interaction, not just
among people and institutions, but amongst various semiotic systems,
intertextualities and dialogic histories. The result is a bricollage - a process
of multiple fragments which when 'sewn' to social and cultural realities
(suture) by various institutional/ideological means construct the ways in
which we make meanings; understand meanings, and do things to others
with those meanings. Subjectivity - language - is socially and culturally
interpellated into, and by, institutionally determined discursive formations,
and only a very small part of those discursive formations has been, so far,
the focus of traditional linguistics (see Birch 1989).
Whenever a person uses language, in whatever mode, it is useful,
therefore, to imagine that there is a set of quotation marks around the
utterance which signal that this is not original to a unique individual, but
is part of a historical, social/cultural process of making meanings which
involves a dialogue between other discourses, other texts, other persons,
times and places; other sites of producing meanings. This is a crucial point
which signals very sharply the critical divide between structuralist and
post-structuralist thinking on the notion of creativity/originality in
language. Jacques Derrida talks about language in these terms as 'cita-
tions'. 'Each text', Derrida writes, 'is a machine with multiple reading
heads for other texts ... ', where, 'one text reads another' (Derrida 1979:
107). All texts, therefore, are many-voiced; are always about interaction
and intertextuality; always about a dialogue with history.
Bakhtin/Voloshinov talk about this as the 'dialogic imperative', where
one meaning - one voice - is able, always, to influence, and be influenced
by, another meaning, another voice. But this is not a cosy system of
cooperation following necessarily well-ordered and well understood rules,
but is rather a process of violent clashes and struggles; a multiplicity of
conflicts; a chaos of making meanings; a heteroglossia of voices signalling
plurality rather than singularity; dialogue rather than monologue:
The word, directed towards its object, enters into a dialogically agitated
and tension-filled environment of alien words, value judgments and
accents, weaves in and out of complex interrelationships, merges with
some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group: and all this
may crucially shape discourse, may leave a trace in all its semantic
layers, may complicate its expression and influence its entire stylistic
profile (Bakhtin 1981: 276).
Understanding how meanings are made is thus a process of understand-
ing intertextuality because 'Each word tastes of the context and contexts
in which it has lived its socially charged life' (Bakhtin 1981: 293). The
production of meaning, and hence the understanding of meaning, has
necessarily to be a dialogue with other texts; has necessarily to be an
intertextual activity; has necessarily to be a historically and politically
charged process. The linguistics which goes with that needs, therefore, to
be the same; needs, therefore, to be about dialogic imperatives and discur-
sive formations, and not simply about relations between linguistic struc-
tures in langue.
Language does not simply represent a reality external to itself. We can
never 'discover' what reality is, all we can effectively do, as William James
pointed out over 130 years ago, is to pose the question 'Under what
circumstances do we think things are real?' (Wilden 1972: 124). And those
circumstances, as Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann have made strik-
ingly clear, are ones which result in socially constructed realities. What is
central, therefore, in such a materialist view of communication, is that
'human thought is founded in human activity (labour) and in the social
relations brought about by this activity' (Berger and Luckmann 1967: 18).
It is through the choices that are made in the transactions and interactions
of communication - in the discursive formations - that realities are
created. Meaning, therefore, has no ontological basis, but is determined
only by social - discursive - practice. The choices and the associated
communicative/discursive strategies and routines that make up those social
practices are what determine the meanings, and these strategies and
routines are, in turn, determined by ideologies.
Language, seen in this way, is about performing actions by performing
meanings; a position well known by all users of language but which has
been buried within linguistics by an avalanche of psychological and struc-
turalist concerns. Sartre in his essay 'On Dramatic Style' discusses the
shamanistic power of language to effect change in others, writing that
'language is a moment in action, as in life, and it is there simply to give
orders, defend things, expound feelings in the form of an argument for the
defence (that is, for an active purpose), to persuade or accuse, to
demonstrate decisions, to be used in verbal duels, rejections, confessions
and the like' (Sartre 1976: 105).
Ludwig Wittgenstein recognized this when he argued that it is 'Practices
(which) give words their meaning.' (Wittgenstein 1977: 32e). By 'practices'
he was referring to the idea that it is USE that determines meaning and
not an intrinsic, context-free, meaning encoded into the words. The term
'practices' is important here. The German word Wittgenstein used was Die
Praxis, and praxis, I would argue, combining Wittgenstein's arguments
about language as use, and a Marxist understanding of praxis as human
activity which, in the face of institutional oppression and alienation
(Enifremdung), needs to be radical activity in order to bring about change
in the human condition, can be a very effective base on which to build a
critical linguistics. Praxis, and relatedly, language, is therefore about social
and political interaction and change. A critical understanding of drama
praxis, therefore, is also about social interaction and change. Praxis, then,
is a process of analysis and action designed to bring about change. Praxis
is both the action and process which establishes that we are, as people and
social institutions, what we do, and what we do is determined discursively,
i.e. by the various means we have of making meaning, among them, the
use of language. Texts are therefore practices which involve social inter-
action. And social interaction is about power and change. (see Birch,
More often than not, communication depends far less on what the words
mean than many people realize. But where meanings are triggered by
language those meanings are not intrinsic in the system and structure of
language; they are made by people, and more importantly by institutions;
in social situations which are always changing. What the words themselves
mean are often of lesser consequence than the discourse strategies and
structures involved, as the exchange between the characters JERRY and
EMMA in Betrayal (Pinter, 1978: 521) might demonstrate:
JERR Y: . . . I have a family.
EMMA: I have a family too.
JERRY: I know that perfectly well. I might remind you that your
husband is my oldest friend.
EMMA: What do you mean by that?
JERRY: I don't mean anything by it.
EMMA: But what are you trying to say by saying that?
JERRY: Jesus. I'm not trying to say anything. I've said precisely what
I wanted to say.
EMMA: I see.
What is it about this exchange that could result in a performance that
might put EMMA on the attack and JERR Y on the defensive? Conflict
between the two characters seems to rest not on something that has actually
been said, but on something that remains unsaid. There does not appear
to be a clearly signalled difference of opinion between them. What there
is is a difference which seems to rest on uncertainty and ambiguity. What
are more likely to be of importance, then, in understanding and then
performing conflict based on uncertainty, are those aspects of the text
which foreground that uncertainty. That, for the most part, seems to rest
initially on uncertainty of what the demonstrative 'that' refers to
throughout the course of the exchange. JERRY and EMMA seem to
understand quite different things by it, and therefore what might, in other
circumstances, have been an effective cohesive way of tying the text, and
thus the characters, together, might more effectively be performed here as
a trigger for ambiguity and hence conflict between EMMA and JERR Y.
JERRY's replacing the demonstrative with the more indefinite 'it' in line
6 might then be used to signal his backing off from the conflict, but
EMMA's repeated use of the stronger demonstrative 'that' in her response
keeps up the pressure to the point where JERRY'S response becomes
much angrier. Conflict between the two characters might therefore be
understood, and developed, by following a thread of the discourse - in this
case, demonstrative pronouns - throughout the exchange, rather than
building up a picture of that conflict, i.e. the dialogic imperatives, by word
meanings only. Conflict is therefore based, on this reading, not on what
is in the text but what is referred to, from different points of view by the
characters, outside the text.
Similarly, the conflict might be developed further, in performance, by
underlining the fronting of the subject pronoun 'I' at the beginning of most
of the turns that JERR Y and EM MA take in the exchange, establishing
a power struggle between them to assert themselves over each other, and,
amongst other things, the pointing up of the 'too' which is given end-focus
in EMMA's first response to JERR Y and by that end-focus asserting
EMMA's grounds for equal power status with JERRY.
In other words, the drama praxis involved is understanding how mean-
ings are made by dialogic imperatives, rather than on what is being said
in words, in order to understand the ways in which the characters can
effect some sort of change upon each other. Understanding this, therefore,
means understanding what relations of power are involved, and entails a
view of language as interaction which, following an understanding of praxis
as radical action, assumes that in any exchange amongst people there is a
struggle of multiple voices; a struggle for dominance; a struggle to bring
about change; a struggle of imperatives a drama praxis.
HAM M in Endgame (Beckett 1958: 54) is telling a story and says:
I'll soon have finished with this story.
Unless I bring in other characters.
But where will I find them?
Where would I look for them?
(Pause. He whistles. Enter CloD.)
Let us pray to God
This sort of narratorial 'intervention' is well understood, and is a good
illustration of the way in which control of a situation can be gained by
disturbing normal expectations. It is a form of defamiliarization or
estrangement, what the Russian Formalists called ostranenie, which has the
ability to shift the direction of meaning from the familiar to the unfamiliar,
thereby fore grounding the unfamiliar in order to effect some sort of
discursive change. It is a process which has become something of a
commonplace in many texts. It would be rather more defamiliarizing, for
example, if a television newsreader in a prime time news slot abandoned
the prepared script on the autocue, and began to recount the intimate
details of a recent personal trauma. Or if, as in the following example from
Sandra Harris' work on the discourse of Magistrates' Courts, the defen-
dant took control of the questioning:
MAGISTRATE: I'm putting it to you again - are you going to make
another offer - uh - uh to discharge this debt?
DEFENDANT: Would you in my position?
MAGISTRATE: I'm not here to answer your questions - you answer
my question.
DEFENDANT: One rule for one and one for another - I presume.
MAGISTRATE: Can I have an answer to my question - please? The
question is - are you prepared to make an offer to the court - to
discharge - this debt?
DEFENDANT: What sort of minimal offer would be required?
MAGISTRATE: It's not a bargaining situation - it's a straight question
Mr H - can I have the answer?
DEFENDANT: Well, I'll just pay the court a pound annually.
MAGISTRATE: That's not acceptable to us.
(Harris 1984: 5)
The situation here is an interesting one because the power relations have
been reversed. The defendant is adopting a negotiating role in what is
usually considered to be a non-negotiating frame. As a consequence the
defendant is in rather more control of the discourse than is 'normal'. It is
normally very difficult for defendants to introduce new topics, for example,
or to respond to a question with another question. They are normally
firmly under the control of the magistrate. Harris suggests that Magistrates
have control not just of the turn-taking but more importantly of the
propositional content of the discourse. What that means is that defendants
are rarely allowed either to introduce propositions of their own or to reject
the propositions set up by the magistrate. Questions which appear to be
innocently soliciting information are best seen as a means of control,
because '. . . through the act of questioning one speaker is able to define
the way in which the discourse is to continue, and thus also to define
participant relationships along a dimension of power and authority.'
(Harris 1984: 15). For example:
MAGISTRATE: um - and what is you - what are your three - your
children living on and your wife?
DEFENDANT: Well I do know they uh receive supplementary benefit
sir - I realise entirely that it's to me to counterbalance that by paying
you know I know.
MAGISTRATE: Are you paying anything at all?
DEFENDANT: No I haven't been able to - at all sir - no I get.
MAGISTRATE: Are you supporting anyone else?
DEFENDANT: Not at all - no - I live on my own sir.
MAGISTRATE: And how much do you receive then?
DEFENDANT: Fourteen pounds thirty five.
MAGISTRATE: Well can't you spare anything of that - for your
children - um?
DEFENDANT: Yes - I would do.
MAGISTRATE: When did you last pay anything?
(Harris 1984: 16)
DEFENDANT is never in a posltlon to develop an answer because
MAGISTRATE always cuts in with a new question. It is MAGISTRATE
who is setting the agenda therefore because it is magistrates who establish
the proposition. When DEFENDANT attempts to put a new proposition
it is always cut off before it is completed. The questions by
MAGISTRATE therefore enable him/her to establish control of the situa-
tion and of DEFENDANT and his/her defence. The questions might best
be understood, therefore, as accusations, so that 'are you supporting
anyone else' could be read as 'you don't support your ex-wife but you
choose to support someone else when your wife should have priority.'
(Harris 1984: 20). Control is therefore exercised in a number of linguistic
ways: chiefly by questions functioning as accusations and by control of the
propositional content of language, achieved mainly by one person with
higher status preventing, by interruptions, a person in a less privileged
position from stating their case.
DEELEY, for example, in Old Times (Pinter 1971) interacts with KATE
mainly through questions, giving performance possibilities of always being
in control of KATE by dominating her through language, a strategy
KATE can turn back on him from time to time:
DEELEY: Why isn't she married? I mean, why isn't she bringing her
KATE: Ask her.
DEELEY: Do I have to ask her everything?
KATE: Do you want me to ask your questions for you?
DEELEY: No. Not at all.
KATE: Of course she's married.
DEELEY: How do you know?
KATE: Everyone's married.
DEELEY: Then why isn't she bringing her husband?
KATE: Isn't she?
DEELEY: Did she mention a husband m her letter?
(Pinter 1971: 12ff.)
The norm for DEELEY and KATE's discourse is the adjacency of ques-
tion:answer which generally gives DEELEY the control. But this norm can
be disturbed, because KATE can fight back by using DEELEY's own
question strategy on him, which she does twice. At both those moments
control of the discourse can shift from DEELEY to KATE, and it is not
without significance that Pinter signals that possibility by suggesting that
the actors pause before continuing the exchange. But after each pause,
DEELEY regains control and therefore the domination of KA TE.
We are dealing, then, with the need to be dramaturgically aware of
conversational strategies in order to understand roles, relationships and
discursive meanings, over and beyond the words that are being used: to
understand conversational implicature. For example in the exchange between
NICK and GEORGE in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Albee 1964: 30ff.):
GEORGE: So ... you're in the math department, eh?
NICK: No ... uh, no.
GEORGE: Martha said you were. I think that's what she said. (Not too
friendly) What made you decide to be a teacher?
NICK: Oh ... well, the same things that ... uh ... motivated you,
I imagine.
GEORGE: What were they?
NICK: (Formal): Pardon?
GEORGE: I said, what were they? What were the things that motivated
NICK: (Laughing uneasily) Well ... I'm sure I don't know.
GEORGE: You just finished saying that the things that motivated you
were the same things that motivated me.
NICK: (With a little pique) I said I imagined they were.
GEORGE: Oh (Off-hand) Did you? (Pause) Well ....
Any tension which might be performed in this exchange is more likely to
be caused not by what they say to each other but by the conflict between
their individual goal orientation. Performed as an exchange of challenges
determined by each character having a different goal as they move through
the exchange, NICK's 'pique' and GEORGE's 'off-hand' reaction might
be better understood. What turns out to be the crucial piece of information
in this exchange, NICK's assertion that he imagined his motivations about
teaching were the same as GEORGE's, was in fact postponed until the
very end of NICK's response. Postponing information like this, to the right
of the main clause in an utterance, can have the effect of marking it out
as important, focused as it is at the end of the clause, but it can act like
a tag question, and appear to be much more of a throwaway remark -
something which is considered to be more of an afterthought than it might
have been had it been given thematic prominence at the beginning of the
clause. The assumption of shared information about their motivations for
going into teaching resulted in quite different goals in the exchanges -
NICK to establish some sort of solidarity with GEORGE, and GEORGE
to question the basis of that goal of solidarity. NICK argues that imagine
should have been interpreted as an important end-focused item, whereas
GEORGE interprets it as an afterthought. Their different goals are
signalled by quite different discursive strategies and dialogic imperatives
involving quite different perceptions about the status of shared knowledge.
Marilyn Cooper (1987) demonstrates similar things in an analysis of
Betrayal (Pinter, 1978: 37-8) suggesting that what is at issue is not just the
status of the shared knowledge (and lack of it) between jERR Y and
ROBER T but the fact that the conversation works on the basis of
individual rather than shared goals:
ROBERT: They say boys are worse than girls.
jERRY: Worse?
ROBER T: Babies. They say boy babies cry more than girl babies.
jERR Y: Do they?
ROBERT: You didn't find that to be the case?
jERRY: Uh ... yes, I think we did. Did you?
ROBERT: Yes. What do you make of it? Why do you think that is?
jERRY: Well, I suppose ... boys are more anxious.
ROBER T: Boy babies?
jERRY: Yes.
ROBER T: What the hell are they anxious about ... at their age? Do
you think?
jERRY: Well ... facing the world, I suppose. Leaving the womb, all that.
ROBERT: But what about girl babies? They leave the womb too.
jERRY: That's true. It's also true that nobody talks much about girl
babies leaving the womb. Do they?
ROBER T: I am prepared to do so.
jERRY: I see. Well, what have you got to say?
ROBER T: I was asking you a question.
jERRY: What was it?
ROBER T: Why do you assert that boy babies find leaving the womb
more of a problem than girl babies?
jERRY: Have I made such an assertion?
ROBERT: You went on to make a further assertion, to the effect that
boy babies are more anxious about facing the world than girl babies.
jERRY: Do you yourself believe that to be the case?
ROB ER T: I do, yes.
.JERRY: Why do you think it is?
ROBERT: I have no answer.
( Pause)
J ERR Y: Do you think it might have something to do with the difference
between the sexes?
( Pause)
ROBERT: Good God, you're right. That must be it.
(Pinter 1978: 62ff.)
Cooper makes the point that the way in which ROBER T manages to
manipulate JERR Y throughout this exchange is because he leads him into
situations which JERRY had not planned himself. ROBERT's discursive
strategies are more direct than JERRY's, and the uncertainty created by
the lack of shared knowledge on JERR Y' s part is exploited to the full by
ROBER T. The difference between a question and an assertion becomes a
crucial issue. What is of interest is that it is not the content of the
exchange that is important but the goal-orientation of the discourse: the
shared knowledge they have and the imperative strategies of conflict.
Austin Quigley in an analysis of The Dwaifs (Pinter 1977) makes the
important point that 'To control what someone is able to say is to control
to a considerable extent what they are able to be'. (Quigley 1974: 417).
For example:
PETE: (briskly) I've been thinking about you.
LEN: Oh?
PETE: Do you know what your trouble is? You're not elastic. There's
no elasticity in you. You want to be more elastic.
LEN: Elastic? Elastic. Yes, you're quite right. What are you talking
PETE: Giving up the ghost isn't so much a failure as a tactical error.
By elastic I mean being prepared for your own deviations. You don't
know where you're going to come out next at the moment. You're like
a rotten old shirt. Buck your ideas up. They'll lock you up before
you're much older.
LEN: No. There is a different sky each time I look. The clouds run
about in my eye. I can't do it.
PETE: The apprehension of experience must obviously be dependent
upon discrimination if it's to be considered valuable. That's what you
lack ....
(Pinter 1977: 100-101)
Pete can be performed as controlling LEN by concentrating on the
registerial differences of their language. PETE might be considered as
being in considerably more control of his own language than LEN is of his
because PETE demonstrates a fluency which appears to be beyond LEN.
This, of course, depends upon a cultural privileging of articulacy being of
higher value and status that dysfluency. Whoever is able to control that
value system is therefore able to control the people who are unable to
match its standards. Exploiting the difference, therefore, between these two
levels of linguistic skill means exploiting relations of control and power.
LEN reaches a point, for example, where he says to another character
LEN: You're trying to buy and sell me. You think I'm a ventriloquist's
dummy. You've got me pinned to the wall before I open my mouth.
You've got a tab on me, you're buying me out of house and home,
you're a calculating bastard. (Pause) Answer me. Say something.
(Pause) Do you understand? (Pause) You don't agree? (Pause) You
disagree? (Pause) You think I'm mistaken? (Pause) But am I? (Pause)
Both of you bastards, you've made a hole in my side. I can't plug it!
(Pinter 1977: 107)
LEN seems able to recognize that he has been oppressed linguistically by
the 'greater' skills of MARK and PETE but is unable to counter that
oppression because, in this exchange, MARK refuses to take the floor and
give LEN the linguistic opportunity of gaining control of him. When
MARK does engage verbally:
(LEN: Do you believe m God?
MARK: What?
LEN: Do you believe m God?
MARK: Who?
LEN: God.
MARK: God?
LEN: Do you believe m God?
MARK: Do I believe m God?
LEN: Yes.
MARK: Would you say that again?
(Pinter 1977: 111)
he oppresses LEN by never allowing LEN's opening move to be developed
beyond re-opening moves. LEN may have interesting things to say;
interesting propositions to put on the agenda of the exchange, but MARK
persistently blocks them. LEN is trying to understand the world
linguistically, but is frustrated in this by MARK and PETE.
If LEN is unable to control language, he is unable to control the people
around him: he therefore becomes controllable by others - subject to the
dialogic imperatives of others. The characters MARK and PETE define
what constitutes coherent languages, so much so that LEN cannot only be
defined in terms of his ability to do things with language, he can also be
defined because of his fears of what language, in the hands of other
characters, can do to him:
The fundamental battle is for linguistic dominance, for control of the
means by which identity, sanity and reality are created for a given
community. The central linguistic issue in the Pinter world is not, as
had generally been supposed, one of communication, but one of control.
Language has an important role in establishing those normative concepts
that define social reality which in turn have a controlling power over
individual identity and growth.
(Quigley 1984: 421)
Kripa Gautam makes similar points in an analysis of The Caretaker
(Pinter 1960) where the main characters, MICK, ASTON and DAVIES
spend most of their time negotiating role relationships. MICK, for exam-
ple, can assert authority over DAVIES by acting as the linguistic 'superior'
in any exchange between them. This can then result in DA VIES being
suspicious of any interaction he might have with MICK, for example:
DAVIES: (vehemently) I keep myself to myself, mate. But if anyone starts
with me though, they know what they got coming.
MICK: I can believe that.
DAVIES: You do. I been all over, see? You understand my meaning?
I don't mind a bit of a joke now and then, but anyone'll tell you ...
that no one starts anything with me.
MICK: I get what you mean, yes.
DAVIES: I can be pushed so far ... but
MICK: No further.
DA VIES: That's it.
MICK: (Sits on the head of DA VIES's bed) What you doing?
MICK: No, I just want to say that ... I'm very impressed by that.
MICK: I'm very impressed by what you've just said.
( Pause)
Yes, that's impressive, that IS.
I'm impressed, anyway.
DA VIES: You know what I'm talking about, then?
MICK: Yes, I know. I think we understand one another.
DAVIES: Uh? Well ... I'll tell you ... I'd ... I'd like to think that.
You been playing me about, you know. I don't know why. I never
done you no harm.
MICK: No, you know what it was? We just got off on the wrong foot.
That's all it was.
DAVIES: Ay, we did.
(Pinter 1960: 48ff.)
When DA VIES attempts to gain control, after a history of exchanges
where MICK has oppressed him, MICK appears to give him some
ground, but displaces him quickly by manipulating DA VIES into believing
that they are on an equal linguistic footing, but which by the end of the
exchange puts MICK well and truly back in control and both of them back
in their original roles.
Texts, of any description, are not, therefore, simply representations or
expressions of something else; some other semiotic system or text. They are
distinct imperative acts aimed at influencing the thoughts and actions of
other people. For example, the characters HESTER and ]OHNNIE in
Hello and Goodbye (Fugard 1966: 17 ff.):
HESTER: Do you sit up all night?
]OHNNIE: When he's bad.
HESTER: You said he was better.
]OHNNIE: He's getting better.
HESTER: So he was bad.
]OHNNIE: Well on the road to recovery.
HESTER: But he was ....
]OHNNIE: We mustn't talk loud.
HESTER: I'm not talking loud.
]OHNNIE: I'm just saying.
HESTER: Well say it when I'm talking loud!
]OHNNIE: You're starting.
HESTER: Oh shit!
It is not just the linguistic choices that are made here which communicate
the dialogic imperative, but the discursive choices too. For example, the
expectation of conflict developed as a result of intertextual knowledge about
previous exchanges between ]OHNNIE and HESTER (brother and sister)
can be worked out by actors in analysis and rehearsal performances. This
exchange might be read as simply cross-talk with little else happening, but
it might also be read in terms of the status of the characters, the power
relations between them, the conflict involved, and so on: in other words
the 'semiotic orientation' which determines the way in which the choices
that are made, linguistically and discursively, are oriented by, and
towards, social situations and ideologies. We make choices in grammar,
transitivity, mood, moves, exchanges, acts and so on but these are not
innocent choices. Texts are not simply neutral, ideologically uninvolved
instances of different registers, but are institutionally determined, with
certain registers more dominant than others. This domination can lead to
the view, as it has done, that a particular register is not just more
appropriate than others in certain contexts, but is more correct than others
in all situations. What this therefore does is to oppress other registers.
What I am talking about, then, is a struggle for power which results in
ideologically conflicting registers; ideologically different systems of classify-
ing and controlling the world; ideologically different ways of imposing the
dialogic imperative.
The concept of the dialogic imperative is an important one in under-
standing how meanings are made, and when grounded in an ideological
move designed to effect political and social change, like in the alienation
praxis (Verfremdungsiffekt) of Bertolt Brecht, a very powerful means of
understanding language can be gained. What is crucial, however, is that
the praxis used to isolate and assess such dialogic/discursive processes
develops as an ideological critical practice. This will thereby allow a move-
ment to be made, within linguistic criticism, which does not simply
comment on the dialogic as an aesthetic/rhetorical effect, but which
demystifies and deconstructs that process in order to demonstrate levels of
meaning which otherwise might be unaccounted for. Importantly, also, in
such ideological criticism is the fore grounding of interpretation as dynamic
reading formations, always aware of the historical intertextualities which
constitute the process of constructing meaning and radical praxis.
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A Mime jor One Player, London, Faber and Faber.
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L. McAlister and Margaret Schattle, London, Basil Blackwell.
4 Evaluation and ideology III scientific writing
Susan Hunston
1. Introduction
The production of a written text is a social process, both in the sense that
it represents the interaction between a writer and a reader (Sinclair 1981)
and in the sense that the text plays a role in a particular social system
(Halliday and Hasan 1985). Because social systems incorporate ideologies,
the text is therefore written to be understood within the context of a
particular ideology.
It has been well documented elsewhere (e.g. Kress and Hodge 1979;
Fairclough 1988; Martin 1986) that the ideology (or ideologies) within
which a text is written constrains choices in discourse organization, gram-
mar and lexis. The writers mentioned above stress the constraining
influence of ideology on what entities are deemed to exist by the text, how
they are related and how they operate on each other. In Fairclough's
discussion of a bank advertisement, for example, a conflict is identified
between the ideology where the entities are a vendor trying to entice a
customer to buy, and that where the entities are a banker able to grant or
withhold priviledges from a supplicant.
Less explicit in much of the existing work on ideology in discourse is the
issue of how the entities present in a text are valued, that is, which entities
are 'good' and which are 'bad'. For instance, the conflict of ideologies
discussed be Fairclough may be epitomized by the conflict of values
surrounding the concept 'debt'. In traditional banking terms, debt is a
'bad' thing, to be avoided by the reputable and responsible bank customer.
For a bank charging high interest rates, however, debt is a money-spinner
and therefore to be desired. In this case, of course, the text is unlikely to
select the term debt, preferring the more positively-evaluated credit. Here we
can see the value system of the ideology in operation.
It is my contention that this important aspect of ideology - the value
system may be described linguistically in terms of the evaluation present
in a text, or a set of texts. Evaluation may be defined as anything which
indicates the writer's attitude to the value of an entity in the text. The
literature on evaluation suggests that it is essentially individual, the writer's
personal assessment of a situation (Hoey 1983: 20; Winter 1982). In many
genres, this assessment is articulated in terms of personal judgement. It is also
true, however, that the value system involved is not personal, but must be a
social or institutional one, and the assessment of items in relation to that
system may be expressed in 'metaphoric' (see below and Halliday 1985: 332),
non-personal terms. This is particularly true of scientific writing. In Example
1, for instance, the role of the experimenter in interpreting the inscriptions
that comprise 'the results' (cf. Pinch 1985), and in assessing the value of those
results in terms of their significance, remains entirely implicit.
Example 1
These results suggest that algae may further facilitate seedling survivorship by protec-
ting seedlings from desiccation. (FSM 10.7)
This paper explores evaluation in one type of scientific writing - experimen-
tal research articles - with the aim of using this exploration to explicate the
ideology behind such articles. This will involve looking at what things are
valued and how, and what constitutes appropriate expression of such value.
Research articles are a suitable corpus for study because the value-system
they represent is relatively uniform. That is, the evaluation found in them
does not vary much from article to article. Furthermore, the ideology of
such articles has been fairly extensively studied by sociologists of science
(see below), so that the insights of the two disciplines, linguistics and
sociology, may be compared.
The approach to the study of evaluation outlined below challenges two
common ideas regarding evaluation and scientific writing. The first is that
evaluation is personal and scientific writing impersonal, so that a research
article cannot be evaluative.
It is true that research articles do not contain much attitudinal language
(Halliday 1985), normally considered an indicator of evaluation. Rather,
the evaluation tends to be implicit and to depend upon a system of shared
values. Nevertheless, I shall argue that one of the chief functions of a
research article is to persuade the reader of the validity of the writers'
claims, and to achieve this end, the work of the writers and that of other
researchers is constantly evaluated.
The second idea is that
evaluative clauses or other units may be identified as separate and
different from non-evaluative ones.
I argue below that the discreteness of evaluative items is true only of what
I call Relevance Markers. Other types of evaluation permeate every part of
a text.
2. An approach to evaluation
To illustrate the approach to evaluation proposed in this paper, I shall
discuss Example 2 below in some detail. This short paragraph is taken
from a research article which reports experiments to determine whether it
is necessary for certain algal species to be present in order for surfgrass to
become established in a hitherto surfgrass-free environment (Turner 1983).
In Example 2, Turner discounts the idea that it is the precise species of
alga which determines the magnitude of facilitation, on the grounds that
seedlings attached to each species died in about the same proportions. She
will later suggest that only the shape of the alga is important to surfgrass
facilitation, branched algae species being more helpful to the surfgrass than
other types.
Example 2
1 To determine whether any branched species was differentially important to the
establishment of suifgrass, I followed seedlings for 7 months. 2During this time
90% of the seedlings died (Fig. 3A), but the seeds attached to each algal species
died in about the same proportion (Fig. 3B). 3These results suggest that all the
branched species facilitate suifgrass and that the magnitude of the facilitation is
proportional to the number of seeds originally attached to the alga. (FSM 8.1-3)
The example represents the style typical of scientific writing. There is no
attitudinal language and the passage is apparently objective and free from
personal judgements. It would be a mistake, however, to characterize this
writing as non-evaluative. The writer's attitude towards her work, the
research she has undertaken and the discourse she is creating, is clearly
evident. This evaluation is of three kinds.
Firstly, there is the degree of certainty attached to each sentence. In
sentence 1 (Sl), the main clause proposition - Ifollowed seedlings for 7 months
- is a representation of certain activities carried out by the experimenter:
the observation and counting of seedlings and the keeping of records. This
might be termed a description of method. S2 recounts results, the source
of the information being Figure 3. More properly, S2 states Turner's inter-
pretation of Figure 3. In S3 the process of interpretation is more explicit,
the writer's conclusions (all the branched species facilitate suifgrass) being
marked as tentative by the choice of lexical item: suggest. Thus the degree
of writer certainty attached to each sentence grows progressively less. In
other words, the relationship between the statements and the
experimenter's experience of seedlings and surfgrass becomes more distant
as the paragraph proceeds.
This concept of certainty may be further illustrated if one considers how
the information in Example 2 could be challenged by another researcher.
The information in Sl could be disputed only by someone who had
followed Turner around for seven months, and such a challenge would
amount to an accusation of fraud. Similarly, the first part of S2 could be
disputed only if Figure 3A were shown to be fraudulent. In the second part
of S2, however, the phrase about the same involves a sufficient degree of
interpretation to be open to differences of opinion. (The histogram in
Figure 3B shows that the relevant figures are by no means identical.)
Finally, the conclusions presented in S3 could easily be disputed, different
inferences being drawn from the same data. This would challenge the
knowledge claim Turner is making, but not her competence nor her
In my terms, each of the sentences in Example 2 (indeed, each proposi-
tion, whether stated or assumed), is given a certain status vis-a-vis both the
discourse being created and the world outside it. I shall refer to this below
as evaluation of status.
Turning to the second type of evaluation, the example shows that
Turner is far from neutral as to the success or worth of her work. The
method described in Si - I followed seedlings for 7 months - has a stated
purpose of goal, namely To determine whether any branched species was differen-
tially important to the establishment of surfgrass. This establishes a value-system
under which to answer the question concerning the differential importance
of branched species constitutes 'good research'. S3, in answering the ques-
tion, confirms that the research has been successful. In spite of the absence
of such attitudinal lexis as good, excellent, successful, therefore, the writer's
attitude to the value of the research is clear. I shall refer to this as evalua-
tion of value.
Finally, the writer evaluates the discourse itself as possessing a
progressively increasing degree of significance. S3 plays an important role
both in answering the question in Si and in describing the relevance of the
results in S2. It tells the reader why the information in this paragraph is
being given: to support a theoretical conclusion concerning the facilitation
of surfgrass. Thus, S3 marks a culmination in the argument of the
discourse. I term this evaluation of relevance.
So far I have suggested that concepts of status, value and relevance are
both necessary and sufficient to account for the evaluation in Example 2.
I shall now discuss each of the concepts in more theoretical detail. First,
however, it is necessary to note one important difference between status on
the one hand and value and relevance on the other. In every clause, a
choice of status is compulsory: it is not possible to write a 'status-less'
clause and therefore in this respect it is not possible to write a non-
clause. With regard to value and relevance, however, the writer
does have a choice between evaluation and non-evaluation. It is not
necessary for every clause to express value, and only a minority of clauses
will mark relevance.
The notion of status as I have used it in analysing experimental research
articles brings together several distinct concepts. Firstly, the status s:lected
for a clause reflects the writer's degree of certainty and commItment
towards the proposition. A description of a past event, as in Si of Example
2, carries a higher degree of certainty than an inference drawn from data
(S3). In other words, the assigned status states the relationship between the
proposition and the 'world of nature' (Bazerman's term). In Si of Example
1, for instance, the relationship may be described as direct the proposi-
tion reflects the world. In S3, however, the relationship between proposi-
tion and world is mitigated.
In addition, the writer's choice of status bestows 'thingness', in the sense
that the clause so evaluated becomes an 'object', which may be later
further evaluated. In Example 2, only one of the possible nominalizations
actually occurs S2 becomes These results in S3. Si could be referred to
as a process or procedure, S3 as a Conclusion. In Sinclair's terms, these statuses
are initial statements to which a response may be made, and the nature
of that response will depend on the status. The success of a process, for
instance, is evaluated in different terms from that of a result or a conclu-
sion. (See the discussion of value below for details.) The choice of status
thus constrains future evaluation.
In terms of certainty, clauses (or propositions) may be placed on a scale
ranging from most certain (known or unknown) to least certain (possible).
Points on the cline may be posited thus:
At each point of the cline, there are two options, one of which denotes
writer commitment (e.g. This proposition is probably true.), the other denoting
lack of commitment (e.g. This proposition is unlikely to be true.). The status
of a given clause (or proposition) depends chiefly on what may be termed
the activity of the writer. For example, the writer may narrate an event,
state a result, state a (non-experimental) fact, interpret results or
hypothesize. Example 2 illustrates three of these activities: narration of an
event (Si), statement of result (S2) and interpretation (S3). A statement of
fact and a hypothesis are illustrated by Examples 3 and 4 below respec-
tively. (For a complete account of possible writer activities, and their
recognition, see Hunston 1989).
Example 3
Surfgrass is a perennial angiosperm with grasslike blades, 2-4 mm wide and
approximately 0.5 m long, borne on a branched rhizome with adventitious roots
securing the plant to the rock (rifs). (FSM 2.1)
Example 4
... I suggest the plants retain their morphology for at least three reasons: [reasons
follow] (FSM 18.4)
In terms of certainty, result and fact status items may be described as
known, whereas the interpretation is probable and the hypothesis possible.
The degree of certainty attached to a particular activity may be
modified, however, by the source of the information and by choices of
modality and lexis. The source of the information may be received knowledge,
experimental data records, citations and the writers' own argument. Some examples
of how the source may affect status are:
ascribing information to received knowledge rather than to the writer's
argument pushes it up the certainty scale;
4& ascribing an interpretation or a hypothesis to another researcher (a cita-
tion) rather than the writer pushes is down the certainty scale.
In reports from citations or from experimental data, however, the choice
of lexical items for the report verb modifies the status considerably. This
may be illustrated by Example 5, where three different report verbs
(underlined) indicate differing writer attitudes to the information.
Example 5
1 Sih (1980) also suggested that maximising fitness involves the balancing of the
coriflicting demands of foraging efficiently and avoiding predators. 2His data show
that backswimmers, Notonecta hofJmani, weigh the relative magnitude of benefits
and cost and choose high risk areas whenever benefits outweigh costs. 3Hence, Sih
presents evidence that patch selection involves evaluating both risks and benefits.
(PRF 15.1-3)
If the report verb is changed, the status of the reported proposition also
changes. For example, replacing suggested in S1 of Example 5 by pointed out
or showed would push the proposition up the certainty scale, while replacing
the same verb by speculated would push it down. The use of claimed would
indicated disagreement between Sih, who believed in the proposition, and
the present writers, who do not. It would not then be possible to continue
the paragraph as Example 5 does.
Status may also be modified by using modal verbs (e.g. may, must,
could), modal constructions such as It is possible/clear/plausible that; We believe
that, gives us confidence that; probably, possibly and modal copulas such as
appear, seem.
Just as evaluation of status may be perceived as bringing together the scale
of certain-uncertain and the notion of bestowing 'thingness', so evaluation
of value operates along a 'good-bad' scale and may be said to bestow
quality. In Example 6, for instance, one entity, the balancing hypothesis,
is given the quality of unsupportedness and hence is evaluated as a 'bad'
Example 6
Our results do not support the prediction of the balancing hypothesis. (PRF 13.1)
In scientific writing, the expression of value is often inexplicit. In Example
2, for instance, I argued that the experimental procedure is given positive
value even though there is no attitudinal language in the example. This
inexplicitness is what leads to the common judgement of scientific writing
as impersonal and non-evaluative.
If the expression of value in scientific writing is inexplicit, however, how
may it be recognized at all? The perception of goodness and badness in
human activity depends on the goal of that activity. Anything which
enables the achievement of a goal is good; anything which hinders this
achievement is a problem which must be overcome. Goals may be stated
in the text - as in Example 2 or they may be left implicit, inferrable
from .a familiarity with scientific ideology and from the status of the thing
evaluated. An experimental procedure, for example, has the goal of being
accurate, simple and useful (in the sense that it performs a function in
achieving the goal of the experiment). If the experiment involves the
laboratory simulation of natural processes, additional goals are: freedom
from distortion, closeness to non-laboratory conditions, consistency with
other methods used and independence from theoretical bias. Anything
which indicates, however obliquely, that these goals have been met, asserts
the positive value of the procedure.
We may state this more formally by giving each value a mnemonic
name as well as a definition, and by stating that an item with the status
of an event may be evaluated using the following criteria:
freedom from distortion, artefact etc. (in lab);
comprehensiveness (in fieldwork)
fit to other methods
closeness to non-lab conditions
ease of performance
fit to observation, not theory
In Example 2, S3 evaluates the event in SI as + useful.
U sing the same argument as those given above, a clause with the status
of (statement of) result may be evaluated for value in the following terms:
to expectation, other facts, projections etc.
fit to other data, repeat ability
fit to theory
ability to evaluate theory
relevance, significance
Similarly, a hypothesis or interpretation is given positive value if it meets the
following criteria:
fit to data
fit to range of data
explicatory power
fit to expectation, other knowledge etc.
As illustrations of these, consider Example 7, where S2-3 evaluates the
result in Sl as + reasonable and Example 8, where S5-6 evaluates the model
(hypothesis) mentioned in S5 as + useful.
Example 7
1 The largest difference between the extrapolated dichroism, Pa, and that predicated
if the chromatosome faces and spacer DNA were parallel to the filament. 2This is
perhaps not surprising since, in this case, the spacer DNA is too short to allow
neighbouring chromatosomes, even if arrayed in a zig-zag fashion, to lie parallel to
the filament axis. 3 Indeed this slight and easily explained discrepancy gives us
confidence that Pa is a significant description of filament structure. (HOSC
Example 8
50ur model (figure 5) could certainly allow HI-mediated interactions between
neighbouring turns of the solenoid. 6 Indeed, there could be an experimentally
distinguishable relation between spacer length and solenoid stability. (HOSC
There are two important consequences to this description of evaluation of
value. The first is with regard to evaluation of status, which is, in one
sense, predictive. That is, by selecting a particular status for a proposition,
the writer is constrained to give that proposition value in a certain way.
Furthermore, it is possible under certain circumstances to predict whether
the value given will be positive or negative. This may be illustrated using
Example 9.
Example 9
Connell and Slatyer (1977) suggest facilitation should be most common In harsh
environments . .. (FSM 6 ~
In this example, the report verb and the modal (underlined) identify the
proposition as having the status of possible. The writer is then free subse-
quently to offer evidence for or against the hypothesis. If the sentence were
to be rewritten as in Example 9a, however, the degree of certainty would
be increased to certain and it would then be possible for the writer to give
the statement only positive value, such as the hypothetical sentence added
to Example 9a. If the report verb were changed to claim, as in Example
9b, the status would be downgraded to unlikely, and subsequent evaluation
would be most likely to be negative, as in the hypothetical subsequent
sentence shown.
Example 9a
Connell and Slatyer show that facilitation is most common in harsh environments.
[Our results confirm this observation.]
Example 9b
Connell and Slatyer claim that facilitation is most common in harsh environments.
[This is not the case with surfgrass.l
The second consequence of this description of value is that, as it is known
that items may be evaluated according to certain criteria, sentences which
appear to be non-evaluative may nonetheless be interpreted as evaluative.
In Cerri and Fraser (1983), for example, a hypothesis is stated that there
is a statistical interaction or dependence between food and predator choice
(PRF 2.3). As this is a hypothesis, one of the ways it may be given value
is in terms of its accuracy, that is, its fit to the data ( see above). Even an
apparently strictly factual statement such as Example 10 may then become
an evaluation of value, in this case assessing the hypothesis as - accurate.
Example 10
A chi-square contingency table analysis on the data in table 2 shows that the main
effects of food and predator are independent [equationl. (PRF 11.3)
(For a further discussion of goals and goal-achievement, see Hunston
The third type of evaluation identified evaluates significance and may be
said to bestow relevance. As this type does not play a role in the main
argument of this chapter, it will be discussed only briefly. At various points
in research articles there are clauses which summarize the preceding (or
subsequent) text and indicate its significance or relevance to the argument
of the discourse and to the scientific community. I call such clauses
Relevance Markers. They are meta-discoursal and play a major organiza-
tional role in the discourse, being commonly found at the beginning and
end of discourse units. S3 of Example 2 is an instance of a Relevance
Marker. (See Hunston 1989 for further details.)
Although the identification features of Relevance Markers are not of
major importance to this topic, it is worth noting that a crucial organizing
device in this type of discourse is evaluation of relevance to the on-going
argument. This confirms Myers' view (Myers 1990) that a research article
is a narrative of argumentation.
3. The nature of scientific research articles
Work in the sociology of science (Collins 1985; Garfinkel et al. 1981;
Latour and Woolgar 1979) suggests that there is an essential contradiction,
an 'inversion' in Latour and Woolgar's terms, at the heart of experimental
research articles. For convenience, this contradiction may be discussed in
terms of two aspects.
Firstly, research articles appear to describe a search after facts which
reside independently in the physical world. A typical description of a
model, or theory, for instance, is that in Example 11 below.
Example 11
. . . by the patch choice model we conclude that the fish were selecting patches based
on the relative food abundance regardless of the presence or absence of predators.
(PRF 23.4)
It is presupposed by this that the fish, independent of their observers,
either do or do not select patches based on relative food abundance only,
and that this fact is available for access by the scientists. Latour and
Woolgar, however, describe the process of scientific 'discovery' as being,
in fact, the interpretation of inscriptions to fit with other interpretations,
or what Latour and Woolgar term the construction of facts. Talking about
the 'discovery' of a hormone, TRF(H), for instance, they comment:
From a strictly ethnographic point of view, the object initially comprised
the superimposition of two peaks after several trials. In other words, the
object was constructed out of the differences between peaks on two curves
(Latour and Woolgar 1979: 125).
The second aspect of the contradiction is that research articles appear to
report sequences of events with no personal intervention on the part of the
writer. Bazerman quotes, somewhat ironically, the 'ideal' form of scientific
1. the scientist must remove himself from reports of his own work and thus
avoid all use of the first person;
2. scientific writing should be objective and precise, with mathematics as
its model;
3. scientific writing should shun metaphor and other flights of rhetorical
fancy to seek a univocal relationship between work and object; and
4. the scientific article should support its claims with empirical evidence
from nature, preferably experimental.
(Bazerman, 1984: 163-5)
Garfinkel et al., among others, contrast the enthusiasm apparent among
laboratory members at a particularly pleasing result with the emotionless
written report of the result.
The purpose of research articles, however, is not simply to report but
to persuade. As Gilbert (1976) points out, the scientific community reacts
to research articles by evaluating the ideas in them; the article, then, func-
tions not only as a report but as the scientist's attempt to persuade the
community to place a high value on his or her knowledge claims. Such a
high value would result in the acceptance of the knowledge claim as a
'fact', that is, as information which it would be difficult for other resear-
chers to challenge (Latour 1987; Collins 1981).
It must be pointed out that to speak of these inversions in terms of
apparently . . . but really, as I have done above, suggests a totally false
dichotomy between illusion and reality, with reality carrying a higher value
than illusion. It would be more proper, however, to speak in terms of
mutually inconsistent but equivalent forms of discourse. Gilbert and
Mulkay, for instance, propose a contingent and an empirical discourse. Where
accounts offered in the two forms of discourse are incompatible, Gilbert
and Mulkay explain this in terms of the social demands of the discourse
rather than in terms of 'real' and 'apparent':
Thus we can understand the interpretative inconsistencies in our
respondents' explanations of the nature of formal discourse as following
from their socially generated (i.e. discursively generated) use of two
formally incompatible interpretative repertoires to provide accounts of
action (Gilbert and Mulkay 1984: 61).
M yers makes a similar observation regarding the narrative of science m
research articles and the narrative of nature in popular articles:
[Discussion of such difference between popular and professional articles
has tended] to follow one of two lines, taking either articles for profes-
sionals or articles for the general public as primary . . . I shall . . .
argue that [the two kinds of writing] present two views of what a scien-
tist does, two views that are incompatible but that both play a part in
creating the cultural authority of science (Myers 1990: 141-2).
These inversions, then, are not the product of intellectual sloppiness,
inconsistency or hypocrisy, but they are an integral part of the scientific
process. As Latour and Woolgar put it:
The result of the construction of a fact is that it appears unconstructed by
anyone; the result of rhetorical persuasion in the agnostic field is that
participants are convinced that they have not been convinced (Latour
and Woolgar 1979: 240).
In other words, the Way that experiments are written about in research
articles is in keeping both with the social process of scientific knowledge
and with the non-personal ideology of science.
The ideological inversions referred to above may be summarized as
follows: on the one hand, science is about observing and reporting what
exists in the natural world; on the other hand, science is about the
communal development of a 'physical world' picture. Bearing this in mind,
it is now possible to look at the evaluation found in research articles in
order to illustrate the value-system of the scientific community. I shall
discuss what is evaluated and in what terms and how that evaluation is
expressed. All these aspects are relevant to the ideology of science.
What is evaluated
In my discussion of status, above, I said that items in a text are responded
to or evaluated in terms of their status, and that in experimental research
articles, items of different status are differentiated in terms of the degree
of certainty attached to them. This certainty is both personal (This is what
I think) and institutional (This is what is believed to be true). Writers aim to
make knowledge claims that are both as certain as possible and as general
as possible. Anything which is uncertain or unknown amounts to a 'gap'
to be filled or a problem to be solved, as in, for example, article introduc-
tions (Swales 1981). In other words, positive value is attached to relative
certainty or knowledge and negative value to relative uncertainty or
ignorance. This reflects an ideology of discovery: truth lies in the outside
world, and scientific progress resides in uncovering larger and larger quan-
tities of such truth.
The truth cannot be uncovered by an individual, however, but, to use
the contrary metaphor, is communally developed. Correspondingly, the
difference between levels of certainty is expressed, not only through
modality (both grammatical and lexical) and the mental activity of the
writer, but also through the source to which the information is ascribed.
For example, a fact which arises as the result of a single experiment is less
of a fact than one which has been extensively tested. A theory held by one
person is less likely to be true than one subscribed to by a large proportion
of the community.
In his comparison of research articles with popular scientific articles,
Myers (1990) points out that whereas the latter presents a 'narrative of
nature', whose organizing principle is basically chronological, the former
presents a 'narrative of science', in which the organizing principle is of
logical argument. In other words, what is being presented in a research
article is persuasive argument rather than descriptive account. Evaluation
of relevance (see above) relates the information progressively to this argu-
ment. What is evaluated, in this case the unfolding text itself, therefore
reflects the underlying process.
In what terms
It was stated above that one of the reasons the status of a proposition IS
important is that items of different statuses are evaluated in different
terms. Some example of the main status categories and the terms in which
they may be given value have already been cited.
Attention may be drawn to two category types which reflect the ideology
of the scientific process. Firstly, many status types are evaluated in terms
of their usefulness to the scientist in achieving goals of experimentation or
of explanation. In Example 12, for instance, the method employed
(constructing the seed traps) is evaluated positively because it helps in
quantifying the dispersal of the seeds. In Example 13, the results of the
experiment are similarly evaluated positively because they could help with
further research.
Example 12
To quantify the seasonal dispersal oj suifgrass seeds and to provide baseline injor-
mation jor the study, I constructed seed traps jrom Vexar plastic mesh with 1 mm
plastic strands and 3mm openings. (FSM 4.1)
Example 13
As a jinal comment, a popular model jor the structure oj metaphase chromosomes
proposes that chromatin solenoids, with or without jurther twisting extend in loops
jrom the chromosome axis (rifs). Further dichroism measurements on metaphase
chromosomes could use the solenoid dichroisms measured in the present paper to
determine the orientation oj these radial loops. (HOSC 41.1-2)
In these examples, the observed physical world is made subserviant to the
scientist's argument, the scientist's construction of a model.
Secondly, many of the value categories may be described in terms of
'fit': fit between result and hypothesis, between complementary theories,
between laboratory and the outside world, between a new knowledge claim
and an existing body of scientific assumptions. In Example 14, for
instance, the 'supercoiled spacer' model is evaluated positively because it
will accommodate a variety of experimental results and observations within
a single set of parameters.
Example 14
A strong advantage oj such a supercoiled spacer model is that it can readily accom-
modate a wide range oj spacer lengths within roughly the same solenoid dimensions.
(HOSC 33.2)
This again reflects what is occurring in the scientific process. Information
at different levels of abstraction - assumption, observation, theory - is
constantly juggled to form a coherent picture which each new piece of
information changes. Because the picture must, according to scientific
ideology, be coherent, high value is placed upon those items which make
it so.
It is worth noting, in addition, in what terms items may not be
evaluated in research articles. In particular, items which are given factual
status may not be further evaluated in terms of their facticity. This applies
to items which may be termed 'background knowledge', but also to those
which are 'results' - either the writer's own or those of other researchers.
This convention places a great responsibility upon writers to state as result
only items of low externality (Pinch's 1985 terminology) and to express
anything which may be open to challenge as an interpretation. Further-
more, there are interesting consequences when two sets of results conflict,
threatening the coherence of the picture mentioned above. Even in such a
case, there can be no accusation of misreading or misreporting, only
suggestions that the results have been misinterpreted. In other words, what
was originally stated as a fact is re-evaluated as only an interpretation.
Example 15 shows a writer dealing in this way with a tricky situation.
Example 15
Our results show a limiting negative dichroism jor . . . stabilized chromatin that
is less than half as large as that reported by McGhee et. at. (re]). If we ignore
the high1ield absorbance change revealed by the s ~ g n l observed when the polarizer
angle was set at 54, our extrapolated dichroism is consistent with theirs. Hence,
it is plausible that their results are in error because oj neglect oj this jactor. (ONC
The expression oj evaluation
Perhaps the clearest reflection of the complex ideology of science lies in the
way evaluations of status and value are expressed. The fact that research
articles are essentially persuasive in function and yet attract the label
'objective' is an indication of the indirectness of evaluation involved.
The expression of status may be described as indirect because it
commonly employs what may be termed, using Halliday's (1985)
terminology, grammatical metaphor, in this case interpersonal metaphor.
A typical illustration of this was given as Example 1 of this chapter, where
what the writer thinks is probably the case is expressed in the phrase These
results suggest. The role of the scientist in interpreting data is suppressed,
so that the results themselves, as grammatical subject of the clause, are
made to appear responsible for the conclusions (Halliday 1985: 76). In
addition, the tentativeness of the conclusion is expressed implicitly in the
choice of lexical item: suggest. As was argued above, if suggest were replaced
by show, the degree of certainty attached to the proposition would be
greatly increased. In other words, the interpersonal meanings, which Halli-
day claims are 'most congruently' expressed through the modality system,
are expressed metaphorically, using choices of lexis. This means that
interpersonal meanings, the 'subjective', whilst very much present in
research articles, tend to be expressed in terms of ideational systems, the
'oqjective' .
The expression of value is similarly implicit. Typically, attitudinal lexis
is avoided, especially that which characterizes items in quasi-moral terms
of 'good' and 'bad'. Only when we take into account the goals of the
research being undertaken can we understand the evaluative import of
apparently neutral statements. In Example 16, for instance, the contrast
between the lexical items interaction and independent indicates non-
achievement of the goal, which is to julfil the predictions oj a hypothesis in order
to increase its jacticity. (See Hunston 1985 for further details.)
Example 16
Recall that the prediction oj the balancing hypothesis is that an interaction between
the jood and predator exists. A chi-square contingency table analysis oj the data in
Table 2 shows that the main effects oj jood and predator are independent. (PRF
