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Australian Journal of Linguistics

ISSN: 0726-8602 (Print) 1469-2996 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cajl20

Evaluation in Context
Daqun Zhang
To cite this article: Daqun Zhang (2015): Evaluation in Context, Australian Journal of
Linguistics, DOI: 10.1080/07268602.2015.1091282
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07268602.2015.1091282

Published online: 05 Oct 2015.

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Australian Journal of Linguistics, 2015


http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07268602.2015.1091282

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Book Review

Evaluation in Context
GEOFF THOMPSON and LAURA ALBA-JUEZ (eds)
Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014, xi+418 pp.
Reviewed by DAQUN ZHANG, Nanchang University
Interest in speakers and writers attitudes towards and judgements about what is
expressed in their own or others texts has been ourishing recently in linguistic
studies, especially since the establishment of the SFL (Systemic Functional Linguistics)-based Appraisal Theory (Martin & White 2005), which provides a systematic
framework for analyzing evaluation in discourse. Evaluation in Context, published
as part of the Pragmatics & Beyond New Series, presents the latest thinking and
developments in the study of evaluation by investigating it both theoretically and
empirically in a variety of contexts and from signicantly different perspectives. It
is co-edited by Geoff Thompson, who has been very inuential in SFL (e.g. Thompson
1996), and Laura Alba-Juez, who has been active in discourse analysis (e.g. Alba-Juez
2009) and is also the director of the FunDETT (Functions of Discourse: Evaluation in
Text Types) research project. It can be taken as a sequel to Evaluation in Text
(Hunston & Thompson 2000), also co-edited by Thompson.
The 19 chapters of the book are grouped into three sections. Chapter 1, The many
faces and phases of evaluation by Alba-Juez and Thompson, constitutes Section 1. It
begins with a historical and interdisciplinary overview of different approaches to
evaluation before elaborating on the faces and phases of its title; these give rise to
the heavy dependence of evaluation on (various types of) context. The importance
of the quality of being dynamic is particularly emphasized for both evaluation and
context. Evaluation is redened as
a dynamical subsystem of language, permeating all linguistic levels and involving
the expression of the speakers or writers attitude or stance towards, viewpoint
on, or feelings about the entities or propositions that s/he is talking about, which
entails relational work including the (possible