(It will come as no surprise to the reader that the discredited hypothesis
in Example 16 is not the one which the writers wish to put forward as their
knowledge claim. Having failed to support this hypothesis, they
immediately suggest an alternative which their data, predictably, supports.)
4. Conclusion
I shall conclude this chapter by turning to an application of the work
presented and considering its relevance to one client group: students and
teachers of writing.
Recent work in the area of writing pedagogy (e.g. Nash 1990) stresses
the importance of the interpersonal in written academic discourse. Articles
in that collection by Simpson, Crismore and Farnsworth and Butler all
suggest that the interpersonal, particularly as realized through the modality
system, is a crucial element in writing, and one that students might find
difficult. Rhetoricians tend to express similar concepts in terms of
'persona'. Bartholomae (1985), for example, describes a student writer
producing texts that could legitimately be part of the discourse of an
academic community, in order eventually to become part of that
community. Bartholomae speaks of the student
assembling and mimicking [the academic community's] language while
finding some compromise between idiosyncracy, a personal history, on
the one hand, and the requirements of convention, the history of a
discipline, on the other (Bartholomae 1985: 135).
What I have suggested in this chapter is that a range of grammatical and
lexical choices, including modality, may be brought together under the
heading of evaluation and that evaluation in turn needs to be discussed in
terms of the value system of the community. The persona of the student
writer must therefore absorb and be able to reflect the value system.
Furthermore, I have suggested that the ideology of science, as revealed
in the language of the research article, is not a monolithic homogeneous
entity but a complex and subtle meshing of contradictory notions. This in
turn leads to indirectness and implicitness in the expression of evaluation.
Considering this meshing, it would be a mistake, I think, to infer from
Gilbert and Mulkay's (1984) work, for instance, that a scientific discourse
may reflect either the interpersonal judgements of casual speech or the objec-
tivity of the written research article. This study shows that the evaluation
of the research article springs from an ideology that incorporates both the
personal and the impersonal.
Finally, there is no sharp distinction between 'fact' and 'evaluation'. I
have gone so far as to claim that no information presented in a research
article is neutral with respect to the value system. Rather the entire article
rests on, and is interpreted in the light of, an evaluative sub-text of
assumptions and comparisons.
The student therefore faces a difficult task. The value-system of the
target community must be absorbed and information and argument must
be presented in its terms. The final product must be expressed in a way
that both says what the student wants to say and fits what the reader
expects to hear. The ideology of the discipline must be conformed to, yet
its value system must remain implicit. I believe that the work presented in
this chapter provides an insight into the relationship between the ideology
of science and the evaluative expression of research articles, as one type of
academic writing. This in turn can form the basis of an understanding of
the demands of writing such an article.
Bartholomae, D. (1985), 'Inventing the University', in M. Rose (ed.), When a
Writer Can't Write, New York, Guildford Press, 134-165.
Bazerman, C. (1984), 'Modern Evolution of the Experimental Report in Physics:
Spectroscopic articles in Physical Review, 1893-1980', Social Studies of Science 14,
Butler, C.S. (1990), 'Qualifications in Science: Modal meanings in scientific texts'
in W. Nash (ed.), 137-170.
Collins, H.M. (1985), Changing Order: Replication and induction in scientific practice,
London, Sage.
Crismore, A. and R. Farnsworth (1990), 'Metadiscourse in Popular and Profes-
sional Science Discourse', in W. Nash (ed.), 118-136.
Fairclough, N. (1988), 'Register, Power and Socio-Semantic Change' in D. Birch
and M. O'Toole (eds), Functions of Style, London, Pinter, 111-125.
Garfinkel, H., M. Lynch and E. Levingstone (1981), 'The Work of a Discovering
Science Construed with Materials from the Optically Discovered Pulsar',
Philosophy of Social Sciences 11, 131-158.
Gilbert, G.N. (1976), 'The Transformation of Research Findings into Scientific
Knowledge', Social Studies of Science 6,281-306.
Gilbert, G.N. and M. Mulkay (1984), Opening Pandora's Box, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985), An Introduction to Functional Grammar, London, Arnold.
Halliday, M.A.K. and R. Hasan (1985), Language, Context and Text: Aspects of
language in a social-semiotic perspective, Victoria, Deakin University Press.
Hoey, M. (1983), On the Su1jace of Discourse, London, Alien & Unwin.
Hunston, S. (1985), 'Text in World and World in Text: Goals and models of scien-
tific writing', Nottingham Linguistic Circular 14, 25-40.
Hunston, S. (1989), Evaluation in Experimental Research Articles (unpublished PhD
thesis), University of Birmingham.
Kress, G. and R. Hodge (1979), Language as Ideology, London, Routledge & Kegan
Latour, B. (1987), Science in Action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society,
Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
Latour, B. and S. Woolgar (1979), Laboratory Life: The social construction of scientific
facts, Beverley Hills, Sage.
Martin, ]. (1986), 'Politicalising Ecology: The politics of baby seals and
kangaroos', in T. Threadgold et al. (eds), Semiotics Ideology Language, Sydney,
Sydney Association for Studies in Society and Culture, 225-267.
Myers, G. (1990), Writing Biology Texts in the Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge,
Madison, The University of Wisconsin Press.
Nash, W. (ed.), (1990), The Writing Scholar: Studies in academic discourse, Beverley
Hills, Sage.
Pinch, T. (1985), 'Towards an Analysis of Scientific Observation: The externality
and evidential significance of observational reports in physics', Social Studies of
Science 15, 3-36.
Simpson, P. (1990), 'Modality in Literary-Critical Discourse', in W. Nash (ed.),
Sinclair, ]. McH. (1981), 'Planes of Discourse', In S.N.A. Rizvi (ed.), The Two-
Fold Voice: Essays in honour of Ramesh Mohan, Saltzburg, Universitat of Saltzburg,
Swales, ].M. (1981), 'Aspects of Article Introduction', Aston ESP Research Report
No. 1, University of Aston, Birmingham.
Winter, E.O. (1982), Towards a Contextual Grammar of English: The clause and its place
in the difinition of sentence, London, Alien and Unwin.
Texts cited
Cerri, R.D. and D.F. Fraser (1983), 'Predation and Risk in Foraging Minnows:
Balancing conflicting demands', The American Naturalist 121, 554-561. PRF
Turner, T. (1983), 'Facilitation as a Successional Mechanism in a Rocky Intertidal
Community', The American Naturalist 121, 729-738. FSM
McGhee, ].D. et al. (1983), 'Higher Order Structure of Chromatin: Orientation of
nucleosomes within the 30 nm chromatin solenoid is independent of species and
spacer length' Cell 33, 831-841. HOSC
Yabuki, H. et al. (1982), 'Orientation of Nucleosomes in the Thirty-Nanometer
Chromatin Fiber', Biochemistry 21, 5015-5020. ONC
Part Ill. The role of metaphor: grammatical
and lexical
5 The discourse of history: distancing the recoverable
Suzanne Eggins, Peter Wignell and j. R. Martin
1. Introduction
'History', states the New South Wales Secondary Schools' Board syllabus
document (1980: 1), 'is the story of people'. The discipline of history
involves 'a systematic study of the past' in which the goal of the historian
is to take 'not a set of unrelated facts, but a selection of facts, arranged,
interpreted and generalised to be meaningful' (Ibid: 3).
The teaching of history requires the inculcating in students of an
'historial perspective':
Historical perspective involves a sense of time, a sense of cause/effect
relationship, an understanding of the interaction of past and present,
and an understanding that history is a dynamic relationship of people,
place and time in which some events can be judged to be more signifi-
cant than others (ibid: 10).
The historian's task, then, can be summarized as making 'the story of
people' meaningful by selecting, interpreting and generalizing from facts of
the recoverable past.
Through our study of junior high school history textbooks we have tried
to develop a description of 'the discourse of history': i.e. how language is
used to represent and teach 'the story of people'.
Our analysis suggests that far from being a dynamic account of people
and events, when history gets written down it is neither a story nor is it
about people. In the process of arranging, interpreting and generalizing
from recoverable facts, people are effaced, actions become things, and
sequence in time is replaced by frozen setting in time.
Thus, far from bringing the recoverable past 'to life', the discourse of
history seeks to maximize the distance between what people actually did
and how it gets written about.
Table 5.1 Congruent and metaphorical realizations
Meaning Realization
logical relation
noun, verb, preposition
The principal linguistic resource used in this process of distancing is that
of GRAMMATICAL METAPHOR. In everyday spoken language, things
(objects, people, etc.) are encoded as nouns; actions and doings as verbs;
logical relations as conjunctions; and temporal relations as sequential. This
is summarized in Table 5.1.
For example, in spoken English the following would be typical:
1. f came back from Bali early because my father died.
However, when we came to write this down we would probably end up
with one of the following 2-5 below:
2. The reason for my early return from Bali was the death of my father.
In this version we notice that:
two clauses have been made into one;
the two Actors (f, and father) are no longer performing actions. f has
become a possessive Deictic (an owner not a doer); and father has
become a Qualifier;
the logical connection between the clauses because is now realized as a
noun the reason;
the verbs came back and died are now also realized as nouns return, death;
early, which was an adverb in the spoken version has become an Epithet
in the written version.
Alternative metaphorical realizations could be:
3. My father's death caused my early return from Bali.
(logical connection realized as a verb)
4. My early return from Bali was because cif my father's death.
(logical connection as a preposition)
5. My father's death was the reason for the earliness of my return from Bali.
(logical connection realized as a noun)
These changes are all examples of grammatical metaphor: i.e. the
incongruent realizations of semantic choices (see Halliday 1985a).
Grammatical metaphor, particularly nominalization, is a typical feature
of many types of written texts and is usually associated with the notions
of 'abstraction' and 'distance'. Texts with a high degree of grammatical
metaphor tend to be considered prestigious in our culture.
In this paper we will present a detailed examination of how grammatical
metaphor is used in history, its functions and consequences.
(Unless otherwise stated, all examples are taken from Barcan et al. 1972)
2. General characteristics of the discourse of history
The layman, as well as the curriculum designers, probably thinks of what
happens in the past as a kind of story. People are born, live their lives and
die; while alive they do things, often to other people and things.
However, in the process of writing history down, grammatical metaphor
is used in a number of ways to remove people, turn actions into things,
and turn sequence into setting. We can think of this as happening in a
number of steps.
a) Nominalizing actions
The first step is to turn actions and events into Things. For example,
instead of saying
6. People learned by rediscovering the culture of the past
where people are Actors in the two Processes of learning and rediscovering,
we find:
7. The new learning was a rediscovery of the culture of the past.
where there are NO PEOPLE, and the two Processes are now represented
as THINGS, i.e. nouns. (All nominalizations will be shown in bold
throughout the chapter.)
As this example shows, nominalization allows us to express in one clause
what in speech would have been two. This decrease in grammatical
intricacy (Halliday 1985b: ch. 6) is accompanied by an increase in lexical
density (ibid): i.e. fewer clauses, but more content words per clause. For
example, to compare two versions of our original example:
1. f came back from Bali early because my father died: 5 content words spread
over 2 clauses = lexical density of 2.5
2. The reason for nry early return from Bali was the death of my father: 7
content words within one clause = lexical density of 7
Turning doings into things allows us to utilize the full grammatical
resources available to Things in English. These include being able to quan-
tify, qualify, classify, act, be acted upon, cause, have attributes and be
equated with other things. In the above example, two actions have been
nominalized are now equated with each other in a relational identifying
b) Giving things existence
Once Actors have been eliminated, and doings have become Things, it is
possible to simply posit their existence:
8. There was a turning away from mediaeval interests.
This allows for the nominalized Process to exist as a Thing in its own
right, unrelated to either the Actors who may have performed the action
or to other nominalized Processes.
c) Making Things act
Once we have posited the existence of Things, we can talk about them in
more 'material' terms, as having taken place, occurred, happened etc:
9. Fundamental changes marking the beginning of the modern world took place.
Here, rather than simply saying that There were fundamental changes the
quasi-material Process took place suggests action and not just existence. Both
these versions contrast with a more congruent one, which would be:
10. Things changed fundamentally . .
where we became aware that a 'dummy' Actor (things) has taken the place
of the people who presumably in the real world brought about the actions.
The most congruent version would thus be:
11. People changed things fundamentally.
d) Setting in time
In what we typically think of as a 'story', we usually find events sequenced
temporally and recorded in the order in which they occurred in real time.
For example,
12. I finished work, then went to the pub. And then I went home.
Here the two conjunctions then order the text temporally and the actions
are listed in the order in which they were performed.
However, in turning stories into history this temporal sequence becomes
setting in time. The past in divided up into a number of periods, eras or
years: e.g. The Feudal Age, The Renaissance, the Reformation, etc. These
periods represent almost the only kind of taxonomizing that goes on in
history and provide the organizing principle for the textbook as a whole
(for discussion of taxonomizing, see Wignell et al. 1987). For example, the
Table of Contents in Barcan et al. (1972) divides the past to be studied into
five periods and ages (see Table 5.2).
Table 5.2 Excerpt from table of contents from Barcan et al. (1972)
The Dark Ages and Christianity
The Early Feudal Age, 750-1100
The Later Feudal Age, 11 00-U50
The Classical Renaissance
Riformation and Counter-Riformation
Instead of talking about events occurring one after another, i.e. sequen-
tially, it is now possible to situate an event as occurring within a particular
period. Events are now set in time. This is usually accomplished through
the use of marked themes.
13. In 1469 the term 'Middle Ages' was invented.
14. During the Renaissance, men abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life.
15. By 1450 the Middle Ages were reaching their end.
16. In July 1429 she stood beside Charles as he was crowned King of France.
Setting in time, unlike sequence in time, allows you to talk about events
independently of the order in which they really occurred. For example: In
1526 x happened, however in 1429 y occurred.
e) Phase
Once time has been turned into a Thing it can then be treated almost as
if it had a life of its own. A permeating feature of the discourse of history
is the way it imposes a life-cycle metaphor on periods of time: they are
born, grow and die.
17. 'birth' The Renaissance began/came into existence.
18. 'growth' The Renaissance spread/reached its height.
19. 'death) The Renaissance declined/came to an end.
If events are no longer sequenced in the order III which they really
happened, this life-cycle metaphor provides a way of imposing a flow of
time throughout a period. It is typical of a chapter in history textbooks to
begin with an Introduction to a given period, and then deal in sections
with its birth, growth and death. Thus, as one period 'dies' the next is
'born' and so on. For example, the Feudal Age declines and then the
Renaissance is born.
f) Doings acting
We said above that one advantage of treating actions as things is that they
can be made to do anything nouns can do in the grammar. Once doings
have been turned into Things, they can now act and be acted upon.
20. The study of man caught the imagination of scholars.
21. An appreciation of the beauty and utility of classical architecture developed.
22. These creations portray for us at least some examples of Renaissance
In all these examples what was congruently an action (studying man,
appreciating beauty, and creating art) are represented as Actors in material
and behavioural Processes.
g) Doings acted on
Nominalized actions can also be acted upon:
23. Renaissance man abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life.
24. The spread of freedom amongst the lower classes was helped because
What is the Goal in these clauses mediaeval ways of looking at life, and the
spread of freedom, would in the congruent versions come out as actions.
h) People as Actors in history
As we've said above, nominalizing actions tend to lead to the removal of
people as Actors in the texts. This operates on a cline. In the most story-
like passages, used in history as exemplifications, we do find individual
people doing things and having things done to them.
25. Michelangelo was another outstanding man of the Renaissance . .. Initially
he concentrated on sculpture.
However, as history becomes less like a story individuals are replaced by
generic classes of participants:
26. The painters cif the Renaissance turned to the classics for inspiration.
27. The merchant class gained the name of burgher.
28. The peasants now had to produce a surplus of food stuffs to sell to the
29. . . . the sons of the richer merchants or of the nobles sometimes wished
to become lawyers, churchmen or administrators.
The final step is to reduce the number of generic participants as Actors
and to increase the number of nominalized Processes as Actors:
30. The new society developed first in central and northern Italy ...
31. What new contributions did (the Renaissance) add to the growth of
It is possible also for historians to insert themselves into the text. They are
always encoded as either Agents or Actors, even when left implicit:
32. It is impossible ((for historians)) to name an exact date ..
33. Most historians, however, agree that fundamental changes marking the begin-
ning of the modern world took place during the fifteenth century.
34. This period of change is called the Renaissance ((by historians))
(N.B.Double brackets represent our additions to the original text.)
The cumulative effect of these various forms of nominalization is to remove
the story from history. For the historian, history involves a number of
successive periods in which similar kinds of things go on and differ from
what went on in periods before and after. Thus it is doings, not people,
that begin, spread and die out. And generic classes of people or doings that
act on other doings.
3. Types of history texts
We mentioned above that the removal of people as Actors can be seen as
a cline. In the same way, not all the texts in a single textbook contain the
same degree of nominalization. We can in fact recognize different genres
of history texts, ranging from the more story-like to the more abstract. We
will now examine in some detail these different types of texts, and try to
suggest how the technology of history shunts along this scale. Detailed
analyses of all texts discussed below can be found in the appendices.
A typical story-like text is one dealing with part of the biography of a
famous individual, for example Joan of Arc, Christopher Columbus or
Michelangelo. The text dealing with Michelangelo is given below:
Michelangelo (1475-1564)
1 Michelangelo was another outstanding man of the Renaissance: sculptor, painter,
architect and poet.
2 He was one of the last great Renaissance artists,
3 for by the time of his death in 1564 Italy was falling into decline.
4 Initially he concentrated on sculpture.
5 At Florence in 1501 he began to carve a figure of David from a huge block of
6 This was finished in 1504
7 when he was twenty-nine.
8 David was shown with a sling on his shoulder, going to fight Goliath.
9 The statue was fourteen feet high.
10 While in Rome
11 he was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
12 For four years from 1508 till 1512 Michelangelo worked on this task lying on
his back at the top of high scaffolding, his neck stiff, paint trickling onto his face.
13 The pope was impatient [[to see the decoration of the Sistine Chapel
14 and made numerous enquiries about progress.
15 When M ichelangelo replied 'It will be finished when I shall have done all that
I believe is required to satisfy art '.
16 Pope Julius finally lost his temper
17 and said that if it were not at once completed he would have the artist thrown
from the scaffolding.
18 M ichelangelo hastily removed the scaffolding.
19 On the ceiling he depicted many Biblical scenes.
20 Among the 340 large figures were [[ God creating the sun and moon]], Noah and
the Flood, and [[David sitting astride Goliath's neck]l.
Key: words in bold = nominalizations
[[]] = embedded clauses
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 164-5)
The above text could be classified generically as a kind of narrative. It is
concerned with individual human Actors, e.g. Michelangelo, the Pope perfor-
ming actions e.g. carving, painting, lying on his back, removing etc., ordered
temporally when, while, initially. The text contains relatively few
nominalizations, e. g. decline, this task, the decoration, enquiries, progress.
An examination of the logical connections in this text shows that most
of them have to do with time and cause. That is, events are ordered accor-
ding to the sequence in which they happened and what caused them to
happen (see Appendix 1, p. 98, for detailed conjunction analysis).
The purpose of texts of this kind is to exemplify generalizations made
in other parts of the chapter about a particular era. For example,
Michelangelo exemplifies the generic class of artists, and is thus used as a
typical representative of Renaissance man.
Such biographical sketches are essentially story-like. They are concrete
rather than abstract, dealing with relations of time and cause between
events that took place in the past, and focusing on the people who did
things and had things done to them. These points are brought out in the
detailed analyses of this text, given in Appendix 1 (pp. 97-100).
A second type of history text, the Report, is exemplified by Text 2
Art and Architecture
1 Whilst we may admire and respect other cultural aspects of the Classical
2 our greatest appreciation is usually reserved for those examples of art and architec-
ture [[which are still in existence today, and whose beauty and merit we can
see for ourselves]l.
3 In Florence and Milan, Rome and London are many magnificent Renaissance
buildings, still in daily use.
4 Display in museums and private collections throughout the world are splendid
works by Renaissance artists.
5 These creations portray for us at least some examples of Renaissance inspira-
6 The ruins of classical buildings provided models for fifteenth century architects.
7 An appreciation of the beauty and utility of classical architecture developed,
8 and Greek columns and Roman arches became part of the developing Renaissance
9 Brunelleschi (1377-1446) for example, deduced Ionic, Doric and Corinthian
building styles from close examination of Roman ruins.
10 He used this knowledge
11 to plan a dome for the Florence Cathedral in 1417.
12 Architecturally this was a difficult task
13 and its success was repeated in the dome of St Peter's in Rome.
14 The building of St Peter's Basilica was started by Pope Julius II in 1506.
15 The cathedral was finally completed in 1626.
16 It was the greatest building in the Renaissance style and the greatest Christian
17 The painters of the Renaissance turned to the classics for inspiration
18 and took delight in [[depicting the beauty of the human body]l.
19 In this respect, too, there was a turning away from mediaeval interests,
20 for mediaeval painters often used art
21 to teach Christian ideals.
22 Renaissance painters still adopted Christian subjects,
23 but they also depicted ancient pagan themes.
24 It was an age of individualism
25 and painting oj portraits became jashionable,
26 particularly as important men in state, church and business ojten acted as patrons
oj artists.
27 Amongst outstanding painters were: Giotto oj Florence (1266-1336), the jirst
great Renaissance painter who rediscovered perspective in painting; Leonardo da
Vinci (1453-1519), who spent much oj his life in Florence and Milan;
Michelangelo (1475-1564), who divided his time between Florence and Rome;
Raphael (1483-1520), who spent most oj his short life in Rome; and Titian
(about 1487-1576), a Venetian painter who used rich colors and was a great
portrait painter.
28 Tow oj these, da Vinci and Michelangelo, deserve special attention.
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 163)
Texts of this kind can be classified generically as reports. Reports typically
take a subject and present information about its various aspects or compo-
nent parts.
We notice in this text an increase in the degree of nominalization as
compared to the Michelangelo text. There is also a switch in focus away
from specific individuals as Actors to a focus on generic classes of people
(numbers in brackets refer to the clauses as numbered in the text cited
35. The painters of the Renaissance turned to the classics jor inspiration.
36. Mediaeval painters ojten used art to teach Christian ideals. (20-21)
Specific participants do still occur, but not generally as Actors. Instead
they are mentioned as examples of generic classes:
37. Amongst outstanding painters were: Giotto oj Florence, Leonardo da Vinci
. . . etc. (27)
A further feature of this text is that it deals with a period of time, and sets
specific events within that but not necessarily in the order in which they
occurred. We are thus moving away from representing history as sequence
in time towards representing it as setting in time.
An analysis of the logical relations in this text (see Appendix 2, p. 102)
shows the absence of temporal conjunctions. Conjunctions are mainly
external ones of cause or purpose, and there is little structuring of the text
through internal conjunction. The structure of the text is derived from the
title Art and Architecture as the text deals firstly with information about
architecture, and then with information about art. This order could easily
be reversed without affecting the rhetorical structure of the text.
The purpose of this type of text in history is to record and store relevant
factual information. The information gets taken up in other types of text:
either as concrete exemplification, as in the Michelangelo type of text; or
as a source for abstraction, as in the argument text, Revival oj Classical
Studies, which we will now consider.
The third kind of text we find in history can be classified generically as
an Argument. A proposition is set forth and arguments either for or
against are discussed, leading to a conclusion which sums up the argu-
ment. The following text is an example of an Argument text:
Revival oj classical studies in Italy
1 There were a number oj reasons [[why the Renaissance began in Italyl]'
2 Italy had been the centre oj the Roman Empire,
3 and all over the country monuments and buildings provided a reminder oj Rome's
past greatness, as well as an inspiration jor a revival oj classical
4 A second reason was [[ that in Italy there were many independent cities [[ in
which lived a large middle class, as well as a large projessional class oj lawyers,
doctors and clergymen]]]]'
5 The cities were expanding economically,
6 they had an active social life,
7 and this encouraged intellectual experiment and progress.
8 Cities like Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice were important centres oj the
9 Under such patrons as Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence, the Visconti and
Sjorza jamilies in Milan, and Pope Nicholas V in Rome, artists, sculptors and
scholars worked
10 to glorify their patrons,
11 and at the same time beautify their cities.
12 Because oj her trading activities Italy tended to be a crossroads between East and
West, jeeling the influence oj Constantinople and the cities oj western Asia, as
well as that oj Europe .
13 To Rome, the capital oj Christendom, came scholars and pilgrims jrom all over
the known world.
14 Traders, bankers, merchants, travellers, artists and craftsmen stimulated economic
15 and brought new knowledge, new ideas and new techniques to the Italian
cities, particularly in the north.
16 As the Turks conquered large sections oj the Byzantine Empire in the jourteenth
and jifteenth centuries,
17 many refugee Greek scholars fled to nearby Italy bringing valuable ancient
manuscripts with them.
18 Thus in Italy prosperity, a large number oj educated men, the introduction
of new ideas jrom other lands, a varied political structure and visible relics oj
ancient times encouraged the Renaissance.
19 History, economics, geograPhy and politics contributed to produce the Italian
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 160-1)
Compared to the other two types of texts we have looked at (biography and
report), this text is heavily nominalized. It not only codes a large number
of actions as nouns, but also it nominalizes some qualities (realized as
adjectives in ordinary spoken language) and logical relations (typically
realized as conjunctions). For example:
38. Actions as nouns:
a reminder (3)
an inspiration (3)
a revival (3)
intellectual experiment and progress (7)
her trading activities (12)
the influence . . . etc (12)
39. Qualities as nouns:
Rome's past greatness (3)
prosperity (18)
40. Logical relations as nouns:
a number of reasons (1)
a second reason (4)
This is not everyday language. But if we examine how the argument is put
forward in this text we can see some of the reasons why this use of
language has evolved. The text's thesis is stated in clause 1: i.e. that there
are a number of reasons why the Renaissance began in Italy. The text then
reviews three of these reasons (2-3, 4-11, 12-17). All of these reasons are
then summed up in 18 and 19 in support of the reiterated thesis. Internal
text organization of this kind is typical of written argumentation and is a
common feature of texts in which historians are trying to interpret
historical facts.
Given the nature of the argument, we can now look at how language is
used to structure the text. In this text this is accomplished both at the
levels of discourse-semantics and lexico-grammar. At the discourse level it
is done by expressing logical relations of cause in incongruent ways. For
41. There were a number of reasons (noun) (1) a second reason (noun) (4)
42. Because cif (preposition) her trading activities (12)
The only use of a conjunction to express casual notions occurs m the
conclusion to the argument: i.e. thus.
Cause is also realized at the level of lexico-grammar through Agency:
i.e. through the role of Agent in the clause. Thus instead of the more
43. The cities' economies were expanding, they had an active social life and so
(conjunction) people experimented intellectually and progressed.
we find:
44. The cities were expanding economically, they had an active social life and this
(Agent) encouraged intellectual experiment and progress.
where the Agent this codes the meaning of the conjunction so in the more
spoken version.
Nominalizing both actions and logical relations in this way has a major
effect on the conjunctive structure of written text. In place of the dominant
pattern of causal and temporal relations between events that we found in
Michelangelo, this text has the rhetorical pattern given below in detail in
Appendix 3 (p. 106).
As the analysis shows, this text is mainly organized through exemplifica-
tion. Clauses 2-3,4-11 and 12-17 each provide an example of the reasons
referred to in 1. And within 12-17 two examples are given of the way in
which Italy's trading activities involved her with the culture of the Middle
East. The reasoning that we expect in spoken language to be coded
between clauses has been transferred to words and structures within the
clause itself. Transferring the causal reasoning from between clauses to
inside clauses means that the spaces between clauses can now be used to
internally structure the argument.
This skewing towards nominalization also has a major effect on the kind
of participants found in texts like this. As the analysis in Appendix 3
shows, we notice that in this text there are no individual people mentioned
at all. This contrasts markedly with the Michelangelo text in which
individual humans were the main participants. In this more abstract text
when people do act or are acted upon they do so in generic classes.
45. a large middle class(4)
lawyers, doctors and clergymen (4)
artists, sculptors and scholars . . . etc. (9)
Non-human participants of time and place are also m major focus.
46. the Renaissance (1)
Italy (2)
cities like Florence, Milan etc. (8)
the Italian Renaissance (19)
the crossroads between East and West (12)
Otherwise we find only two concrete non-human participants: monuments
and buildings (3), and valuable ancient manuscripts (17).. .
In summary, we can say that this type of historical dIscourse IS abstract
rather than concrete is concerned with organizing an argument through
exemplification, and' focuses on what classes of people or actions dressed
up as things do or have done to them. ....
This kind of writing seems to be the most prestlglOus m hIstory. If for
example we consider the question asked of students New South
Wales Higher School Certificate Modern History exammatlOn we
find that no questions call for narratives or reports. All qu:stlOns ask
either WHY or HOW something happened, thus demandmg either argu-
ment texts or the type above, or explanations (of which we found no
examples in the history textbook). For example:
47. Why were there 2 revolutions in Russia in 1917? How jar was the jailure
oj the Weimar Republic a jailure by the Germans to adapt to democracy?
A fourth kind of text found in history is that exemplified by the Introduc-
tion to the chapter on the Classical Renaissance:
The Classical Renaissance
1 It is impossible [[ to name an exact date when the mediaeval world changed into
the modern world] J.
2 Most historians, however, agree [[that jundamental changes marking the begin-
ning oj the modern world took place during the jifteenth century]). .
3 The new society developed jirst in central and northern Italy, and subsequently zn
other western European countries.
4 This period of change is called the Renaissance, a French-derived word mean-
ing 'rebirth', . . . .
5 jor it resembled a rebirth oj the human spzrzt, a great revwal of learmnt..
6 Because so much oj the new learning was a rediscovery oj the culture oj claSSIcal
Greece and Rome,
7 the term Classical Renaissance is ojten applied to this era.
8 This serves to distinguish it jrom the Greek Renaissance oj the jifth century. BC,
the Carolingian Renaissance oj the ninth century AD and the Medzaeval
Renaissance oj the twelfth century.
9 The Renaissance is ojten dated jrom the 1340's in Italy. .
10 It spread to England and France in the 1490's and to Spazn and Germany in
the 1500's.
11 During the Renaissance men abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life.
12 They developed new ideas about art, religion and behaviour.
13 They regarded the preceding centuries as barbaric,
14 and looked back to the Greeks and Romans for models.
15 In 1469 the term 'Middle Ages' was invented
16 to describe the period between Roman times and the Renaissance.
17 Renaissance man was more interested in nature and science than were most men
during the Middle Ages.
18 Men had a new awareness of the beauty, the richness, and the variety qf life.
19 Most of all, the study of man himself caught the imagination oj scholars, sczen-
tists, artists and craftsmen.
20 Renaissance man rebelled against authority, tradition and repression,
21 for he was aware of his own individuality
22 and strove to realize its jullest expression.
23 Why did this renaissance develop?
24 Why did it start in Italy?
25 How did it spread to the rest of Europe?
26 What new contributions did it add to the growth oj mankind?
27 When did it come to a close and why?
28 These are some oj the questions [[to be answered in this chapter]).
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 160)
Like Art and Architecture (Text 2), this text is also generically a report.
However, its function in the chapter is different. Instead of serving as a
source of facts it forecasts what is going to be taken up in greater detail
later in the chapter. Thus instead of being a store of facts used to
exemplify, it is precis of those facts considered relevant for the period as
a whole. As with Art and Architecture, the participants tend to be either
generic or nominalizations and what there is of logical structure is that of
external cause and purpose. Whereas Art and Architecture points to
specific individuals as exemplification (see clause 28), the Introduction
points towards the general questions the chapter is going to address
(clauses 23-28).
As well as having an organizational function for the chapter as a whole,
it is only in texts of this kind that we find taxonomizing in history. The
text first sets up the technical term, Renaissance:
48. This period qf change is called the Renaissance (4)
and then gives a rationale for technicalizing this period of time:
49. for it resembled a rebirth oj human spirit, a great revival of learning. (5)
It then places the Classical Renaissance into taxonomic opposition with
other kinds of Renaissance:
50. The term Classical Renaissance is often applied to this era. This serves to
distinguish it jrom the Greek Renaissance oj the fifth century B. C., the Carol-
ingian Renaissance oj the ninth century A.D., and the Mediaeval Renaissance
oj the twelfth century. (7-8)
4. The technology of history
The four texts discussed above illustrate what we would call the technology
of history: the process of turning a story into history. We will now try to
summarize this technology by outlining what it would take to transform a
story text such as Michelangelo into an argument text such as Revival of
Classical Studies.
1. Participants
As far as people are concerned we need to move from individuals (e.g.
Michelangelo) to generic classes (e.g. artists, sculptors and scholars in
general). We may even want to eliminate people altogether. This we do
find, especially in the introductory sections of chapters. In the Introduction
to the Classical Renaissance the only people left were historians, sometimes
left implicit, and usually appearing in agentless passives.
51. The term Classical Renaissance is ojten applied to this period.
2. Processes
In turning story into history actions shift from verbs to nouns and in a
sense take the place of the human participants eliminated above. Thus,
instead of saying People began to trade more, we find
52. the growth of trade
Once we have nominalized in this way we can now attach a contentless
verb such as occur, happen or take place.
53. The growth of trade took place mainly In
Alternatively, we may choose to have the nominalizatton acted on by
54. Rich merchants encouraged the growth oj trade.
Or it may be acted on by other nominalizations:
55. Competition for individual wealth stimulated the growth of trade.
A further option is for the growth oj trade to itself act on people:
56. The growth of trade undermined the guilds.
or on other actions also nominalized:
57. The growth of trade promoted the development oj a new social class.
3. Activities
The activities making up an activity sequence are relatable to each other
either through time or cause. To get history out of narrative we need first
to replace temporal successive links between Processes (i. e. sequence in
time realized by conjunctions like bifore, ajter, then, etc.). This produces a
re-orientation to setting in time, realized through circumstances of location
in time coming first in the clause as marked Themes. For example:
58. In 1469 the term 'Middle Ages J was invented to . . .
At Florence in 1501 he began to carve ...
For jour years from 1508 to 1512 Michelangelo worked on this task . ..
Large periods of time may in fact be technicalized if significant for
historians (e.g. the Middle Ages) and once this is accomplished setting in
time can be referred to with nouns:
59. During the Renaissance men abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life.
These names of periods of time or nominalized actions (which themselves
in a sense stand for periods of time) can then be phased -- begin, thrive and
60. ~ England the accession oj the Tudor Dynasty in 1458 marks a new ~ i n
61. By 1450 the Middle Ages were reaching their end.
In short then setting in time replaces sequence in time as the major
temporal organizing principle.
With causal relations, the basic move is from congruent realizations (i.e.
conjunctions) to incongruent ones. These may be:
a) circumstance
62. Because of her trading activities Italy tended to be a crossroads ...
b) participant
63. The decline if seifdom was another result of the rise oj towns and trade.
c) Process: relational
64. But an uprising oj French rebels led to a dramatic change.
d) Process: material (agency)
65. Economic revival, religious zeal and the threat jrom Islam (Agent)
produced a series of religious wars known as the crusades.
We have described above the characteristics of the discourse of history, and
the process by which narrative is turned into. history. the. following
section we will consider WHY history gets wntten down m this way by
looking at the functions of grammatical metaphor in written text.
5. Profundity or bullshit: the functions of grammatical metaphor
We can describe the technology of history as a process of abstraction .. To
explain what we mean by 'abstraction' we need to refer to the register
variable of MODE.
Mode refers to semiotic distance along two scales. Firstly, the distance
between speaker and addressee according to the feedback
established by different media (e. g. telephone, radIO, etc.).
Perhaps the most fundamental difference is between .speech, m which feed-
back is immediate and there is both oral and visual contact between
speaker/addressee, and writing, in which feedback is. not immediate and
there is typically no visual or aural contact betv:een wnter/reader. We refer
to this kind of distance as INTERPERSONAL distance. .
The second kind of distance is that between the text arid the social
reality to which the text refers. This is a cline which ranges a.t one end
from language in action (e.g. what players say to e.ach du:mg a foot-
ball match) to language as reflection (e. g. a philosophical discourse on
cricket as a way of life). We refer to this kind of distance as EXPERIENTAL
When we look at what happens to language use along these two distance
scales we find that there is a correlation between distance and the use of
gramr'natical metaphor. That is, the the. interpersonal
between interactants (the more feedback IS Immediate, the more there IS
visual and aural contact), the more congruent the language used is likely
to be. Thus, when you can see, hear, and immediately respond your
interlocutor you are likely to use very little grammatical metaphor m your
language. .
The closer the experiential distance between language and Its context the
more congruent the language used is likely to be. when you. are
using language to comment on some task you are performmg you are hkely
to use very little grammatical metaphor.
The converse is also true. So that: the less you can see, hear and
immediately respond to your interlocutor, the greater the degree of grar,n-
matical metaphor in your language. For example, when you. wnte
something down for an unseen audience it is more likely you Will use
quite a lot of grammatical metaphor. The more you are usmg language to
reflect rather than to act, the greater the amount of grammatical metaphor
you will use. ..'
Situations in which there is both maximum mterpersonal distance and
Table 5.3 Language use and mode
of + immediate feedback - immediate feedback
langauge + aural/visual contact - aural/visual contact
use + language to act + language to reflect
Meaning Linguistic realizations
Everyday language Metaphorical language
participant noun
process verb noun
quality adjective noun
logical conjunction noun, verb, preposition
maximum experiential distance are likely to produce highly incongruent
language. This allows us to explain why nominalization is the most distinc-
tive difference between spoken and written texts. Written texts are typically
produced in situations in which both interpersonal and experiential
distance are maximum - you can't interact with your audience, and you
are usually writing to reflect. Table 5.3 summarizes the difference between
language use at the two extremes of the distance scales.
We can identify two contrasting folk notions about the functions of
grammatical metaphor. One would be that highly nominalized texts are
PRESTIGIOUS, i.e. that grammatical metaphor makes things 'sound impor-
tant'. For example, a child commenting on the language of the history
Kids don't write like that. That's a professor's kind of writing.
The second folk notion about grammatical metaphor is that it's BULLSHIT.
It is contrived deliberately to hide the fact that you've got nothing to say.
This is an objection often raised about bureau crate se such as the following:
66. By the start of the 1980's, however, the fall in world demand and prices for
minerals demonstrated the dangers of reliance for wealth generation on growth
in a single sector of the economy. Following the Myers Committee Report there
was also more widespread community acceptance that without technological
change the lessening competitiveness of manufacturing industry would lead to a
continued diminution in the overall wealth and employment potential of the
economy (CSIRO internal memo).
This can be loosely translated as:
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
The linguistic evidence suggests that although grammatical metaphor can
be used in both these ways, it in fact performs other more significant
linguistic functions. One way to shed light on these functions is by trying
to 'unpack' metaphorical text - i.e. rewrite a text congruently. Unpacking
involves de-nominalizing the text, e.g:
67. The decline of seifdom was another result of the rise of towns.
If we unpack the four nominalizations (decline, serfdom, result, rise) we
68. Because there were more towns the number of seifs declined.
Many people, bureaucrats in particular, seem to feel that heavily
nominalized writing is succinct. But as we can see from the above exam-
ple, nominalization does not necessarily save space. What it does do is
allow writers to re-organize the information structure of their sentences and
It is, for example, the only way to make the decline of seifdom Theme and
the rise of towns New (see Halliday 1985). And the sentence as a whole is
clearly part of a text in which a number of the effects of the rise of towns
are being reviewed:
69. Consequences of the Rise of Towns
The rise of towns meant that a new social class, the merchant class or
burgeoisie, had arisen, claiming a place alongside the nobles, clergy and
peasantry. The merchant class gained the name of 'burgher' (German),
'burgess' (English), or 'bourgeoisie' (French) because they lived in towns. The
member of this class were free men, not seifs.
The decline of seifdom was another result of the rise of towns and trade. In
many parts of Europe the closed economy of early Feudal times gave way to
a commercial or money economy . ...
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 139)
A further example of this function of abstraction to organize text is shown
up when we try to unpack:
70. Economic revival, religious zeal and the threat of Islam produced a senes
of religious wars known as the Crusades.
This becomes
71. Because the economy revived, religious people were zealous and Islamic people
were threatening there was one war about religion after another and we call
these wars the Crusades.
The meaning packed into one clause here takes five clauses in the
unpacked version. In unpacking we have had to transfer the logical
connections back to between clauses. This significantly effects the thematic
organization. In the packed version, the three causes are given thematic
status, and the Crusades appear as New. This serves to predict the structure
of the text to follow. But in the unpacked version each clause now has its
own Theme and New. Thus, considering the text as an Information Unit
we now have five Themes and five News to contend with: the sentence
does not predict how the text will develop. These examples demonstrate
that a major function of abstraction is to allow information to be
Certain texts appear impossible to unpack while preserving their
intended meaning. For example:
72. It was an age cif individualism.
The possible congruent version
73. Everybody was being themselves then
clearly doesn't make sense in the context. And something like:
74. During the Renaissance men abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life
unpacks to something like: 'Men stopped thinking about how they lived
like they used to think about if before'.
In these examples, grammatical metaphor is being used to make
generalizations of time, and sets of behaviours. The word individualism is
a nominalization for the way a whole set of individuals behaved; mediaeval
ways of looking at life encompasses a whole range of actions and attitudes.
Time is also generalized into periods or ages, such as the Renaissance. The
same principle of generalization is operating when we turn individuals into
generic classes: e.g. doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. Using grammatical
metaphor in these ways allows us to get beyond talking about what an
individual or group of individuals did at a specific moment in time.
When historians make these generalizations they are usually accom-
panied by less abstract (usually concrete) exemplification. For example:
75. It was an age of individualism
((for example))
and painting of portraits became fashionable particularly as important men In
state, church and business often acted as patrons of artists . . .
76. During the Renaissance men abandoned mediaeval ways of looking at life.
((That is to say))
They developed new ideas about art, religion and behaviour. They regarded the
preceding centuries as barbaric . . . .
(( our insertions
Thus we have identified two functions of grammatical metaphor m text:
Firstly, to allow us to organize information in ways that give prominence
to our main points and structure to our arguments.
Secondly, to allow us to generalize individual discrete experiences into
generic acts, behaviours and times.
Organizing and generalizing can both be seen as types of abstraction. In
both cases grammatical metaphor is used to distance the text from the past
it describes. Through generalization we free the text from a past which
deals with individuals performing actions sequentially in real time.
Through organization we free the past from its temporal and causal order
by imposing on it another rhetorical organization. The result is text which
is at a maximum distance from the events it is talking about.
As we have already said, not all historical discourse is necessarily
abstract. We have seen that historians do use ordinary language to
exemplify their interpretations (as in the biography of Michelangelo). What
we find in the discourse of history is a 'shunting' along the scale of abstrac-
tion: texts such as Michelangelo being towards the non-abstract end, and
texts such as Revival of Classical Studies towards the most abstract end.
In other words, the more history moves away from narrative towards inter-
pretation, the more abstract and 'distant' the text becomes.
6. Conclusions
The source of history is narrative. It is people who did things to each other
in real time and space. However, narrative is not history. Given that
history's job is to arrange, interpret and generalize from facts of the
recoverable past, narrative is not equipped to do this. Historians must be
able to take language out of its immediate context - i.e. 'abstract' or
'distance' language from the then-and-there. They do this by marshalling
the resources of grammatical metaphor which provide the means for
generalizing experience and organizing information.
We described the process of getting history out of narrative as a
'technology of abstraction'. It is not only a technology whose functions and
procedures are never made explicit; it is also a technology which
diametrically opposes the 'doing' of history and the 'learning' of history.
For the historian, the process of 'doing history' involves firstly observing
the 'story', then gathering and storing relevant facts, and finally producing
an interpretation. However, in learning 'about history' this process is
reversed: textbooks present first the interpretation, then the relevant facts,
and finally as exemplification the story.
Thus, far from bringing the past 'to life', the discourse of history seeks
to maximize the distance between what people did then and how we write
about it now. The 'Story of people' serves only as the point of departure
in this process of distancing the recoverable past.
Analyses for Text 1: Michelangelo
1. Text divided into conjunctively relatable units, showing nominalizations
Text 1: Michelangelo (1475-1561)
1 Michelangelo was another outstanding man of the Renaissance: sculptor, painter,
architect and poet.
2 He was one of the last great Renaissance artists,
3 for by the time of his death in 1564 Italy was falling into decline
4 Initially he concentrated on sculpture. .
5 At Florence in 1501 he began to carve a figure of David from a huge block of
6 This was finished in 1504
7 when he was twenty-nine.
8 David was shown with a sling on his shoulder, gomg to fight Goliath.
9 The statue was fourteen feet high.
10 While in Rome
11 he was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
12 F ~ r four years from 15.08 till 5 ~ 2 Michelangelo worked on this task lying on
hzs back at the ~ o p of. hzgh scaffoldmg, his neck stiff, paint trickling onto his face.
13 The pope was zmpatzent {{to see the decoration of the Sistine Chapel completed] 1
14 and made numerous enquiries about progress.
15 When Michelangelo replied 'It will be finished when I shall have done all that
I believe is required to satiify art '.
16 Pope Julius finally lost his temper
17 and said that if it were not at once completed he would have the artist thrown
from the scaffolding.
18 Michelangelo hastily removed the scaffolding.
19 On the ceiling he depicted many Biblical scenes.
20 Among the 340 large figures were [[God creating the sun and moon]], Noah and
the Flood, and [[David sitting astride Goliath' s neckll.
2. Participants in Text 1
1. Human - specific
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 164-5)
Internal External
Q exp/casual
Imp/similaritY/fig < 5
7 > exp/slmultaneous
: : ~
Imp/similarity/eo <
ex p/slmu ltansoUIJ
el( p/slmu ltaneoUs
Figure 5.1 Conjunctive relations in Michelangelo
Pope Julius II
his neck
the pope
M ichelangelo
Pope Julius
his temper
the artist
Adam and Eve leaving t h ~ Garden of Eden,
Noah and the Flood,
and David sitting astride Goliath's neck
2) Human - generic
sculptor, painter, architect and poet
another outstanding man of the Renaissance
one of the last great Renaissance artists
3) Non-human: time/place
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
4) Non-human: other metaphorical
this task
the decoration of the Sistine Chapel
5) Non-human: other: concrete
a figure of David
the statue
the scaffolding
many Biblical scenes
the sun and moon
3. Theme in Text 1
1 Michelangelo was another outstanding man of the Renaissance: sculptor, painter,
architect and poet.
2 He was one of the last great Renaissance artists
3 ]Or (by the time of his death in 1564) Italy was falling into decline.
4 (Initially) he concentrated on sculpture.
5 (At Florence in 1501) he began to carve a figure of David from a huge block of
6 This was finished in 1504
7 Wiliiz he was twenty-nine
8 David was shown with a sling on his shoulder, going to fight Goliath.
9 The statue was jourteen jeet high.
10 (While in Rome)
11 he was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling oj the Sistine Chapel.
12 (For jour years jrom 1508 till 1512) Michelangelo worked on this task lying on
his back at the top oj high scaffolding, his neck stiff, paint trickling onto his jace.
13 The pope was impatient to see the decoration oj the Sistine Chapel completed
14 and (*) made numerous enquiries about progress
15 (WfiinMichelangelo replied 'It will be jinished when I shall have done all that
I believe is required to satisfy art',)
16 Pope Julius jinally lost his temper .
17 and (*) said that if it were not at once completed he would have the artzst thrown
jrom the scaffolding.
18 Michelangelo hastily removed the scaffolding.
19 (On the ceiling) he depicted many Biblical scenes.
20 (Among the 340 large jigures) were God creating the sun and moon, Adam and
Eve leaving the Garden oj Eden, Noah and the Flood, and David sitting astride
Goliath's neck.
Key: underlined words
Marked Theme
Theme ellipsis
Analyses for Text 2: Art and Architecture
1. Text divided into conjunctively relatable units, showing nominalizations
Text 2: Art and Architecture
1 Whilst we may admire and respect other cultural aspects oj the Classical
2 our greatest appreciation is usually reserved jor those examples oj art and architec-
ture [[which are still in existence today, and whose beauty and merit we can
see jor ourselves)].
3 In Florence and Milan, Rome and London are many magnificent Renaissance
buildings, still in daily use.
4 Displayed in museums and private collections throughout the world are splendid
works by Renaissance artists.
5 These creations portray jor us at least some examples oj Renaissance inspira-
6 The ruins oj classical buildings provided models jor jifteenth century architects.
7 An appreciation oj the beauty and utility oj classical architecture developed,
8 and Greek columns and Roman arches became part oj the developing Renaissance
9 Brunelleschi (1377-1446) jor example, deduced Ionic, Doric and Corinthian
building styles jrom close examination oj Roman ruins.
10 He used this knowledge.
11 to plan a dome jor the Florence Cathedral in 1417.
12 Architecturally this was a difficult task
13 and its success was repeated in the dome oj St Peter's in Rome.
14 The building oj St Peter's Basilica was started by Pope Julius II in 1506.
15 The cathedral was jinally completed in 1626.
16 It was the greatest building in the Renaissance style and the greatest Christian
17 The painters oj the Renaissance turned to the classics jor inspiration
18 and took delight in [[depicting the beauty oj the human body]].
19 In this respect, too, there was a turning away jrom mediaeval interests,
20 jor mediaeval painters ojten used art
21 to teach Christian ideals.
22 Renaissance painters still adopted Christian subjects,
23 but they also depicted ancient pagan themes.
24 It was an age of individualism
25 and painting oj portraits became jashionable,
26 particularly as important men in state, church and business often acted as patrons
oj artists.
27 Amongst outstanding painters were: Giotto oj Florence (1266-1336), the jirst
great Renaissance painter who rediscovered perspective in painting; Leonardo da
Vinci (1453-1519), who spent much oj his life in Florence and Milan;
Michelangelo (1475-1564), who divided his time between Florence and Rome;
Raphael (1483-1520), who spent most oj his short life in Rome; and Titian
(about 1487-1576), a Venetian painter who used rich colors and was a great
portrait painter.
28 Two oj these, da Vinci and Michelangelo, deserve special attention.
2. Participants in Text 2
1) Human - specific
Pope Julius 11
Giotto oj Florence
Leonardo da Vinci
M ichelangelo
da Vinci and Michelangelo
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 163)
Imp/slm lIarlty lie
Imp/slmllarlty/eg I
eXP/addltlVEl5: Imp/caeual
Figure 5.2 Conjunctive relations in Art and Architecture
2) Human - generic
our greatest appreciation
Renaissance artists
the painters of the Renaissance
medieval painters
important men in state, church and business
Renaissance painters
3) Non-human: time/place
4) Non-human: other: metaphorical
other cultural aspects of the Classical Renaissance
those examples of art and architecture
whose beauty and merit
splendid works
these creations
some examples of Renaissance inspiration
an appreciation of the beauty and utility of classical architecture
part of the developing Renaissance style
Ionic, Doric and Corinthian building styles
this knowledge
a difficult task
its success
the building of St Peter's Basilica
the beauty of the human body
a turning away from medieval interests
Christian ideals
Christian subjects
ancient pagan themes
an age of individualism
painting of portraits
special attention
5) non-human: other: concrete
many different Renaissance buildings
the ruins of classical buildings
Greek columns and Roman arches
a dome
the Cathedral
the greatest building in the Renaissance style
the greatest Christian church
3. Theme in Text 2
1 (Whilst we may admire and respect other cultural aspects of the Classical
Renaissance. )
2 our greatest appreciation is usually reserved for those examples of art and architec-
ture which are still in existence today, and whose beauty and merit we can see
for ourselves.
3 (In Florence and Milan, Rome and London) are many magnificent Renaissance
building, still in daily use.
4 Displayed in museums and private collections throughout the world are splendid
works by Renaissance artists.
5 These creations portray for us at least some examples of Renaissance inspiration.
6 The ruins of classical buildings provided models for fifteenth century architects.
7 An appreciation of the beauty and utility of classical architecture developed,
8 and Creek columns and Roman arches became part of the developing Renaissance
9 Brunelleschi (1377-1446) for example, deduced Ionic, Doric and Corinthian
building styles from close examination of Roman ruins.
10 He used this knowledge
11 to plan a dome for the Florence Cathedral in 141 7.
12 (Architecturally) this was a difficult task
13 and its success was repeated in the dome of St Peter's in Rome.
14 The building of St Peter's Basilica was started by Pope Julius II in 1506.
15 The cathedral was finally completed in 1626.
16 It was the greatest building in the Renaissance style and the greatest Christian
17 The painters of the Renaissance turned to the classics for inspiration
18 and (*) took delight in depicting the beauty of the human body.
19 TrlifiZS respect, too, there was a turning away from mediaeval interests,
20 for mediaeval painters often used art
21 to teach Christian ideals.
22 Renaissance painters still adopted Christian subjects,
23 but they also depicted ancient pagan themes.
24 It was an age of individualism
25 and painting of portraits became fashionable.
26 particularly as important men in state, church and business often acted as patrons
of artists.
27 Amongst outstanding painters were: Ciotto of Florence (1266-1336), the first
great Renaissance painter who rediscovered perspective in painting; Leonardo da
Vinci (1453-1519), who spent much of his life in Florence and Milan;
Michelangelo (1475-1564), who divided his time between Florence and Rome;
Raphael (1483-1520), who spent most of his short life in Rome; and Titian
(about 1487-1576), a Venetian painter who used rich colors and was a great
portrait painter.
28 Two of these, da Vinci and Michelangelo, deserve special attention.
Key: underlined words
( )
Marked Theme
Theme ellipsis
Analyses for Text 3: Revival of Classical Studies
1. Text divided into corifunctively relatable units, showing nominalizations
Text 3: Revival of Classical Studies in Italy
1 There were a number qf reasons [[why the Renaissance began in Italyll.
2 Italy had been the centre of the Roman Empire,
3 and all over the country monuments and buildings provided a reminder of Rome's
past greatness, as well as an inspiration for a revival of classical culture.
4 A second reason was [[that in Italy there were many independent cities [[in which
lived a large middle class, as well as a large professional class of lawyers, doctors
and clergymenllll.
5 The cities were expanding economically,
6 they had an active social life,
7 and this encouraged intellectual experiment and progress.
8 Cities like Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice were important centres of the
9 Under such patrons as Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence, the Visconti and
Sforza families in Milan, and Pope Nicholas V in Rome, artists, sculptors and
scholars worked
10 to glorify their patrons,
11 and at the same time beautify their cities.
12 Because of her trading activities Italy tended to be a crossroads between East and
West, feeling the influence of Constantinople and the cities of western Asia, as
well as that of Europe.
13 To Rome, the capital of Christendom, came scholars and pilgrims from all over
the known world.
14 Traders, bankers, merchants, travellers, artists and craftsmen stimulated economic
15 and brought new knowledge, new ideas and new techniques to the Italian
cities, particularly in the north.
16 As the Turks conquered large sections of the Byzantine Empire in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries,
Imp/elm Ilarl ty leg
Imp/elmllarlty leg
Imp/elm lIarlty/eg
Imp/elm lIarlty/eg
Imp/elm lIarlty/eg
Imp/elm lIarlty/eg
Imp/elm lIarltylle

Figure 5.3 Conjunctive relations in Revival 0] Classical Studies in Italy
17 many rifugee Greek scholars fled to nearby Italy bringing valuable ancient
manuscripts with them.
18 Thus in Italy prosperity, a large number of educated men, the introduction
of new ideas from other lands, a varied political structure and visible relics of
ancient times encouraged the Renaissance.
19 History, economics, geography and politics contributed to produce the Italian
(from Barcan et al. 1972: 160-1)
2. Participants in Text 3
1) Human - specific
2) Human - generic
a large middle class
a large professional class of lawyers, doctors and clergymen
artists, sculptors and scholars
their patrons
scholars and pilgrims
traders, bankers, merchants, travellers, artists and craftsmen
the Turks
many rifugee Greek scholars
3) Non-human: time/place
The Renaissance
the centre of the Roman Empire
Cities like Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice
centres of the Renaissance
large sections of the Byzantine Empire
the Renaissance
the Italian Renaissance
the cities
many independent cities
their cities
a crossroads between East and West
4) Non-human: other: metaphorical
A number of reasons
a reminder of Rome's past greatness
an inspiration for a revival of classical culture
a second reason
an active social life
intellectual experiment and progress
the influence of Constantinople and the cities of western Asia, as well as that of
economic life
new knowledge, new ideas and new techniques
prosperity, a large number of educated men, the introduction of new ideas
other lands, a varied political structure and visible relics of ancient
History, economics, geography and politics
5) Non-human: other: concrete
monuments and buildings
valuable ancient manuscripts
3. Theme analysis jor Text 3
1 There were a number oj reasons why the Renaissance began in Italy.
2 Italy had been the centre oj the Roman Empire,
3 and(all over the country) monuments and buildings provided a reminder oj Rome's
past greatness, as well as an inspiration jor a revival oj classical culture.
4 A second reason was that in Italy there were many independent cities in which
lived a large middle class, as well as a large projessional class oj lawyers, doctors
and clergymen.
5 The cities were expanding economically,
6 they had an active social life,
7 an;] this encouraged intellectual experiment and progress.
8 Cities like Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice were important centres oj the
9 (Under such patrons as Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence, the Visconti and
Sjorza jamilies in Milan, and Pope Nicholas V in Rome.) artists, sculptors and
scholars worked
10 to glorify their patrons,
11 and (at the same time) beautify their cities.
12 (Because oj her trading activities) Italy tended to be a crossroads between East and
West, jeeling the influence oj Constantinople and the cities oj western Asia, as
well as that oj Europe.
13 (To Rome, the capital oj Christendom,) came scholars and pilgrims jrom all over
the known world.
14 Traders, bankers, merchants, travellers, artists and crajtsmen stimulated economic
15 and (*) brought new knowledge, new ideas and new techniques to the Italian
cities, particularly in the north.
16 (As the Turks conquered large sections oj the Byzantine Empire in the jourteenth
and jifteenth centuries.)
17 many rifugee Greek scholars fled to nearby Italy bringing valuable ancient
manuscripts with them.
18 Thus (in Italy) prosperity, a large number oj educated men, the introduction oj
new ideas jrom other lands, a varied political structure and visible relics oj ancient
times encouraged the Renaissance.
19 HIStory, economics, geograPhy and politics contributed to produce the Italian
Key: underlined words
marked Theme
Theme ellipsis
Barcan, Alan, Tom Blunden, Alan Dwight, Stephen Shortus (1972), Bifore yesterday:
aspects of European history to 1789. Survey and Depth 1, Melbourne, Macmillan.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985a), An Introduction to Functional Grammar, London, Edward
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985b), Spoken and Written Language, Geelong, Deakin University
New South Wales Secondary Schools Board Syllabus in History Years 7-10
(Approved by the Secondary Schools Board for introduction in Years 7, 8, 9 in
1981 and Year 10 in 1982) Government Printer, 1980.
Wignell, Peter, J.R. Martin and Suzanne Eggins (1987), The Discourse of Geography:
ordering and explaining the experiential world, Working Papers in Linguistics. Volume
Five. University of Sydney, Linguistics Department.
6 Species of metaphor In written and spoken varieties
Andrew Goatly
The traditional approach to register analysis has been to take a field of
human discourse, conversation, advertising, commentary, or whatever, and
to describe the linguistic features which make it distinctive. It is perfectly
possible, however, and indeed necessary, to take a complementary
approach in which a linguistic feature of some kind is observed as it is
manifested in texts belonging to different registers. I say that it is necessary
because stylistics, varieties description or register analysis, whichever term
we use, is essentially a comparative exercise concerned with norms and
degrees of probability of occurrence. Even when no explicit comparison is
made between the linguistic features of texts belonging to different
registers, there is an intuitive and implicit comparison going on in the very
search for distinctiveness. I can hardly say that the use of the present
(simple) tense to describe actions which are taking place at the time of
speaking is a distinctive feature of the variety known as un scripted
commentary unless I have the intuitive notion that the norm for such
descriptions is to use the present-in-present (present continuous).
The functional/systemic tradition of grammatical and semiotic analysis
within which many of the articles in this volume are written recognizes that
meaning depends on choice and attempts to describe the system from
which these choices are made. It too, then, is comparative in that any
choice made in the system implies the rejection of other choices and invites
comparison between the actual choice and the possible alternatives.
Chapter 5 in this volume, which discusses the Grammatical Metaphors
used in a school history text-book, illustrates this systemic approach. There
are choices available in mapping language on to the events of history, some
of which are more congruent with our perception of reality than others.
For example, the choice of whether to use a verb to represent an event or
to use a nominalization is a crucial one. Eggins, Wignell and Martin
demonstrate that different sub-varieties of history text will make the choice
in different ways, some more congruent than others. Their chapter, then,
is a demonstration of the complpmentarity of approaches mentioned above.
It is a description of the register of history textbooks which nevertheless
makes explicit comparisons of linguistic features (clause types and
nominalization) by contrasting their use in some of the different sub-
varieties of this variety.
This chapter takes a rather broader comparative view. It is broader in
two senses: it does not deal with Grammatical Metaphor as such but
considers all the major types of lexical metaphor, as these may be
distinguished syntactically and semantically; and it attempts to show which
of these species of metaphors are most commonly encountered in a number
of varieties: Conversation, News Reporting, Popular Science, Advertising
and Poetry.
1. Varieties of metaphor
1.1. Word class varieties
The most obvious way of classifying metaphors is to categorize them accor-
ding to ~ h word class to which the non-literal item belongs. Metaphors
can readIly be found which fall into all the major word-classes. (See texts
used jor examples at the end of this chapter for abbreviations in paren-
theses. )
1) Director Matt Busby, the Godfather oj the club . . . (DM 31)
2) Your little peach could be our 30th Miss Pears. (GB 17)
3) The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. (TGB 1)
4) The raindrop eye . . . (AL )
5) She was a sort oj colourless mouse !if a woman. (CEC 99)
6) There are certain areas oj the syllabus that students queue up for. (CEC 520)
7) Whether ambling at 35 m.p. h. . ... (P 67)
8) The lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith. . (MD 832)
9) Winds stampeding the jields ... (TH 24)
10) She did not so much cook as assassinate food. (PDMQ 172)
11) 'I expect a treaty, a fulljledged treaty on medium-range missiles '. (DT 6)
12) My problem was a bit unfathomable. (GEG 704)
13) Other tiles may seem a little flat. (GH 211)
14) Down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world . .. (DB)
15) The air was thick with a bass chorus. (SH 16)
16) Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn. (MD 1291)
a rather heavily qualified aggressive sort of applicant. (GEG 534)
thinly-populated areas . . . (DT 1)
19) He was fully sensible to the advantages of the instalment plan. (UG)
20) But as he walked King Arthur panted hard. (MA)
21) Is there anyone apart from you that is strong on that? GEG 519)
22) If we're going to talk about it. (GEG 524)
23) A right extremist group is suspected of being behind the killing. (DT 3)
24) Joan Jackson is under thirty. (GEG 540)
25) Saunders was arrested within hours of returning to Britain. (DM 2)
The reader has probably noticed that metaphors expressed by adverbs
and prepositions are generally less easily recognized than those based on
nouns, verbs and adjectives. When we discuss interpretative varieties below
we will explore the reasons for this.
It would be wrong to assume that metaphorical units extend only over
the single word or single lexical item. To give a few examples, they may
extend over verb phrases (in the generative grammar sense) i.e. predicates:
26) Although Atkinson lost that fight . . . (DM 30)
prepositional phrases:
27) You never know what's around the corner. (GH 38-9)
nouns phrases post-modified by prepositional phrases or by clauses:
28) Sex is only the liquid centre of the great Newbury Fruit of friendship.
29) Mankind is a club to which we owe a subscription. (PDMQlgkc)
and verbs + adverbials:
30) . . . until James Callaghan is washed up onto the pebbles of the Upper
House. (DT 16)
A particularly important variety of metaphor is one which extends over
the sentence or clause. To this variety belong proverbs such as:
31) Too many cooks spoil the broth.
32) A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Such metaphorical sentences are by no means always proverbs:
33) A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine for forty years
unhurt by an accident, as a reason why he should apprehend no
danger, through the roof is beginning to sink; and it is often observable
that the older a man gets, the more difficult it is to him to retain a believing
conception of his own death. (SM 42)
. There is even a sense in which metaphors can extend over whole texts,
In .that one can make a case for a novel being an extended metaphor, a
POInt we touch on below in relation to the role of imagination in
metaphorical interpretation.
1.2. Syntactic varieties
Befo:e we venture. to discuss syntactic varieties of metaphor we need some
for dIscussing the objects, concepts and similarities/analogies
Involved In the pr?cess of constructing and interpreting metaphorical
language, terms whIch are better defined than the rather loose non-literal
items. and metaphorical units used up to now. I shall adopt the framework
Leech (1969) following Richards (1965).
:0 slmphfy matters I shall assume that metaphor involves parts of a text
bemg used to refer not to their conventional referents but unconven-
tionally to other objects or concepts. The label I use for 'the conventional
referent of the referring term is the vehicle. The label I use for the
unconventional object or concept is the tenor. I shall also assume that this
act of unconventional reference is understood on the basis of similarity or
analogy involving the tenor and vehicle. The similarities or analogies
involved I shall call the ground. So that in 3) above the concept 'foreign
country' is the vehicle, the concept 'the past' is the tenor and the similarity
the ground, is the fact that in both foreign countries and in the past 'things
are done differently'. To distinguish these objects/concepts from the
language used to express them we can use the labels vehicle-term, tenor-
term and ground-term. (These will be indicated in the quoted text by bold,
underlining and dotted underlining respectively.)
When discussing syntactic varieties of metaphors we are basically
considering the varieties of syntax used to connect vehicle-term with tenor-
term and/or ground term. The most common of these structures for
relating tenor-term and vehicle term are the following:
1) Director Matt Busby, the godfather 0] the club . .. (DM 31)
34) ... their rounds have been open-ended, without a ]inal date. (DT 6)
35) How did that good girl, that uninscribed tablet receive these violations? (FF
36) Mr Carew and Miss Manning were our Adam and Eve . . . (FF 229)
12) My problem was a bit unfathomable. (CEC 704)
3) The past is a foreign country, (TGB 1)
5) She was a sort 0] colourless mouse 0] a (CEC 99)
37) We roll back the lid 0] the sardine tin 0] life. PDMQlab)
38) the sandpaper 0] his hand . .. (MD 1029)
27) (Sex is only the liquid centre 0]) the great Newbury Fruit 0] ]riendship.
(PDMQ 86)
Whereas in all the above examples the tenor term specifies clearly the tenor
of the metaphor, in some cases it does no more than indicate the semantic
field to which the tenor belongs, e.g.
39) (Catalonia) is the nose 0] the earth. (PBMQlDali94)
40) She shook out her mane 0] red (DM 17)
Interpretations of such tenor-indicated metaphors are more likely to involve
analogy in their interpretation than pure similarity: e.g. nose: human ::
Catalonia: earth.
These necessarily involve tenor-indication rather than tenor-specification.
9) Winds stampeding the ]ields . . . (TH 24)
41) Their (frogs] blunt heads farting ... (SH 16)
10) (She did not so much cook as) assassinate food. (PDMQ 172)
They can be analysed and interpreted by filling in the missing parts of the
tenor-terms and vehicle-terms to create an analogy:
42) a cat burglar (DT 5)
43) a plum seat (FAE 143)
4) The raindrop eye (AL)
44) Their eely legs (MD 1220)
14) Down the vast edges drear and naked shingles 0] the world . .. (DB)
45) ... a sweet-tempered little breeze.
ing all at once. (HSG 217)
set a thousand leafy tongues whisper-
Modifying constructions usually have the vehicle-term as modifier and the
tenor-term as noun head, though there are interesting exceptions as in 45.
The modification of nouns seems most strongly metaphorical when the
modifier is a noun, though adjectives are used as vehicle-terms as well.
It is also worthwhile cataloguing some of the most common syntactic
formulae for specifying the grounds of a metaphor.
46) The a young bough
47) a effigy (LF 95)
48) potato (PM 25)
50) a sack, . . .. (FF 48)
51) a richly written book to instruct that man (TS 192)
53) the serpent .. my own body. (PM 163)
There remains an important class of metaphors which seem to operate
in relative syntactic isolation from their co-text. Such metaphors have been
dubbed replacement metaphors. (Brooke-Rose 1958) or substitution metaphors (for
discussion see Black 1962: 224). It might be possible to view the
metaphorical words in 5 and 43, cited above, as replacements for words
such as quiet, and desirable respectively. Metaphorical expressions with
sentence-long vehicle terms, such as proverbs (see examples 31-33) are
necessarily regarded as statements of specific instances which are
substituting for generalizations; one member of a class representing the
whole class.
It is also necessary to discuss the relationship between simile and
metaphor at this point. Metaphorical expressions often seem to involve a
stronger sense of contradiction than simile expressions, to make statements
which cannot possibly be true in the world as we know it. Similes soften
or remove entirely this sense of contradiction. However one can conceive
simile expressions as either i) a means of making explicit the kinds of inter-
pretations involved when metaphors are understood, i.e. making explicit
the grounds of an equivalent metaphor, or ii) signalling that some kind of
comparison or analogy is needed if the expression is to be understood e.g.
i) 54) He is strong as a lion.
ii) 55) 0 my love's like a red, red rose.
Because the same kind of interpretive process seems to be taking place m
understanding metaphors and similes, there are insights to be gained m
considering both together.
1.3. Interpretative varieties
One theory of metaphorical interpretation suggests that a metaphorical
expression should be regarded as substituting for another more literal
expression. For example the words a monkey can be regarded as substituting
for the word mischievous in 56.
56) Thomas is a monkey
According to this theory the meaning of the sentence is 'Thomas is
mischievous' .
Unfortunately this theory only works in the case of what I shall call inac-
tive metaphors, metaphorical expressions which have, to a large extent,
acquired a second conventional meaning. The fact that this is so in the
case of monkey can be verified by consulting a dictionary, where one will
find, in addition to the primary conventional meaning of a species of
mammal, this second conventional meaning 'mischievous'. Dictionaries
are, by their nature, repositories of inactive metaphorical expressions, not
to say cemeteries of dead and buried ones. It would be curious to base a
theory of metaphor solely on this class of metaphorical expression, and for
the more active metaphors we will need a different theory.
It is to the interactive theory of metaphorical interpretation that the terms
tenor, vehicle and ground are most applicable. It will have been noticed in the
brief discussion of substitution theories, that, according to that theory there
is no need for both the terms tenor and ground, or to put it another way,
tenor and ground appear to be merged. In interactive metaphorical inter-
pretations, on the other hand, there is some kind of interaction between
tenor and vehicle concepts and their associations. If, for example, one takes
the metaphor
57) A battle is a game of chess.
features of the tenor, battle, are selected, emphasized or suppressed accor-
ding to what grounds i.e. features or associations of the vehicle, chess, can
be applied to the tenor, battles. The grounds that are selected and
emphasized might be positions, relationships and status of combatants
casualties, and the speed of movement of forces. The features which
suppressed would include topography, type of weapons, supply routes, etc.
By calling this process interactive the theory calls attention to the fact that
identical vehicles with different tenors will give rise to different grounds
and different interpretations. For example if I say
58) What a sewer the River Tyne is.!
it could well be that the interpretation of the vehicle-term will be quite
different in this co-textual environment from what it would in the following
59) The kidney is the sewer of the body.
In other words 58 seems more likely to involve affective grounds, and 59
functional grounds.
We have seen then that there are two kinds of metaphorical interpreta-
tion: substitution and interaction. And that generally speaking the former
kind of interpretation has a degree of conventionality about it which allows
it to be relatively independent of co-text. But we need to consider more
fully what is going on when unconventional metaphors are interpreted
The first problem that faces the interpreter of such metaphors is to register
the fact that a metaphorical interpretation is intended. There are various
devices used for signalling this fact. Some metaphors are signalled by
explicit markers, e.g. metaphorically speaking, as it were, so to speak, etc. Some
are signalled by deviant semantic relations between parts of a clause, what
generative grammarians refer to as selectional restrictions. For example, in
60) The ship ploughed the waves.
there is a semantic incompatibility between the subject the ship and the verb
ploughed and between the verb and its object the waves. In other cases some
kind of equation between two incompatible semantic categories is what
alerts us to the metaphor as, for example in 57. Further signals of the
presence of a metaphor might involve the notion of the irrelevance of the
literally interpreted vehicle-term to the topic of the discourse, or more
technically, in terms introduced by Grice, the flouting of the maxim of
relevance. For example in 61 the topic seems to be plants rather than
funerals so that shroud in its literal sense seems irrelevant:
61) The bulbs in the Wedgwood basalt were her gifts and she had wept, unwrapp-
ing them from their white florist shrouds. (VIG 105)
Additionally one could also regard the use of tenor terms as having the
subsidiary function of signalling the existence of a metaphor, a role which
is clearly related to the last two methods of signalling. Lastly, similes, as
I have pointed out, can be regarded as metaphors which have been
signalled to such an extent that they have become literal.
Once an expression has been identified as needing metaphorical inter-
pretation the reader/hearer has to do two other things: identify the tenor
and the grounds. The most common syntactic formulae for specifying the
tenor and grounds have been discussed above. However, to demonstrate
the complexity of the process of interpreting an interactive metaphor and
the possible multiplicity of grounds the reader is invited to consider the
following interpretation of a Shakespearean metaphor (based on Empson,
62) That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none or few do hang
Upon those boughs, which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs, . .. birds
Bare specifies one ground, linking boughs in winter with the ruined choirs
which, after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, were
equally bare. Where late the ... sang also specifies further grounds, since
choirs, by definition, and boughs, contingently, are places where singing
takes place. By supplying the missing part of the vehicle-term correspon-
ding to birds, i.e. choirboys, we can extend the metaphor and fill in the miss-
ing parts of the analogy:
birds: boughs :: choirboys: choir
Empson suggests that choirboys is the best choice here, in that, in the
context of the homosexual love relationship of the sonnets sweet will then
be highlighted as a ground, reinforcing the emotional tone of the
metaphor. Empson goes on to suggest the further ground, a feature
common to birds in boughs and boys in a choir - the fact that they
sit/stand in rows. The semantic feature /wooden/ is part of the intrinsic
meaning of boughs and is a contingent feature of most choirstalls. Another
figure of speech, synecdoche, which depends on part-whole relationships,
can be applied to the vehicle. Doing so, we recognize that a choir is part
of a church, and other parts of a church are the pillars, vaulting and
windows; and applying synecdoche to the tenor we realize that a bough is
a part of a tree and that other parts of trees include trunks, branches and
leaves. We have now created extra metaphors with these vehicles and
tenors: pillars-trunks; vaulting-branches; windows-leaves. The grounds
for these three subsidiary metaphors are primarily visual appearance, and,
in the case of the third, colour.
1.3.1. Revitalizing metaphors
It is possible for inactive metaphors to reach the stage where they are more
or less sleeping or dead. We can describe sleeping metaphors as those
expressions that have become so conventionalized that they have acquired
a second meaning which, under normal circumstances, can be directly
accessed without evoking the vehicle. So, for example, if the word crane is
used to refer to the machine for lifting and hoisting used in the construc-
industry, the vehicle of the original metaphor (the long-necked bird)
no longer brought to mind. However, it is possible, under the right
Clrcumstances, to wake these sleeping or dead metaphors into activity once
again. One of the ways of doing so is to use a lexical item from the same
lexical field before or immediately after the sleeping metaphorical expres-
SlOn e.g.
63) He'll be worn out long bifore his shoes are. (GH 51)
64) Master the four basic steps of this recipe and you'll soon be able to walk the
more exotic stir fry dishes. (GH 123)
A more thorough, but less common kind of revitalization occurs when
not only the vehicle of the original metaphor but also the grounds of that
metaphor are brought to mind:
65) There was a pause of a kind of woollen silence, prickly, hot, uncomfortable.
(DV 128)
It seems that the word prickly meaning 'cantankerous' not only seems to
have its original vehicle evoked by the word woollen, since wool worn close
to the skin is prickly, but also the original ground: prickly people are so
called because they are uncomfortable to be with.
1.3.2. Derivation and denominal metaphors
It is interesting to consider the opposite process from that of revitalization,
the draining of energy from metaphors. No doubt this de-activating occurs
when metaphors become used repeatedly in different co-texts with more or
less identical meanings. But of particular interest is the way in which
processes of word derivation can accelerate this effect.
It is clear that the act of derivation whether by conversion (same word
form used as different part of speech), suffixation, or compounding is often
intimately linked with metaphor. Examples which involve similarity or
resemblance are numerous in the conversions of nouns into verbs: dog,
parrot, hog, shepherd, butcher, purse, sandwich, telescope, etc.: or the compoun-
ding of nouns: zebra crossing, bottleneck, frogman, hermit crab, crow's-nest,
foolscap, hogshead, etc.: or the suffixation of nouns to produce adjectives:
sheepish, hazy, bulbous, Wagnerian, elephantine, golden, meteoric, etc.
All such examples can be regarded as bringing about the lexicalization
of metaphor, which implies the establishment of a conventional meaning
for the derived form which can be listed in a dictionary. By doing so these
derivational processes, even to a greater extent than simile, both signal and
weaken or kill the metaphors they incorporate. The weakening process is
particularly strong in the case of denominal derivation, derivation from
nouns to verbs or from nouns to adjectives, and we ought to consider why
this should be.
Typically, of course, nouns are used to refer to things, verbs to actions.
We can be rather more precise about what we mean by things and actions
by using the philosophical terms first-order entity and second-order entity. Lyons
(1977: 442) describes the characteristics of first-order entities thus:
a) Relative permanence
b) Public observability
c) Location in space
And of second-order entities as follows:
d) Occurrence rather than existence
e) Location in time
We can explore the consequences of the fact that nouns typically refer to
first-order and verbs to second-order entities when we consider the follow-
ing two pairs of examples:
66) He jerked the limpet away from him and the tent made a little flip of waler
in the sea. (PM 63)
67) The seas tented up his oilskin till the skirt was crumpled above the waist.
(PM 37)
68) They arranged themselves round Mal, huddling In, holding him in a cradle
of warm flesh. (TI 39)
69) Then Piggy was standing cradling the great cream shell. (LF 37)
Even from the first pair, where the verb tented up is not lexicalized suffi-
ciently to be included in a dictionary, the contrast in metaphorical activity
is clear. Example 66 is much more active. Because first-order entities are
publicly observable they can be imagined and give rise to visual imagery,
which becomes one source of the richness of the metaphorical expression
in 66. There are multiple grounds here: certain tents are shaped
remarkably like limpets, with slight ridges where the supporting frame
supports the canvas; both are inhabited by living creatures; a well-fixed
tent is as firmly attached to the earth as a limpet to a rock. In 67, by
contrast, we feel that a substitution interpretation is possible, that the
metaphor loses little by being paraphrased the seas pushed up his oilskin. If
we try to evoke an image of a tent in understanding 67, only the
comparatively vague grounds of shape and material emerge, suggesting
that the author, Golding, did not intend an imagistic interpretation and
therefore chose a verb rather than a noun. A similar contrast in
metaphorical activity can be seen in 68 and 69, the difference being that
to cradle is more lexicalized than to tent up. Cradling refers to a second-order
entity, an action, whereas a cradle refers to a first-order entity. As a result
the image and multiple features of a cradle are more likely to be evoked
in 68 than in 69. In interpreting 68 we have to go through the interactive
process to decide what features of cradles are applicable to the people
holding Mal. Evidence for this can be seen in the use of the adjective warm
to modify the tenor-term, thus guiding our interactive interpretation and
narrowing down the grounds: it is a typical quality of cradles to be used
for keeping babies both comfortable and warm.
Nouns give us more active metaphors, not only because they evoke
images with their multiple associations, but also because, when used in
equative/predicative syntactic constructions, they generate a sense of
contradiction, appearing to equate or identify two mutually exclusive
categories. In 3, above, for example, the equative verb has the feeling of
definition about it, the sense that what is being made is an analytic or
necessarily true statement, rather than a synthetic statement.
We have discussed nouns and verbs, but it is worth considering briefly
the role of metaphorical prepositions. These seem to be at the other
extreme from nouns, having little image potential and being remarkably
dead, hence, perhaps, one of the reasons they can be tacked on to verbs
to make one kind of phrasal verb. Although it is possible to dig up the
literal meaning of on, about, under, by, within in examples 21-25, it seems
an unusual interpretative procedure. (Though this does not stop linguists
and poets from doing so; see Lakoff and Johnson 1980.)
1.3.3. Combining metaphors
We have given some indication of how metaphorical expressions can be
extended syntactically to acquire a scope of more than one word (see
examples 26-33). But very often, besides these syntactically articulated
extensions, we notice extensions which depend on the repetition of lexis
from the same lexical set in different clauses or sentences of a text. In an
advert for the supermarket chain Sainsbury's, for example, the following
items appear, applied to cuts of meat: designed, trim neckline, fashionable,
neater, tidier, model, collection, and the copy of the ad ends with the punning
we wouldn't wear anything less. (W 4-5). Obviously items from the lexical set
of clothes and fashion have been deliberately applied to meat and butchery
in order to make a humorously extended metaphor.
Mixed metaphors should be contrasted, primarily, with syntactically
articulated extensions. For we feel, and often disapprove of, such
metaphors most strongly when two vehicle terms from unrelated lexical sets
are syntactically linked. Note that this linking would be deviant even if the
terms were being used literally.
70) the campaign to overturn last Wednesday's suspension of Miss Atkin
71) Atkinson's charisma and track-record will spark fresh interest among
Villa's fed up fans. (DM 30).
Example 70 has two incongruous metaphors, and 71 has perhaps four.
Notice that mixed metaphors do not seem deliberate and depend on the
fact that at least one of the metaphorical expressions represents an inactive
or sleeping metaphor.
1.3.4. Catachretic and root analogy metaphors
An interesting class of metaphors are those for which no tenor-term exists.
They often arise when some new object, phenomenon or concept needs a
label, and instead of inventing a new word-form by borrowing from
another language or compounding two words, the language user takes an
existing word-form and uses it for a new referent. Empson (1951: 332-4)
distinguished this kind of non-literal language use from metaphor and
dubbed it catachresis. It seems unlikely that a metaphorical process is not
going on during catachresis. Presumably when the word form crane began
to be used to refer to the lifting machine, features of the conventional
referent, the bird, in particular its long neck which can be raised and
lowered, guided the hearer to a correct identification of the new referent
(when the machine was physically present in the context) or at least
provided some motivation for the use of the word-form to refer to the new
object. This class of metaphors I shall therefore classify as catachretic
There is a further class of metaphors without tenor-terms which we
might distinguish from catachretic ones. These are manifestations of
analogies which are deeply embedded in culture and are to do with the
way abstract phenomena are conceptualized. For example, we have great
difficulty in conceptualizing time except by making an analogy between
time and space. This gives rise to a large number of metaphorical expres-
sions the vehicles of which imply spatial relationships or movement through
space: in time, on time, within the month, a long time, short of time, the distant
past, time passes, time flies, etc. etc. (See Lakoff and Johnson 1980 passim).
Apparently all the lexical resources available for talking about space are at
our disposal when we wish to talk about time. I shall call such metaphors
root-analogy metaphors.
1.4. Functional Varieties
The discussion of catachretic and root analogy metaphors brings us to the
question of what functions metaphors serve. The list which I make below
is by no means exhaustive, but seems to represent some of the most
frequently encountered functions for which metaphorical expressions are
We have already seen that the function of catachretic metaphors is to fill
lexical gaps. These occur when there is no adequate tenor-term in existence
so that extension or transfer of the reference of an existing word-form plugs
the gap.
In the case of catachretic metaphors we noticed that the grounds provided
some kind of motivation for the new use of the word-form. When this
motivation becomes the central issue, metaphors can be used to explain
some relatively abstract concept in terms which are more familiar to the
hearers. For example, it is quite common practice for secondary school
science students to have electricity explained to them in terms of the
metaphor of water-flow through pipes. According to this metaphor the
abstract concept of voltage is explained in terms of water pressure,
resistance in terms of width of pipe, amperage as rate of flow. The purpose
of the use of this metaphorical model is to make clear the similarities
between electricity and water flow. Actually, dissimilarities should probably
also be stressed, lest students should suffer from certain misconceptions
about electricity: it might come as quite a shock to learn at a later stage
that the flow of electrons is not from positive to negative, but that
negatively charged electrons flow from negative to positive.
At a more fundamental level of scientific enquiry metaphors are used to
constitute theories or models (Boyd 1979: 359ff.). Take, for example, the
fashionable metaphor of the computer to model the workings of the human
brain. The introduction of this model or metaphor constitutes a change of
theory. It makes certain predictions which can be tested, thereby initiating
a programme of scientific research to find out in exactly what ways the
operation of the human brain resembles the workings of a computer. In
other words, the grounds of this theory-constitutive metaphor are initially
open-ended, and research is designed to specify them more exactly. Of
course, it is highly likely that certain psychological phenomena cannot be
explained in terms of this computer model/metaphor. Scientists will then
attempt to propose a new theory-constitutive metaphor which can account
for more of the scientific evidence. If we turn to a recent history of physics
we find a good example of a change of theory constitutive metaphor:
physicists realised the inadequacies of the wave theory of light and
therefore put forward the particle theory.
Perhaps with theory-constitutive metaphors we are talking not so much
about explanation but about reconceptualization. It is interesting to note
how certain classes of literary metaphors seem designed to bring about a
reconceptualization of experience. They invite us to view our experience
from a different perspective by categorizing it with unconventional terms.
A small scale example would be the Anglo-Saxon expression, mere-hengest
(,horse of the sea'), being applied to a ship. Interpretation of this metaphor
involves highlighting features of Anglo-Saxon ships which they share with
horses in order to arrive at grounds such as these: (1) both are used for
transport; (2) those travelling on/in them experience an upward and
downward movement; (3) the shape of a ship's prow resembles the shape
of a horse's neck. The reconceptualization of our experience of ships is
produced because features which are not central to our concept of ships are
highlighted in the second and third ground. (See Leech 1974: 44-5)
One ought perhaps to note that there is a class of expressions which try
to do more than effect a momentary reconceptualization, but rather to
bring about a permanent re-categorization of experience. Statements such
as 72 seem to aim at doing this:
72) Property is thrift.
The speaker of this utterance, the French socialist Proudhon, presumably
wished us to regard it as an analytic statment, that is as a definition of
property ownership as one type of theft. Non-socialists, and those of a less
radical persuasion, are unlikely to accept this statement as literally true,
but to interpret it as metaphor: owning property resembles theft in that
both deprive others of the enjoyment or use of objects. We can label this
kind of attempt to impose an individual's idiosyncratic semantic categories
as an impositive function. And we can refer to expressions which the
speaker does not regard as metaphorical but which the hearer interprets as
metaphor by the term as symmetric metaphors.
Reconceptualizing, theory-constitutive and impositive metaphors are at the
radical extreme of metaphorical use. At the other extreme are metaphors
used with a decorative function, used, as it were, to dress up concepts in
pretty clothes, rather than to create a new concept by cannibalization of
two existing ones. Under this function we can locate metaphorical expres-
sions used euphemistically as a disguise as much as a decoration, e.g.
73) He fell asleep.
meaning 'he died'. And certain kinds of conventional personification
common in 18th-century poetry:
74) In the soft bosom of Campania's vale,
When now the wintry tempests all are }led
And genial Summer breathes her gentle gale
The verdant orange lifts its beauteous head. (LL)
It was pointed out above that metaphorical expressions involving nouns
which refer to first-order entities have a particular vitality. This vitality is
partly due to the fact that first-order entities can be imagined. Second-
order entities cannot, of course, unless they evoke associated first-order
entities. You cannot imagine kicking without imagining a foot. Such
imagistic metaphors either intentionally, or as a by-product, enhance
memory, because of their visual nature, psychological experiments having
shown that imagined items are more easily remembered than non-imagined
ones (Honeck et al. 1975).
It is possible, of course to regard a literary narrative as one whole
extended metaphor. The concept of the image comes into play here too.
In such extended metaphors as literary works we are invited to imagine a
whole world in which what happens is literally true. This constrasts with
local metaphors in which we interpret statements as being literally untrue
and interpret them by positing grounds which will connect the statement
with the real world as we know it. With local metaphors we modify the
senses of words to fit with our world; in extended metaphors which
constitute literary works, we modify our sense of world through imagina-
tion. In a fable, for example, we interpret expressions such as the lion replied
by imagining a world in which this could be literally true, rather than
juggling with the meaning of replied and our concept of to some
kind of paraphrase 'the lion roared'. Metaphorical expresSlOns III which we
change the world to literalize the metaphor have been called
phenomenalistic metaphors (Levin 1977).
A related effect of metaphor is that metaphorical expressions of the active
kind tend to be fore grounded psychologically. We are forced to pay them
special attention because, all other things being equal, their interpretation
is likely to be less straightforward than the interpretation of the expressions
in the surrounding text.
Hopefully we receive a reasonable pay-off for our efforts at interpreta-
tion. If we do we will have a sense that the metaphorical expression ends
up as being highly informative, packing many ideas into a short space.
The Shakespearean quotation above is a clear example of this.
But we should also consider the information content of active metaphors
from the more technical perspective of information theory. In this technical
sense information is inversely proportional to predictability. The more
predictable an item the less information it conveys. So that in the. word
queen the letter u carries no information, and nor does the word to III the
sentence I want to go home. It is obvious that active metaphors are, almost
by definition since they are unconventional, also highly unpredictable. No
one could be expected to predict the words tractor and icicles in the lines
from Charles Causley
His tractor oj blood stopped thumping
He held jive icicles in each hand.
Therefore they are high in information content. The corollary of this is
that they achieve their interpretation by exploiting the redundancy in their
A particularly powerful way of compressing information in a metaphor
is by the use of allusion to another text through quotation or use of proper
name. William Golding chooses the name Beatrice for Sammy's first girl-
friend in the novel Free Fall, a name used by Dante for the heroine of La
Vita Nuova. By doing so Golding invites the readers who are familiar with
Dante's poem to exploit their knowledge of that text and explore the
parallels, and ironic differences, between the two narratives.
Halliday (1985: 111) has suggested that mental processes can be
categorized into three basic kinds: perceptual, cognitive and affective. It is
probable that imagining should be located in the middle of the triangle
formed by these three mental processes. Perception is of individual
experiences, cognition is to do with classes of experience, imagining lies
somewhere in between. Concepts are abstractions more or less shared by
members of a culture or language group, but images, based on vestiges of
perception, can be far more idiosyncratic. Similarly, if images are based
on specific experiences which were once actually perceived, they are likely
to be associated with the emotions they produced at the time of perception.
Whatever the truth of these notions it can hardly be denied that one of
the major functions of metaphor is to express emotion. One example
should suffice: when Cleopatra says, referring to the snake she has applied
to her breast in order to commit suicide,
75) Dost thou not see my baby at my breast that sucks the nurse asleep? (Antony
and Cleopatra Act V Scene 2 308-9)
the peculiar character of the metaphor depends on the clashing emotional
associations of the tenor and the vehicle, venomous snakes and babies
feeding at the breast.
Because the understanding of metaphors depends on shared knowledge of
grounds, then metaphor can become a means of activating the knowledge
shared between only two people, or only a small group. It is as though,
because the meaning of the metaphorical expression lies in the knowledge
of the speaker rather than directly in the expression itself, the hearer has
to penetrate into this knowledge, explore the mind of the speaker and
activate in his own mind what he assumes to be in the speaker's (Cohen
1979). This creates a sense of community. It also excludes those who are
unable to penetrate the speaker's mind and access relevant matching infor-
mation in their own. For example if I were to say
76) Michael Heseltine was Wat Tyler and John Major was Bolingbroke to
Maggie's Richard Il.
those who can interpret this metaphor because of their knowledge of the
Peasant's Revolt against the poll tax, led by Wat Tyler, their knowledge
of the way Richard II was deposed by Lord Bolingbroke, later Henry IV,
and their knowledge of the political scene in the UK during November
1990, feel included in the community of comprehenders. Whereas those
whose historical and political knowledge is insufficient to make sense of it,
feel excluded by the metaphor. Incidentally one notices, in this example,
how the allusive power of proper names is exploited to evoke a body of
knowledge on which the grounds of the metaphorical interpretation
It may be possible to relate these eight common metaphorical functions
to the communicative functions of Jakobson. Lexical gap-filling and
explanation might correspond to Jakobson's referential function, but
reconceptualization tends to be metalingual as well. Decoration and
disguise, imagery and memorability, foregrounding and informativeness,
seem to be primarily functions which are textual, to do with the organiza-
tion and presentation of the message, Jakobson's poetic function. In Jakob-
son's model the expression of emotion is emotive and the cultivation of
intimacy is phatic. It is worth remarking on the fact that one of Jakobson's
six functions is not represented here, i.e. the conative function. One could
perhaps claim that all active metaphors have underlying them a conative
function: they issue the challenge 'interpret this', acknowledging that the
interpretation is likely to be more problematical than with literal uses of
the language.
2. Metaphors in different varieties
Having sketched in the background of metaphorical theory we are in the
position to see how different species of metaphors are used in different
varieties of text. We will consider texts of Conversation, News Reporting,
Popular Science, Advertising and Poetry.
2.1 Conversation
The metaphors occurring in conversation are predominantly of the inactive
variety, interpretable by substitution rather than interaction. In the
extracts from A Corpus of English Conversation which I have analysed we have
examples such as spell out 'explain at length', field 'area of expertise' (CEC
519), load 'amount of work', catered for 'make provision for' (CEC 520)
struck by 'impressed by' (itself a dead metaphor), withdraw 'drop out of the
competition' (CEC 532) brilliant 'extremely clever' (CEC 534) sharply
'quickly' CEC 540) upset 'emotionally disturbed', (CEC 691) kicks 'excite-
ment, stimulation' (CEC 698) sheltered 'cut off from experience', (CEC 703)
etc. etc.
Despite their inactivity it can be seen that the majority of these examples
create, or once created, some kind of image, by comparison with their
paraphrase. Another example would be:
77) There are certain areas of the syllabus which the students queue up for. (CEC
where one can still see students forming a queue rather than simply think
of them expressing a preference. Such inactive metaphors still have some
potential for concretizing what they refer to, and thereby evoking an
A further feature of some of these metaphors is the difficulty of non-
metaphorical paraphrase, which suggests that they belong to the class of
catachretic metaphors e.g. sheltered, withdraw, load. Others are not solely
catachretic but probably belong to the class of catachretic metaphors I
labelled root-analogies e.g. struck by, upset, field.
Root analogies seem to manifest themselves particularly frequently in Con-
versation. The extracts considered illustrate the 'time is a place' analogy:
78) Isn't he in his early thirties? (CEC 530)
79) particularly around Christmas ... (CEC 705)
80 between the time they said I could go and the time I actually went.
(CEC 706)
In which movement III time becomes movement in space:
81) Modern drama won't come round this year but it'll come round the year
after. (CEC 522)
And the past is behind:
82) impressions formed some years back . .. (CEC 530).
It also illustrates the 'consciousness is up' analogy:
83) Isn't it an objection that Bunyans might raise
(CEC 518)
84) I don't want to bring this up. (CEC 524)
and the 'more is up' analogy:
85) She gets that much more holiday up to five weeks now. (CEC 706)
86) He's quite prepared to take a drop. (CEC 531)
and a number of others such as 'to think is to look':
87) What's the scene as regards drama? (CEC 521)
'too little is short':
88) ... but we're still short on modern drama. (CEC 521)
'a text is a journey':
89) . . . or put it another way ... (CEC 526)
Conversation has its fair share of inactive metaphors which are derived
from n?uns, e.g. patchy (CEC 586), irifringe (CEC 696), dotted about (CEC
697), lzttered (CEC 697), capped (CEC 699), dicey (CEC 702).
When more active metaphors are used in conversation, as they are occa-
sionally, it is generally the case that they are easily detectable and easily
interpretable. They are quite often signalled, usually by explicit markers,
hedges (sort of, kind of) or intonation and pausing:
90) It's Tom Walker's own field as it were so to speak. (CEC 522)
91) I just looked at him waiting for the next sort of chapter. (CEC 698)
92) He sort of he didn't come near me he sort of dropped it at me. (CEC 699)
The tenor is often specified:
93) Very often they've done it in harness, Tom and Cedric have taken the class
together. (CEC 524)
94) You might actually get three duds, I mean three people who you didn't want
... (CEC 528)
95) You know the safest oral contraceptive, do you?
The two phonemic cluster 'No '. (CEC 43)
Aspects of the phatic function are clear in this last example. There is,
of course, the kind of 'in' joke which makes the two phonemic cluster
comprehensible only to those who are versed in linguistics. In addition
there is the probability that this kind of joke would be told amongst those
who disapprove of casual sex, and the joke cements a social group based
on such a moral attitude.
2.2. News reporting
Inactive metaphors, catachretic metaphors and root analogies seem just as
common in news reporting as in conversation. There are, however, three
kinds of metaphor associated with news reporting that might be felt as
distinctive of the register. We can call these hyperbolic metaphors, cliched
inactive metaphors, and mixed metaphors.
Hyperbolic metaphors present vehicles which are larger scale or more
violent in some way than the tenors to which they refer:
96) when they broke up protests . (DT 6)
97) the tug-of-war between the desire to be more open and ingrained
bureaucratic reluctance to come clean . . . (DT 8)
98) . . . then he moved to a private bar upstairs and trouble erupted. (DM 3)
99) Britain's butter mountain (DM 11)
100) She shook out her mane of red hair . .. (DM 17)
101) The poll tax has turned out to be poison for the Tories. (DT 2)
Presumably the use of hyperbolic metaphors is in keeping with the sensa-
tional attention-attracting language, graphology, and layout of newspaper
reports. The fact that the sense of exaggeration often centres on metaphors
is doubtless because in literal matters newspapers tend to put a high value
on exactitude and fact, hence the use of adverbials to pin down time and
place of the events being reported, the almost automatic provision of the
age of the participants and so on. Literal statements, figures, places, etc.
being unavailable for hyperbole it has to find a niche within the figurative
language of news reports.
Cliche metaphors are those which tend or occur with a limited range of
collocates, as though they were half-way towards becoming idiomatic set
phrases. Such cliched metaphorical phrases might include a key detail (DT
1), an umbrella group (DT1), reign of (football) violence (DM 5), advisory body
(DT 1). The point to make is that other collocates can occur e.g. key deci-
sion, umbrella organization, reign of terror, government body, but that these
collocates are highly predictable. In terms of what we said about the infor-
mation content and predictability, we can regard these collocations as a
means of increasing redundancy, or reducing information in the technical
News reporting is justifiably famous for its mixed metaphors, and the
long sentences of quality newspapers give plenty of scope for multiple
102) .. the firms are at the forifront of a growing movement breathing new
life into the company suggestion scheme concept to tap shop-floor and office
ingenuity and bring Britain into line with other industrialized countries.
Particularly rich are the following extracts from a paragraph of the Far
Eastern Economic Review:
103) Sino-Indonesian thaw continues, though still at a snail's pace ...
Indonesia was 'ideologically ready' to re-open economic ties with China
. . . Suharto may have sqftened his stance, in order to appear more
statesman like. One important obstacle to forging closer ties with China IS
Indonesia's relatively warm ties with Vietnam. (FER 19/5/88: 42)
In this example the use of the word tie as a synonym for relationship creates
some ludicrous juxtapositions, if we reactivate the metaphor by invoking
the image of a rope tying two objects together: reopen ties, then acquire a
meaning opposite to that intended, warm ties seems nonsensical, and forging
closer ties only makes sense if we can somehow conceive the rope as
a metal cable. Along with the incongruity of thaw and snail this makes the
whole passage ridiculous.
Of course, it only appears quite as ridiculous as I have indicated if we
indulge in a kind of deliberate misreading. Almost any lexical item if
traced back far enough can be shown to have metaphorical origins and if
we go hunting for dead and buried metaphors we will be bound to find
them. Sometimes, in news reporting, however, we are asked to reduce our
sensitivity to metaphorical expressions to an unacceptably low level, and if
we are unable to do so, as in reading the above passage, traces of
incongruity will be apparent.
Deliberately used active metaphors do appear occasionally in news
reports, though they may have originated in the utterances being reported
rather than being the reporter's own language. A totally new and
unconventional metaphor is handled with some care. First of all its
metaphorical status is signalled, the favourite device for this being the use
of quotation marks. Then the tenor (grounds) are specified in order to
provide an explanation, e.g.
101) He had been subjected to 'toothpaste tube' treatment. This involved a
corporal taking a rod or bar to him as he lay in bed, slamming it on the
bottom of the bed and then slamming progressively upwards until he had his
knees beneath his chin. When the rod reached him it was brought down on
his body. (DT 4)
2.3. Popular science
In the text of popular science which I have analysed, (,Gaia: the world as
living organism' New Scientist 18 December 1986) explanatory similes and
metaphors abound. Talking about the specialization of the Sciences in the
19th Century Lovelock says:
105) There was so much information to be gathered and sorted. To understand the
world was a task as difficult as that of assembling a jigsaw puzzle the size
of a planet. It was all too easy to lose sight of the picture in the searching
and sorting of the pieces. G: 25)
Describing the way in which scientists put forward deliberately simplified
models in order to test a theory:
106) We can make an abstract of the essence of it - rather like the way a portrait
artist captures in a line drawing the likeness of a subject.
Explaining the objections of Ford Doolittle to the
planetary self-regulation would have to be planned
Gaia theory - that
Lovelock uses two
107) Planetary control would require the existence of some kind of giant panglos-
sian nanny who had looked after the earth since life began; or committees
of organisms with foresight who could plan the future. (G 25)
Incidentally the first metaphorical expression depends partly on allusion to
the character Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide who repeatedly claims that we
live in the best of all possible worlds. Unlike a poet, perhaps, Lovelock
does not allow the allusion free rein to generate whatever grounds it
wishes, but in two other parts of the text actually quotes or paraphrases
the words of Pangloss: 'This is the best of all worlds, but only for those who have
adapted to it; we live on the best of all possible worlds'.
Of major interest to us in this article is the Gaia theory, the new theory-
constitutive metaphor and model of that metaphor that Lovelock puts
forward to replace the conventional theory that living organisms only adapt
to their environment rather than also regulating it. Before discussing this it
is interesting to notice the alternative metaphors which Lovelock dismisses:
108) I see the world as a living organism of which we are a part; not the owner,
nor the tenant, not even a passenger on that obsolete metaphor 'spaceship
(Incidentally we notice the double signalling of the last of these vehicles by
the explicit marker, metaphor and the use of inverted commas, a use of the
latter which we noted in news reporting, and which also occurs in advertis-
ing copy as we shall see.)
The basis of the Gaia theory is that the species living on the earth and
their physical environment constitute one living superorganism; the planet
earth, including the rocks which make up most of it, is alive. Lovelock uses
comparisons, rather than metaphors, to introduce this theory. The text
begins in the following way:
109) Could a planet, almost all of it rock and that mostly incandescent or molten,
be alive? Bifore you dismiss this notion as absurd, think, as did the physicist
Jerome Rothstein, about another large living object: a giant redwood tree.
That is alive, yet 99 percent of it is dead wood, Like the earth it
.. .. . .1. .. . .......... .
And in the next paragraph it goes on to cite the analogy previously made
by Hutton:
110) Hutton went on to make the analogy between the circulation of the blood,
discovered by William Harvey, and the circulation of the nutrient elements
qf the earth in which sunlight distills water from the oceans so that it may
after fall as rain and rifresh the land. (G 25)
These comparisons are interesting. Firstly there seem to be problems in
allocating the labels tenor-term and vehicle-term. After a little consideration
we can, perhaps, decide that the giant redwood tree is more literally an
example of a living object than the earth, and that the blood more
obviously circulates round the body than the nutrient elements of the earth
circulate around the earth; this would make redwood and blood the tenors.
If we accept this labelling then we will notice that the normal patterning
of metaphorical interpretation is reversed in that in these cases the grounds
seem to be more centrally attached to the tenor rather than the vehicle. It
seems we have now located a particular kind of analogic comparison of an
explanatory kind. We sense that the use of these metaphorical expressions
is not solely explanatory, however: that they are on the border-line of
explanatory and theory-constitutive metaphors. It is almost as though the
author is indulging in argument by analogy even though the arguments are
negative: the fact that redwood trees are 99% dead and yet classified as
living organism means that it is not necessary to conceive objects whose
surface is living but whose core is dead as separate organisms.
When we turn to consider the central metaphor the world is a living
organism we notice that much of the article is concerned with providing
111) It is this persistent instability that suggests that the planet is alive. At least
to the extent that it shares with other living organisms that wonderful
property, homeostasis - the capacity to control its chemical composition and
keep cool when the environment outside is changing. (G 25)
Other authors may reject Lovelock's theory, his impositive metaphor:
112) He rt!jected Gaia on the grounds (sic!) that planetary self-regulation would
need foresight and planning by living organisms. (G 25) (my parenthesis)
When we turn to the simplified (computer?) model that Lovelock sets up
to demonstrate his theory constitutive metaphor it is interesting to notice
the way in which it is introduced:
113) Imagine a planet like earth but with less ocean . ... Imagine that two
species of daisies are present. (G 26)
The use of this introductory framework suggests that scientific hypothesiz-
ing and the hypothesizing of the novelist or literary artist of an imagined
situation have a good deal in common. Both use the imagination to set up
mimetic models of experience and, at least according to Aristotelian
literary theory, make predictions which are a consequence of these models.
It is noticeable that scientific English makes a clear attempt to be in
complete control of its metaphors, as a consequence often down-grading
them into similes and comparisons where the grounds are spelt out at great
length. The unconscious use of metaphors seems to be kept to the
minimum. There was only one example of mixed metaphor which I
detected in the text. Inactive metaphors do appear from time to time,
which is unavoidable in any variety, e.g.
114) The search for life on Mars led to another look at Hutton's superorganism
115) . . . the earth radiates a signal which carnes information. G25)
Some of our familiar root-analogies also surface, quite predictably:
116) Science . .. soon fragmented (knowledge is an object) (G25)
117) It became the province of the expert (knowledge is an area) (G 25)
118) Fourteen years have passed (time is space) (G 25)
119) In the long :run (time is space) (G 28)
But what seems remarkable about this style of Scientific English is the
frequency of paragraphs which display minimal use of lexical metaphor.
One example will have to do:
120) The mechanism for controlling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a varia-
tion in the rate at which rock comprising calcium silicate is worn down or
weathered. Living organisms - ranging from soil bacteria, worms and
burrowing animals to trees - are partly responsible for weathering. As evolu-
tion progressed, this biological weathering increased, releasing nutrient
elements and forming particles of soil. This encourages the growth of
organisms, which, in turn release carbon dioxide in the soil to increase acidity
and so hasten the rate of weathering. The products of weathering are calcium
bicarbonates and silicic acid, resulting from the carbon dioxide reacting, in the
presence of water, with the calcium silicates in the rocks. Both these products
are soluble and move through the ground waters to streams, rivers and even-
tually the sea. There, marine organisms take in the calcium carbonate and use
it to make their shells of calcium carbonate. The carbon dioxide trapped in
this compound is, ultimately, deposited as a sediment and forms limestone.
(G 27)
In this paragraph one can, after long consideration, notice probably only
a total of five lexical metaphors: the personifying encourages and responsi-
ble; and mechanism, release and trapped which all have thoroughly conven-
tional secondary senses in chemistry texts. (Incidentally, notice how the last
two are a kind of lexically extended metaphor.) It might also be noticed
that there are a number of buried metaphors such as progress which can
only be unearthed by those readers who have knowledge of the Latin
language from which they were borrowed. Perhaps the burying of
metaphors is one reason for the use of vocabulary of Greek/Latin deriva-
tion in scientific texts.
This relatively successful attempt to purge philosophical and scientific
discourse of figurative language might well reflect John Locke's objection
to metaphor and other figures:
... if we would speak of things as they are we must allow that all the
artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented are
for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and
thereby mislead the judgement, and so indeed are perfect cheat (Cited
in De Man 1979: 13).
We can sum up our findings on the kinds of metaphor typical of the
language of popular science by saying that metaphor seems to be so well
controlled that it is: often signalled; presented as comparison or simile; and
has its grounds spelt out as extensively as possible. And that, when it is
used in its controlled and conscious way, theory-constitutive metaphors,
arguments by analogy and explanatory metaphors are the major devices by
which the theories are presented, explored and explained. A further aspect
of the taming of lexical metaphor in scientific prose is the extent to which
it is locked up and barred from large proportions of the text.
2.4. Advertising
One favourite strategy of the writers of advertising copy is to revitalize
dead metaphors. This revitalization may be achieved in a number of
interesting ways. Firstly, by the use of more noticeable metaphors from an
identical lexical set near to the expression to be revitalized:
121) Master the four basic steps of this recipe and you'll be able to walk the more
exotic stirjry dishes. (GH 123)
Secondly by the proximate use of a lexical item from an identical lexical
set, this time used literally:
122) (An advert for mirrors) Our mirrored luxury IS not riflected In our prices.
(GH 117)
Particularly frequent are the uses of these two devices to revitalize idioms:
123) ... throughout your stay we'll by on hand to make sure you have everything
you want; whilst you don't have to lift a finger. (G H 120)
124) I don't give two pips what the rest do, we're using real apples. (G H 48)
The prevalence of imagery seems important in these revitalizations, a
fact which can be discerned in the way in which the visual aspect of the
advertisement interacts with the metaphorical expressions in the copy. So
If buying a house seelllS a vicious circle
try Anglia. 'I'
confirms the amount you can borrow so
you can go house- hunting with confldence.
And when you apply for a mortgage,
you'll receive our Homemaker Organiser
fIle - a comprehensive and clearly written
guide that explains aK '.hp ins and outs of
h l v I n ~ ano senulg a house.
,so If you want to avoid the l'l.cious
cirde of house-buying, try Anglia. The
building society that offers home buyers
more thanjusta mortgage,
For more details, call in at your local
Anglia branch.
Try Anglia. The building society that cares about what you want.
Wrlttpn lTPdit (jptaib from: Anglia BuJldlnFlSo('jPt.\'. Mouilpn Park, Northampton NN31NL
Figure 6.1
an advertisement for bathrooms, featuring a picture of someone taking a
shower, is accompanied by the text:
125) A beautiful new bathroom from Graham makes freshening up a positive
pleasure. But with interest free credit as well it feels even better. Because that
means you won't have to splash out too much. (CH 155)
The revitalization of previously unnoticed metaphors can produce puns,
and clearly has a humorous function which is in a sense interpersonal and
phatic: strengthening the emotional bond between customer and product
by the association of pleasurable experiences with the latter. Punning
would seem to be even more marked when a slight change in the form of
one of the lexical items is necessary to effect the revitalization. A
particularly interesting example is the following advertisement for Anglia
Building Society. The logo for this company is a triangle (or pyramid),
which appears prominently in the ad. (see Figure 6.1). The copy reads:
126) If buying a house seems a vicious circle, try Anglia.
A slight change of pronunciation gives us triangular! My congratulations go
out to the ingenious copy writer who devised this pun.
We are probably correct in suggesting that these puns have both a
decorative function and, more important, a phatic one. Decorative, in the
sense that the understanding of the ambiguity which gives rise to the
humour is not absolutely necessary to understand the main point of the
copy. Phatic, in the sense that one of the main purposes of humour is to
lower the psychological defences, to open the way for closer contact and
Metaphors extended lexically, rather than syntactically, generally involv-
ing revitalization, are also frequent in advertising. The following advertise-
ment for Volkswagen which features a picture of newly born twins tightly
wrapped in blankets has the following copy:
127) You never know what's around the corner. If all of a sudden you're looking
at family cars, congratulations . ... For 6,884 pounds you can be the proud
owner of a Volkswagen Golf C. A.l.3 litre 55 bhp five door bundle cif joy.
Delivered with a stereo radio cassette. . . . We then wrap your Volkswagen
in at least seven pounds of paint. In a world where you never know what's
coming next, isn't it comforting to drive something as predictable as a
Volkswagen ... (CH 38-9)
Before the three central expressions which extend the metaphor we have
been primed for it, not only by the visual image but also by the phrases
the proud owner (cf. the proud father) and congratulations, whose use we associate
with the context of childbirth. There is not the space here to analyse in
detail the particularly rich interplay between revitalized root analogies (of
time and space) and the denial rather than the provision of grounds: birth
of twins lunpredictable/; performance of a Volkswagen Ipredictable/.
One notices here that the positive emotions associated with birth are
transferred to the product, as might be predictable in an industry whose
modern development depended so heavily on theories of classical condition-
ing. Metaphors in advertisements do, from time to time, though less
obviously that the visual images accompanying the text, create some
positive affect, serving what we called earlier the emotive function.
Decorative metaphors, often involving animation and or personification,
are particularly common in certain classes of advertisement. Animation is
insisted upon in many adverts for gas appliances where we have a living
flame, almost as part of the slogan. Personification is used for washing up
liquids which are kind to hands, cold remedies that are gentle, shampoos
which tackle dryness from two angles, ward off further drying out threats from hair-
dryers and help anyone get their hair out of trouble (CH 142-3). Cars
frequently become, for example, animals - horses which gallop and amble
- or humans which repose or are a family:
128) Our 2.5 family is eagerly waiting for yours (P 29)
Various devices are used to signal the use of metaphorical expressions
in advertising copy. But the frequency with which punctuation is used as
a signal is a distinctive feature of the style of written advertisements. We
have inverted commas:
129) Solid wood doors, finished in grey paint and 'dragged' to reveal the wood's
natural grain. (CH 12)
Exclamation marks:
130) Lose yourself - find yourself! (CHL 16)
Foregrounding through the use of minor sentences, as in this example of
an ad for Stilton cheese, could be viewed as exploiting full-stops for mark-
ing purposes:
131) Enjoy it all the year. Round.(CH 214)
By way of conclusion on the metaphorical style of advertisements, we
can say that revitalizing and punning are characteristic and are usually
brought about by means of extension or by means of the interaction of
visual images with metaphorical expressions. However, we should point
out that the kind of revitalization brought about is generally of a rather
limited kind: the vehicle of the original metaphor is brought to mind, but
without any exploration of the grounds for that metaphor. This lack of full
interactive revitalizing is a symptom of the fact that their function is
mainly decorative and phatic; they amuse and humour us, and our smile
or laughter accompanies a dismissal of the pun. We do not ponder such
metaphors for insight as we might a Shakespearean metaphor, smce a
serious exploring of the grounds seems beside the point.
2.5. Poetry
It is somewhat presumptuous to attempt to deal with the variety of
metaphorical expressions to be found in poetry and to make useful
generalizations about them in the space of a few pages. However, since
poetry seems from a metaphorical point of view to be a variety or genre
which represents one extreme of the spectrum, it would seem equally
perverse to leave it out. What I shall attempt to do is to concentrate on
those features of metaphoric style which seem to occur frequently in poetry
and little elsewhere. I shall limit myself to the discussion of one poem by
Seamus Heaney, An Advancement oj Learning. The text of the poem is as
I took the embankment path
(As always deferring
The bridge). The river nosed past,
Pliable, oil-skinned, wearzng
A transfer oj gables and sky. 5
Hunched over the railing,
Well away jrom the road now, I
Considered the dirty-keeled swans.
Something slobbered curtly, close,
Smudging the silence: a rat 10
Slimed out oj the water and
My throat sickened so quickly that
I turned down the path in cold sweat
But God, another was nimbling
Up the jar bank, tracing its wet 15
Arcs on the stones. Incredibly then
I established a dreaded
Bridgehead. I turned to stare
With deliberate, thrilled care
At my hitherto snubbed rodent. 20
He clockworked aimlessly a while,
Stopped, back bunched and glistening,
Ears plastered down on his knobbed skull,
Insidiously listening.
The tapered tail that jollowed him,
The raindrop eye, the old snout:
One by one I took all in.
He trained on me. I stared him out
Forgetting how I used to panic
When his grey brothers scraped and jed 30
Behind the hen-coop in our yard,
On ceiling boards above my bed.
This terror, cold, wetJurred, small-clawed,
Retreated up a pipe jor sewage.
I stared a minute after him. 35
Then I walked on and crossed the bridge.
first. feature of this poem, in terms of metaphorical inter-
pretatIOn., IS that, m the case of metaphors expressed by verbs, it can be
worthwhIle to extend syntactically the scope of the vehicle term. Thus we
can take dirty-keeled swans and fill as follows:
dirty [bottomed] swans
keeled [ship]
This makes it possible to consider grounds of comparison between swans
and boats, perhaps the relatively smooth movement through the water of
as with ducks, etc. In other cases of supplying the miss-
mg parts of vehIcles the collocate supplied is less specific.
My throat [retched?]
[A person] sickened
The point considering this personification of parts of the body is to
that beyond all conscious control, is taking on a life of
ItS own when It physlCally reacts to the terrifying and revolting rat.
[putting off (the crossing of)] the bridge
deferring [an action]
Here we can see that the bridge becomes for the persona an action rather
than a place or object, though he attempts to skate over that
135) TENOR TERMS the river [flowed] past
VEHICLE TERMS [the animal] nosed
This syntactic extension suggests that the morbid fear of rats has affected
the persona's perception so that he is even inclined to regard the river as
a rat.
The second distinctive feature is the way in which metaphors create
fascinating and complex interrelationships with each other, far more so
than even in advertising copy. Consider lines 3 to 4:
The river nosed past, / pliable, oil-skinned, wearing / A transfer of gables
and sky.
Instead of regarding these metaphors as mixed we can see that the poet is
making successful transitions between them, based on the sharing of
grounds. Noses are pliable and are covered in skin. One reading of oil-
skinned 'covered with a skin of oil' disposes us to observe that oil is less
viscous than water and that the word pliable therefore applies to it more
literally. The alternative reading of oil-skinned 'covered with an oilskin'
suggests the clothing used by fishermen and sailors which is literally pliable
and suitable for wearing. The paint used for the transfers which children
use to make pictures is also, presumably oil-based, making a further link.
We noted at the beginning of this chapter that the scope of metaphorical
expressions is by no means limited to one word, and, in this poem we have
evidence that the tenor-term can be extended as well as the vehicle term.
Lines 16-18, Incredibly then I established a dreaded bridgehead, could arguably
be considered as a long vehicle term, and the sentence following it as the
tenor term of the same metaphor: I turned to stare with deliberate thrilled care
at my hitherto snubbed rodent.
Metaphorical extension by lexical set occurs as frequently as in advertis-
ing, though often less blatantly. Here, for example, we have a succession
of military metaphors: established a bridgehead, trained on me, retreated. It
should be noted that the second of these metaphorical expressions, likening
the rat's eyes to guns, is highly emotive in its grounds, though affective
interpretations of metaphors seem uncharacteristically uncommon in this
particular text.
A particularly common feature of this kind of short lyric poem, which
purports to describe an experience of the poet or the persona in the first
person, is that the narrative or description is not simply literal but takes
on some symbolic meaning. The last sentence of the poem is a literal
account of what happens in the world of the poem. But the action it
describes is also clearly symbolic of something like the facing and overcom-
ing of fear. The relationship between these two . meanings is a metaphorical
one, involving a substitution interpretation: crossing the bridge where he
is likely to encounter rats of which he is afraid is one example of having
the courage to deliberately come to terms with a phobia. At one kind of
symbolic level, then the metaphor works like metaphorical proverbs, e.g.
31 and 32.
An Advancement of Learning interacts with this last metaphorically symbolic
sentence. To cross a bridge you need to advance in the literal sense, so
that the last sentence revitalizes the root analogy in the title of the poem.
But, reciprocally, the title also affects our symbolic reading of the last
sentence, stressing not only the overcoming of fear but the acquiring of
new knowledge through the expe .
. 1 . 1 ,nence of d .
e ut e IS a so an allUSIOn to th OlUg so.
ment of Learning. Allusions also 0 e Work of Francis B 7''h Ad
' ccur q . acon L , e vance-
example an advertisement for the C ,Ulte often in ad '.
of Cars to Come alluding to the title Car had as . t vel rtlsem';''hntsS' 'h or
C Th d
'f"' " 0 rI.G W' IS S ogan L, e ape
to ome. e I lerence m Interpr t' . ells tract Th Sh ,{ Th'
that in advertising one is simply re of these metaph e. lapelloJ.
r '1' . equlred onca a uSlOns IS
t e laml lanty of the phrase rath ' more often th .
. bl f . er than an not to register
enva e rom comparmg the two t to explore th '
said of the use of puns in adverts) esxts. (Compare this f"' e ext.ra
Id b
.. . . 0, the . elect Wit w at we
wou e qmte mappropnate to th peSSimistic to f W 11 ' k
new car. Whereas the allusion in th.
OPtimism of the ad ne o. e s ;ror
. f B IS poem h vertlsement lor a
lrst sectIOn 0 acon' s work is de as some reI . h h
. . Voted, evance m t at t e
to learnmg, Just as the persona di entirely to disp' 'f b' .
sposes of h' , OSlUg 0 0
rats. IS ob'ect' '
J Ions to encountenng
Fmally, we can observe that met h
this kind of short poem, Metaph ap Ors are seldom si 11 d 1 .
b ak
f 1 . 1 '. ors seem gna e , at east In
re mg 0 se ectlOna restnctlons' to be detect d b f h
. . as In 132 1 e ecause 0 t e
pretatlOn would be Irrelevant to th . - 35, or beca r l'
be specified by genitive constructje of discourse Itera mter-
premodifying vehicle term (line 26)ons h(h
5) or by' th h
d tenors mfa
1 h " ot er m' . e ea noun 0 a
ve IC e terms ave to be prOVIded b h ISSlUg parts f
f h
" Y t e r d 0 tenor terms and
o t e metaphors. It IS preCisely th' , ea er, as do m t f h d
. 1 . . IS Inex l' , os 0 t e groun s
metap onca mterpretatlOn which P ICItness and d d f
k h d
' f h creates th openen e ne ss 0
ma es t e rerea mg 0 t e poem w h e density f .
. . r' ort whil I 0 meanmg and
concentratmg mlormatlOn. This text e, t thus fulfil h f : f
h d h
' , provid l' 1St e unctIOn 0
t e rea er on t e correct metaph' es Ittle imm d' 'd
k 1
. h orlcal . e late gm ance to
mar ed y wit texts of popular SCI' . lUterpretation d
2,6, Summary
We can summarize
registers as follows.
ence hke G ' ,an so contrasts
our sketch of
varieties m different
Inactive metaphors are frequent ofit b'
en eln
very common, as are derived den ' g catachretic RI'
, omlUal . oot ana ogles are
when they occur, are Signalled by h d metaphors A t' h
r ' e ge ' c lve metap ors
ten to perlorm a phatIc function s or other ex I' . k '
, P lCit mar ers and
News reports
Inactive, catachretic and root analo
cliche and mixed metaphors are gy n:etaphors are freq 1:r b I'
. partlcul l' uent. nyper OIC
stye, Active metaphors are clearly' ar Y dlstinctiv r f h'
Signalled f e leatures 0 t e
, 0 ten by quotation marks.
Popular science
Explanatory and theory-constitutive metaphors are distinctive in this
variety and have an impositive tendency. Metaphors tend to be
downgraded to comparisons or similes, and grounds are made as explicit
as possible. Metaphor is tightly controlled. Occasionally arguments by
analogy appear. Some sections of the text are remarkable for the absence
of lexical metaphor.
Revitalized and punning metaphors are highly distinctive here. There is a
tendency to extend metaphors lexically, and to rely on imagery reinforced
by the visual element in the ad. Allusions are made, but often superficially.
Punctuation is a major device in signalling metaphor.
The most interactive kinds of metaphor are found here, supply of the miss-
ing parts of the vehicle leading to extra grounds. Interrelations of
metaphors are skilfully managed. Extension by lexical set is common.
Symbolic substitution metaphors are normal in certain sub-genres (short
modern first-person descriptive lyric) giving extra and wider meaning to
the literal description. Allusions are deliberately made and their grounds
explored. Metaphor is not explicitly signalled, but detected through selec-
tion restriction violation/ flouting of relevance.
The openendedness of the grounds, in discovering which the reader does
much of the work of exploration, leads to high information content.
2.7. Postscript
The present article is a tentative beginning to the study of metaphoric
purposes and how these purposes are realized in texts from different
varieties. Further work on this important subject could usefully attempt to
explain more fully the relationships between the contextual variables of
field, tenor and mode and the kinds of purpose for which metaphors are
used. In this postscript I hope to give an inkling of the kind of work that
might be done to exploit register analysis in this way. I will demonstrate
briefly how one aspect of the dimension of mode, namely the length of
encoding and decoding time, determines the kinds of metaphoric effects
which are possible, and thus affects the kinds of purpose to which
metaphors are put in different registers.
Two aspects of coding time are relevant to the question of the relation
between mode and metaphorical purpose. The first aspect is simply a
measure of the time available for encoding and decoding. The second
aspect is concerned with the symmetry or asymmetry between encoding
and decoding time in any particular mode or register. I have attempted to
diagram my intuitive sense of the relationships in Figure 6.2 where the
relative length of encoding time is represented by the length of the vertical
Figure 6.2
lines on the left, and the length of decoding time by the lines on the right.
In the case of metaphors in conversation, encoding and decoding time
are extremely short, since conversation can be presumed to be largely
spontaneous; and the time available for encoding and decoding is more or
less symmetrical. This presumably accounts for the following observations:
inactive metaphors are common; because there is not the time for the
decoder to ponder whether a certain language use is metaphorical or not,
or what the exact grounds might be, more active metaphors are usually
signalled and have their tenor/grounds specified; and that the jokeslriddles
which incorporate active metaphors in their interpretation (see example 95)
are, of course, not spontaneous at all, and probably allow the decoder a
substantial pause to guess the answer.
In News Reports there is considerable time pressure on the encoder to
meet edition deadlines, so that, of the written varieties we have considered
in this chapter, news-reporting probably takes the least time to compose.
Although the permanence of the medium makes it possible for the reader
to spend a long time in decoding, in practice much of a newspaper is
skimmed and scanned or read partially and quickly. The relative speed of
both encoding and decoding time accounts for the fact that writers are
careless enough to produce mixed metaphors and yet generally 'get away
with it'. And the fact that the reader often has little time to devote to
reading probably explains the kinds of hyperbolic metaphor which are
designed to attract attention. It would be interesting to find out whether
these hyperbolic metaphors tend to be concentrated in the more prominent
parts of the copy, e.g. in the headline and lead.
Popular science has more time at its disposal to control its metaphors
since deadlines are less frequent. One could also entertain the notion that,
in the case where such articles report research, the time spent on research
can itself be counted as encoding time; we have already noticed how, in
a sense, scientific research is often devoted to exploring what exactly are
the metaphoric grounds on which a model or theory is based. Model
metaphors or explanatory metaphors are very carefully selected, signalled
and their grounds are elaborated at length, so that they become explicit
comparisons. The reader has the time' to stop and think carefully, and
backtrack if need be. However, because of their explicitness, the reading
of these articles is rather more straightforward and less time-consuming
than, for example poetry, where the reader is left to identify metaphors
and explore grounds without much help from the text.
Advertising copy is composed with a good deal of time and labour, but
rapidly read, if read at all, so that the relation is asymmetric. Metaphors
will, therefore, be carefully selected and combined, but, acknowledging the
speed of decoding, will be designed to attract attention and to produce the
kind of quick-fire poetic effect associated with puns. We are seldom invited
to explore grounds and, as we have already noted (in the case of the
Cordia ad), allusions in ads are seldom 'milked' to the extent they are in
poetry or literature.
Poetry is the most time consuming, both from the encoding and
decoding standpoints. Much of the work of recognizing the metaphor and
hypothesizing tenors and grounds will therefore be left to the decoder. The
poet makes little allowance for a superficial reader and assumes the poem
will be re-read and lived with over a period of years, in a time span
perhaps even longer than that of its slow composition. One might, on one's
death-bed, see a new meaning in the compound Shakespearean metaphor:
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, where on it must expire,
Consumed by that which it was nourished by.
Black, M. (1962), Models and Metaphors, Ithaca, Comel! University Press.
Boyd, R. (1979), 'Metaphor and Theory Change', in Ortony 1979.
Brooke-Rose, C. (1958), A Grammar of Metaphor, London, Seeker and Warburg.
Cohen, J. (1979), 'Metaphor and the Cultivation of Intimacy', in Sacks 1979.
Empson, W. (1953), Seven Types of Ambiguity, London, Chatto and Windus.
Grice, P. (1975), 'Logic and Conversation', in Syntax and Semantics: Speech Acts,
Cole, P. and Morgan, J. (eds).
Honeck, R.P., Reichmann, P., Hoffman, R. (1975), 'Semantic Memory for
Metaphor: the Conceptual Base Hypothesis', Memory and Cognition 3: 409-15.
Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1980), Metaphors We Live By, London, University of
Chicago Press.
Leech, G. (1969), A Linl;uistic Guide to English Poetry, London, Longmans.
Leech, G. (1974), Semantics, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Levin, S. (1977), The Semantics of Metaphor, Johns Hopkins.
Lyons, J. (1977), Semantics, London, CUP.
Man, Paul de (1979), 'The Epistemology of Metaphor', in (On Metaphor), Sacks,
S. (ed.).
Ortony, A. (1979), Metaphor and Thought, London, Cambridge University Press.
Richards, I.A. (1965), The Philosophy of Rhetoric, New York, Oxford University
Sacks, S. (1979), On Metaphor, London, University of Chicago Press.
Texts used for examples (and abbreviations used in references)
A Corpus of English Conversation (CEC)
The Daily Mirror May 8th 1987 (DM)
The Daily Telegraph May 5th 1987 (DT)
Lovelock, J. 'Gaia: the World as Living Organism', New Scientist, 18 December, 1986 (G)
ADVERTISEMENTS appearing in:
Good Housekeeping, May 1987 (GH)
Punch, May 6th 1987 (P)
Woman, May 9th 1987 (W)
Heaney, S. (1966), 'An Advancement of Learning', in Death of a Naturalist, London Faber.
Arnold, M. (1950), 'Dover Beach', in Arnold: Poetical Works, Oxford, OUP (DB)
Auden, W.H. (1970), 'The Unknown Citizen', in Collected Shorter Poems of W.H. Auden,
London, Faber (UC)
Byatt, A.S. (1978), The Virgin in the Garden, London, Chatto and Windus (VG)
Cohen, J.M., Cohen, M.J. (1971), The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, London, Alien
Lane (PDMQ)
Eliot, G. (1960), Silas Marner, New York, New American Library (SM)
Golding, W. (1954), Lord of the Flies, London, Faber (LF)
-- (1956), Pincher Martin, London, Faber (PM)
-- (1961), Free Fall, London, Faber (FF)
-- (1961), The Inheritors, London, Faber (TI)
-- (1965), The Spire, London, Faber (TS)
-- (1979), Darkness Visible, London, Faber (DV)
Heaney, S. (1966). 'Death of a Naturalist', in Death oj a Naturalist, London, Faber
Hardey, L.P. (1973), The Go-Between, Harmondsworth, Penguin (GB)
Hawthorne, N. (1972), The House oj the Seven Gables, New York: New American
Library (HSG)
Hughes, T. (1972), 'Wind', in Selected Poems 1957-1967, London Faber (TH)
Melville, H. (1983), Moby Dick, New York, Cambridge University Press (MB)
Sutherland, J. (1948), A Priface to Eighteenth Century Poetry, London, aup. Includes
the extract from Lord Lytdeton, p. 72 (LL)
Tennyson, A. (1969), The Poems oj Tennyson, London, Longman. Contains the text
of Morte d'Arthur (MA)
Part IV. Quantitative evidence for register
7 On the nature of written business communication
Mohsen Ghadessy
Although a lot of attention has been given to the vocabulary and gram-
matical structures used in written business communication, the analysis of
discourse patterns has lagged behind. This paper attempts to establish a
discourse structure for sixty letters selected from a larger sample of 566
business communication events. It is suggested that each letter be
considered as an 'extended turn' in the CHAIN of communication. Some
obligatory elements and how they are realized in these turns are then
exemplified and discussed. It is concluded that the chain-like quality of
written business communication is a function of the two obligatory
elements REFERENCE (R) and CLOSING (C) in this discourse genre.
It is almost impossible to define what is meant by the expression BUSINESS
COMMUNICATION due to the many variables that are involved. However,
it may be possible to delimit this kind of social activity by discussing some
of the characteristics that can easily be identified. In order to do this, we
will use the useful notions of FIELD, MODE and TENOR as defined by
Halliday (1974).
The field of discourse
There is no denying the fact that we can easily recognize a business
communication situation. We are subconsciously aware of the nature of the
social activity and expect the participants to behave in a certain way. In
face to face interaction, the simplest form of this activity is called buying
and selling or buying or selling because each of these activities entails the
other. However, due to the vast concerns of modern business, buying
and/or selling are preceded by a whole host of other activities such as seek-
ing and providing information, promoting goods, services, and goodwill in
order, in many cases, not to sell a particular product but to create a
favourable image of the company that produces the product.
In its spoken form, the language of buying and selling has received some
attention by Mitchell (1957) and Halliday and Hasan (1985). In both
studies it is made clear that a number of 'elements' are involved in such
activity. These elements are either 'obligatory' or 'optional'. A 'genre' is
then defined by the existence of a number of obligatory elements in all
examples of buying and selling (Hasan, ibid., p. 104).
Another point related to the nature of the social activity is that we
usually talk of such situations as 'acts', i.e. the act of buying and selling.
This fact brings these activities into the domain of 'speech act' theory
(Austin 1962; Searle 1972). The participants in these situations do
something by saying something. However, one major difference in a
buying and selling situation is that, due to the highly routinized nature of
such acts, in some cases a transaction may be completed without uttering
a word. Imagine a situation where one goes to a news-stand, picks up a
newspaper, puts the right amount of money on the counter and walks away
with the paper. It is interesting to note that in such cases language is used
only if something goes wrong, e.g. if one does not pay the required
amount of money or pays more than what is necessary. We could say that
where language is not used, the participants are saying something by doing
Based on our experience, we can easily distinguish such situations and,
when placed in them, produce the appropriate language. The nature of
such activities requires that a customer, upon entering a shop and selecting
a certain item, usually enquires about the price if it is not already marked.
Thus he/she initiates the first 'move' in the transaction which mayor may
not be completed. Of course there are many variations in the way the
transaction is carried out. However, there should be a number of similar
obligatory elements in all these cases. These establish the generic structure
potential (GSP) which is a characteristic of the genre of buying and selling.
One important point here is that one does not enter a shop without any
definite purpose in mind. Even if one does not buy anything, as far as the
seller is concerned, everyone who enters is a potential customer and should
be approached in the proper manner.
Thus what people actually do in such situations determines the field of
discourse, and based on the variety of purposes involved, i.e. providing
goods and/or services, seeking and/or providing information, etc., we have
different realizations of the GSP referred to above. The 'macro-function'
of language is that of buying and selling; the 'micro-functions' depend on
the peculiarities of each situation.
The tenor of discourse
The tenor of discourse relates to the role relationship between the
participants in such situations. We have already observed that the social
roles are very well defined, i.e. customer/shopkeeper, consumer/producer,
etc. Now considering the ultimate purpose of the shopkeeper or producer,
there is a lot of persuasion, be it gentle or other, to effect a transaction.
People are in business to make money and not to waste time. This para-
mount concern with effecting a business transaction and making money
affects the 'interpersonal' function of language (Halliday 1973). However,
this function is realized differently due to the status of the client in each
case. One rule of thumb that affects the interpersonal function is that 'The
customer is always right' which in turn determines the degree of politeness
of the shopkeeper's language. This is closely related to the degree of
formality/informality which is based on how well a customer is known to
the shopkeeper.
Such considerations in the tenor of discourse are necessary as business
communication may include other acts in addition to the acts of buying
and selling. Promoting goodwill, complaining, apologizing, accepting,
rejecting, claiming, demanding and many other acts are part and parcel of
some business communication situations. Such acts assume special
significance when we consider differences in the mode of discourse, i.e. in
written business communication there are already well-established sub-
varieties such as letters of complaint, letters of application, letters of
adjustments, etc.
The mode of discourse
The mode of discourse relates to the question: what is the role of language
or what is the language achieving? Other questions that can be asked
include: how is information presented? how much is assumed on the part
of the customer or the shopkeeper? what is the point of departure 'theme'
for each participant? what constraints are created if one is using a spoken
or written mode? The last question is of special significance as most
people interpret mode as the difference between spoken and written
language. If we take the latter view, we still have to investigate variations
in information and thematic structure as well as the cohesion and
coherence of each mode to characterize the major differences between the
One major role in this language is that of persuasion, especially on the
part of the shopkeeper. Elements of persuasion are also found in the
language of the customer as when he/she starts to bargain, indicate a will-
ingness to do more business at a later time or promise to send a friend to
the same shop. In the written mode, the elements of persuasion are to be
found mainly in the language of advertising which is a necessary part of
every successful business. As Leech (1966) has shown, such elements are
translated into a number of 'principles' which every copywriter of an
advertisement should observe; they are 'attention value, readability,
memorability'. Also all ads should have 'selling power'.
Establishing a jramework jor written business communication
After highlighting some of the characteristics of business communication in
general, we will now attend to an analysis of written mode and in
particular to one type of letter that is very frequent in such situations. The
data for analysis comprise 566 examples of written business communication
collected from a number of companies, banks, official government depart-
ments and institutes of higher education in Singapore in 1984. The
examples range from a reply to a request containing twenty-two words (the
text of the letter), to about 1,000 words dealing with terms and conditions
sent to a prospective client. Here we will deal with one type of letter as
an analysis of all the examples is beyond the scope of this paper. All the
letters selected for close analysis (sixty in number) have one structural
element in common, i.e. there is in the first part of the letter some
reference to another communicative event that has already taken place.
Tentatively we could classify these as replies to requests/enquiries/com-
plaints, etc.
If we classify these letters as 'replies to . . .' we are of course assuming
that there was another communicative event before each letter. There is in
the introductory part of all these letters some kind of reference to this
previous communication. Among the most frequent lexical items that are
used for this purpose are letter 51 per cent, application 5 per cent, reminder
5 per cent, and enquiry 15 per cent. Other less frequent items - a total of
19 per cent - included interest, jorm, complaint, cable, receipt, record, account,
statement and demand.
There are at present several theoretical frameworks that could be applied
to the structure of spoken discourse. One such model originated out of the
analysis of classroom interaction by Sinclair and Coulthard (1975). This
model has now been applied with some modification to the structure of
conversation, e.g. Burton (1981), Francis and Hunston (1987), and Stubbs
(1981). We may ask if the same model can account for the structure of
business communication.
Now, in a sense, most business communication can be compared to a
simple sequence of 'initiation' and 'response' as in a question and answer
situation in a classroom or a conversation. Imagine a situation in which
a customer may telephone his bank for a new cheque book to be sent to
his address. If this were done in writing, the customer would send a letter
of request to which the bank would respond. Or it could be the other way
round, i.e. the bank could phone or write and the customer could respond.
Thus the possibilities are as shown in Figure 7.1.
The model in Figure 7.1 can be applied to all types of business
communication in which the initiator is satisfied with the response and
Client Bank
Initiation x x
Reeponee x
Figure 7.1
there is no further communication. However, the world of business is not
as simple as this and in the majority of cases there are many more
communicative events between the first initiation and the last response.
Thus we may propose the following model for business communication in
general, i.e.
I ' (R/I)n' R
in which C) means 'followed by', ( ) means 'optional', and (n) that there
may be more than one R/I.
Each occurrence of I (initiation), R (response) or R/I can be considered
as a 'turn' in the communicative event. This notionis appealing because
of the chain-like quality of business communication and the fact that each
letter (turn) is 'complete' and much more clearly delimited than in spoken
language. We may say that each turn is 'extended' in the sense that it
incorporates several 'moves'. Figure 7.1 can be considered as a macro-
structure for business communication and the investigation of the 'internal'
structure of each letter, i.e. 'turn' can be thought of as dealing with the
micro-structures involved.
Another way to deal with the macro-structure of business letters is to
consider Hasan's (1985) 'elements' used to refer to the language of buying
and selling in the spoken mode. She uses SE (sale enquiry), SI (sale initia-
tion), SR (sale request), SC (sale compliance), PC (purchase closure), and
F (finis). One problem here is that the term business covers a lot more than
the terms buying and selling and thus Hasan's 'obligatory elements' that
create the 'generic structure potential' in the spoken mode cannot
adequately account for the structure of written business communication.
Riference: the R element
In the following sections we deal with the discourse structure of letters that
realize the macro-category of R/I in the communicate chain. It was pointed
out above that all the letters analysed (sixty in number) have, in the first
paragraph, referred to a previous communicative event. We can consider
this as a micro-element in the structure of these letters. This element is
realized in a number of ways. One is by a nominal group given in the
'reference line(s)' immediately before the greeting e.g. our reference: ... your
reference: .... Also the 'subject line' can be used for this purpose, i.e. trade
enquiry, overdue account, etc. Sometimes more than one line is used for the
realization of this element as in the following example:
Acknowledgement oj order
Your order No.
Our order No.
However not all the letters have this kind of reference, i.e. the element R
is realized in the first paragraph of the letter immediately after the
greetings. Here expressions such as thank you jor ... , with reference to ... ,
jurther to your . .. , etc. are good examples. The element R may include the
date, the subject matter or the addressee of the previous communication
in addition to a reference to the previous letter itself. A very good example
is the following:
I refer to your letter dated June 22, 1983 requesting some samples oj letters jrom
the * * * group.
(* * * are used where proper names or some dates are omitted)
Thus R has four semantic components in the above case, i.e. (1) your letter,
(2) June 22, 1983, (3) requesting some samples oj letters, and (4) jrom the ***
group. We may summarize this pattern by R (1 + 2 + 3 + 4). The above
ingredients, however, are not all found in the R element. The variations
are as follows. The pattern for each is given after the example.
Further to your letter to Mr * * * and ...
Thank you jor your letter oj August 22, 1983.
Thank you jor writing to * * * incorporation enquiring
about our * * * products.
We have received your application oj * * * jor a position
R (1 + 4)
R (1 +2)
with us. R (1 +2 +3)
The subject matter may be mentioned before or after the greetings. If this
happens, then we have a modified version of one of the above patterns,
Re: Carbitol Solvent
Thank you very much jor your inquiry regarding Carbitol Solvent. R (3 + 1 + 3)
R YC * * * on Lubricant Quotation.
As your enquiry jor export to * * * . . . R (3 + 1 + 2)
Some constraints on sequencing of components are as follows:
Table 7.1 R element introduced with expression of gratitude
Expression No. %
Thank you jor . 19 66
Thank you very much jor . 5 17
We thank you jor . . . 3 10
We acknowledge with thanks . 2 7
Total 29 100
Table 7.2 R element introduced without expression of gratitude
Expression No. %
With riference to . 6 19
We rifer to your . . . 6 19
I rifer to your . . . 1 3
We regret to receive . . 1 3
We are pleased to receive . 1 3
We have received . . . 2 6
We are in receipt oj . 1 3
Upon receipt of. . . 1 3
Further to your . 3 10
Others 9 31
Total 31 100
1. All examples have R(l).
2. The most frequent pattern is R(l + 2).
3. Except for when (3) can precede (1), (1) is always initial.
4. (4) is rarely used. If used, it usually comes finally.
Tables 7.1 and 7.2 give the frequency of some expressions used to
introduce the R element. This element may be introduced with or without
an expression of gratitude, e.g. Thank you, thanks, etc. or with reference to,
we have received, etc.
We can see from the examples in Tables 7.1 and 7.2 that there may/may
not be a component in the R element with an interpersonal function. We
should emphasize that the act of referring is 'ideational' in the sense that
objects, people, institutions, dates, etc. are referred to. Anything else has
an interpersonal function like thank you . . ., we regret to . . ., we are pleased
to ... , etc. This function is not present in expressions such as with reference
to ... , referring to ... , upon receipt oj. .. , etc. because of the role relations
and the status of the participants. The question may be asked as to when
we can expect the inclusion of the interpersonal function in such letters.
To a certain extent this function is always there in the greeting, i.e. Dear
Sir/Madam ... , and the complimentary close, i.e. yours sincerelylfaitlifully
... However, depending on the field of discourse, we can expect the
letter to include more or less of this function in the other parts of the
letter. Letters of rejection, apology, adjustments, congratulations and
thanks will definitely have more language items that show the inter-
personal function.
Addressing the issue: the AI element
Following the micro-element R, the letter must address the issue at hand.
We may call this element the AI (addressing the issue). In most cases AI
relates to the purpose of the letter 'functional tenor', and it is on this basis
that we have different letter types, i.e. letters of complaint, application
letters, letters of quotation, etc. Of course due to the 'brevity' of business
letters, lengthy additional information is provided in the accompanying
brochures, pamphlets, or other relevant publication.
Now a main problem is to establish the boundary between the Rand
AI elements. In some letters this is clearly marked, i.e. sentence or
paragraph boundaries are used, e.g.
Thank you jor your enquiries on * * * products.
As requested, we are pleased to quote . . .
We acknowledge with thanks receipt oj your subject order dated 20th
April 1983.
We have the pleasure to injorm you that we have airmailed . . .
Sometimes R and AI are in the same sentence. A punctuation mark
may/may not separate the two, e.g.
Further to your letter to Mr * * *
enclosed are some . . .
and my telephone conversation with you,
With reference to your letter dated 22 June 1983 we are now pleased
to enclose ... (R'AI)
In all the examples above the issue is addressed after the completion of the
R element. Expressions such as pleased to and have the pleasure to are realiza-
tions of the interpersonal function in the AI element. We may distinguish
those letters in which the AI is realized immediately after the R element
and those in which AI is preceded by some items with an interpersonal
function. The AI may be delayed for some other reasons. For example, in
the following letter of rejection, first we have the reason for rejection and
then the rejection proper (in bold).
Dear Sirs,
Thanks jor your enquiry oj * * *. The short supply situation is so severe here that
we have to allocate supplies to our local customers. Such being the case, you can
see that we have no material to offer for re-export . ...
The AI element may come almost at the end of the letter as in the follow-
ing example. The extended introduction in this case has the function of
Dear ***,
Thankyoujor your letter oj August 22,1983. *** Limited is a leading distributor
jor electronic equipment and medical and scientific instruments in Singapore, with
a subsidiary company in Malaysia, dealing with the same range oj products. (A
long section at this point deals with the range of products and other
useful information) . . . . We are interested in all the products listed in
your letter except perhaps item 2 which . . .
The act of delaying the realization of AI may be a characteristic of most
rejection letters as indicated by almost all the examples in the sixty letters
analysed, e. g.
The appropriate managers in our company have studied the resume oj your qualifica-
tions and experience, but are unable to take advantage l!f your services . . . .
Much as we would like to, we would like to advise that we are unable to donate
There was only one example of rejection where AI was realized
immediately after R, i.e.
I am not proposing to recruit jurther
There does not seem to be a clear correlation between the type of letter
and the delaying of AI in other cases. For example in letters of quotation
both possibilities are found.
As requested, we are pleased to quote the following:
Enclosed are our quotation and literature jor your
Enclosed are our quotation and literature jor your evaluation.
In answer to a letter of complaint, the initial paragraph includes both R
and AI in an unusual sequence.
Dear ***,
In the absence oj our general manager, Mr * * *, I have taken the liberty oj review-
ing your letter. It is indeed disturbing to hear oj your unpleasant encounter in our
coffee garden on Dec. 29, 1981. I apologize sincerely for . ..
Although the AI element, i.e. I apologize ... is introduced immediately
Table 7.3 Relationship between letter type and the realisation of the AI element
Letter type No. AI-1 AI-2
Reply to: request, enquiry, complaint,
application offer, demand, invitation, etc. 44 15 29
Acknowledgement: order, receipt, etc. 5 2 3
Reminder 5 1 4
Letter of thanks 4 2 2
Others 2 2
Total 60 20 (33.5%) 40(66.5%)
after R, R is preceded by some background information relevant to AI.
The assumption here is that the original letter was addressed to the general
manager who would be the person to answer back. The present writer
thematizes this fact and presents it as the reason for writing the letter.
On the other hand; in answer to another letter of complaint, AI
immediately follows R, i.e.
We found that the contamination was caused by . . .
Table 7.3 provides a summary of the introduction of the AI element in the
sixty letters analysed. AI-l means that this element immediately follows R.
AI-2 means that some items with an interpersonal function or background
information intervene between the two. The interpersonal function may be
realized by one word, e.g. unfortunately, or a clause, e.g. much as we would
like to, ...
The element AI, like R, has a number of components. These depend on
the subject matter of the previous communication and what the writer of
the present letter wishes to include. In its simplest form, the components
of AI have the function of providing information as in the case of a letter
of quotation, l.e.
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your enquiries on * * * products. As requested, we are pleased to quote
the following:
Validity: 30 days from date of quotation.
Delivery: ex-stock, subject to prior sale.
Payment: 30 days from date of invoice ..
However, in some cases the respondents use the opportunity to promote
the image of their company/firm/corporation, etc. They may include infor-
mation that was not originally asked for. This information can be included
in the letter itself or given in separate enclosed brochures, pamphlets, etc.
In the following letter the promotional information (in bold) is given after
the AI element.
Dear ***,
Thank you for your letter of May 5, . . . I suggest you contact our product
distributor for Papua New Guinea, . . . I highly recommend our * * * insec-
ticide as the ideal material for . . .
The promotional information (PI) is thus an optional element in replies to
requests for information. Whether it is placed before or after AI cannot be
decided on the basis of the few examples encountered. However, in three
our of four letters, PI preceded AI.
In a few letters the AI is fore grounded in the sense that the purpose of
the communication is made clear right at the beginning. Although there is
reference in the initial paragraph to another source of information, e.g.
records, these letters are not replies to requests or enquiries; they have in
fact been classified as 'reminders' by the institutions that have sent them.
One such example is the following introduction:
According to our records, the following bills are overdue for payment:
Here R is followed by AI. A feature of such letters is that some kind of
elaboration is then provided. As far as the involved institutions are
concerned, the non-payment of a bill on time is due to a number of
circumstances that in most cases are unknown to them. Thus in the
elaboration section of AI reference is made to hypothetical situations which
may/may not be true as far as the customer is concerned. The above letter
had four IF clauses, three in the elaboration section and one in the closing
remarks to highlight this hypothetical situation, e.g.
If payments for the abovementioned bills have somehow been overlooked . . .
If you would now forward your cheque . . .
If you have any reason for non-payment ...
If you have already mailed your cheque to us
One notable feature of such letters is the change in tone if more than one
reminder is sent. We exemplify this point by discussing four letters that
were sent as reminders to the same person. The interpersonal function
assumes special significance in such letters, i.e. whereas the initial letter is
a simple reminder, the last one can be considered as a threat to take legal
action. The language that realizes this interpersonal function in each of the
four letters is given below:
Letter One:
Letter Two:
Slightly past due. . ., We hope that you will consider this just
a routine courtesy reminder . . ., If your cheque . . ., please
zgnore . . ., Thanking you in advance . . .
You may have overlooked . . ., considerably past due . . .,
please note . . ., May we hear from you . . ., within the next
ten days . . ., Thank you in advance . . . .
Letter Three: Our previous reminders . .. , outstanding account . .. , You still
have not responded . . ., Please arrange to . . ., within seven days
. . ., we will have no alternative but to cancel your credit
privileges with . . . .
Letter Four: Our previous reminders . .. , longstanding account . .. , you still
have not responded . .. , Unless your account is settled within
seven days . . ., will have no alternative . . ., refer matter to
lawyer . . ., legal action . . ., liable to pay for legal costs . . . .
All of the above letters have the R element and the AI is not delayed.
A good deal of hypothetical language is found in the elaboration section
of the AI. Obviously all these letters are 'requests' for payment. However,
because of the change in tone, they may be sub-classified as 'demands' and
'threats' based on how strong the language is. It may be of interest to note
that the institution involved in the above case - a bank - categorized them
as 'reminder', 'second reminder', 'third reminder' and 'fourth reminder',
Closing: the C element
So far we have considered the two micro-elements R and AI. The third
element that all letters share relates to how the letter is closed. There are
two sub-elements here, i.e. the Closing (c) and the complimentary close
(CC). The latter is a must for all letters and depending on how well one
knows the recipient, the level of formality may change. For example for a
formal letter the expression yours faithfully is used and if one is less formal
then yours sincerely may be selected. The sentiments expressed by such CC's
may be at variance with the content of the letter as when a threat to take
legal action is still closed by yours sincerely.
The element C on the other hand fulfills a different function. It is a link
between the discourse up to the present moment and what will or may
happen afterwards, e.g.
. . . hope that our quotation is accepted and we look forward to . . .
The C element can be a request for a recommended course of action (CR)
or a promise by the writer (CP). The CR can be an invitation for further
communication (CRI) or a directive (CRD). It is clear from the above
example that the interpersonal function is also prominent in this part of the
letter. The C element may include an expression of hope, gratitude,
concern, etc. and then a request or invitation for further communication.
The following examples from the data clarify this point.
We would be grateful if you could send us
Please feel free to contact me if . . .
Kindly treat these papers as confidential.
I will be delighted to personally handle your
. . . And assure you that the information . . . will be treated . . . In
Occasionally the C element may include only an expression of gratitude as
in the following case. We can label this type of closing as (CG), e.g.
We thank you for your interest in . . . (CC)
One statistic that is of interest relates to the words and expressions that
realise the interpersonal function in both the Rand C elements. For exam-
ple the expression thank you occurs in both elements of some letters, l.e.
Thank you very much . .. (R) ... Once again thank you . .. (C)
Thank you for your enquiry of ... (R) ... We thank you for having contacted
us ... (C)
We acknowledge with thanks . . . (R) . . . Thank you (C)
The twelve letters (20 per cent) that had this feature in common are of the
kind shown in Table 7.4: .
Table 7.4 Realization of the interpersonal function in both the Rand C
Letter type No. %
Reply to enquiry (one rejection) 4 34
Letter of acknowledgement 3 25
Letter of thanks 8
Reply to application (rejection) 1 8
Reply to invitation (rejection) 3 25
Total 12 100
We may note that five of the letters in Table 7.4 were rejections. Thus it
is possible that in such letters both the Rand C elements include expres-
sions of gratitude. More data are needed to substantiate this hypothesis.
The above analysis of a number of written business communication events
has confined itself to those letters in the first paragraph of which there is
reference to another/other communicative event(s) that have recently occur-
red. It is this feature, realised as the R element, which binds the present
event to the preceding context of situation. Although all the letters
categorized as 'replies to ... ' or 'acknowledgements of .. .' or 'applica-
tions for ... ' have this element in them, the use of the above criterion has
also resulted in including within this large group of letters what we have
called 'reminders'. Thus the R element provides the 'given' information as
a background against which the 'new' information is then presented by the
AI and C elements. As such these elements fulfil the 'textual meta-
function' (Halliday 1985).
In the discussion of the elements of structure, reference is also made to
the 'interpersonal meta-function' (Halliday, ibid.) which deals with the
expression of the writers' comments, attitudes and evaluations. This can be
the basis for the classification of a whole host of business letters which,
among others, will include letters of complaint, regret, apology, concern,
thanks, and greetings. It would be interesting to compare the discourse
structure of such letters with 'replies to ... ' which have been dealt with
in the present analysis.
Finally, the present study has provided some examples of linguistic
structures realising phenomena of the real world. However, the 'ideational
meta-function' (Halliday, ibid.) has not been dealt with adequately due to
time and space concerns. A study of 'transitivity' and the types of
processes involved, i.e. 'mental', 'material' and 'relational' is therefore
required to show how written business communication realises the vast and
complex meaning potentials in this discourse genre.
Written business communication comprises a chain of communicative
events each of which is realized in the form of a letter - an extended turn
- with a certain discourse structure. Apart from the initial letter in each
case, the subsequent letters have in common a number of obligatory
elements which establish the generic structure potential (GSP) of this
discourse genre. The elements include an initial Reference (R) category -
mainly exophoric, followed by the category of Addressing the Issue (AI),
and finally a Closing (C) category - partly endophoric and partly
exophoric. The boundaries of this discourse structure are the Initial
Greeting (IG) and the final Complimentary Close (CC). The initial letter
in the chain does not have the R element. The chain-like quality of written
business communication is a consequence of the functions of the Rand C
elements in this discourse genre. This is shown in the following schema:
Discourse schema for a chain of written business letters
Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter Final Letter
Macro-structure of discourse: elements are connected horizontally
AI ; Addressing the Issue
C : Closing
CC : Complimentary Close
IG : Initial Greeting
R : Reference

Figure 7.2 Micro-structure of each extended turn: elements are connected
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Oxford University Press.
Burton, D. (1981), 'Analysing Spoken Discourse', in Studies In Discourse Analysis,
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Halliday, M.A.K. (1973), Explorations In The Functions Dj Language, London,
Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1974), Language And The Social Man, London, Longmans.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985), An Introduction To Functional Grammar, London, Edward
Halliday, M.A.K. and R. Hasan (1985), Language, Context, And Text: Aspects Dj
Language In A Social Semiotic Perspective, Deakin University.
Leech, G.N. (1966), English In Advertising, London, Longmans.
Mitchell, T.F. (1957), 'The Language of Buying and Selling in Cyrenaica: A
Situational Statement', in Principles Dj Firthian Linguistics, London, Longmans.
Searle, J.R. (1972), 'What is a Speech Act?', in Language And Social Context, P.P.
Giglioli (ed.), Harmondsworth, Penguin Books.
Sinclair, J. McH. and R.M. Coulthard (1975), Towards An Analysis OJ Discourse,
London, Oxford University Press.
Stubbs, M. (1981), 'Motivating Analyses of Exchange Structure', in Studies In
Discourse Analysis, M. Coulthard and M. Montgomery (eds), London, Routledge
and Kegan Paul.
8 Pragmatic and macro thematic patterns in science
and popular science: a diachronic study of articles
from three fields
Britt-Louise Gunnarsson
1. Introduction
Genre patterns reflect norms and beliefs in the discourse community in
which they are produced. When these norms and beliefs change, textual
patterns are also liable to change. This sociolinguistic approach is
fundamental for our work within the textlinguistic research project named
'LSP texts in the 20th century' which I am heading at the department of
Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Our aim is
to study genre variation and change on textual levels.
The investigation covers articles from three fields - medicine, technology
and economics - and three periods - 1895-1905, 1935-1945, and 1975-
1985 (Table 8.1). Altogether ninety complete articles have been analysed;
forty-five from scientific journals and forty-five from journals and
periodicals within popular science (Gunnarsson, Melander and Naslund
Table 8.1 Articles analysed within the project 'LSP texts in the 20th century'
Economics Medicine Technology
(Banking) (Lung) (Electricity)
Science 5 5 5
Popular Science 5 5 5
Science 5 5 5
Popular Science 5 5 5
Science 5 5 5
Popular Science 5 5 5
The goal for our text analyses is to describe synchronic variation and
diachronic change on textual levels related to the message structure of LSP
articles. Message structure is, of course, a multifaceted concept, and in this
study of LSP articles we focus on four dimensions of the message structure,
the cognitive, the pragmatic, the macrothematic and the micro semantic
Gunnarsson (1987, 1990a and 1992) describes the general model on
which this research is based. In this model the correspondence between text
and context is essential. Our method for cognitive analysis (based on an
analysis of the text content in relation to five knowledge worlds) which has
been developed for synchronic and diachronic analysis of LSP texts is also
described. The microsemantic analysis, comprising an analysis of the
referential patterns, is described in Gunnarsson (1989).2 This paper,
however, will concentrate on our analyses of the macrothematic and
pragmatic levels, describing our methods and presenting some of our
The results will be discussed in relation to changes in the contextual
framework in which LSP texts function. From a sociolinguistic viewpoint,
changes in textual patterns are reflections of changes in society. Looking
at the academic community, the educational sector, professional life, the
public sector and other sectors of importance for the LSP articles covered
by our study at Uppsala, the following societal trends characterize changes
of the Swedish society during this century: specialization, internationaliza-
tion (Americanization), educational expansion, and information explosion.
Specialization is a term used quite frequently to describe developments
during this century. It is obvious that the labour market has become more
diversified. Today there are many more different occupations than at the
beginning of this century. The same trend is obvious within the academic
community. There are a lot more different disciplines for example, and far
more different types of professors. There are many more different courses
and many more universities and colleges, etc.
Internationalization is another term used to try to describe societal
changes. More important here is the shift in international dominance
which has taken place during the period 1895 to 1985. Till the middle of
this century, Germany exerted the greatest influence on Swedish society.
After the Second World War, however, it is the United States that has
exerted the greatest influence. This Americanization affects society in
general and the academic community in particular.
With regard to the educational sector there has been a considerable
expansion. Compulsory education has been spread to all social classes, and
has become much longer. A considerably higher percentage continue their
studies up to college and university level, and specialist education is longer.
We now have a larger group of people able to read complicated texts.
A general information explosion - the word is not too strong - has taken
place during this century. We now produce books, journals, newspapers,
brochures and pamphlets to far greater extent than a hundred years ago.
With regard to the genre patterns which form the issue here, four
Table 8.2 Societal trends and hypotheses related to pattern variation and change
Some societal trends
Internationalization: Americanization
Educational expansion
Information explosion
1. Clearer genre boundaries
2. Pattern shift after 1945
3. Greater expert character
4. Firmer genre conventions
1. Clearer genre boundaries could, for example, mean a greater distance between scientific
and popular articles: scientific articles have become more scientific, popular articles more
popular. 2. Pattern shift means that text patterns in Swedish articles written at the beginning
of this century can be assumed to resemble German text patterns, while those in articles
written after the Second World War can be assumed to resemble English text patterns.
3. By greater expert character is meant, for example, that modern texts, in comparison to
older ones, can be assumed to be less personal, less directed towards the reader and so on.
4. By firmer genre conventions, finally, is meant a greater homogeneity within genres, in
this case within science and popular science.
hypotheses concerning pattern variation and change can be formulated.
Table 8.2 shows these hypotheses and their assumed correspondence with
the above described societal trends.
2. Macrothematic structure
2.1. Methods jor analysis
For the text analysis at the macrothematic level, we have used a modified
version of methods elaborated by researchers in Birmingham. In his book
On the Suiface oj Discourse Hoey (1983) distinguishes different text patterns:
Problem Solution pattern, Matching pattern, and General-Particular
pattern. Hoey's text patterns concern written texts in general. More
directly related to scientific articles are, however, the categories which are
suggested in Swales (1981) for a description of article introductions. Swales
analysed the introductory parts in articles from different sciences and found
that these seemed to have a similar rhetoric structure. This could be
summarized as comprising four moves, which usually appeared in the
following order: Move 1: 'Establishing the field'; Move 2: 'Summarizing
previous research'; Move 3: 'Preparing for present research'; Move 4:
'Introducing present research'.
Other researchers have tried to describe the moves for other parts of
text, for example for the discussion part. In Dudley-Evans (1989) the
following categories are enumerated: background information, statement of
result, (un)expected outcome, reference to previous research (comparison),
explanation of a surprising or unsatisfactory result, deduction, hypothesis,
reference to previous research (support), recommendation, justification.
Swales' moves and these categories have been the starting point for the
method elaborated for our analysis of the macrothematic structure of the
LSP texts in the Uppsala study. The Birmingham model has been modified
and expanded to make it useful for our analysis of not only contemporary
texts, but also older ones, and not only articles within science, but also
within popular science. The most important differences are a distinction of
a supertheme called conclusion, and different macrothemes related to conse-
quences and measures directed towards society.
The analysis of the macrothematic structure of LSP texts within our
project has been carried out in two steps. Each macrosyntagm (each main
clause and its subordinate clauses) has been categorized first as to supertheme
(see section 2.2) and secondly as to macrotheme.
2.2. Results
The following results are from our analysis of the superthematic structure
of Swedish LSP articles which are of relevance for the two hypotheses
mentioned above.
Each macrosyntagm has been categorized as to supertheme: introduction,
theme-development, discussion or conclusion. We have further distinguished
abstract as a separate category. Results have been calculated for each text
separately, and based on these text individual data, means have been
calculated for the different subgroups in our corpus.
Table 8.3 gives the mean percentages of the superthemes. Abstract and
introduction are combined into one category, called introduction, and
discussion and conclusion into one, called discussion. The table shows the
mean proportion of the theme groups. Results are presented for scientific
articles (S) and popular articles (P) from all three fields, from period 1,
around 1900, period 2, around 1940, period 3, around 1980, and for all
scientific articles (Sl-3) and all popular articles (Pl-3).
As Table 8.3 shows, around 56 per cent of the science articles (Sl-3)
and 66 per cent of the popular science articles (Pl-3) have been classified
as theme development. The introductory parts occupy, on average, 14 per
cent, a similar proportion in science and popular science. The discussion
parts play a greater role in science, where the average proportion is 28 per
cent, which can be compared to 18 per cent in popular science.
A comparison of the proportions for texts from different periods shows,
in science, an increase over time for the proportion of theme development,
from 50 to 60 per cent, and a decrease for the proportion of discussion
from 33 to 21 per cent. In popular science it is more difficult to point to
any clear tendencies.
Also of relevance for our hypothesis is a comparison of the diachronic
changes in the proportion of the three supertheme groups for articles from
the three fields. Figures 8.1a-c illustrate the supertheme development in
scientific articles within the three fields. Figure concerns the super-
theme introduction, 8.1 b theme development, and 8.1c discussion. The
solid lines show the developments within economy, the dotted line within
Table 8.3 Superthemes in LSP articles: science (S) and popular science (P) from
three periods of the 20th century. Mean proportion of the articles.
Text grp Intr Theme Disc
% % %
Sl 16 50 33
S2 10 57 31
S3 17 60 21
Sl-3 14 56 28
Popular Science
Pl 11 65
P2 18 67 14
P3 13 66 19
Pl-3 14 66 18
medicine and the dashed/dotted within technology.
As the figures show, the lines describing the diachronic development
within the three fields converge over time for theme development (8.1 b)
and discussion (8.1c) and somewhat also for introduction (8.1a). Economic,
medical and technical scientific articles written around 1900 were quite
different as to their proportion of different superthemes. Modern scientific
articles (period 3) are, however, quite similar in this respect.
For popular science, there is, however, no similar tendency towards
more homogeneous texts. The lines for period 3 are just as separate as for
period 1.
To get a picture of the overall thematic structure of the articles, the
linear progression of the four superthemes: Introduction, Theme develop-
ment (T), Discussion (D) and Conclusion (C) was described. These super-
themes have been put together into three clusters or cycles: 1. introduction,
2. theme cycle, and 3. discussion cycle. Theme cycle refers to a linear
sequence starting with theme development and optionally followed by a
discussion part and/or a conclusion part; the combinations TDC, TD, TC,
and T are each counted as one theme cycle. Discussion cycle refers to a
linear sequence starting with the supertheme discussion and optionally
followed by a conclusion part, the combinations DC and D are each
counted as one discussion cycle.
Table 8.4 shows the linear superthematic structure for each of the ninety
articles in our corpus. The table is organized so as to facilitate a
comparison of texts of different genres, from different fields and periods.
A comparison of the structures of the economic articles - E at the top of
the table - with those of the medical - M in the middle - and the technical
- T at the bottom, shows that the economic articles are of a more theme
Figure 8.1b
Figure Discussion
2 3
Figures 8.1a-c Superthemes in scientific articles. Diachronic developments
within the three fields
repetItIve kind, while the medical and technical articles have a more
straightforward character, that is, first introduction and then one or two
theme cycles. If we look at the medical and technical articles we will
further find that this straight, simple structure is more characteristic of the
modern articles than of the ones from periods 1 and 2. For medicine, we
can also note that this straight structure more characterizes SClence left
part of the table - than popular science - right part.
Table 8.4 Superthematic structure in the 90 LSP articles q. = introduction;
III = theme cycle: TDC, TD, TC, T; = discussion cycle: DC, D
Linear structure
if? 11 11 11 11
if? III 11
4> III
. . .
<I> <I>
if? III 11 11
if? III
Text Linear structure
Popular science
11 11 11 11
MPl cl> 11 11 III ell.
W +
<I> <I>
MP2 <I>
if? RI
if? 11 III III
MP3 <I>
if? IJ 11 11 11
TPl <I>
cl> 11 11 III III
TP2 <I>
TP3 <I>
Table 8.5 Average number of cycles (T- + D-cycles) in articles from different
Text grp Economics Medicine Technology
Sl 2.6 2.0 2.6
S2 3.6 1.8 2.0
S3 3.4 1.2 1.4
Sl-3 3.2 1.7 2.0
Popular Science
Pl 2.8 4.0 2.4
P2 3.2 3.2 1.0
P3 2.6 2.2 1.0
Pl-3 2.9 3.1 1.5
Table 8.5 summarizes these findings in the form of averages for each
text group. The table shows the average amount of cycles - theme and
discussion cycles taken together - for the different text groups.
As Table 8.5 shows, the economic articles differ on average from the
medical and technical ones; there is no tendency for the modern economic
articles to be more straightforward than the older ones. For medical and
technical science, there is, however, a clear tendency for the modern article
to be thematically more straightforward over time. Worth noting is also a
tendency for the greatest difference to be between texts from periods 2 and
3, especially among the medical articles. There is, further, a decrease in
the average of theme cycles in medical popular science articles from period
3 as compared to articles from period 2. For technical popular science
articles, however, the decrease takes place between period 1 and 2.
This diachronic change of the superthematic text pattern could be
explained as a tendency towards a more homogeneous pattern. Another
possible explanation is that it reflects a shift in foreign influence on
Swedish article patterns, from German to American influence. Gunnarsson
(1990b) discusses such a shift in relation to a study of the introductory
parts in medical articles. The article introductions were, in this study,
found to show greater resemblance to English patterns in modern scientific
articles than in older articles. Our results were related to results presented
in Clyne (1987), who compared discourse patterns in German and English
articles. One of Clyne's findings was that the German article was more of
a content digressive kind while the English article was of a straight, one-
perspective kind.
A possible explanation of the shift found in the superthematic structure
of Swedish articles is that it reflects a shift from German influence on our
text patterns before the Second World War to American influence after
1945. A shift in influence on our belief system on a more general level has
been discussed by many historians (Liedman 1977).
3. Pragmatic structure
The pragmatic analysis in the LSP project is directed towards both the
micro and the macro levels and has been carried out in two steps. Our
methods and a few results which have relevance to the hypotheses concern-
ing pattern variation and change are presented here.
3.1. Micro analysis: methods
The first step of the pragmatic analysis has as its aim a micro analysis of
the texts, and the method used is based on 'speech act' theories (cf. Austin
1976 and Searle 1969).
Each macrosyntagm (see section 2.2) has been categorized as to main
ILLOCUTION. Taking Searle's categories as our starting point, we ended
up with the following five main speech act types: iriformative (Inj), explicative
(Exp.), expressive (Ex pr.), argumentative (Arg.) and Directive (Dir.). We have
further distinguished a sixth type, named metacommunicative (Met.). This
type covers metacomments related to the text and comments on the
disposition of the text. Under each of the other main types of illocutions
we have also distinguished a set of subcategories.
For the purpose of this
paper the presentation of results will be confined to the six main types.
3.2. Micro analysis: result
Table 8.6 shows the mean proportion of each illocution type in our

As Table 8.6 shows, the overall percentages are rather similar for science
(S1-3) and popular science (P1-3). The diachronic developments within
the two genres are, however, somewhat different.
In science, the informative illocution type increases from period 1 to
period 3; a mean proportion of 51 per cent of the scientific articles have
been classified as informative in periods 1 and 2. In period 3, however, we
find that on average as much as 58 per cent of each text has been classified
as informative. For the scientific articles, we can further note an increase
in the metacommunicative type, from 5 per cent in period 1 to 10 per cent
in period 3. For all other illocution types, we find a decrease, for the
explicative type from 36 to 27 per cent, for the expressive from 5 per cent
to 1 per cent.
For the popular articles the tendencies are not so clear. A comparison
of periods 1 and 3 shows that the popular articles have become somewhat
more informative (from 50 to 55 per cent), a little less explicative (from
Table 8.6 Illocutionary types in the LSP articles. Mean proportion of the
Text grp Illocu tion type
Inf Exp Expr Arg Dir Met
% % % % % %
S1 51 36 5 2 3 5
S2 51 34 2 3 2 8
S3 58 27 1 2 10
S1-3 58 32 3 2 2 8
Popular Science
P1 50 31 3 2 6 7
P2 57 31 3 1 3 5
P3 55 28 3 2 2 9
P1-3 54 30 3 2 4 7
31 to 28 per cent), and a little more metacommunicative (from 7 to 9 per
cent). They have clearly become less directive (from 6 to 2 per cent), which
can mainly be attributed to a decrease in directiveness among the medical
popular articles (from 15 per cent in period 1 to 5 per cent in period 3.)
We find them, however, just as expressive and argumentative.
On the whole, the popular science text pattern is fairly similar with
regard to its illocutionary character over our three periods. For the scien-
tific articles we can, however, note a change between periods 2 and 3
towards texts of a more purely informative character. They could be said
to have become pure scientific reports in the positivistic academic
Worth noting is also the increase in the proportion of metacomments,
that is in comments on the disposition of the text and the like, an increase
that could be indicating successively firmer genre conventions, and an
awareness of these.
3.3. Macro analysis: method
The second step of the pragmatic analysis within the LSP project has been
directed towards the macro level. Our method of grasping this structure
builds on the branch of pragmatic theory which views both written and
oral texts as speech acts. Written texts are thus acts between authors and
readers. The author uses the text to get a message through to his or her
readers, to make them act or think in a desired way. The author is
Table 8.7 Goal information and auxiliary information
Categories Sub categories
Goal information
Auxiliary information aiming to secure
- comprehension
- conviction
- competence to act
Text goal
Action goal
Marking of author's authority
- Sender
- Expert
- Source
Indication of addressee
Indication of relevance of the message
Description of action
considered to have a main purpose in sending the message, and this main
purpose can be traced to one or more parts of the text. This part of the
text can be described as its goal information. The purpose of the other parts
of the text is to help make readers cooperate, understand, agree to, and
know how to act in accordance with the author's goal. This later informa-
tion is called auxiliary information (cf. Rossipal 1978).
In our analysis of pragmatic content we are thus categorizing the smaller
parts of the text in terms of their relationship to the main purpose, in
terms of their role within the purpose structure of the text. We distinguish
between goal information and auxiliary information as in Table 8.7.
The analysis of the purpose structure has also been made on a
macrosyntagmatic level. 7 All macrosyntagms have, however, not been
marked for this form of analysis. The categorization has only been made
where it was appropriate, which explains why the sum of the figures in the
following tables are less than 100 per cent.
3.4. Macro analysis: result
Table 8.8 shows the proportion of the different main categories in our LSP
As Table 8.8 shows the percentages of explicit goal information are very
low, lower in popular science than in science, 0.4 per cent for Pl-3 as
Table 8.8 Purpose structure in LSP articles. Mean proportion of the articles
Text grp Purpose structure
Goal information Auxiliary information
Coop Cmpr Conv Action
% % % % %
Sl 16 10 10 5
S2 13 17 7 3
S3 12 19 6 3
Sl-3 14 15 7 3
Popular Science
Pl 0.2 13 10 9 8
P2 0.4 12 10 9 4
P3 12 6 8 4
Pl-3 0.4 12 9 9 5
compared to 1 per cent for Sl-3. A comparison between the figures for the
scientific texts and those for the popular texts shows that the comprehen-
sion categories - definition, categorization, etc. were more often found
in the scientific articles than in popular articles, 15 per cent for S 1-3 as
compared to 9 per cent for Pl-3. The conviction categories - examples
and proofs - and the action description category were, on the other hand,
found more often in popular science than in science; 14 per cent (9 + 5) for
Pl-3 as compared to 10 per cent (7 + 3) for Sl-3.
Diachronically we find an increase for the comprehension categories in
science - from 10 to 19 per cent - and a decrease for the conviction and
action descriptive categories. This is in line with the general tendency
earlier discussed towards texts of a more purely informative character. As
was pointed out earlier, the proportion of argumentative and directive
illocutions decreased in science from 1900 to 1980.
In popular science, however, we find a decrease in the comprehension
categories, from 10 per cent in period 2 to 6 per cent in period 3. Popular
science follows, as mentioned above, a somewhat different pattern than the
science articles. We can also note the decrease in the proportion of action
descriptions in these texts, from 8 to 4 per cent.
With regard to the merged cooperation category presented in Table 8.8,
science and popular science show rather similar tendencies. A more diver-
sified picture is given, however, in Table 8.9, which shows the proportion
of the different cooperative subcategories: sender (Se), expert (Ex), source
(Sc), total markings of authority (Auth), that is Se + Ex + Sc, addressee
(Add), and relevance (ReI) (cf. Table 8.7).
Table 8.9 Cooperative information in LSP articles. Mean proportion of the
Text grp Cooperation category
Se Ex Sc Auth Add Rei
% % % % % %
Sl 6 5 2 13 2 2
S2 4 3 3 10 2 2
S3 3 6 9 1 1
Sl-3 4 5 2 11 2 2
Popular Science
Pl 2 5 1 8 4 2
P2 2 2 1 5 5 2
P3 2 3 2 7 4 1
Pl-3 2 3 7 4 2
As the figures in Table 8.9 show, we find more markings of authority
in science than in popular science; 11 per cent for Sl-3 as compared to
7 per cent for Pl-3. Senders and other experts are referred to by name,
pronoun or literature to a larger extent in the scientific articles than in the
popular ones. On the other hand, the reader is addressed to a greater
extent in popular science than in science, 4 per cent for Pl-3 and 2 per
cent for Sl-3.
Diachronically, the figures point to a tendency for the scientific articles
from the last period, that is around 1980, to refer less to both the sender
and the reader (Se + Add = 4 per cent) compared to articles from earlier
periods (Se + Add = 8 per cent in period 1). The scientific article could,
thus, in this respect be said to have become more impersonal. The writer
shows himself less in the text and he does not refer to the reader. Such
a change has, however, not taken place in the popular articles.
4. Discussion
This paper has described some changes over time in textual patterns as
well as differences between texts of different genres. From a sociolinguistic
viewpoint, changes in text patterns are reflections of changes in the contex-
tual frames within which the texts function, and the results can be summed
up by relating them to the four hypotheses earlier posed concerning the
correspondence between text and context.
The first hypothesis was 'Clearer genre boundaries', and the results
presented here point to clearer genre boundaries for the scientific text
genre. This genre has followed its own course of development. Scientific
articles have become more purely scientific (in the positivistic science tradi-
tion). As we have found, theme development plays a larger role in scien-
tific texts. They have become more purely informative, and more directed
towards comprehension. Other types of thematic and pragmatic content
have gradually decreased. The popular science texts have, however,
changed less in these respects.
The second hypothesis was 'Pattern shift after 1945', that is, shift from
a German type of pattern to an English type. For the linear thematic struc-
ture, the Swedish scientific article seems to have changed pattern in a
direction that could be related to a shift from a German content digressive
type to an English straight, one-perspective type. The main shift seems to
have taken place between periods 2 and 3, that is after 1945. An earlier
study of introductory parts has shown the same tendency towards greater
resemblance to the English pattern for the modern scientific article than for
older articles (Gunnarsson 1990b).
The third hypothesis was 'More expert character', and I would here like
to recall the more impersonal character of the scientific texts. We have
found that the explicit reference to sender and to reader has decreased. We
have also found a decrease in communicative illocutions, such as
expressive, argumentative and directive ones, and in auxiliary information
aiming at convincing the reader in a particular way. Even in this respect
the tendency is less clear for popular science.
The fourth hypothesis was 'Firmer conventions', and results indicate a
tendency towards a more homogeneous structuring of the scientific articles.
Articles from the three fields, economics, medicine and technology, were,
for example, found to converge with respect to their superthematic struc-
tures. The greater proportion of metacomments and comments on text
disposition in articles over our three periods is relevant for this hypothesis.
These results could be seen as reflections of a stronger awareness of genre
conventions among the writers.
This part of our investigation into textual patterns of LSP texts has
made it possible to describe and, to a certain extent, explain tendencies in
the development of the Swedish scientific article genre during this century.
For the popular science article genre, however, we have found less clear
tendencies, probably reflecting the fact that this genre is more
heterogeneous. There is no schooling - at least not in Sweden - to become
a writer of popular science articles as there is to become an accepted writer
of science articles.
1. The project team consists of myself as project director, Bjorn Melander, Harry
Naslund, and Bjorn Skolander.
2. Results of the cognitive analysis are for example presented in Melander (1989),
and results from the microsemantic analysis in Naslund (1989).
3. For a description of our macrothemes, see Gunnarsson (1989: 26-27).
4. The macrothematic and the pragmatic analyses have been carried out by Bjorn
5. For a description of our illocutions, see Gunnarsson (1989: 31-32).
6. The analysis of the marking of authority is rather detailed, with different categories
for senders referring to themselves, by pronoun, name, literature, for senders refer-
ring to other experts or to other authoritative sources.
7. For a description of our pragmatic categories, see Gunnarsson (1989: 27-30 and
Austin, J.L. (1976), How to do things with words, London, Oxford, New York, Oxford
University Press. 2nd edition.
Clyne, M. (1987), Cultural differences in the organization of academic texts. English
and German. Journal oj Pragmatics 11, 211-247.
Dudley-Evans, T. (1989), 'An Outline of the Value of Genre Analysis in LSP Work',
in Special Language: From Humans Thinking to Thinking Machines, Lauren, C. and M.
Nordman (eds), 72-79. Clevedon, Philadelphia, Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Gunnarsson, B.-L. (1987), 'Facktexten och den sociala kontexten. En Analysmodell',
in Facktext, B.-L. Gunnarsson (ed.), 72-103. Malmo, Liber.
-- (1989), Facktexter under 1900-talet 2. Metoder jor textanalys pa makro- och mikroniva,
FUMS Report nr 145, Uppsala University.
--(1990a), 'The LSP text and its social context. A model for text analysis', in Learn-
ing, Keeping and Using Language: Selected Papers jrom the Eighth World Congress oj Applied
Linguistics, vol. 2, M.A.K. Halliday, J. Gibbons, and H. Nicholas (eds), Amsterdam
Benjamins Pub!.
-- (1990b), 'Makrotematiska och pragmatiska monster i medicinska artiklar', in
Svenskans Beskrivning 17. Abo.
--(1992), 'Linguistic change within cognitive worlds', in Diachrony within Synchrony:
Language History and Cognition, G. Kellerman and M.D. Morrisey (eds), 205-228,
Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang Verlag.
Gunnarsson, B.-L. Melander, B., and Naslund, H. (1987), Facktexter under 1900-talet
1. Projektpresentation och materialbeskrivning, FUMS Report No. 135, Uppsaia Univer-
Hoey, Michae!. (1983), On the surface oj discourse, London, George Allen and Unwin.
Liedman, S.E. (1977), Den vetenskapliga specialiseringen. Begrepp, aktuella problem
och tillampningar, Report No. 95, Institutionen for Vetenskapsteori, Gothenburgh
Melander, B. (1989) Facktexter under 1900-talet 3. Resultatjran kognitiv textanalys, FUMS
Report No. 148, Uppsala University.
Naslund, H. (1989), Facktexter under 1900-talet 4. Resultatjran kognitivt inriktad referen-
tanalys, FUMS Report No. 149, Uppsala University.
Rossipal, H. (1978), Funktionale Textanalyse. Denotation und Konnotation als
Textwirkungsmittel, Tyska institutionen. Stockholms universitet.
Searle, J. (1969), Speech Acts. An Essay in the Philosophy oj Language, London, New York,
Cambridge University Press.
Swaies, John (1981), Aspects oj article introductions, Birmingham, England, University
of Aston.
Part V. Computer applications
9 Text processing using the Functional Grammar
Processor (FG P) *
Jonathan j. Webster
Various programs have been designed to assist in the analysis of texts. One
example is the Oxford Concordance Program, a general-purpose computer
program capable of making frequency counts, constructing concordances,
and testing for the collocational range of targeted lexical items. Here I will
be describing quite a different approach to text analysis by computer.
The Functional Grammar Processor (FG P) is a tool to assist in the
analysis of texts following M.A.K. Halliday's approach outlined in his
Introduction to Functional Grammar in terms of theme-rheme structure, mood-
residue and transitivity. This text differs from Halliday's previous work in
that the emphasis is on the structural rather than the systemic portion of
a description of English. The program interfaces between user and text,
taking one through the process of clause analysis leading to the construc-
tion of a prolog-based database containing information about the functional
analysis of a particular text. From this database of clause analyses, one can
access information about consistent patterns of use within a given text, or
compare usage patterns across texts belonging to a particular genre.
Clause as basic lexicogrammatical unit
The clause as meaningful unit is the most basic lexicogrammatical unit in
Halliday's functional grammar. The text is also a semantic unit but at a
higher level in the hierarchy. Both clause and text belong to that large
collection of vertical or semiotic units described by Sydney Lamb as 'links
between communicative functions or meanings and the means of express-
ing them' (1985: 16). 'In order to provide insights into the meaning and
Adapted from the paper 'Linguistic Information Processing and the Functional Grammar
Processor' which I presented as the Featured Lecture at the 17th Annual LACUS Forum held
at the State University of California at Fullerton, August 7-11, 1990.
effectiveness of a text,' states Halliday, 'a discourse grammar needs to be
functional and semantic in its orientation, with the grammatical categories
explained as the realization of semantic patterns' (1985: xvii). Functional
grammar provides just the orientation.
The starting point for analyzing the text is the clause. Clauses make it
possible to create text, explains Halliday, because a clause 'has itself
evolved by analogy with the text as model and can thus represent the
meanings of a text in a rich variety of different ways' (1981: 44). A clause
is related to text along two axes (1981: 39), one being composition - clause
as constituent of the text, the other being realization - clause as instantia-
tion of the text. Halliday describes a clause as 'a text in microcosm, a
"universe of discourse" of its own in which the semiotic properties of a
text reappear on a miniature scale'. The three functional-semantic
components - ideational, interpersonal, and textual - each contribute in
their own way to the form of the clause.
Structural topical
theme theme rheme clause as
theme rheme
process phenomenon representallo n
Actor Mat Proc Goal
Pred Coni Sub) Mln Pred Complement
mood residue clause as
Figure 9.1
Figure 9.1 illustrates the structure of the following clause complex in
terms of theme, mood and transitivity. The clause is meaningful in three
senses: as message, as a means of representing patterns of experience, and
as a form of exchange (1985: 38, 68, 101). The clause as message is
describable in terms of its thematic structure. Given a text, 'the thematic
organization of the clauses (and clause complexes where relevant)
expresses, and so reveals, the method of development of the text ... by
analyzing the thematic structure of a text clause by clause, we can gain
insight into its texture and understand how the writer made clear to us the
nature of his underlying concerns' (Halliday 1985: 67).
The clause as representation of the processes of doing, happening, feel-
ing, being is organized into three components or elements each of which
is typically realized by members of a particular word class: 'a pattern',
Halliday suggests, 'that in some form or other is probably universal among
human languages' (1985: 102; Table 5(1) from the same page follows):
type of elements:
(i) process
(ii) participant
(iii) circumstance
typically realized by:
verbal group
nominal group
adverbial group or
prepositional phrase
Mood and residue are two constituents of the clause as exchange. The
Mood element consists of Subject plus Finite, the Residue consists of
Predicator, Complement and Adjunct. While Halliday recognizes that the
Mood element has little significance beyond the immediate sequence of
clauses in which it occurs, he nevertheless points out that 'the ongoing
selection of Subjects by a speaker or writer does give a characteristic
flavour to a piece of discourse' (1985: 98).
The Functional Grammar Processor
The Functional Grammar Processor runs on any IBM PC AT compatible
in either monochrome or color. The Functional Grammar (FG) Processor
is fully integrated with Borland's Sprint, a popular word processing
package. The text to be analyzed is called up first in Sprint. The user then
highlights the clause to be analyzed and selects from the FGP pop-up menu
to do either Theme-Rheme, Mood-Residue or Transitivity analysis. (See
Displays 9.1 and 9.2; see p. 189).
The FG Processor, written in Turbo Prolog, next appears on the screen.
The user enters his/her analysis into the appropriate fields guided by an
on-line help system. Displays 9.3 and 9.4 (see p. 190) show the mood-
residue analysis for the first clause from the TEXT 1 document: Stitching
together the ideal computer system for your business can often be a difficult operation.
Displays 9.5, 9.6 and 9.7 (see pp. 191 and 192) illustrate transitivity
analysis on the same clause. In Display 9.6, the on-line help is
demonstrated. The user is aware that 'can often be' is a relational process,
but (s)he is evidently not sure what type - whether intensive, circumstan-
tial, or possessive - so while still in the 'Type' menu, (s)he presses the
HELP key (which is F1 as indicated in the status line at the bottom of the
screen) and up pops the HELP information about the six types of rela-
tional process in English. Displays 9.8 and 9.9 (see pp. 192 and 193)
exhibit theme-rheme analysis.
Text views
Once completed, the analysis is saved in two forms: one return in a more
user-friendly form to a Sprint document; the second stored as prolog terms
in a Turbo Prolog external database. The original text file remains
At the outset, one text file - the original text - exists; we'll call it
'TEXT.SPR'. When I highlight the clause to be analyzed and select
Theme-Rheme analysis from the FGP pop-up menu, a new file
'TEXT1. THM' is immediately created to receive back the analyzed
clause. TEXTl.THM looks exactly like TEXTl.SPR except for that
previously highlighted clause which is now in analyzed form. Once
TEXTl.THM has been created, theme-rheme analysis must be continued
with it and not the original document. In fact, if TEXTl. THM does
already exist and the user attempts to do theme-rheme analysis on a
highlighted clause in the original document, the program will automatically
replace the original document, TEXT1.SPR, on the screen with the
existing'. THM file. Similarly, new text files are created to give a text-
view of clause analyses for mood-residue and transitivity (process-
participant-circumstance ).
(original document)
Display 9.10
.- -,
.------...-- ---..
----------,., .....-------,.
- . . . - - ~ - . - - - - - - ~
(theme-rheme) (mood-residue) (Transitivity)
Display 9.11 Display 9.12 Display 9.13
Figure 9.2
These text-views become the focus of interaction between user and text.
From them the user can highlight another clause for analysis, or even
highlight a previously analyzed clause and modify the previous analysis or
delete it. The text-views also facilitate embedded analyses. For example, in
the second sentence of TEXT1 - But when you have the right connections,
everything can be tailor made to suit your needs. - at the level of clause complex,
we might analyze the sentence as follows:
[ref(2), theme (Istruct(But), clause-as-theme (when you have the right connec-
tions)]) , rheme (everything can be tailor-made to suit your needs.)]
the modifier clause, when you have the right connections, is in thematic position
before the head clause. The analysis does not stop there, however, as we
still need to analyze both the modifier and head clauses for theme-rheme
structure. In TEXTl. THM, I then highlight just the modifer clause for
[ref(2), theme ([struct(But) , clause-as-theme (when you have the right connec-
tions)]) , rheme (everything can be tailor-made to suit your needs.)]
with the result given below:
[ref(2), theme ([struct(But) , clause-as-theme (
[ref(3), theme ([struct(when) , topical(you)]), rheme (have the right connec-
tions,)])]), rheme (everything can be tailor-made to suit your needs.)]
Likewise, the head clause,
[ref(2), theme (Istruct(But), clause-as-theme (
[ref(3), theme ([struct(when), topical (you)]), rheme (have the right connec-
tions, )l)]), rheme (everything can be tailor-made to suit your needs.)]
requires analysis as shown below:
[ref(2), theme ([struct(But) , clause-as-theme (
[ref(3), theme ([struct(when) , topical (you)]), rheme (have the right connec-
tions,)])]), rheme (
[ref(4), theme ([topical (everything)]), rheme (can be tailor-made to suit your
needs. )]
Where two interpretations of the same clause are possible, one the literal
or congruent, the other metaphorical, both analyses can be included. Halli-
day gives as an example of a grammatical metaphor in the interpersonal
component the sentence I don't believe that pudding ever will be cooked.' Here,
the opening phrase I don't believe functions as an interpersonal (modal)
[ref(3), alternative-to ([ 1 ,2]), theme ([modal-adj (I don't believe), topical
(that pudding)]), rheme (ever will be cooked)]
The list of integer values assigned to 'alternative-to' indicates the clause
analysis/analyses where the congruent interpretation of this clause is given:
[ref( 1 ), theme ([topical (I)]), rheme (don't believe)]
[ref(2), theme ([topical (that pudding)]), rheme (ever will be cooked.)]
Besides the text-view, analyses are also saved as prolog terms in a Turbo
Prolog external database. Prolog is what is known as a declarative or
database language. For instance after analyzing the first clause of the docu-
ment TEXT1 in terms of theme-rheme, mood-residue and transitivity
structures, our database would contain the following three terms:
1, [ref(1), theme ([e('topical', 'Stitching together the ideal computer system for
your business')]' rheme (,can often be a difficult operation.')]
2, [ref( 1), mood ([m (' subject', 'Stitching together the ideal computer system for
your business'), m('finite', 'can'), m (,mood-adj', 'often')]), residue ([r
('pred', 'be'), r ('complement', 'a difficult operation.')])]
3, [ref(l), participant ([e ('carrier', 'Stitching together the ideal computer
system for your business')]), process ([e (,intensive', 'can often be')]), partici-
pant (le (,attrib', 'a difficult operation.')])]
In this way, information about the clauses that comprise a text can be
accessed easily and efficiently. In fact, two external database files are saved
for each text, one containing the screen data (what the contents were of
each field in the analysis screen when the user saved the analysis and
exited to Sprint), the other the analyses themselves. The file containing the
screen data is necessary for the functioning of the program - it is not
accessible by the user. If, as mentioned before, you highlight a previously
analyzed clause, then the analysis screen will appear just as you left it
when you saved and exited to Sprint. This makes it easier for the user to
modify a previous analysis. The second database file was designed to
support further extension of the software in two ways: (a) to enable a user
to query the database for information about consistent patterns of usage;
(b) to facilitate future automation of certain steps in the analytical process.
Work on a dictionary to accompany the processor has also been success-
fully completed. To this end, I translated the Pascal source code for
Borland's Turbo Lightning's engine into C so as to permit direct access
of Turbo Lightning's dictionary and thesaurus entries from within Prolog.
Processing for meaning
The solution structure emerging from a lexicogrammatical description
involving the three levels of structural analysis (theme-rheme, mood-
residue, and transitivity) enables one to show how, and why, the text
means what it does (1985: xv). Ruqaiya Hasan's (1989) analysis of Les
Murray's poem, Widower in the country, clearly demonstrates how a
knowledge of theme-rheme, mood-residue and transitivity structures
provides the basis for identifying foregrounding thereby contributing
greatly to our understanding of the meaning of the text.
Contributing to the understanding of the text is, in fact, the lower of two
possible levels of achievement for the linguist to aim at. 'The higher level
achievement', says Halliday, , is a contribution to the evaluation of the text:
the linguistic analysis may enable one to say why the text is, or is not, an
effective text for its own purposes in what respects it succeeds and in
what respect it fails, or is less successful' (1985: xv). Understanding the
text is one thing, evaluating the text is another. The latter 'assumes an
interpretation not only of the environment of the text, its "context of situa-
tion" and context of culture, but also of how the linguistic features of a
text relate systematically to the features of its environment, including the
intentions of those involved in its production' (1985: xv, xvi).
The relationship between text and context is described by Hasan (1981:
111) as two fold for the acculturated reader:
If we have access to the context, we can predict the essentials of the text;
if we have access to the text, then we can infer the context from it.
Given the semiotic encoding of the context of situation, Hasan argues, 'we
can predict the crucial semantic elements of the embedded text as well as
the permitted range for the over-all message form' (1981: 110). The ability
to make predictions - that the listener and reader have a good idea of what
to expect - follows from 'the organisation of a text, and in particular the
relation of a text, as a semantic unit, to a clause as the primary
lexicogrammatical unit through which it is realized' (Halliday 1981 :
43.44). Analyzing texts in terms of theme-rheme, mood-residue, and tran-
sitivity structures can thus contribute to our knowledge of what constitutes
that 'permitted range for the over-all message form'.
A word processor assists the writer by making the task of writing easier
to accomplish. Of course, the writer must still know what (s)he wants to
communicate, the computer does not itself create the text. Similarly, the
Functional Grammar Processor assists the user in doing the analysis; it also
facilitates the subsequent retrieval of information about the text by collec-
ting all the clause analyses into a global database. The user must still do
the analysis, e.g. the user identifies the next element in the clause, enters
that element into the appropriate field, decides the analysis is complete,
exits and saves. The computer does not interpret meaning - perhaps that
will come later - for now, it only records the interpretation made by the
user. The user must know how to analyze the text, the computer does not
itself understand the text. The FGP is a tool, a processor, not a parser.
Its potential as a parser, however, should not be overlooked.
The FGP as a blackboard system
Conceptually, the FG Processor resembles ill certain respects the
blackboard model of problem solving. Different knowledge sources
participate in 'assembling' a solution. Edward Feigenbaum calls it
, "knowledge assembly" - finding the right piece of knowledge to build
into the right place
Engelmore et al.
blackboard model:
in the emerging solution structure' (1988: vi).
(1988: 4) identify two basic components of the
(1) The knowledge sources
The knowledge needed to solve the problem partitioned into knowledge
sources, which are kept separate and independent.
(2) The blackboard data structure
The problem-solving state data are kept in a global database, the
blackboard. Knowledge sources produce changes to the blackboard
which lead incrementally to a solution to the problem. Communication
and interaction among the knowledge sources take place solely through
the blackboard.
The three kinds of structural analysis that together comprise the FG
Processor are each a knowledge source, a knowledge module. Each
participates 'in the incremental generation of partial solutions' (Engelmore
et al., 1988: 5). How they do so is by making changes to the blackboard.
The modules are independent of one another, each has its own unique
terminology and organization. But they may interact by means of the
blackboard. Whenever a clause is analyzed, by whichever module, that
analysis is saved as a Prolog term to an external database - the
blackboard. Each module looks to the blackboard, responding 'oppor-
tunistically to changes on the blackboard' (Engelmore et al., 1988: 13).
In further developing the FGP attention must be given to automating
this aspect of the system - opportunistic reasoning. A set of control
modules are necessary to monitor changes to the blackboard and set the
agenda for further work toward a solution structure.
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9: 17am Ln.4 of 32
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sub-system: for b LGAR uninterruptable
power supply. We can offer you the Canon LBP-8ll server printer,
PROTEaN token ring, HYUNDAI terminal workstations, BICC coaxial
PLUS, and CSPI BABY/36, in fact, virtually everything to help
your computers connect with each other.
It's all at extremely competitive prices and the Jardine Office
Systems service includes warranty, installation, and even staff

C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXT1.SPR Ins Sel 9:18am Ln.3 of 32
Display 9.2
r----------------------------[ Mood-Residue Structure
Clause Stitching
can often
rut side
together the ideal computer system for your business
be a difficult operation.
Mood Adjunct
Reference No. Alt Document C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXTl
[Esc}-Exit [F1}-Help [F5}-Write [F5}-Erase [F9}-Menu [FIO}-Save
Display 9.3
r---------------------------[ Mood-Residue Structure

1 Interpersonal Textual
Mood Structure'-------------------------------------------------------------,
Subject Stitching together the ideal computer system for your business
Finite can Mood Adjunct often
Predicator be Complement a difficult operationo
Circumstantial Adjunct

mood(subject(Stitching together the ideal computer system for your
business).finite(can) ,mood_adj(often)) ,residue(pred(be ).complement(a
difficult operation.))
Reference No. Alt Document C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXTl
[Esc}-Exit [Fl)-Help [F5)-Write [F6)-Erase [F9)-Menu [F10}-Save
Display 9.4
r---------------------------[ Transitivity Structure
Clause Stitching together the ideal computer system for your business
can often be a difficult operation.
I Textual
Reference No. Alt Document C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXTl
[Esc}-Exit [Fl)-Help [F5)-Write [F5}-Erase [F9)-Menu [FIO}-Save
Display 9.5
r---------------------------[ Transitivity Structure ) __________________________ --.
Clause a difficult operation.

,Process Process ]
Ican often be A. Material
HELP [ Type } HELP ------,---, B. Mental
There are six types of relational ---[ Type ] Behavioural
in English: Intensive Relational
(1) intensive - the relationship is Circumstantial Verbal
one of sameness; the one 'is' the other.
(11) circumstantial - the relationship
between the two terms is one of time,
place, manner, cause, accompaniment,
matter or role.
(iii) possessive - the relationship
between the two terms is one of owner-
ship; one possesses the other.
(From Halliday, 1985:114,119,121)
Possessive Existential
[Esc)-Exit [Fl)-Help [F5}-Write [F5}-Erase [F9}-Menu [FIO}-Save
Display 9.6
,----------------------------( Transitivity Structure

lean often be

difficult operation.
prtpnt(carrier(Stitching together the ideal computer system for your
business)),proc(intensive(can often be)),prtpnt(attrib(a difficult
operation. ) )
Reference No. Alt Document C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXTl
(Esc]-Exit (Fl]-Help (F5]-Write (F6]-Erase (F9]-Menu [F10]-Save
Display 9.7
r-----------------------------[ Theme-Rheme Structure
Clause (Complex): Stitching together the ideal computer system for your busi
as theme
continuative structural conjunctive adjunct

vocative modal(Adjunct) finite verb WH-(?)

Stitching together the ideal computer system for your business can ofl
Reference No. Alt Document C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXTl
l ________________________________________________________________
[Esc]-Exit [Fl]-Help (F5]-Write (F6]-Erase (F7/F8]-Shift (F9]-Menu [F10]-Save
Display 9.8
,----------------------------( Theme-Rheme Structure ]--------__________________ --,
Clause (Complex): can often be a difficult operation.
/Clause as theme
Textual----------------,-________________________ -r ________________________ --,
conjunctive adjunct
Interpersonal----,-------______________ r-__________________ -, ______________ -,
vocative modal(Adjunct)
fini te verb WH-(?)
Stitching together the ideal computer system for your business
topical(Stitching together the ideal computer system for your
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Stitching together the ideal computer system for your business
can often be a difficult operation.
But when you have the right connections, everything can be
tailor,made to suit your
At Jardine Office Systems, We not only offer you unrivalled
expertise, but also an entire range of software and hardware
capable of maximising your output, in any multivendor or local
are networking environment.
The ALR serve systems give exceptional speed and performance
capacity, and with a Novell operating system, you can monitor and
control every activity on the network.
Then, to further increase your capabilities, we can offer you a
superb range of the very latest equipment.
For extra storage and tape backup capability, there's the CORE
sub-system; for back-up power, we have the ELGAR uninterruptable
power supply. We can offer you the Canon LBP-8ll server printer.
PROTEON token ring, HYUNDAI terminal workstations, BICC coaxial
PLUS, and CSPI BABY/36, in fact, Virtually everything to help
your computers connect with each other.
It's all at extremely competitive prices and the Jardine Office
Systems service includes warranty, installation, and even staff
training. .
C:\PROLOG\TOOLBOX\TEXT1.SPR Ins 9:04am Ln.2 of 32
Display 9.10
T 2 3
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system for your business)] ),rheme(can often be a diff1cult
operation. )]
But when you have the right connections, everything can be
tailor-made to suit your
At Jardine Office Systems, we not only offer you unrivalled
expertise, but also an entire range of software and hardware
capable of maximising your output, in any multivendor or local
are networking environment.
The ALR serve systems give exceptional speed and performance
capacity, and with a Novell operating system. you can monitor and
control every activity on the network.
Then, to further increase your capabilities, we can offer you a
superb range of the very latest equipment.
For extra storage and tape backup capability, there's the CORE
for back-up power, we have the ELGAR uninterruptable
power supply. We can offer you the Canon LBP-811 server
PROTEON token ring, HYUNDAI terminal workstations, BICC coax1al
PLUS, and CSPI BABY/36, in fact, virtually everything to help
your computers connect with each other.
9:26am Ln.6 of 35
Display 9.11
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[ref(l),mood-residue( [mood(subject(Stitching together the ideal
computer system for your business),finite(can),mood_adJ(often)),
residue(pred(be),complement(a difficult operation.))])]
But when you have the right connections, everything can be
tailor-made to suit your needs.
At Jardine Office Systems, we .not only offer you unrivalled
expertise, but also an entire range of software and hardware
capable of maximising your output, in any multivendor or local
are networking environment.
The ALR serve systems give exceptional speed and performance
capacity, and with a Novell operating system, you can monitor and
control every activity on the network.
Then, to further increase your capabilities, we can offer you a
superb range of the very latest equipment.
For extra storage and tape backup capability, there's the CORE
sUb-system; for back-up power, we have the ELGAR uninterruptable
power supply. We can offer you the Canon LBP-8ll server
PROTEaN token ring, HYUNDAI terminal workstations, BICC coax1al
PLUS, and CSPI BABY/36, in fact, virtually everything to help
your computers connect with each other.
]L 7
It's all at extremely competitive prices and the Jardine Office
C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXT1.MDR * Ins 9:34am Ln.4 of 34
Display 9,12
T 2 5 6
[ref(l),transitivity([prtpnt(carrier(Stitching together the ideal
computer system for your busines5,proc(intensive(can often
be)),prtpnt(attrib(a difficult operation.))])]
But when you have the right connections. everything can be
tailor-made to suit your needs.
At Jardine Office Systems, we not only offer you unrivalled
expertise, but also an entire range of software and hardware
capable of maximising your output, in any multivendor or local
are networking environment.
The ALR serve systems give exceptional speed and performance
capacity. and with a Novell operating system, you can monitor and
control every activity on the network.
Then. to further increase your capabilities, we can offer you a
superb range of the very latest equipment. a
For extra storage and tape backup capability, there's the CORE
sub-system; for back-up power, we have the ELGAR uninterruptable
power supply. We can offer you the Canon LBP-811 server printer,
PROTEON token ring, HYUNDAI terminal workstations, BICC coaxial
PLUS, and CS PI BABY/36, in fact, virtually everything to help
your computers connect with each other.
It's all at extremely competitive prices and the Jardine Office
C:\SP\SPDOCS\TEXT1.PPC * Ins 9:48am Ln.6 of 34
Display 9.13
Engclmore, R., A.J. Morgan and H.P. Nii (1988), Introduction to Engelmore, R.
and T. Morgan (eds), Blackboard Systems, New York, Addison-Wesley Publishing
Feigenbaum, E. (1988), Forward to Engelmore, R. and T. Morgan (eds),
Blackboard Systems, New York, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1981), 'Text Semantics and Clause Grammar: Some patterns
of realization', The seventh LACUS forum, James E, Copeland and P.W. Davis
(eds), Columbia SC, Hornbeam Press, 31-60.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985), Introduction to Functional Grammar, London, Edward
Hasan, Ruqaiya (1981), 'What's Going On: A Dynamic View of Context in
Language', The seventh LACUSforum, James E. Copeland and P.W. Davis. (eds),
Columbia SC Hornbeam Press, 106-121.
Hasan, Ruqaiya (1989), Linguistics, language, and verbal art, Oxford, Oxford Univer-
sity Press.
Lamb, Sydney M. (1985), 'Descriptive Process' The eleventh LACUS forum, Robert
A. Hall, Jr. (ed.), Columbia SC, Hornbeam Press, 5-20.
10 Collocation in computer modelling of lexis as
most delicate grammar
Marilyn Cross
1 Lexis in generation
The term lexis will be used to refer to 'the resources of the vocabulary. f
coverin both the static organisation of vocal:mlary and th: process 0
lexical (Matthiessen 1988a, p. 3). LexIs contrasts w;th
widely used term 'lexicon' (cf. Mel'tuk and 198; Iren urg
and Raskin 1987), which tends to cover vocabulary m much the. same way
as in lexicography, treating it from the three aspects of
and phonology. The term lexicon will be reserved for th: orgamzatlOn 0
vocabulary from a lexicographical position and also m extracts from
authors referred to in this chapter. Tucker and (1991) who have
also been implementing lexis as most delicate grammar m the
ro'ect (Fawcett and Tucker, 1990) recently made the pomt : at e
p paradigm for lexis in computer syst.ems for. parsmg . and
text is the 'list', following the lexIcographIcal parad.Igm
Indeed one might suggest that the development of transformatlOna
grammar with its claim for the 'autonomy .of from
has been influential in the development of a hst paradlgm for
the lexicon (ter Meulen 1988, p. 433). ..' _
Until recently, lexis has received relatIvely attentl?n from genera
tionists _ 'in most of the generation systems, leXIcal s?lectlO
could not. b
a primary concern due to the overwhelming compleXIty of the generatlOn
problem itself' (Pustejovsky and Nirenburg 1987, p. 201). Ho,":ever,
generationists are bound to treat lexis in some manner and
Cumming (1986), that treatment is very varied. One aspect of
tion has been the creation of a division between grammar and lexIs on t e
basis of closed and open systems;
o en-class items are not only conceptually different closed-class
but are processed differently as well. Closed class Items have no
epistemological status other than procedural attachments to conceptual
and discourse information (Pustejovsky and Nirenburg 1987, p. 205).
The original conception of the Nigel grammar was to run with a
separate lexicon that generated open-class lexical items and for gram-
matical items to be generated through the grammar module (Mann 1983).
Not every generationist has subscribed to the division of grammatical
words from lexical words (Matthiessen 1988a). In McKeown's TEXT, the
dictionary component covers both the open-class and closed-class lexical
items (McKeown 1985). Patten's (1988) generator has no separate lexicon,
but outputs both grammatical and lexical words as a result of the choices
taken in both the semantic and grammatical networks. Ward (1988)
departs from the multi-stage model of generation (McDonald, Vaughan
and Pustejovsky 1987), using a single semantic network to represent both
linguistic knowledge and world knowledge. Words are selected through
cumulative activation of the network.
The task of choosing appropriately from the open-class of lexical items
has been tackled in various ways. Some form of discrimination net is quite
commonly used in which selection tests are applied to pick the appropriate
word (Goldman 1975; Pustejovsky and Nirenburg 1987). In Babel
(Goldman 1975) verb senses are given 'defining characteristics' that enable
differentiation of one lexical verb from another. For example, to differen-
tiate drink from eat, which both have the underlying concept INGEST, the
Object has the property FLUID for drink but not for eat.
One problem with discrimination nets is the tendency to include
constraints that originate from heterogenous sources. In the example from
Babel, not only is there information based on lexical constraints, but also
information that is grammatically motivated - for example, constraints
based on Beneficiary and Tense. Thus, the basis of the discrimination net
tends to be somewhat eclectic. Of interest, is the demonstration by
Matthiessen (1988c) that the discrimination nets of Goldman that are based
on ideational meaning fit readily into an extension of the dispositive
Process network.
In the generators discussed, the emphasis has been on selecting the
'correct' lexical item. Hovy (1985; 198 7 a) has been concerned to differen-
tiate between lexical items that have some degree of synonymy in texts. In
an exploration of how to 'slant' texts, Hovy uses a lexicon in which items
are tagged for affect (1985) and in which the selection of lexical items is
based on rhetorical goals that mediate between a speaker's pragmatic goals
and a text's style (1987a).
2 Prolegomena to a model for lexis
2.1 Lexis as closed or open system
In order to examine the case for a cline between grammar and lexis, the
traditional treatment of lexis as an open system will be discussed and
contrasted with the treatment of grammar as a closed system.
A closed system is a series of terms where the list of terms is exhaustive,
each term excludes all the others and if a new term is added, at least one
of the previous terms undergoes a change of meaning, so that in effect a
new system replaces the old (Halliday 1961). From this perspective, gram-
mar is characterized by closed relations where there is a choice among a
fixed number of possibilities: for example, in the personal pronoun set,
class membership is closed - a new pronoun is much less likely to be added
(Halliday 1985b). If the lexis does not readily behave as a closed system,
one alternative is to view it as an open system. For lexis, class membership
is open and extendable. Even so, the addition of a new lexical item does
result in a shift in the organization of the relationships existing between the
members of the set:
(a linguistic) move has a repercussion upon the whole system .... The
changes in values which result may be, in any particular circumstance,
negligible, or very serious, or of moderate importance (Saussure 1906,
p. 88).
As an example, the addition of the lexical item AIDS to the set of
sexually transmitted diseases does not come into a lexical void but fits into
a system of disease types, contrasting with the other members of the set.
Thus, one basis for meaning for both grammatical and lexical items is their
value in a paradigmatic system:
a system in which all the elements fit together, and in which the value
of anyone element depends on the simultaneous coexistence of all the
others (Saussure 1906, p. 113).
The work of computational linguists building ontologies for the lexicons
of machine readable dictionaries attests to this viewpoint (Byrd et al. 1987;
Wilks et al. 1989). If the basis for relating the items of closed and open sets
is one of paradigmatic relations, the distinction between grammatical and
lexical items is not one of kind but one of quantity. Halliday (1961) has
maintained that the difference between grammar and lexis is in terms of
delicacy in the system network.
2.2 Lexis as most delicate grammar
It is three decades ago that Halliday remarked:
The grammarian's dream ... is to turn the whole of linguistic form into
grammar, hoping to show that lexis can be defined as 'most delicate
grammar' (Halliday 1961, p. 256).
The feasibility of the task of 'extending a lexicogrammatical network in
delicacy so as to turn it into a device for the description and generation
of ... lexical items' (Hasan 1987, p. 185) was explored for some material
Processes by Hasan (1985; 1987).
Hasan (1987) explored how Processes 'whose completion results in
gainlloss of access to things' (p. 187), for example, the lexical items gather,
collect and accumulate might be described as part of the Transitivity region
of grammar. The systems that led to the generation of the lexical items
were treated as more delicate choices within the material Process category.
The choice of features in the lexical extension of the grammatical networks
not only influenced lexical choice but also had contingent structural effects
(cf. Fawcett 1987).
The critical theoretical tenet underpinning the grammarian's dream is
the scale of delicacy, which enables grammar to be extended out to lexis.
Delicacy enables linguistic description to be made at varying degrees of
abstraction, beginning with the most abstract or primary degree of delicacy
and continuing along the scale until that level of abstraction is reached that
is sufficient for the descriptive task (Halliday 1976a, pp. 62-67). Two
assumptions that spring from this tenet are that grammar and lexis are
unified on a continuum and that lexical items may be distinguished by
grammatical criteria. The result of the grammarian's dream is that the
division between lexis and grammar disappears and the resources merge.
2.3 Collocation
Firth (1957a) first introduced into descriptive linguistics the idea of mean-
ing by collocation, in which part of the meaning of word is given by its
habitual association with other words. Firth maintained that meaning by
collocation was 'an abstraction at the syntagmatic level' and was not
concerned with the conceptual approach to word meaning (Firth 1957a, p.
196). Following the discussion of Halliday (1966), one may suggest that the
range of collocation is correlated with different grammatical forms:
it is not to say there is no interrelation between structural and colloca-
tional patterns; but . .. their interdependence can be regarded as
mutual rather than as one-way (and) it will be more clearly displayed by
a form of statement which first shows grammatical and lexical restric-
tions separately and then brings them together (Halliday 1966, p. 152).
Matthiessen (1990) has briefly discussed the collocation of various gram-
matical functions, such as Medium and Range with certain kinds of
processes, which is an important outcome of the research reported here
(refer sections 3.2 and 3.6). How the lexical restrictions may be captured
in a representation is another question, but it is a problem that may be
addressed on a large scale and empirically now that machine based corpora
and dictionaries are available (Velardi and Pazienza 1989; Wilks et al.
1988, 1989; Small et al. 1988). As collocation is a relationship between
lexical items that co-varies with grammatical patterns (Halliday 1966), it
may be accounted for in a model of lexis as most delicate grammar.
2. 1- Lexical restrictions and register
Register theory deals with the interrelationship between linguistic variation
and types of audience and situation (Bateman and Paris 1989a) in a prin-
cipled linguistic way:
Types of situation differ from one another, broadly speaking in three
respects: first, as regards to what is actually taking place [field];
secondly, as regards what part the language is playing [model; and,
thirdly, as regards who is taking part [ tenor]. These three variables,
taken together, determine the range within which meanings are selected
and the forms which are used for their expression .... What the theory
of register does is to attempt to uncover the general principles which
govern this variation, so that we can begin to understand what situ a-
tional factors determine what linguistic features . . . (Halliday 1978:
One observation that may be made from the examination of collocation is
that register plays a part in the selectional restriction of lexis. Register is
relevant to the treatment of lexis both for text understanding and genera-
tion. For robustness, a generator should provide the flexibility to deal with
heterogeneous texts. Pragmatically, once the register of a text genre is
defined, the range of choice available for those texts is circumscribed. The
narrowing of choice begins at the level of text structure and continues right
through to the lexis. At the level of lexis, it seems almost trite to claim that
in texts, for example, about the environment, the probability of lexical
items such as hippopotamus or love occurring would be relatively low.
However, its implications for the organization of lexis for generation is
profound (refer Wilks et al. 1989 and Small et al. 1988 on lexical
ambiguity). Not only is the choice of items restricted, but by extension, the
collocational sets into which the items enter are limited. Thus, for exam-
ple, if one takes the lexical item water in pedagogical texts on the water
cycle, and a range of three lexical items either side of water, the significant
collocational set (Sinclair 1966) would include cycle, fresh, supply, evaporate,
vapour, land, area, fall, snow, drain, rain, lots, turn, little, drop, cloud, big. The
pervasiveness of water in this domain may be compared with the distribu-
tion of the item in a medical domain where the few occurrences relate to
its role as a medium for disease, for example, water-borne hepatitis (Hobbs
Given that register predicts what forms may occur, it may be seen as
selecting both the range of the lexis and the collocational set. It is possible
then, to reflect this in the lexis. The logical outcome is to limit or filter
the range of lexis available to the generator, for example, the subworld
division of Nirenburg and Raskin (1987) for machine translation and
Pustejovsky and Nirenburg (1987) for generation. Even where the goal is
to provide a lexical resource that covers a heterogeneity of text types
(Calzorlari and Picchi 1988; Pazienza and Velardi 1987), there may be
some account taken of register, for example, the utilisation of field descrip-
tors such as 'engineering' in the LDOCE (Wilks et al. 1988). The solution
to build a different lexis for each project has the usual limitation of
scalability (Wilks et al. 1988, 1989).
2.5 A model for lexis
A model of lexis as most delicate grammar extends grammar along the
scale of delicacy out to lexis. Its affinity is with the multi-stage models of
generation, such as Mann (1983), McKeown (1985) and Patten (1988).
The treatment of lexis as most delicate grammar has its closest counterpart
in Patten (1988) and follows the general model described by (Matthiessen,
1988a). The COMMUNAL project at Cardiff has also been implementing a
model of lexis as most delicate grammar (Tucker and Fawcett 1991).
In the model, lexis is perforce subdivided by grammatical class. The
description of the lexis for verbs extends the network for Processes (Halli-
day 1985; Hasan 1987). Similarly, the description of the lexis for nominals
is made after the choice is made for the nominal group (Halliday 1976b).
The majority of workers in lexis make a primary division in the lexis
between nouns and verbs (Miller 1985; Dahlgren et al. 1989). However,
not only is the lexis modelled for Process and Thing, but also for Quality
(' adjectives') and Condition (' adverbs').
3 Implementation
3.1 Implementation of the model of lexis in HORACE
The implementation of the model of lexis forms part of a larger project
(called HORACE) that attempts to develop an explicit model or text
production using the methodology of computer generation (Cross 1991a).
The model is based on the Systemic-Functional theory of language and
utilizes the Nigel grammar (Mann 1983; Mann and Matthiessen 1983;
SCHEDULE J ....----------



-1 TEXT JI----/
Figure 10.1 Lexicogrammatical resource in the architecture of HORACE
Matthiessen, 1988b,c). The location of the lexicogrammatical resource m
the architecture of the system is given in Figure 10.1.
As register-based generation, the implementation has taken the
theoretical approach of Patten (1988) and Bateman and Paris (1989a,b).
The feature based lexical networks are metalinguistic (Goldman 1975;
Hobbs et al. 1987; Pazienza and Velardi 1987;) rather than lexical
taxonomic (Eggins, Martin and Wignell 1987). Because lexis is represented
on a continuum with grammar, there is no need to incorporate gram-
matical information into the lexical items. With lexis as most delicate
grammar, the ontology of the lexis is theoretically and practically
embedded in the grammar and has no need of extralinguistic justification
(cf. Hobbs et al. 1987; Dahlgren et al. 1989). Moreover, there is an a priori
grammatical division (Miller 1985; Ritchie et al. 1987) rather than the
theoretically unjustified overlap presented in some ontologies (Dahlgren
and McDowell 1986; Dahlgren et al. 1989). Finally, the model of lexis as
most delicate grammar attenuates the distinction between the closed
systems and the open systems of lexis rendering both as:
a system in which all the elements fit together, and in which the value
of anyone element depends on the simultaneous coexistence of all the
others_ (Saussure 1906, p. 113).
The issue of a lexis that not only takes account of denotative meaning
but also connotative/affective meaning and the textual function of
vocabulary is one that has been raised by Matthiessen:
Any lexical choice will potentially reflect all three metafunctions. Idea-
tionally it represents some phenomenon by classifying it in relation to a
lexical taxonomy. Interpersonally, it is a positioning in terms of
formality, attitude and so on. Textually, it relates to previous discourse
by repeating, varying, generalising, or summarising a previous item
(Matthiessen 1988a, p. 8).
In HORACE the model of lexis is built primarily using the ideational
meaning of the lexical item. It is this aspect of meaning that is reflected
in the register of environmental texts which provides the base for the
project. However, where there is contrast between vocabulary items on the
basis of tenor, then the constraint mechanism is invoked which enables
extra-network determination of choice (Matthiessen 1987; Cross 1991a).
Thus, vocabulary items which are indistinguishable in terms of ideational
meaning are differentiated by means of interpersonal meaning. The model
adopted is one in which interpersonal meanings combine with the idea-
tional lexis rather than make independent contributions (Matthiessen
The grammar is extended using the system network convention
equivalent to an acyclic directed graph. The divisions in the network are
based on the word meanings and contrasts that exist in the exemplar texts.
The nodes of the network are paradigmatic (Halliday 1985). The actual
lexical items are generated through realisation statements attached to the
nodes of the network.
3.2 Organization of the material process network
In Nigel, four types of Processes are identified: material, mental, verbal
and relational (Halliday 1985). The majority of Processes in the
environmental text are material and relational, so the part of the
implementation described here is a fragment of the material network.
There will be some brief reference to the lexical network built for
The starting point for the extension of the material Process network is
where Nigel terminates its description of material Processes. In the
material Process network the gate EFFECTIVE-MATERIAL is the entry
condition for the system DOING-TYPE with a choice between dispositive
and creative types of Processes. The material Processes that occur in the
texts may be grouped into six major categories: transformation, behaviour,
motion, occurrence, dispositive and creative with their linking into the
Nigel network shown in Figure 10.2.
3.3 Transformation in the material process network
The transformation Processes are those in which the Medium undergoes a
transformation of some kind. The transformation may be a metamorphosis
in which the Medium changes from one state to another, for example,
evaporate, in which the Medium changes from liquid to gas. The transfor-
mation may undergo a change in state but not be metamorphosized, for
example, heat, where the Medium changes temperature but not form.
Transformation may also be a change in physical form, for example, break
in which the wholeness of the physical form is breached, or a change in
composition, for example, desalinate where a substance is subtracted from
the Medium. In brief, the sub types in Transformation are:
change-in-physical form
change-in -composition
increase/decrease attribute
change from one state to another
change outward physical form
addition/subtraction substance
Transformation is exemplified in the texts through the lexical items heat,
cool, evaporate, condense, transpire, increase, decrease, dry, melt, freeze, absorb,
desalinate, compact, crack, and break. Examples from the texts are:
El. When the sea is heated by the sun
E2. from where it (water) evaporates again
~ transformation
L behaviour
material other-malerial
non meteorological
effective-material -{
there Is a system x/y with entry condition a
(If a, then either x or y)
there are two systems BIb and xly, ordered in dependence so that
a/b has entry condition m and xly has entry condition 8
(If m then either a or b, and If a, then either x or y)
m there are two simultaneous systems mln and xly,
both having n t ~ condition a (If a, then both either m or n
nand Independenty, either x or y)
there Is a system xly with compound entry condition
conjunction of 8 and c (If both a and c then either 'x or y)
there Is 8 system xly with two possible entry conditions 8 or d
(If either a or d, then either x or y) ,
Figure 10.2 Organization of the material process network
Figure 10.3 Partial network for transformation - 1
E3. The icebergs melt in the sea
E4. In some desert regions seawater IS desalinated
E5. There it is compacted into ice
For each of the Processes, the transformation is subtly different. For cool,
the Medium changes temperature, but does not undergo a metamorphosis
from one form to another, as in evaporate, or a change in the outward
physical form, for example, break, or a change in composition, for example,
desalinate. The process cool may be contrasted with the process heat. the
former is an increase in temperature, the latter a decrease in temperature.
Comparing compact with heat and cool, the former differs from heat and cool,
in that the Medium undergoes a change in physical form. However, if one
pairs compact with expand, then the pair is linked by the contrast of
increase/ decrease as are the pair cool and heat. U sing the feature < change-
intensity> to represent increase/decrease then it might be suggested that
< change-intensity> contributes to heat, cool, compact and expand. The
differentiation between the pairs may be described as < thermal-change>
versus < volume-change>. For the distinctions described so far, the
network is diagrammed in Figure 10.3.
As was argued previously and is shown in the network, < change-in-
physical-form> and < volume-decrease> are features that will eventually
lead to the lexical item compact. If the range of possible lexical items is
extended to cover break and crack, then it may be argued that part of the
meaning of all of these items is < change-in-physical-form, > as it is for
compact. Break and crack do not share the feature < volume-decrease> with
compact. Further differentiation may be captured by positing the opposing
features < wholeness-breached> and < wholeness-unbreached >. Break and
crack share the feature ,-;:. wholeness-breached> and compact requires the
feature < wholeness-unbreached >. With the pair break and crack a point
has been reached where there is some degree of synonymy at least in the
register under examination. Constructing some text based examples, the
following are possible:
E6. Water can seep through some rocks such as granite which IS
cracked through weathering.
E7. Water can seep through some rocks such as granite which IS
broken through weathering.
The is to differentiate between cracked and broken. One possi-
ble s?lutlOn IS to mtroduce another system that leads to one item classes.
To break and crack, the features < division-specified>
and < dlvlSlon-unspeClfied > might be introduced, in the sense that break
can. a division into pieces, whereas crack does not necessarily involve
a dlvlSlon. The network would then be expanded as shown in Figure 10.4.
nomenon.unspecified o-volumEHlhanga
nomenon-specified --[oIUmEHlhanga
chang.lnlens -cease
o.ffiange-lntonslty deformatlon-speclfled
anoe-ln-physlcal.form _ [ -{ doformatio",unspeclfled
Maid unspecified
wholenossunbreached _
Figure lOA Partial network for transformation - 2
This . bases differentiation in the network, prior to the choice of
the Item (cf. Ward 1988). If the approach is taken to its logical
concluslOn, then every word would have a corresponding node in the
network. For a limited register, this is feasible (Patten 1988). However,
there may be places where ideationally items appear to be synonymous in

ncrease ..
ease .. _______ "
ge-intensily 3 thermal

metamorphosis Initial-liquid } _-----t--t"'
1 initial-gas
no-metamorphosis -t final-solid } ____ -t--'

flnal-gas :L

Figure 10.5 Partial network for transformation - 3
a given context. In such a case, one solution is to use the interpersonal
meaning to guide the choice.
As was mentioned previously, there is a subgroup of transformation
processes in which the Medium undergoes a metamorphosis. Take for
example the pair evaporate and condense. For evaporate the Medium begins
with an initial liquid form and changes to a final gaseous form. For
condense, the reverse occurs: the Medium begins with an initial gaseous
form and changes to a final liquid form. However, there is more. The
metamorphoses involve a change in thermal energy, so that part of the
meaning of evaporate is an increase in thermal energy and part of the mean-
ing of condense is a decrease in thermal energy. Including another
contrastive pair in the network, the processes melt and freeze also involve an
increase in thermal energy and a decrease in thermal energy, respectively.
The metamorphosis is different: melt is a change from an initial solid form
to a final liquid form and freeze, an initial liquid form to a solid form. The
network for the metamorphosis processes discussed is given in Figure 10.5.
Expanding the contrasts in the network, the transformational process dry
up may be linked and indeed, is linked with evaporate in the texts:
E8. The sun's heat causes water to evaporate from oceans and lakes.
This means that the water dries up becomes vapour and dis-
appears into the air.
For dry up, the initial form of the Medium is specified as liquid but the
?nal form of Medium is left unspecified, nor can the role of < thermal-
> be mferred. The lexical item can be accounted for by introduc-
mg < final-form-specified > and < final-form-unspecified >
and mcludmg the feature < no-change-intensity > .
also contrasts with transpire: both involve the change of the
MedlUm from to vapour, but for the latter, the role of thermal
energy is not speCIfied and the process is restricted to plants. Introducing
the features < plant-specified> and < plant-unspecified> differentiates
between the meanings.
E9. Transpiration means the giving off of water vapour by plant
is also of metamorphosis sharing with melt the change from an
mltlal form of solId to a final form of liquid, but not the increase in ther-
mal energy: Moreover, for dissolve a liquid contact material is specified.
The of the. metamorphosis network to take into account dry up,
transpIre and dIssolve IS shown in Figure 10.6.
final lexical items to be built into the network are absorb and
desalmate. Both of these processes fall into the category of change-in-

9&-lntensl ncrease .- 3- thermallncrease
o-change"ntenslly 3- thennal-decraasa
r metamorphosis -
L no-<neIamorphosls

Figure 10.6 Partial network for transformation - 4

-{ metamorphosis
substance -{ sait-specified_
substance loss ate -absorb
stance rmange-in-compositlon
L '1o-cilange
-substance / /
Figure 10.7 Partial network for transformation - 5
composltlon, with absorb involving the addition of a substance and desalinate
the subtraction of a substance. Further distinctions are that for absorb, the
Medium loses its separate identity and for desalinate the subtracted
substance must be salt. The change-in-composition part of the network is
given in Figure 10.7. The full network for transformative material
Processes is given in Figure 10.8.
In order to demonstrate the full power of the lexical networks in
HORACE, the realization statements for the network extension for transfor-
mative material Processes will be developed in section 3.5.
3.4 Grammatical status of transformational processes
Transformational processes come in a variety of guises. They can occur as
both middle or effective processes (Halliday 1985a). For the latter, they can
occur in both the active and passive voice. They can also occur in
causative constructions. Some transformational processes can occur as
material-processual Things. Not every transformational process can occur
in every possible form: for example, evaporate occurs in all categories,
condense occurs as a middle process or in a causative construction, while
r rhenomenon-spedfled

no-dlang&-Intenslty Ldencrease."....,....,::::::.______________ it
r metamorphosis -
L nometamorphosls
( r delOlTnatlon-specltled
-t ===ed
whoIeness-urtlreached __
salt-specified t-de.allnate
substanoe )
sUbstance 1-{ aparate--absorb
-unspeoified 9 -ex tence
other-sub anCB
hange-In-composilio addition 0-10
-substance 7 -separate-axlstance

Figure 10.8 Network for transformative material processes
transpire only occurs as a material-processual Thing, that is transpiration.
Absorb and desalinate only occur as effective Processes.
The consequences for the network of the different possibilities for
transformational Processes are twofold, affecting the entry conditions to the
network and the exit to the lexicalisation. The entry conditions for the
network must cover the possibility for both material Processes and
material-processual Things. This means that the entry conditions for the
network are disjunctive: either < material> or < material-processual > are
possible entry features. Because the network has entry conditions in both
the rank of clause and groups-phrases, realization statements need either
to be rank neutral or captured in systems with entry conditions differen-
tiated for rank. The lexicalization of the items also needs to be carried out
separately. Take for example, the feature <evaporate> which is part of
the entry conditions for two gates, one of which would lead to lexification
of the Process as evaporate and the other to the lexification of the Thing as
evaporation. The gates for lexification re-introduce the differentiation
between Process and Thing. The joint entry conditions for the lexification
of evaporate are < material> and < evaporate>, which may be contrasted
with the joint entry conditions for evaporation, namely, < material-
processual> and < evaporate>. One problem that is handled at the
lexification level is the impossibility of a middle form of absorb or desalinate.
The features absorb and desalinate appear in the network but can only be
lexified as a verbal stem if the feature < effective-material> has been
The alternatives considered and rejected for transformational Processes
were to provide separate networks for material-effective transformational
Processes, for material-middle transformational Processes and for material-
processual Things. The separate networks would have allowed more
specificity in the realization statements, but would have meant essentially
duplicating the network three times and losing the relationship between
Processes and Processual nouns. It is doubtful whether the network as it
is represented offers a solution that is theoretically justifiable. Ideally, an
extended network should be developed that not only maintains the
commonality of meaning between the Processes and Processual nouns, but
also respects the divisions of rank. However, the time and effort required
for this development is not commensurate with the scope of research,
although it is important to draw attention to this fact in order to avoid
such lacunae in any large scale generation project. The structural conse-
quences of choices in the network are explored in the next section which
details the realizations for transformation.
3.5 Consequences of choice in the transformation network
In HORACE, the extension of the grammatical networks out to the lexis
has provided a theoretically justified means of building choice into the lexis
and of generating lexical items. In the material process network, for
the extension of the network enables choices to be made between
features that ultimately determine the realisation of one particular
matenal Process rather than another. However, it is also possible to
the networks to capture the concurrent effects of lexical choices on
assOCIated functions. For example, choices made in the
network for matenal processes will in their turn constrain choices to be
made for the Medium and Agents of those processes. This is where the
formal consequences of differentiation in the lexical network made their
presence felt (Hasan 1987).
In work of Hasan (1987), the realizations in the fully extended form
lexls as most delicate grammar affect not only the production of
dISpOSal but also serve to constrain the choices available to other
grammatIcal functions within the sphere of influence of those Processes. In
Hasan's words 'options have consequences: they are justified by what they
do' (Hasan 1987, p. 185).
The .realization statements of the disposal network are the means for
expressmg those constraints. If the realizations for the disposal network
are examined, omitting the initial choices of < material> and < action>
and of the potential for more equal comparison with the
HORACE net:vorks, It WIll be found that the majority of the realizations
gov?rn . functlOns than the Process. Approximately one fifth of the
reahzatlOns constram the Process, the remainder constrain the Medium
the the Cooperant and the Complement. Of the latter, less
one thIrd conc?rned. with syntactic operations of constituency, namely,
the of msertlOn, conflation and ordering.
The maJonty of the constraints on the Medium, Agent, Cooperant and
are with predetermination, expressed through the
operatlOns of preselectlOn and subcategorization. The Medium, for
e.xample, may preselect or be subcategorized as alienable object, divisible,
smgular, plural or high degree of extent or any
degree of vastness, sohd or hqUld, where the configuration of pre-
determined depends the Process selected. Thus, the full power
of the network hes not only m the consequences of the choices for the
?"rammatical function under focus, in this case the Process, but also in the
mfluence of the choices on associated functions.
The event in transformation processes is that the Medium is
transformed m some way. The Medium starts out in one form or state
and ends up in another. It is these changes that are reflected in the
predeterminations expressed through the realization statements.
In the m?tamorphosis part of the network, the choice of the initial state
Medmm, reflected in the feature choices < initial-solid> < initial-
hqUld> and pred.etermines the selection from Thing
network for the Medium will preselect for the
features < sohd > , < hqUld > and < gas> in the NA TURE-
MATERIAL-TYPE system in the Thing network (Cross 1991b).
(0.3333334 INITIAL-GAS
:metafunction IDEATIONAL)
Examples of processes that will be affected by the preselections are dissolve
and melt for the preselection of a solid medium, evaporate, transpire, dry-up
and freeze for the preselection of a liquid Medium and condense for the
preselection of a gaseous medium. Not only will the Medium of processes
be constrained, but also the Mediums of material-processual nominals.
Thus the preselection of liquid for Medium will permit evaporation of
water or moisture, but not of ice or water-vapour.
The metamorphosed state of the Medium also exerts some influence on
predetermination for the Thing network. Those predeterminations will
become extant if what may be called a circumstantial Complement is
present. If the text includes something for the Medium to 'transform
into', then the preselections may be for the features < solid>, < liquid>
or < gas> in the Thing network, dependent primarily on the choice of
the features < final-solid> , < final-liquid> or < final-gas> for the
metamorphosed state. The result of such preselections will enable realiza-
tions such as freeze into ice, dissolve or melt into liquid, condense into water
droplets, evaporate or transpire into water-vapour. The circumstantial Com-
plement is permitted a variety of realizations as long as the features
< solid>, < liquid> or < gas> are part of its systemic path selection for
Further predeterminations in the metamorphosis part of the network are
possible. If the feature < evaporate> has been selected and the source of
the Medium is present in the text, then that source, as the function
Spacelocative, preselects for the features < water-mass> or < water-
body> :
: outputs
:metafunction IDEATIONAL)
:metafunction IDEATIONAL)
The preselections capture the idea that the source of the Process evaporate
is usually some body of water. Similarly, the material-processual nominal
evaporation preselects for a source that is a body of water.
In contrast, the Process transpire requires flora as its source, realized by
the Spacelocative preselecting the feature < flora -ext >. This preselection
captures the constraint that transpiration comes from plants of some kind.
The processual-nominal transpiration also preselects for the feature < flora-
ext> if the source of the transpiration is present in the text. There is also
the possibility that the source of the transpiration may be realized through
the grammatical function Agent in an effective-material clause, in which
case the Agent preselects for < flora-ext > in the Thing network. The
examples of transpiration in the texts avoid the direct use of Agent for the
source of the moisture by introducing the source in conjunction with
another Process. In the example from T5, the sources plants and plant leaves
are linked respectively to used and giving off:
21. ISome of the moisture [[used by plants]] soon returns to the air through
23. ITranspiration means the giving off of water vapour by plant leaves.!
In T7, the source plants is introduced in conjunction with absorbed:
18. ISome soaks into the soill
19. /where it is absorbed by plants/
20. land partly returned to the air through transpiration.!
In the change-in-physical-form part of the transformation network,
Medium preselects for the feature < solid> in the Thing network, reflec-
ting the linguistic fact that solid rather than liquid or gaseous Things
compact, break and crack. Within that same subnetwork, the transformed
Medium, realized by the grammatical function Spacelocative, preselects for
the feature < thing-part> in the Thing Network, capturing the linguistic
fact that Things break or crack into pieces.
The final consequence of the choices made in Transformation occurs in
the change-in-composition part of the network where for the feature
< desalinate >, Medium preselects for the feature < water-form-nonext > ,
expressing the strong probability that the Medium will be water in its
liquid form.
Let me extend the argument to examine preselection between Thing and
Epithet and/or Classifier. In the matter cycle register, if the feature
< cycle-nonext > is selected in the Thing network, which will be lexified
as cycle, and an Epithet is required, then that Epithet is likely to be regular,
constant or continuous. Thus the Epithet would preselect the features
< quality-regularity-specified> or < quality-interruptability-specified >
from the Quality system network. Similarly, the range of collocation is
limited if a Classifier is required. The possibilities for a Classifier are
natural, or some kind of matter, for example, water cycle, nitrogen cycle or
carbon cycle. Thus the preselections for Classifier would be < quality-
causality-specified> from the Quality network and from the Thing
network the preselection would be for the features < elements-ext > or
< compounds-ext > .
In summary, the development of the realization statements for the
material Transformation network has demonstrated the full consequences
of choices in the lexical network and, in particular, the predictive power
of those choices. The grammatical function with greatest predictive power
is the Medium, followed by the grammatical representation of the
transformed Medium. This finding accords with the work of Hasan (1987)
in the material disposal lexical network who also found that the Medium
was the most highly constrained grammatical function. It also bears out the
observation by Halliday that in the ergative representation of Transitivity,
it is 'the Process and the Medium that form the nucleus of the English
clause' (Halliday 1985a p. 147). Further research on the detail of the
realizations in the lexical networks would test the extent of the predeter-
mination as described in Halliday's subsequent observation that 'this
nucleus then determines the range of options that are available to the rest
of the clause' (ibid.).
3.6 Collocation as preselection within register
The discussion of realisations for Transformations has justified the cross-
linkage of lexis through preselection by grammatical functions. Hence, given
certain choices within the network for Process, preselections are validated
for, minimally, the Medium and may extend to other participants such as
transformed Medium and Circumstance. It is also possible to make
probabilistic predictions about the preselections between participants at the
rank of nominal group, for example, Thing and Epithet or Classifier. The
cross-linkage through grammatical functions between paradigmatic features
in the network has the ultimate effect of determining collocations. However,
rather than limiting collocation to a listing of co-occurring lexical items, the
preselection between grammatical functions and paradigmatic features
enables linking to be made at the level of potential rather than expression.
Given preselection of a certain feature in the network, the ultimate linkage
might be between a number of lexical items, all of which share the
preselected feature. Moreover, because the grammatical function itself is
embedded in a potential, the ultimate lexification of that function may be a
number of items. For example, preselection of the feature < liquid> by
Medium under the aegis of the feature < initial-liquid> in the
METAMORPHOSIS-INITIAL-FORM system is equivalent to collocating
dry-up, evaporate, transpire and freeze with liquid or water.
Thus, it has been possible to demonstrate that collocation within register
may be captured through the cross-linkage of preselection from gram-
matical functions to paradigmatic features in the network. Preselection at
the lexical end of the grammatical continuum has the ultimate effect of
establishing collocation between lexical items.
4 Conclusions
In this chapter, the rationale and implementation of a model of lexis based
on most delicate grammar has been presented. With the goal of a lexical
component that provides motivated choice, the approach has been to
extend the grammatical networks out to lexis. The differentiation between
choices in the network is based on paradigmatic features that have
linguistic consequences. The detailed examination of the transformation
Processes has demonstrated the impact of lexical feature choices on
Participants in the Process and Circumstances surrounding the Process. It
has also been shown that collocation of lexical items within a register may
be handled through preselections when the lexical networks are developed
for all grammatical classes.
Tasks for future research would include the implementation of finer
differentiation based on large-scale collocational data, a more detailed
examination of apparent synonymy within the register and the exploration
of how the interpersonal and textual metafunctions might be more exten-
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Part VI. A unified theory of register analysis
11 Register in the round: diversity In a unified
theory of register analysis*
Christian Matthiessen
1. Register in its own right
Register analysis is not subsumed under any of the new types of analysis
that have been established in general linguistics in the last thirty years or
so - discourse analysis, conversational analysis or ethnographic analysis -
because 'register' is not a 'component' of discourse, conversation,
ethnographic setting or any other similar construct; it is an aspect of a
separate dimension of organization, that of functional variation. Like any
other theoretical abstraction - discourse, word, structure, lexical item -
register is not a separate 'thing' that can be insulated from the rest of the
linguistic system and process; but we can foreground it in register analysis
as one way into the complex of language in context.
Register analysis is both a linguistic and a metalinguistic activity. It is
something we engage in linguistically as language users - we interpret texts
in terms of the registers they instantiate and we also produce texts as
instances of particular register types. As linguists, we have to engage in
register analysis metalinguistically to interpret 'register' theoretically and to
produce and evaluate descriptions of registers in terms of the theoretical
potential of the metalanguage. But since the metalanguage we use as
linguists is itself a semiotic system, it too has registers (cf. Section 8) -
meta-registers - which shade into different metalanguages. The chapters in
this book contribute to different aspects of register analysis, both linguistic
and metalinguistic. Let me begin by briefly reviewing the theoretical origin
of the notion of register as part of our metalanguage for construing
De Beaugrande (this volume) notes that Firth's notion of restricted
languages is a forerunner of the notion of register. We can also relate
register to a fundamental aspect of Firthian theory de Beaugrande does not
This chapter owes its existence to Mohsen Ghadessy's encouragement to write it and I'm
very grateful for the opportunity to bring together various perspectives on register. I'm also
greatly indebted to Michael Halliday for comments on a draft version.
ter Meulen, A. (1988), 'Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language', in Linguistics:
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Part VI. A unified theory of register analysis
11 Register in the round: diversity In a unified
theory of register analysis *
Christian Matthiessen
1. Register in its own right
Register analysis is not subsumed under any of the new types of analysis
that have been established in general linguistics in the last thirty years or
so - discourse analysis, conversational analysis or ethnographic analysis -
because is not a 'component' of discourse, conversation,
ethnographic setting or any other similar construct; it is an aspect of a
separate dimension of organization, that of functional variation. Like any
other theoretical abstraction - discourse, word, structure, lexical item -
register is not a separate 'thing' that can be insulated from the rest of the
linguistic system and process; but we can foreground it in register analysis
as one way into the complex of language in context.
Register analysis is both a ,linguistic and a metalinguistic activity. It is
something we engage in linguistically as language users - we interpret texts
in terms of the registers they instantiate and we also produce texts as
instances of particular register types. As linguists, we have to engage in
register analysis metalinguistically to interpret 'register' theoretically and to
produce and evaluate descriptions of registers in terms of the theoretical
potential of the metalanguage. But since the metalanguage we use as
is itself a semiotic system, it too has registers (cf. Section 8) -
meta-registers - which shade into different metalanguages. The chapters in
this book contribute to different aspects of register analysis, both linguistic
and metalinguistic. Let me begin by briefly reviewing the theoretical origin
of the notion of as part of our metalanguage for construing
De Beaugrande (this volume) notes that Firth's notion of restricted
languages is a forerunner of the notion of register . We can also relate
register to fundamental aspect of Firthian theory de Beaugrande does not
This chapter owes its .existence to Mohsen Ghadessy's encouragement to write it and I'm
very grateful for the opportunity to bring together various perspectives on register. I'm also
greatly indebted to Michael Halliday for comments on a draft version.
Figure 11.1
varieties of single system -
register variation etc.
polysystemic - restricted
languages etc.
language in
out of context
The move from mono systemic thesis to synthesis of varieties of
mention, viz. Firth's polysystemicness. It has been held at various points
in linguistic history that language is mono systemic - one system where
everything hangs together as Saussure's follower Meillet put it. Firth
disagreed fundamentally with this type of monolithic view and argued for
a poly systemic approach, where language is interpreted as a system of
systems. (In fact, Firth didn't like the abstraction of 'a language'.) The
polystemic principle is evident at various places in his theorizing, e.g. in
Firthian system and structure phonology where phonological systems have
places of structure as their points of origin. Firth had taken over the notion
of context developed by Malinowski (e.g., 1923) and when 'context of
situation' and 'polysystemicness' are combined, then it is theoretically
reasonable to assume some sense of different systems of languages for
systemically different contexts. The Firthian notion of restricted
languages is thus arguably a natural consequence of his contextualism and
To idealize. the picture, we can interpret the development of current
register theory as a dialectic sequence (see Figure 11.1, where a circle
represents a linguistic system). The thesis is that language is mono systemic
- this was certainly the position Firth reacted against and, as de
Beaugrande points out, it seems to be the default in mainstream work. For
instance, phonological systems have tended to be interpreted
mono systemically in the American Structuralist-generativist tradition
(although not necessarily any longer: cf. Henderson 1987, on this in rela-
tion to Firth) and mainstream typological work does not tend to take
registers into account. Here language is decontextualized: there is no
provision in the theory for a contextual system nor for a way of relating
context to language. Consequently, language is modelled as a system that
is insulated from contextual pressures for diversity. 1 The antithesis is
Firthian polystemicness just discussed above, with restricted languages as
the seed for systemic register theory. The uniformity of a single global
system is replaced by the diversity of a plurality of more local systems. The
synthesis is register theory in systemic linguistics -' a theory of functional
variation of the general system correlated with contextual variation. Part
of the challenge it faced was to strike a balance between uniformity and
diversity. Register theory has to be a general theory of the special case,
showing how special cases are related to the general case, i.e. showing how
diverse particular systems are varieties of a more general one. The limiting
case is still, of course, the situation where there is no general system.
register said t() __
and St:revens (1964)."This earIy wo-rk drew not only
Firth but --also on worKiritlie1950s by U re, Ellis, Berg, and others. It
includes the interpretation of register in terms of variation within the
linguistic system according to different contexts of situation. In this period,
Spencer and Gregory (1964) and in particular Gregory (1967) were also
very influential. Gregory's work sorted out different kinds of differentiation
very clearly. Since then, the theory has been extended: it has become
possible to place more emphasis on the semantic system (e.g., Halliday
1973) and to identify the correlation between context and language much
more precisely thanks to the theory of metafunctions of language which
developed in the 19608 after, and independently of, the original statement
of register theory (e.g., Halliday 1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985/9). More
work has also been done on the probabilistic interpretation of the linguistic
system (in particular, Nesbitt and Plum 1988; Halliday 1991c; Halliday
and James, 1991) so that we can begin to explore registers in terms of
settings of systemic probabilities (see further Section 3.2.2 below). At the
same time, alternative ways of modelling variation have been explored;
alongside the version developed by Halliday, Hasan and others, Martin
and others have developed a stratifying model, often referred to as the
genre model. I will return to the difference between these two varieties in
Section 2.3 below. The existence of these tw.o models also underlines
another important issue: the notion of 'register' is not an isolated 'thing';
it is a theoretical construct that is meaningful relative to the overall theory
It is pari: of. As the systemic-functional theory' of language in context has'
expanded since the early 1960s, so 'register' has been recontextualized. For
instance, now that ideology is beginning to be covered more explicitly by
the theory it is becoming possible to relate register to ideology (cf. de
Beaugrande, this volume: Section 4; Hunston, this volume; Martin et al.
1988) for instance in terms of differential access to registers and their
different social values (see further Section 3.1.2 below). This does not in
itself mean that register has changed or has to change - merely that its
context has expanded as the overall model has expanded so that it is possi-
ble to work out theoretical consequences in new domains. In theories such
as the glossematic, stratificational and systemic ones, theoretical constructs
derive their significance from their placement relative to other constructs.
There has, then, been considerable theoretical development of register
theory since the early 1960s. And it has taken place in interaction with
ongoing descriptive work. One might conclude, as de Beaugrande does,
that there is a bias towards practical-descriptive research over theoretical
interpretation and that 'register' needs more theory. In contrast, I would
be inclined to emphasize the need for extensive and detailed descriptions
of registers: we now have the theoretical resources for undertaking such
studies and also the computational tools (up to a point, as always: we still
urgently need to bring parsers to bear on large quantities of text). At the
same time, theory and description develop in interaction and further,
extensive descriptive work will create new demands on theory and a
number of theoretical issues can only be settled with a broader descriptive
The chapters in this book make various valuable contributions towards
the development" of our theoretical and descriptive uO:derstanding of
'register'. They are grouped under five headings - practice and theory,
controlling and changing ideologies, the role of metaphor: grammatical and
lexical, quantitative evidence for register analysis; and computer applica-
tions - which range particular critical aspects of the linguistic system in
relation to register (grammatical metaphor; ideology) to general issues of
theory, application and methodology. In this final chapter, I shall try to
relate to the other contributions in another, complementary way be relating
register to the general systemic-functional theory of language in context
and the dimensions that define the semiotic space of language. I shall iden-
tify the points that are developed, illustrated and challenged in this present
book in particular but also more generally in key contributions to register
analysis such as Ghadessy (1988).
Recognition of register outside systemic1unctional linguistics
Since the orientation in my discussion is systemic-functional, it is worth
emphasizing related work in other traditions. De Beaugrande (this volume)
discusses Tagmemic work. We can also note other developments p r ~ l e l
to the Malinowski-Firth-Halliday tradition. The Prague School pioneered
work on functional dialect and the emergence of the differentiation between
the standard language and other varieties (e.g. in terms of intellectualiza-
tion) - e.g. Havranek (1932). Hjelmslev (1943) opened up important
possibilities for the interpretation of variants within the linguistic system
when he proposed the notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic whose expres-
sion system is another semiotic system, These possibilities were taken up
by Martin (e.g., 1985) in a systemic alternative to the Halliday-Hasan
register model (see Section 2.3). In the Soviet Union, Bakhtin (1986) also
developed a notion of functional varieties, which he called speech genres.
It has influenced genre theory within social semiotics. Within computa-
tional linguistics rather than linguistics, functional variety has come to be
recognized under the heading of sublanguage (see Kitteredge and
Lehrberger 1981; Kitteredge 1983). 'Sublanguage' has played a role in
particular in machine translation. While the task of translating text in
general is dauntingly complex, the task of translating weather forecasts,
technical documentation within a particular field, and the like can be
2. The semiotic space in which register is located
Registers reflect one fundamental aspect of the overall organization of
language in context. To explore register and register variation further, it
will be useful to review the dimensions of this overall organization: see
Figure 11. 2. This will make it possible to explore different ways of inter-
preting registers theoretically and also to specify the theoretical significance
they derive from the location in the overall theory. The language in
context complex is organized globally along the dimensions of stratification
(orders of symbolic abstraction related by realization), metafu.nctional
diversification (modes of meaning), and potentiality (the dimension from
potential to instantialthrough instantiation - from system to text; not
shown in the diagram). This yields a set of stratal subsystems - context
and, within language, semantics, lexicogrammar, and phonology/
graphology. Each stratal subsystem manifests the same basic dimensions of
organization - axis, delicacy and rank. I will call this organization 'fractal'
simply because it constitutes the basic principle of intra-stratal organization
that is manifested in different stratal environments.
Let us start with the global dimensions of organization in Section 2.1
and then turn to those that are local to each stratal subsystem, the fractal
ones, in Section 2.2. These dimensions determine the overall semiotic
space of language in context - the universe of meaning. The important
question we can then ask. is how register expands or constrains the space
- Section 2.3.
(j) global organization
d i versi fi ca t iun
(iD fractal organization
(manifestation of fundamental
intra-stratal organization in
different stratal environments)
Figure 11.2 Global and fracta! dimensions of organization
2.1 The global dimensions
The global dimensions are stratification (Section 2.1.1), metafunctional
diversification (Section 2.1. 2), and potentiality (Section 2.1. 3).
2.1.1 Stratification
Language in context is interpreted as a system of systems ordered in
symbolic abstraction. That is, these systems are stratified. Each system has
its own internal organization (see Section 2.2) but it is related to other
systems in a realizational chain: it realizes a higher system (unless it is the
highest system) and it is realized by a lower one (unless it is the lowest
system). This chain of inter-stratal realizations bridges the gap between the
semiotic in high-level cultural meanings and the material, either in speak-
ing or in writing, through a series of intermediate strata. We can draw a
basic stratal line between context and language and other semiotic systems
that are embedded in it: see Figure 11.3. As far as the recognition and
interpretation of register are concerned, it is, or course, critical that
language is interpreted 'within' context.
(i) Context covers both context of situation and context of culture (for the
relationship between the two, see Sections 3.1.2 and 6). However it is
organized, it is clear that context is the locus of the significance or value
given to registers. Right at the beginning of work on register, context of
situation was the place where a register's contextual significance was stated
in terms of field, tenor, and mode values; and in Martin's work it has been
Figure 11.3 Stratification of language in context
further stratified to include genre as one 'plane' (see Section 2.3 below).
(ii) Language is a stratified semiotic system 'embedded' in context. It is
typically interpreted as tristratal in systemic theory - [discourse] semantics,
lexicogrammar, and phonology (I graphology). Semantics and lexicogram-
mar together form the two content strata of language. They stand in a
natural relationship to one another (Halliday, 1985a), which is important
to remember when we embark on interpretations of 'register' (see Section
4) and descriptions of registers (see Section 7.1). The system of expression
(phonology or graphology) is, in contrast, largely conventional relative to
Semantics is the linguistic inter-level to context; it is the way into the
linguistic system where context can be semanticized (see Halliday, 1973).
Since semantics has the status of inter-level, it is the linguistic system that
has the primary responsibility for accommodating varying contextual
demands on language: one possible reflection of this is the emergence of
semantic systems specific to particular contexts of situation, a poly systemic
semantics - semantic systems representing different registers (see Section
4.1 below). It is also important to note that the basic semantic unit is
language functioning in context or text (e.g., Halliday and Hasan 1976)
- not a unit such as a predication or proposition derived from the gram-
mar (as in formal semantics). Consequently, it is theoretically very clear
that registers are not bound to the units of grammar; they are semantically
pervasive from the macro (whole texts) to the micro (semantic units
directly realized by lexicogrammatical ones).
Lexicogrammar is the resource for wording meanings, for realizing
meanings in terms of grammatical structures and lexical items. Relative to
semantics, it can be seen as a more highly generalized system of content:
it is at one remove from context and the contextual diversification that is
the source of different registers. Semantics will, among other things,
mediate between contextual diversity and lexicogrammatical generalization.
At the same time, since lexicogrammar is semantically natural, the two
content strata provide us with different stratal angles on registers - we can
move in either from semantics or from lexicogrammar (see Sections 4 and
7.1 below). Lexicogrammar comprises both grammar and lexis - lexis is
interpreted as most delicate grammar (from Halliday 1961, onwards; see
Cross, this volume). This poses interesting issues for register analysis
particularly since computational tools for analyzing the large text samples
typically needed to characterize registers are more accessible for lexis (cf.
Section 7.2 below). It also makes it theoretically very clear that any gram-
matical variation across registers (e.g., variation in favoured process types)
will be manifested more delicately as lexical variation and that lexical
variation often derives from grammatical variation.
Text is, as noted, the basic semantic unit of a functional theory of
language - language functioning in context. But in a stratal theory, the
multistratal implications are very clear: a text is a multi-strata! process in
the sense that it is contextualized, i.e. it is also a process of contextual
choices, and it is worded, i.e. it is also a process of lexicogrammatical
2.1.2 Functional diversification
Both context of situation and the content strata of language, semantics and
lexicogrammar, are functionally diversified: that is, there are different
modes of contextual and linguistic meaning. The contextual modes - field,
tenor, and mode (to use the current set of terms) - were identified first,
discussed in Halliday, Macintosh and Strevens (1964). (They represent a
re-interpretation of Firth's, 1957, scheme.) Having embarked on a
systemic description of English, Halliday discovered that systems formed
three clusters and, to explain this phenomenon, he set up the three
metafunctions of systemic-functional theory - ideational, interpersonal, and
textual (Halliday 1967/8; 1978; 1985a). He then found that there were
correlations between context of situation and language along the lines of
the functional diversification: field and the ideational metafunction
correlate, tenor and the interpersonal one, and mode and the textual one
(Halliday 1978).
Like language, a functional variety of language, a register, is multifunc-
tional - any register is simultaneously ideational, interpersonal, and
textual. And Halliday's finding means that it is possible to identify which
aspects of context of situation will influence and be influenced by which
aspects of a register: the ideational resources of a register construe a field,
the interpersonal ones a tenor, and the textual ones a mode (see Halliday
1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985; Martin, in press). The mode distinction
between written and spoken clearly correlates with textual systems such as
realized somewhat more indirectly to achieve different types of 'informa-
tion chunking' - lexical density (Ure 1971; Halliday 1985b), deployment
of CLAUSE COMPLEXING and grammatical metaphor (Halliday 1985b).
As far as the overall staging of texts- within a register is concerned, all
three contextual aspects are likely to play a role. But they tend towards
different modes of syntagmatic organization: see e.g. Martin (1992) on
tenor-oriented interpersonal prosodies running through a text contrasting
with more segmental field-oriented organization realized through ideational
2.1.3 Potentiality
Stratification and functional diversification give the semiotic space height
and breadth, as it were; potentiality introduces a kind of time to give us
a semiotic space-time. As it has been described up to now, the language-in-
context complex is an atemporal resource: it is simply a specification of
information that can be processed in different ways. This is the contextual
and linguistic potential - what can be meant as Halliday (1973; 1977) puts
it. 2 It is neutral with respect to generation, understanding or any other
process using the resources: the potential is instantiated (or actualized) by
different processes - from what can be meant, various options are actually
meant. The two major types of instantiation are generation and understan-
ding (analysis). They instantiate the same potential and the result is an
instance from the potential. Language functioning in context, text, can be ::
viewed either as a process, unfolding as an instantiation of the potential,
or as a product, a completed instantiation of the system.
In a general account of language, all three phases have to be in view -
potential, instantiation, and instance - although linguists have tended to
focus either on the potential or the instantial, leaving processes of instantia-
tion to computational linguists (cf. Matthiessen and Bateman 1991, for
issues of instantiation). I will address the significance of potentiality to
register analysis in Section 6.1 below. But a very central point is that as
a variety of language, a register embodies all three phases of potentiality;
and this is, among other things, the key to the role of text in instantiating
and changing a register system. Along the way to Section 6.1, I will take
up the role of probabilities in the potential in register analysis (Section
3.2.2 (i and instantiation in the history of a text (Section 5.1).
2.2 The fractal dimensions
The global dimensions place the strata, metafunctions, and phases of poten-
tiality relative to one another and show how they interact. In addition, each
stratum is organized internally; it has intra-stratal organization. It would be
perfectly possible that the fundamental dimensions of each stratum were
quite distinct and this is the way they tended to emerge in generative
linguistics although the picture is changing with approaches such as Pollard
and Sag's (1987) Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. However, in
systemic-functional theory, the different strata have all been interpreted
according to the same fundamental dimensions and the same is true of
Lamb's stratificational theory and represe'ntation. There is one generalized
intra-stratal organization, which is manifested in different stratal
environments; this organization is what I call fractal. This is not to say that
the strata are identical in their internal organization - there are certainly
differences (such as the possibility of rank shift), but they are to be seen
against the background of the general principles of intra-stratal organization.
The fractal dimensions are axis (paradigmaticlsyntagmatic), delicacy and
rank. They are well-known and do not need any general comments. But
I will comment briefly on their significance for register. Axially,
paradigmatic organization is primary, represented by the system network,
where systemic options provide the environment for syntagmatic specifica-
tions. This is absolutely crucial to the interpretation of register since it
means that register has to be interpreted in systemic terms - as variation
in the system - which we arrive at through syntagmatic analysis (e.g.,
analysis of grammatical structures, grammatical items, and lexical items). :/(
It also has other consequences, such as the possibility of specifying a
register in terms of systemic probabilities (see Section 3.2.2 (i.3
The primacy of paradigmatic organization also opens up the possibility
of integrating another dimension - delicacy. This is the ordering of
systems in the system network from most general to most specific. This is
also of fundamental importance to the interpretation of register since it
means that registers can relate to the general system in terms of delicacy
(cf. Section 3.2.2 (ii) below) and that we can characterize registers at
-\V, various of delicacy. (cf. Section 7.1 it. is the key
1\ to the'relatlOn between leXIS and grammar - leXIS as most dehcate gram-
mar, already mentioned above: see Cross (this volume).
As far as rank is concerned, there are two important points (i) Just as
a register spans the other dimensions of organization, it spans rank. In
particular it is worth noting that it is semantically pervasive from the
macro to the micro (cf. Leckie-Tarry, this volume). (ii) The grammatical
and phonological rank scales are clearly generalized but it seems quite
likely that different registers, or different families of registers, operate with
different semantic rank scale of the type posited by Sinclair and Coulthard
(1975) for class-room discourse: see Sections 3.2.2 (iii) and 4.2 below.
2.3 Construing register - theoretical alternatives: registerial variation vs. genre plane
We have seen, then, what the overall semiotic space of language in context
is like from a systemic-functional point of view. How does register fit in?
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) provides a discussion of register and genre and
the different theoretical positions they represent but I will review the posi-
tions specifically relative to the overall theoretical space in the hope that
this will further illuminate the positions. Having considered the dimensions
that defined the 'theoretical space' we use to construe language in context,
we can now explore alternative ways of construing register. For instance,
we can ask whether register is located stratally, axially, etc. relative to the
theoretical interpretation of the linguistic system 'presented so far. However
register is construed theoretically, it seems quite clear that it is an aspect ,
of a mode of organization that expands the overall semiotic space: that
. mode of organization is a new way of making meanings by giving contextual value
to variation in the linguistic system. That is, in addition to the system itself
being used to make meaning, variations in the system also create meaning.)t
At the same time, each register embodies a kind of constraint on what
meanings are likely to be made. But there is nothing contradictory in this:
the stratification of content into semantics and lexicogrammar is significant
expansion of the overall meaning-making potential but at the same time.
the semantics constrains the lexicogrammar in terms of what are likely *-
meanings. Registerial constraints embody information - information about
diversification across different contexts and information carried by the
system itself.
So how can the expansion of the overall semiotic space be accounted for?
Within systemic linguistics, there have, in fact, been two approaches to
modelling 'register' (see Figure 11.4):
(i) Register is interpreted in terms of a separate dimension of variation
within the system - functional variation or register variation (Halliday,
Macintosh and Strevens 1964; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978; Halliday
and Hasan 1985). Register is thus a name of a kind of variation. (cf.
dialect as a mass term). The notion of variation is primary. A
'register' is then a(n idealized) location along this dimension, just as
a synchronic system is a location along the dimension of diachronic
change (phylogenesis) or a dialect is a location along the dimension of
dialectal variation. But a 'register' is not, in the first instance, located
anywhere in particular in language along other dimensions although
there are principled tendencies - it is a variety of language, not a part
of it .. Language is then the assemblage of locations along the dimen-
sion of register variation.
(ii) Register is interpreted in terms of the dimension of stratification in
functional variation
register 3
register 1
Figure 11.4 Register as state in functional variation or as connotative semiotic
its manifestation of 'planing' (due to Martin 1985, in press, etc.).
More specifically, it is interpreted as a 'plane' above language that is
the content system whose expression system is context of situation,
which itself is taken as the content system whose expression is language
(see Figure 1 in Leckie-Tarry's chapter for more detail and another
type of diagram). The critical theoretical source here is Hjelmslev's
(1943) notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic system whose expression
plane is another semiotic system. Importantly, registers are interpreted
as social actions for achieving social purposes.
Alternative (i) was the first position to be developed within systemic
linguistics. In developing alternative (ii), Martin built on this position but
he used stratification within context relative to language to model register
variation: lower-stratal linguistic variation is modelled systemically (i.e., as
a network of inter-related choices) at a higher contextual stratum specifying
the register potential of a language. This is one prominent example of the
kind of flexibility Halliday (1980) points out characterizes systemic theory;
it is a 'flexi-model', where it is possible to play off different dimensions
against one another. But the two positions are genuinely alternative ways
of modelling register; they are not part of the total picture intended to be
combined. However, there is no a priori reason why they can't be inter-
preted as complementarities.
Alternative (i) has often been called the register model and alternative
(ii) the genre model. However, there is potential terminological confusion
at this point since register and genre have been used in different ways by
proponents of the two models. The differences are set out in Table iLl.
Martin thus renamed 'context of situation' register and introduced genre
as a new theoretical term.
It is important to note that genre is not a
separate theoretical term in alternative (i). One reason the term was
Table 11.1
Alternative (i) - Halliday &
functional variation of language
[no direct equivalent in (ii)J
- a register is a 'location' along
this dimension of variation
not a theoretical term; either
synonymous with register or used in its
more traditional sense within literary
Alternative (ii) - Martin
first plane above language
[= context of situation in (i)J
second plane above language
[no direct equivalent in (i)J
avoided early on was simply that its traditional sense was far too narrow
and associated with literary varieties. Halliday (1978) indicates how this
traditional term can be interpreted according to systemic-functional theory
but this should not be read as an attempt to set up genre as a systemic term
alongside register. .
There are, of course, yet other ways of using the terms. For instance,
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) notes that genre may be used to characterize a
whole text whereas register 'is frequently used to refer to sections within a
text which are characterized by certain linguistic forms'. If the difference
is only one of scale, it would seem better to talk about e.g. genres and
macro-genres (cf. Martin 1991).
There are also, of course, yet other terms. The Prague School termfunc-
tional dialect was mentioned in Section 1 above, as was the computational
linguistic term sublanguage. The former makes the analogy with dialect
transparent. Sometimes terms such as text/discourse type, text/discourse typology
are used or are used to gloss genre or register. While these terms have the
advantage that they draw attention to the fact that register variation has
text as its scope they have the drawback that they focus only on (semantic)
units in the process of communication but register variation is also systemic
- a property of the linguistic potential.
As far as the recognition of particular types of register or genre is
concerned, it is important to note that there is (as in so many other areas
of language) a more or less elaborated folk theory, which includes names
for various types such as memos, telegrams, romances. However, we
cannot assume that these can automatically be taken over into a linguistic
account of types of register. Martin (p.c.) has observed that folk genres
tend to be biased towards mode - towards easily observable overt format,
etc. (this is a general feature of folk taxonomies in contrast to scientific
taxonomies, which are often based on more covert criteria: cf. Wignell et
al. 1987.) Thus, apart from any other short-comings, the folk notion of
genre tends to be functionally imbalanced and there is no a priori reason
why we should take it as our point of departure in developing an account
of register types.
In what follows, it will only be possible to follow through one alternative
systematically and I will use alternative (i) since it raises various issues
about variation as an independent theoretical dimension that are important
in the context of this book. A number of findings from one alternative can
be re-interpreted in terms of the other and I will do so where appropriate.
The genre model has been tremendously influential and been used in many
studies, in particular in educational linguistics and social semiotics. The
most recent summary of the model can be found in Martin (in press). It
is reviewed critically in Hasan (in press) from the point of view of her
theoretical position and the discussion will be continued from the genre
model's point of view. Since the topic of this book is variation in language
and a number of contributions demonstrate the value of this variation, it
will be very clear that variation in metalanguage is equally valuable (cf.
further Section 8). In fact it is crucial, since the existence of different
varieties of systemic-functional theory clarifies the overall theoretical space.
3. Register variation
Let us explore, then, the interpretation of register as a state of the
linguistic system along the dimension of functional variation, or, as it has
also been called, diatypic variation. The variation is the primary
theoretical abstraction - the recognition that the system is functionally
variable - and the notion of 'register' is a convenient secondary idealiza-
tion - just as a dialect and a synchronic system are. In fact, register is
explicitly grouped with other kinds of variation on the systemic theme (cf.
Gregory 1967; Gregory and Carol 1978; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978) -
dialectal (including sociolectel) and historical. (We will return to history in
Section 5: there are at least three types of history to take into account.)
This is important as it invites us to explore common ways of modelling
varieties and to generalize insights gained with one type of variation (cf.
Section 3.2.2 (ii) below). Register variation is compared with codal varia-
tion and dialectal variation in Figure 11.5, which is based on Halliday's
characterization of these types of variation according to the existence and
location of a higher-level constant in relation to which there is variation.
What is specific about register variation? The answer given by Halliday
(e.g., 1978) has two interconnected parts, relating to (i) contextual role and
(ii) domain of variation within the linguistic system:
(i) Upwards: in contrast to other types of variation, register variation has
no higher-level constant. Its higher-stratal significance pertains precisely
to diversification in context of situation - to selections within field,
tenor and mode. That is, the function of register variation is contex-
tual, in the sense of context of situation. (In contrast, dialectal variation
has a higher-level constant within language and is a realization of the
social structure of a culture).
(ii! higher-level
(i) no higher-level
Figure 11.5 Different types of variation according to presence and location of
(ii) Within the linguistic system: since the function of register variation
is contextual, that linguistic stratum which is the interface to the
context of situation is implicated in the first instance - that is, seman-
tics. In other words, registerial variation is semantic variation in the
first instance. In contrast, Halliday (1978) suggests, dialectal variation
primarily affects the lower strata of lexicogrammar and phonology .
However, Hasan's (e.g., 1990) research has shown that semantic varia- *
tion may be codal (cf. Halliday 1991a): the difference from register
variation is that there is a higher-level constant outside language.
Let us begin with the contextual role of register variation and then turn
to the variation itself within the linguistic system.
3.1 Contextual roli of register variation
We can interpret register variation as the linguistic system's response to
pressures from above, from the diversity of contexts of communication:
language has to accommodate this diversity and it does so by varying itself.
That is, the diversity of contextual demands engenders register variation.
But as always with characterizations of inter-stratal relations, we have to
remember that the relation is dialectal: register variation also construes
contextual diversity.
3.1.1 Context oj situation
Contextual demands can be characterized in terms of recurrent contexts of,
situation - that is, situation types that have become part of a culture.-\.(
Selections from context of situation are realized by register variation and
in this respect the realizational relation differs from that between
lexicogrammar and semantics. The semantic system is realized by the
lexicogrammatical one but context of situation is realized not directly by
the linguistic system but by variation in the linguistic system. So a contex-
tual choice is a meta-choice relative to the linguistic system not only in the
general sense of a stratal move up (where semantics might be viewed as
meta-grammar) but also in the sense that it is a choice between varieties
of the linguistic system .
. Situation types are intersections of different field, tenor and mode values
- what Hasan (1985) calls contextual configurations (CCs), Each context
of situation corresponds to a location along the dimension of register varia-
tion - that is, to a register.
So a given combination of field, tenor and
mode (a CC) corresponds to a particular register: see Figure 11.6. The
values are selections from field, tenor and mode networks. This means that
we can state the values at variable degrees of delicacy so we can give whole
'families' of registers, subfamilies or single registers contextual values
depending on the degree of delicacy we select within context. For instance,
we can group recipes, car repair instructions, and furniture assembly
instructions into a family of procedural registers. Contextually, these may
all be similar in tenor and mode but they will certainly vary in field. Or,
to take another example, in characterizing scientific English as a
generalized register, Halliday (1988: 162) uses very general, indelicate
field, tenor and mode values: 'in field, extending, transmitting or exploring
knowledge in the physical, biological or social sciences; in tenor, addressed
to specialists, learners or laymen, from within the same group (e.g.
specialist to specialist) or across groups (e.g. lecturer to students); and III
mode, phonic or graphic channel, most incongruent (e.g. formal "written
language" with graphic channel) or less so (e.g. formal with phonic chan-
nel), and with variation in rhetorical function - expository, hortatory,
polemic, imaginative and so on.'
The contextual characterization of a register is very important since it
specifies the register's higher-level significance - it is important not just to
take over existing categories glossed in simple terms such as the language
of a particular activity or discipline or form of publication. These
categories tend to be too crude and heterogeneous. There are examples of
careful descriptions in e.g. Halliday and Hasan (1985) and Halliday (1978)
but this is one area where we need a good deal more descriptive experience
to establish descriptive categories that can be re-used and expanded -
",., register 3
P pP register 2
register 1
Figure 11.6 Contexts of situation characterized by ecs and corresponding
to the descriptive categories we now have for the grammar (as
III Halhday 1985a). Ghadessy (this volume) offers a detailed commentary
on the field, tenor and mode of contexts of situation in which business
communication occurs. See also Section 7.1.
Context of situation is characterized by the fractal dimensions of
organization (see Section 2.2 above) just like any other stratal system. It
is both paradigmatically and syntagmatically organized - it has system as
well as structure. It has generally been assumed that different situation
types are characterized by different structural configurations, different
gene.ric structures. Such structures unfold over time so they are staged;
mOVIllg from one stage to another means moving from one logo genetic
state to another in the instantiation of a context of situation (cf. Section
5.1 below and see further Q'Donnell, Matthiessen and Sefton 1991 - for
a general discussion of the dynamics of context, see Hasan 1981). The
different stages may be realized by language alone, by a balanced mixture
of language and non-symbolic behaviour, or mainly by non-symbolic
behaviour. And semiotic systems other than language may also be
involved. The division of labour depends on selections within context of
situation. The limiting case of context of situation being realized by
register variation is thus variation in type of social system - either from
language to another semiotic system or from a semiotic one to a non-
semiotic one (i.e., one that is primarily non-symbolic rather than symbolic
even if it has secondary interpretations). 8 Historically, it is even possible
to get a sense of how designed semiotic systems have taken over from
specialist registers - cf. Section 5.3 below.
Situation types are thus structured but it also seems highly likely that
they may be ranked. Sinclair and Coulthard's (1975) work on lessons in
class room interaction would be an example of this and Steiner's (1988)
work on activity in general demonstrates the existence of ranking. Any
ranking of situation types would be reflected in the semantic system of the
relevant register: see further Sections 3.2.2 and 4.2.
3.1.2 Beyond context oj situation
Context of situation is the most immediate aspect of the general context in
which the linguistic system is embedded and it is the system in which a
register is given its contextual significance in the first instance. But context
of situation is only one aspect of the overall social context in which
language is 'embedded': to put this in Malinowski's terms, we also have
to take account of the context of culture. The critical question is how to
model the relationship between context of culture and context of situa-
tion. 9We can look at this from the point of view of the dimensions of
systemic-functional theory; there are at least three possible dimensions:
context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
rank - a relationship of scale, a macro to micro relationship where
a culture consists of situation types.
context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
stratification - a relationship of abstract, a met a-relationship where
a culture is realized by situation types.
context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
longterm potentiality - a relationship of observer's time-depth where
a culture is a generalization across situation types.
(i) The relationship is perhaps most often discussed in rank-like terms.
From a sociological point of view context of situation is the micro-
perspective of daily dialogic encounters, written exchanges; and so on
rather than the macro-perspective of broad social organization into classes,
castes, genders, age groups, etc. and one interesting question is whether
and how the contextual significance of register extends from the micro to
the macro. It is certainly one that has faced ethnomethodologists in general
and conversational analysists in particular since their concerns with the
micro have left a gap to the macro concerns of more mainstream sociology.
If conversational analysts could bridge the gap, their work would be
legitimized from a mainstream point of view but they have tended to be
very cautious here. Schegloff and others (e.g. at a CA workshop at UCSB
in the mid 1980s) have argued that the macro-categories cannot necessarily
be taken for granted and that it is premature to try to link up the micro-
analysis with a priori macro categories instead of showing how macro
categories are brought into existence in the micro of daily life. This
problem is highly relevant to register analysis since it relates directly to the
question of contextual significance beyond the context of situation. 10
Within systemic theory, the relationship between context of situation and
contexts of culture has been explored in rather different terms (elaborating
rather than extending according to the different types of expansion iden-
tified by Halliday, 1985a): the two theoretical positions are (ii) and (iii)
identified above.
(ii) Context may be modelled as stratified into two or more planes. This
is the model developed and used by Jim Martin and others, already refer-
red to under (ii) in Section 2.3 above." The contextual planes are ideology,
genre, and 'register' (in the sense of context of situation; see Martin 1986
for pioneering the construal of ideology in systemic theory): ideology is
realized by genre, which is in turn realized by 'register', which is in turn
realized by language. This model thus provides us with a way of inter-
preting the ideological significance of a particular register (in the sense of
functional variety) or point of register variation. Ideology is interpreted as
a connotative semiotic whose realization is genre; it captures, among other
things, the distribution of genres according to the division of labour in a
One general point Hunston's (this volume) chapter raises is that
particular registers have higher-level ideological significance and their
ideological role constrains how meanings are made e.g. by marshalling the
metaphorical mode to achieve an interpersonal distancing in the direction
of implicitness and objectivity. Hunston explores evaluation in scientific
writing. Evaluation is inherently intersubjective and essentially interper-
sonal but she shows how this angle is expressed implicitly and 'objectively'
in her corpus of research articles - the evaluator tends not to be present
in the discourse. This is achieved partly through interpersonal metaphor.
While Hunston does not characterize her scientific register in terms of
context of situation (field, tenor and mode), it seems very likely that we
have to go beyond context of situation to account for the way evaluation
works in the register. We have to take the ideology of the scientific
community into account and this is precisely what she does. She shows that
the ideology is such that evaluation has to be implicit and objective: doing
science means among other things persuading fellow scientists (i.e., mode:
persuasive) but one can't be seen to be doing this so the register has to
accommodate this disjunction - it has to have resources of evaluation but
it has to express them explicitly and distanced from the evaluator.
(iii) Context may be interpreted in terms of potentiality, ranging from
the cultural potential to instantial situations with situation types of
intermediate constructs. This is Halliday's approach in Halliday (1978)
and, more explicitly, in Halliday (1991b). The contextual significance
beyond context of situation would thus be interpreted in terms of more
longterm cultural patterns. I will return to this approach in Section 6.
It is, of course, entirely possible that other kinds of dimensions are rele-
vant in the interpretation of the relationship between context of culture and
context of situation. But it seems important to explore the ones that have
already been identified. I will not try to reconcile the three alternatives
now - one obvious question is whether they are true alternatives or
complementarities that account for different aspects of the relationship
between context of culture and context of situation. It is worth noting,
however, . that observer-perspective becomes critical: are we looking at
m context as outsiders, adopting the analyst's point of view (what
we mIght call meta-subjectivity) or as interactants, adopting the perspective
of those collaborating in semiotic processes (what we might call inter-
3.1.3 Register, person and personalities
So far I've discussed the contextual significance of register from the
perspective of the system - situational systems, cultural systems, etc.
However, there is a complementary perspective: we can look at these
phenomena from the point of view of users of the system - in the sense
of persons and groups of persons. The system is what a person can do and
any instance of selection from the system is what a person does. Conse-
quently, we can construe a person in terms of his/her systemic potential
and acts o.f selection from that potential. And this then also becomes a way
of construmg persons as social roles in terms of variation within overall
system and of relating persons to groups, again in terms of variation. From
this. point of view, the significance of a register relates to groups and the
that make them up. On the one hand, it may be deployed in
an mstItutIOnal group such as those doing science or busmess characterized
a particular ideology. On the other hand, it will be part of the reper-
tOIre that shapes a person relative to various social groups. Let's consider
institutional groups first.
Studies such as Hunston's investigation of the research article or
Ghadessy's (this volume) study of business' communication focus on how
groups as a scientific community or a group entering
mto busmess transactIOns deploy the resources of a register or set of
registers. In deploying these resources, people take on social roles
, " al'" h '
personae or person It1es suc as peer researcher, apprentice researcher,
customer .. A time ago now, Firth (1950) established the centrality of
language creatmg persons and the clusters of personalities (social roles)
that constItute them: 'The meaning of person in the sense of a man or
woman in fictitious dialogue, or as a character in a play, is
relevant If we take a sociological view of the personae or parts we are called
upon to play in the routine of life. Every social person is a bundle of
personae, a bundle of parts, each having its lines .... The continuity of the
person, the development of personality, are paralleled by the continuity
and development of language in a variety of forms'. He also emphasized
the ontogenetic perspective here. Halliday (e.g., 1975; 1978) has taken this
further, showing for example how the self is determined and negotiated in
countless interactions starting with proto-Ianguage and how persons are
constructed relative to the group through language. Trevarthen (e.g.,
1987) has emphasized the importance of the development of intersubjec-
tivity in these early interactions. Further, Hasan (1986) has shown how the
young child may learn about an ideological position in learning about
personalities in interaction with his/her mother. Birch (this volume) argues
for a position similar to Firth's but draws on sources other then Firth
Halliday and Hasan: 'A contemporary critical position argues that we ar;
interpellated as subjects, rather than arguing that we are born with a unique
and specific social and cultural identity . -We are constructed not just as a
subject, but, in many different situations and contexts, as many
dIfferent, multiple, subjects. This simple subjectivity is made possible only
by discursive means - amongst them, language.' Firth, Halliday, Hasan,
Birch and others show how persons/subjects as constellations of
personalities or social roles are created through language in dialogic
interaction - how they are learned and negotiated as personae as Firth put
it. We can see this in the history of a child and we can see this in the
history; of a text: Birch shows with examples that Pinter's plays are good
sources for studying the use of linguistic resources to negotiate personae.
It is possible to show how different roles are enacted through the use of
interpersonal resources in dialogue: the different roles are enacted as
different locations within the overall interpersonal potential.
Given that language plays an important role here, what about variation
within fanguage, more specifically registerial variation? Dialectal variation
is a direct indication of a person's location in the social system (or perhaps
more appropriately, a personality's location, since a person may take on
different personalities in this respect - it is variation according to user -
but registerial variation according to context of situation - variation accor-
ding to use. However, part of the social system is the distribution of the
contexts in which persons move and the registers associated with these
contexts that they have access to, so registers reflect the division of labour
within a society. To put this the other way around, persons have different
registerial repertoires (the range of registers a person has learned to use
in appropriate contexts) and their repertoires will help determine the range
of contexts they can move in. (As we will see in Section 5.1, this seems
very clear from an ontogenetic point of view: the child has to expand
his/her registerial repertoire to gain access to new contexts.) In a dialogic
context, this tan lead to imbalance. In commenting on an extract from a
Pinter play, Birch writes: 'Pete can be performed as controlling Len by
concentrating on the registerial differences of their language. . ..
Exploiting the difference, therefore, between these two levels of linguistic
skill means exploiting relations of control and power.' We can explore the
then, that one source of difference between persons and the way
they mteract and are positioned relative to one another lies in differences
in registerial repertoires.
Hasan's (e.g., 1990) recent research has shown very clearly that
semantic variation in general is correlated with what we might interpret as
different 'personalities', where differences run along lines of gender and
class. Now, such differences are not specific registerial differences but
rather general differences in coding orientation (in Bernstein's sense of
code). But they are an important complement to our understanding of how
registerial differences correlate differences in 'personality' or social role.
3.2 Variation in the linguistic system
Having considered the contextual significance of register briefly, let's now
explore register variation as a dimension of the linguistic system.
3.2.1 Domains of variation
Since register is interpreted in terms of an independent dimension of varia-
tion, it is not in the first instance located along any of the other dimensions
that systemic theory identifies as constituting the overall semiotic space of
language in context (as described in Sections 2.1 and 2.). For instance, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular technical
vocabulary - it would include other aspects that are variable across context
types such as generic structure and 'micro-semantic styles'. Similarly, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular macro-
structure or generic structure potential of text - again, this is only one
aspect and it leaves out the 'micro-semantic' realizations of the generic
stages of a text, the nature of the semantic system, and so on. A register
may be characterized by special lexicogrammatical features; it may even
have phonological (cf. Halliday et al. 1964) or graphological characteristics.
However, the theory locates the source of variation in context and since
the stratum of semantics is the linguistic 'interface' to context (Halliday
1973), we can expect that register variation is semantic variation in the
first instance rather than e.g. phonological variation. Halliday (1978: 35)
contrasts register variation and dialect variation in this respect (cf. Figure
11. 5 above). Now, if there is semantic variation, there also has to be
lexicogrammatical variation since semantics and lexicogrammar are related
naturally as the two content strata. (There does not, of course, have to be
phonological or graphological variation since their relationship to
lexicogrammar is largely conventional.) This still leaves open two
possibilities with respect to the specification of variation within semantics
and lexicogrammar: while there is one generalized lexicogrammatical
system within which register-specific systems can be located, the semantics
could be similar in this respect (i.e., mono systemic) or it might be diver-
sified into separate register-specific systems (i.e., polysystemic). These
possibilities will be taken up briefly in Section 3.2.2 (especially under (iii)
and in more detail in Section 4.1.
3.2.2 Specification of variation
We come now to a central question of the interpretation of register variation
minimal difference
(i) varied probabilities
within the same system
(ii) core system with
parli lions for varieties
maximal difference
(ill) completely separate
system varieties
Figure 11.7 From minimal to maximal difference and different modes of
I have not addressed yet. How is the variation to be specified? The other
dimensions of the semiotic space of language in context discussed in
Sections 2.1 and 2.2 all have clear forms of specification and representa-
tion. For instance, paradigmatic organization is represented by means of
system networks and syntagmatic organization by means of realization
statements resulting in function structures; inter-stratal realization is
represented by means of preselect statements and metafunction by means
of simultaneity in system networks and layering in function structures. As
far as register variation - or any other form of variation for that matter
- goes, there is less of an established convention. The question is not so
much how to specify a single register since that is easy enough: we can
specify it just as we would a linguistic system in general. Rather, the
central question is how to represent the variation itself or, alternatively,
how to represent a linguistic system as an 'assemblage' of registers. Here
I can only make a few observations (leaving out a discussion of Labovian
variation theory, for example) noting what has been done and suggesting
a new approach that has not been applied to the account of register
variation before (see (ii) below). The various issues concerning the
representation of mono systemic and poly systemic accounts in semantics are
identified and explored by Caffarel (1990; 1991).
To simplify the task, I will assume that there are three possible inter-
pretations of register variation (see Figure 11. 7): (i) each register is consis-
tent with the general linguistic system, but with different systemic
probabilities; (ii) each register is partially consistent with other registers so
that there is a common core but there are also mutually inconsistent
subsystems; and (iii) each register is essentially inconsistent with other
registers so that each register forms a separate system and there is no
common core.
I will present these alternatives using various systems to illustrate the
differences, starting with PRIMARY TENSE. This system is clearly variable
across registers: for example, narrative registers are essentially 'past'
(within which there are additional secondary options - past in past, present
in past, and future in past), expository ones may be essentially 'present'
(generalized present time), and forecasts also include (but are not restricted
to) 'future'. These can obviously all be seen as restrictions on the general
system 'past/presentlfuture' and I will show how this can be achieved with
the first approach.
(i) Probabilistic system with register skewings. According to this alter-
native, the system is fixed from a qualitative point of view and registers
are specified in terms of different probabilities associated with systemic
options. For instance, the options of PRIMARY TENSE have different
probabilities depending on whether the register setting is narrative,
expository or forecasting: see Figure 11.8. The different registers are thus
within the overall semiotic space created by the general system. The
probabilities in the TENSE example are merely illustrative but we can also
draw on Nesbitt and Plum (1988) for a substantial example. They use the
system of CLAUSE COMPLEXING to illustrate the probabilistic nature of the
linguistic system and give among other things the distribution of the
intersection of the simultaneous systems TAXIS (,hypotaxis/parataxis') and
PROJECTION TYPE (,idea/locution') in four different registers (narrative,
anecdote, exemplification, and observation/comment): see Figure 11.9.
The difference between the observation/comment register and the others is
particularly noteworthy in the area of 'locution', which does not combine
with 'parataxis' in this register.
The systemic probabilities for a register that can be derived from relative
frequencies in an appropriate corpus can thus be compared with the
probabilities of other registers but they can also be compared with the
overall probabilities of the general systems - generalized probabilities
across registers inherent in the syste!!l;.;.lA
to ." the . /
frequencies to generalized systemic probabilities correlate with different
time-depths in observer perspective along the dimension of potentiality: cf.
Section 6 below.)
narrative expositiory forecasting
past 1 0 .25
temporal present 0 1 .25
future 0 0 .5
Figure 11.8
Register specified in terms of probability skews
89 0 11 100
93 74- 7 2 I)
14 10 86 90
21 1 4 79
8 S
KEY to registers: narrative observation/ comment
anecdote exemplification
Figure 11.9 Register specified in terms of frequency skews (based on Nesbitt and
Plum, 1988)
(ii) Partitioned multi-register system with 'common core'. The limiting
case of probabilistic differences across registers is when an option or an
intersection of options has the probability 0 or 1: when it is categorially
absent or present although it is not in the generalized system. Here the
probabilistic difference can also be interpreted qualitatively. For instance,
we could interpret the register differences pertaining to PRIMARY TENSE as
follows: narrative - one term: 'past'; expository - one term: 'present';
forecasting three terms: 'past/present/future'. And for CLAUSE
COMPLEXlNG, we could say that the observation/comment register
includes a marking convention that is absent in the other registers in
Figure 11.9, viz, 'if "locution", then "paratactic"'. Even though such
statements are still in some sense within the overall systemic space of the
general network, they presuppose some new form of specification that
enables us to show how registers diverge qualitatively from one another.
And such a form of specification would then also open up the possibility
of allowing registers to diverge from the general system. This would in fact
be necessary if it is the case that registers are mutually inconsistent and
cannot be drawn from one general system. It is perfectly theoretically
possible, for instance, that a particular register displays a grammatical
system that is not shared by other registers and is not part of the general
system of English grammar.
For, instance, certain types of news repor-
ting provide the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause that
projects a quoted locution even though it precedes it (e.g. Sad he: 'There
wll be a realignment of poltcal forces and I beleve the NP wouldbestronger this
time.') and this may not be an option in English in general. Or, to take
another example, in procedural registers, there is an option of presuppos-
ing the Goal/Complement by leaving it implicit if it is specific (e.g., add
the onions and fry until golden brown), which is not an option in the system
of general English.
Recent work on multilingual systems at the University of Sydney
suggests one possible path here. We have "developed a way of spedfying
multilingual systems as assemblages of systems from different languages
which may have common parts and language specific parts. The basic
principle is quite straightforward: commonalities across languages are
simply specified as shared system network parts and language-specific
systems are specified within language-specific partitions of the system
network (for details, see e.g. Bateman, Matthiessen, Nanri and Zeng
1991). Thus the basic MOOD systems are common across Chinese,
English, and Japanese, but more delicate ones are stated within language-
specific partitions: see Figure 11.10. Partitioning the system network is a
way of introducing conditionalization on systems (or system parts or
realization statements) - or rather, meta-conditionalization, since the
conditionalization is external to the logic of the system network itself
(unlike conditionalization represented by entry conditions to systems), in
this case conditionalization by, language.
This way of showing a generalized system network as an assemblage of
specific networks where common parts are shared and different parts are
J speaker- projected
declarative ~
other- projected
J indicative
l imperative
( Chinese) (Chinese)
~ ; : : ) _ J ""',.,
interrogative '_ ____ --'-____ ----'"
Figure 11.10 Multilingual system network with conditionalized partitions
. ~ b o J ' __ --{reporting
'1 proJectiJtg
relational quoting
J unmarked theme
~ marked theme
journalistic reporting
Figure 11.11 Common core system and register-specific partition
partitioned can be applied to registers as well. The 'common core' of the
system shared by two or more registers are common parts in the system
network and register-specific parts are specified in conditionalized parti-
tions. The general system network is thus an assemblage of register-specific
ones, where particular systems may be common or unique to specific
registers. For instance, if we want to state that only journalistic reporting
has the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause, we can simply
partition this THEME system: see Figure 11.11. (The example is a gram-
matical one, but the same principle applies to any stratum: partitioning is
an extension of the fractal systemic organization.)
The general system is, as noted, an assemblage of the various register-
specific systems. To the extent that registers are compatible, there is a
common core. 12 Now, in this model, a register-specific system is a
particular view on the assemblage system (<;f. in particular, Matthiessen,
Nanri and Zeng 1992): it includes the common core and register-specific
partitions. Thus the 'journalistic reporting' view on the fragment shown in
Figure 11.11 is the common core - PROCESS TYPE: 'material/mental/
verbal/relational', THEME SELECTION: 'unmarked theme/marked theme',
VERBAL PROJECTION: 'projecting/non-projecting', VERBAL PROJECTION
TYPE: 'reporting/quoting' - and also the partitioned system 'thematic
process/other' . 13 The specification of a register as a view consisting of the
common core and register-specific partitions is one way of answering de
Beaugrande's (this volume) question whether 'only certain instances of
language should be considered specific to some register': a register is a
complete system, a variety of the general system available in a particular
context of situation, but it shares parts with other registers - the common
Carter (1987; 1988: 9-10) identifies a number of characteristics of core
lexis. For example: lexical items from the core in sets of related items tend
to be more unmarked and other items from the same set are often defined
in terms of the core item (e.g:, snigger, grin, smirk, beam are all definable
as kinds of smile, the core item: beam = 'smile happily', etc.); core items
are superordinates, i.e. less delicate (e.g., flower vs. rose, tulip, peony, etc.);
items tend to be interpersonally neutral (they 'do not carry especially
marked connotations or associations', as Carter puts it); and core items 'do
not normally allow us to identify from which field of discourse they have
been taken'.
The grammatical example above is quite specific to journalistic reporting
of certain kinds (note that the register partition is more delicate than the
common grammatical core). But the contrast between written vs. spoken
registers is very general. If we use partitions, it is easy to specify that the
systems of KEY extend the general MOOD grammar in delicacy (see Halli-
day 1967) but occur within a partition specific to those registers that are
associated with the spoken mode: see Figure 11.12. Again, as with lexis,
the 'core' common to both spoken and written varieties is less delicate that
the KEY systems restricted to spoken varieties.
Partitioning is not inconsistent with approach (i). Rather it extends the
EiJ -{ uncommitted polarity .
r:T1 1.assertl0n
marked l.2.!J G]J
committed polarity rtservation
contr adiotion
interro9ative 1
. J int., actant
1 non-int.ractant
@J -{ ass.,tiv.
marked E:::!J -{ answer demanded
non-assertive .0
not d.mand.d "'\
polarity of .answer

polarity of answer
Figure 11.12 Partitioning of KEY within the interpersonal clause grammar
of the system network and probabilities can in fact
be partItIOned Just as whole systems can or realization statements
associated with systemic features.
.. When. we consid:r the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar through
of lexIcogrammatical features in Section 4.2, we will see that
the collectIOn ?f preselections a register image onto the lexicogram-
mar. PreselectIOn from above IS thus another way of indicating the boun-
daries of a register.
(iii) The limiting case of a partitioned system
net,,:ork IS there is no common core and only register-
speCIfic partItIOns. ThIS IS not, of course, a very likely situation since it
would mean that there was no re-use of linguistic resources across the
contexts of situation which different registers correspond to and it would
suggest of situation are completely distinct.
settmg up systems can serve as a useful way into the
of a register, particularly at the semantic stratum: see
Halhday and Caffarel (1990; 1991). It is also possible to argue that
a system dedIcated only to a particular context of situation is a convenient
way of compiling out register-specific information from the general system
(see Patten 1988, for the value from AI point of view). This and the
use of separate systems for different registers will be pursued a bIt further
in Section 4.1.
4. Register and stratification
Stratification and inter-stratal realization are not easy principles of
organization to come to grips with (see e.g. Halliday 1992). It is not possi-
ble to explore the issues concerning the interpretation of stratification here,
but it is important to note two developments in the 1980s that are impor-
tant to the interpretation of register.
(i) One is Martin's (e.g., 1985, in press) use of
of konnotationsprog in his development of the planmng type of stratificatIOn
(characterized briefly in Section 2.3 above): this is stratification where the
lower stratum realizing another one is itself a semiotic system. A system
realized by a semiotic system in this way is called a connotative semiotic
system. He sees this as the relationship between context and language:
context is a connotative semiotic system (or really a stratified set of such
systems) realized by language. Martin has used this type of stratification
to interpret register as was noted above.
(ii) The other is Lemke's (1984) notion of metaredundancy (further inter-
preted for systemic theory by Halliday 1992). Realization is seen not
simply as a relation between patterns from two adjacent strata but as a
relation between patterns and patterns realized in patterns: lexicogrammar
is realized in phonology (I graphology) and semantics is realized in the
realization of lexicogrammar in phonology (I graphology). The concentric
circle diagram shown in Figure 11.2 represents metaredundancy in this
way. It foilows that context is realized by the realization of semantics in
lexicogrammar in phonology - or, to be more precise, it is realized by the
variation in semantics realized in lexicogrammar realized in phonology.
There is thus an interesting issue as to whether metaredundancy and
connotative semiotic give us the same interpretation of the relationship
between context and language. In any case, the metaredundancy inter-
pretation of stratification has consequences for the interpretation of
register: if a particular register is specified in semantic terms, then this
semantic specification is realized by the realization of lexicogrammar in
phonology (I graphology). In other words, the implications for lower strata
are made very clear.
Both the work on connotative semiotic and the work on metaredundancy
have highlighted the 'constructive' role of lower strata in their realization
of higher ones. Whilewordings such as 'language reflects context', 'gram-
mar reflects semantics' and even 'grammar realizes semantics' may suggest
a passive role for the lower strata, it is now often recognized that the
relationship is much more dialectic: for instance, in realizing context,
language construes it and in realizing semantics, grammar construes it.
Thus when Gunnarsson (this volume) writes: 'From a sociolinguistic point
of view, changes in textual patterns are reflections of changes in society',
we can explore an interpretation that gives the textual patterns an active
role (cf. Birch, this volume, and his reference to Berger and Luckman).
They construe social patterns and as they change, social patterns also
change. The correlation can be seen as a complex dialectic with mutual
influences. .
In interpreting register, it is important to try to operate with a
comprehensively stratified model of language in context since any category
derives its significance both from its location within a given stratum and
from its inter-stratal relationships. As a result, semantic and lexicogram-
matical categories are doubly responsible: a semantic category has to be
contextually and lexicogrammatically responsible; and a lexicogram-
matIcal category has to be semantically responsible and also, of course,
capable of ultimately being realized phonologically or graphologically. So,
for instance, the socio-cultural significance of a grammatical system such
as MOOD is derivable from the stratified model by moving up to the
semantics to see what semantic options it realizes and then to the higher-
level contextual systems to see how the semantic system realized by MOOD
realizes these. This then takes us to considerations of tenor, of how social
roles are distributed and constituted, and so on (cf. Hasan 1990). Leckie-
Tarry (this volume) notes that genre theorists give genre a dual emphasis
'on all contextual levels and linguistic structure'. In connection with this
it is important to emphasize that a comprehensively stratified model
provides a multiple focus - the contextual significance of both language
and register is built into the theory at the very foundation. The multiple
focus makes it possible to view the whole system globally or to move in
locally, with a semantic or lexicogrammatical focus for instance, and to
'look up' realizational connections at a higher or lower stratum. We can
thus adopt different view points, different ways into the system say for
purposes of descriptive research always remembering that the option of
shunting (cf. Halliday 1961) has to be preserved.
A comprehensive account of a register is, of course, one that 'exhausts'
it stratally. It will specify the relevant values within context of situation
and show how the situation is staged generically, it will specify the overall
semantics of the register realizing the situation type and the realization of
the situation stages, and it will also specify lower-level linguistic realiza-
tions. However, there is nothing contradictory about a lexicogrammatical
characterization of a register: this is one view from which certain semantic
and contextual kinds of information can be derived; but it is a partial view
- of necessity and as defined by the stratified model itself. For instance,
it would exclude information about the semantics of text beyond those
units that are realized by (complexes of) clauses. Or we can select certain
key aspects of a register to characterize it. For instance, Ghadessy (this
volume) shows what the staging of the situation type he is concerned with
is and then identifies the realizational patterns in language for each. See
further Section 7.1 on the selection of 'selections' or 'slices' through the
whole system.
Starting with context, I will now move down through the strata noting
how registers can be characterized.
4. 0 Realization of context of situation
The way into a register is from a context of situation type - from a
particular CC in Hasan's (1985) terms: the semantic system of that register
as a whole realizes the situation type - (cf. Figure 11.6 above). But the
realization is further differentiated according to the unfolding of the situa-
tion in semiotic space-time in stages - the elements of generic structure.
One example of such a staging is given by Ghadessy (this volume); cf. also
Gunnarsson's (this volume) superthematic structure. Each stage or element
is realized by preselections within the semantic system of the register. This
is one of the areas of register analysis where we need much more descrip-
tive work but Hasan (1984) provides some theoretical underpinnings and
a, descriptive example drawn from the register of nursery tales. She
differentiates between nuclear meanings and elaborative meanings in the
realization of a generic element: nuclear meanings are necessary and
elaborative meanings may flesh out the realization further. In her account
of matter cycles, Cross (1991; cf. this volume) extends Hasan's work as
situational realization.
4.1 Register and semantics - register-specific semantic systems
As we have seen, a given context of situation corresponds to a particular
is in the first instance a::semantic variety of the -fmguisfic
system since semantics is the interlevel between context and the rest of the
linguistic system. One way of specifying such a semantic variety is to set
up a separate semantic system in accordance with strategy (iii) of Section
3.2.2 above - a system dedicated to a particular context of situation with
its settings of field, tenor, and mode: see Figure 11.13. The figure shows
different contexts of situation corresponding to different semantic systems
realized in different ways by one generalized lexicogrammatical system.
This will bring out the organization of the particular communicative
strategies we employ in different contexts of situation; and it is a useful
research approach for getting started on the task of describing registers and
semantics. 16
The semantic level can thus be thought of as a repertoire of situation-
specific semantic systems. Such systems include the different text structures
associated with different genres. For instance, it is possible to describe the
semantic systems of stock market reports, of weather forecasting, of adver-
tising, of culinary instruction, the system used by a mother controlling her
Figure 11.13 Situation-specific semantic systems as a way of stating registers
child, .and so on. semantic systems are all realized by means of the
one hIghly generalIzed grammatical system. This model takes account of
unity (the . in diversity (the various semantic systems). To see
what In:-phcatIOns v:e can consider a summary of certain aspects
of Halhday s (1973) dISCUSSIOn of regulatory semantics.
. a of situation of one of the types Bernstein (1973) has
as for socialization - one where a mother tries to regulate
her chIld s behavIOur. Her son has been playing at a construction site and
she wants to prevent him from doing so again. The tenor is thus one of
young with the mother having the authority. The field
behavIOur control and the child's body and behaviour. The
mode IS hortatory. What can the mother do semantically to
the Two basic regulatory strategies are threatening (with
or .restramt) and warning (about what will happen to the child
or the chIld will cause to happen). Examples of texts include
if you do that again I'll smack you
Daddy'll be cross with you
you do that again and you'll get smacked
, . ~ ' ' 00 "''''", , :=J--{ "' " .....
mental punishment
agency specified by other
physical punishment ,_
condition explicit
condition implicit
agency unspecified
Figure 11.14 Fragment of regulatory semantics
you'll get hurt
you'll get your feet wet
you'll tear your clothes
The semantic network consists of systems like 'threat/warning', 'physical
punishment/mental punishment/restraint on behaviour', and so on. Part of
the semantic system network discussed in Halliday (1973: 81) is given in
Figure 11.14 (only the category of 'threat' is further elaborated in delicacy
Let's consider one more example - the semantics of culinary instruction
deployed in written recipes. This is quite a simple semantic variety; it is
a fairly restricted register. The tenor is one of expert to non-expert with
the expert providing a service for the non-expert. The field is one of
procedures in the culinary realm. The mode is written and instructional.
Interpersonally, the writer can either choose to interact with the reader by
instructing or informing him/her or just choose to qualify some instruction.
Ideationally, the writer represents either a culinary doing or a culinary
being, with states of wanting/liking as a third minor option. Figure 11.15
presents a very simple semantic network; it is presented in more detail in
Halliday and Matthiessen (forthcoming). I will return to this semantic
network in Section 4.2 below to discuss its lexicogrammatical realizations.
We have seen two examples of simple registerial semantic networks.
What is the status of such networks in theory and praxis? I suggested at
the outset that at the very least they provide us with a convenient way of
characterizing a 'profile' of a register and a way of working on semantics
culinary operation
culinary happening
Figure 11.15 Culinary instructional semantics
without having achieved a general comprehensive account of the semantic
system yet. If this is all there is to them, then from a theoretical point of
view they are only transient descriptive steps in the direction of an account
of register variation in the semantic system according to strategy (i) or (ii)
of Section 3.2.2. I Will say a few words about this possibility presently.
However, even if that turns out to be the case - and it is a desirable
outcome - register-specific semantic systems still have an interesting
theoretical status. Patten (1988) presents a computational system based on
Halliday's (1973) account summarized in part here. The system can
generate short texts in the regulatory register. Patten demonstrates the
value of registerial semantic systems from an AI point of view. They
constitute compilations of semantic strategies needed to solve recurrent
communicative problems. Instead of having to search the vast general
semantic system for appropriate semantic means, we can simply confine
ourselves to the semantic potential associated with the current context of
situation. Semantically, a register is thus a 'customized' network of
strategies for addressing the task of a particular context of situation. Such
a network may have been compiled out of a generalized semantic network
- it. may have been compiled from a representation such as (i) or (ii) of
SectIOn 3.2.2. Patten's argument seems compatible with the notion that a
register is a view on the general system, which consists of an assemblage
of systems.
The theoretical possibility that registerial semantic systems can be
:iewed as variants of a general system, with a common core, is explored
In recent work by Caffarel (1990; 1991). She then demonstrates that this
works for French tense semantics in narrative registers and one expository
one. Caffarel's work is thus very central to the fundamental question how
register variation can be specified.
One area where it seems hard to set up a generalization within the
semantic system is rank.!7 It is plausible that there are a number of
different semantic rank scales for different registers, just as Sinclair and
Coulthard's (1975) for lessons, mentioned earlier. The extent of a rank
scale would depend on the nature and size of texts that have to be
produced in a given context of situation.
4.2 Register and lexicogrammar
Contexts of situation are projected onto semantics as register-specific
semantic potentials in the way discussed above. The situation specific
'image' projected onto semantics in the first instance is also projected onto
lexicogrammar; that is, it is first projected onto content-stratum 1 and then
onto content-stratum 2. Here the modelling situation is different: we have
fairly extensive accounts of the grammatical system of various languages
(for English, Halliday 1985a, specified systemically in Matthiessen 1990/2).
Consequently, it is possible to try to 'capture' the register corresponding
to a given situation along the lines of either strategy (i) or (ii) discussed
above in Section 3.2.2 even though that is still not a general option for
semantics: see Figure 11.16. I will illustrate with lexicogrammatical realiza-
tions of the two earlier examples, the regulatory and instructional semantic
Semantic features are realized by preselections of grammatical features.
For example, the semantic feature 'threat' is realized by selection of the
grammatical feature 'declarative'. In general, delicate grammatical features
are preselected and the less delicate features they presuppose can then be
automatically by moving from right to left (by backward chaining)
In the system network rather than by explicit preselection. This method
Figure 11.16 Lexicogrammatical realizations of register-semantic systems
makes good use of the 'logic' of the system see
11 17 The collection of preselectIOns from semantICS Into
19ure .. ...
lexicogrammar constitute the projectior: of a re?lster Image .or vle.w onto
lexicogrammar. I will illustrate how thIS works In more detaIl for Instruc-
tional semantics below... .
As the diagram indicates, there is a for
semantics to be more delicate than the generalIzed lexlcogrammar. IS
to be expected, particularly in fairly registers: only a restncted
subset of the lexicogrammatical resources WIll be employed and the seman-
tics can simply 'turn off' or deactivate certain parts of the by
never preselecting grammatical in these .parts. (If t?lS IS to be
made explicit, the disabling of pot:ntlal may. be
represented either by 0 probabilities or negatlve l.e. of par:lt!ons
of what is not part of the register. In the current Implementatlon of
systemic-functional grammar it would also be possIble sImply to change the
status of systems that are never entered to 'disabled'. Cf. also <?'Donnell
(1990) on activation of a register potential above. In there
could be a benefit making it explicit that certaIn parts of the lexlcogram-
matical potential have been turned off sir:ce do not t?en have to ?e
explored; the search space is reduced, which IS Important sInce. complexIty
is a real problem in parsing. This is surely what readers and hsteners do.
.. 0
.. .,..
0 ....

physioal punishment
threat mental punishment
restraint on behaviour
Figure 11.17 Lexicogrammatical realization of situation-specific semantics
The principle with the realization of the semantic system of culinary
instruction is the same. It projects a registerial image or view onto the
generalized lexicogrammatical system through preselections. Let me
illustrate this in some more detail with respect to the grammatical system
of MOOD (for the details of the description used here, see Matthiessen
1990/2). The interpersonal semantic features of the instructional system
presented in Figure 11.15 above are realized as follows
semantic feature
lexicogrammatical feature
bound: expanding: enhancing
imperative: jussive: implicit & untagged
indicative: declarative & non-interactant &
untagged & temporal: present
These preselections constitute a set of paths through the MOOD grammar
(including MOOD PERSON, DEICTICITY and MOOD TAG) as shown in
Figure 11.18. The bold underlining indicates features preselected from the
semantics. (The early system 'free/bound' is not shown, nor are the
systems differentiating different types of bound clause, 'expanding' and
'enhancing' .) Collectively the preselections show which part of the overall
grammatical potential can be activated in this register. This selection from
the overall MOOD grammar is the registerial image or view projected from
the semantics through the preselections.

+ Mood
+Finite .
Mood( Fi nite)
I- imperative
Figure 11.18
. addressee

ISu: 'you: I
interactant INT. speaker-plus
TVPE IS\,we' l
non-i nteractant
temporal TENSE
spea er ---

IFi nite: past)

I Fi nite: 'will ']
\"MOOd \

SUBJ. . .
\ "Subject \
+ Moodtag (
+ Tagfi nite "
+ Tagsubject )
Registerial image projected from semantics through preselection
<?nly certain parts
regtster. BYil thble. terms, their probabilities have reset
or not ava a e. In . ,. o th Ipe gram-
. h babilit of ' interrogative IS m e rec
to 0; ;: this b; blocking out those never
mar. 19ure '. . clearl that the regtstenal Image or
selected. From thIS we can see very y. bbreviation For
. 'l'f d l' f the full grammar IS an a .
view that IS 1 te ou 0 b h' This means that it is possible
instance, certain paths are non- ranc mg.

+ Mood
... fi nite
Mood( Fi nite)
... Subject
i mperelive
i nteractant
no n - i nte racta nt
Figure 11.19 'Blocked' grammar not part of recipe grammar
to features from less delicate ones. Thus it is possible
to enve JussIve' and 'implicit' and 'untagged' from 'imperative' sim I
there are no alternatives on their path. In principle it would
POSSI e to construct a recipe g bb"
f II al rammar as an a revIated version of the
u t' gener f by collapsing such non-branching paths and leaving
parts 0 t e full potential that can never be activated (such as the
see FIgure 11 20 Th f Id b sys em .
. . e e ect wou e even more dramatic in the ideational
interactant: addressee
indicative: declarative &
temporal: present
+ Mood
+ Finite
Mood (Finite)
+ Subject
Mood (Subject)
Subject 1\ Finite
Finite: present
imperative: jussive: implicit
Subject: 'you'
Figure 11.20 Recipe grammar as abbreviation of full potential
area of the clause grammar since TRANSITIVITY is extended in delicacy
towards lexis (see Cross, this volume) and culinary processes are a very
narrow band through the full system.
In the examples above, the registerial image projected onto the grammar
falls within the common core grammar. However, we have already seen
that it is possible that the generalized system network of the grammar
contains certain register-specific partitions - Figures 11.11 and 11.12 in
Section 3.2.2 above illustrate. this possibility. And in certain registers this
may be more prominent - in particular the grammar of 'little texts' (Halli-
day 1985a: Appendix 2): headlines (,headlinese'), telegrams, etc. where
there is a need for compression (see Sinclair 1988).
In my discussion of registerial images projected onto lexicogrammar, I
have proceeded from situation specific semantic systems. However, another
alternative has also been explored by Bateman and Paris (1991). They use
situational constraints of field, tenor, and mode to guide the semantically
informed selection of lexicogrammatical features. I won't go into a more
detailed account here since it presupposes familiarity with the chooser and
inquiry approach to the lexicogrammar's semantic interface: the general
principle is that responses to semantic inquiries are made sensitive to
contextual factors.
Finally, I should note that the effect of preselections from semantics to
lexicogrammar can in principle also occur between lexicogrammar and
phonology/graphology. The difference is that the stratal line here is largely
conventional so that registerial restrictions will not be projected onto
phonemic systems, for example. We will, however, see the effect with
TONE systems since they are related in a fairly natural way to KEY
systems within lexicogrammar and SPEECH FUNCTION systems within
semantics. Consequently, any registerial constraints on the speech func-
tional systems will 'ripple' through. Sefton (1991: Section 5) discusses how
to deal with register in a systemic account of graphology.
4.3 Congruent and metaphorical realization
In the discussion of the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar up to
now, I have not considered the distinction between congruent and
metaphorical realization and its relationship to register variation but I will
say a few words about this important phenomenon now starting with
metaphor itself. Once a semiotic system has been established along the
basic dimensions of the semiotic space, it may be possible to expand the
whole system by shifting some basic parameter. For instance, within the
phonological stratum, a whole vowel system may be more or less doubled
by advancing the position of the tongue root as in Akan (cf. Stewart 1967;
Pike 1967): a new global systemic parameter is introduced. Similarly, the
content system of language can be expanded by shifting semantics and
lexicogrammar relative to one another. Relative to the congruent realiza-
tional correspondences between the two content strata, the realization is
shifted from one domain of lexicogrammar to another. For instance, inten-
sity is congruently realized by very, much, more, less etc. but it can be
realized metaphorically by being shifted to the domain of (vertical space,
e.g. high, low, rise, fall; expanded, shrink, etc. Similarly, realizations may be
shifted down the grammatical rank scale from clause to group, from group
to word, and so on: see Figure 11.21. Thus a process configuration is
realized congruently as a clause, e.g. De Klerk will depart from office, and
metaphorically as a group, e.g. De Klerk's departure from office. And these
metaphorical lexicogrammatical realizations also construe new types in the
semantic system itself thereby expanding its potential. 18 (Indeed, new
domains of meaning may be opened up; cf. Goatly, this volume, on
metaphor and 'lexical gaps'.) For instance, from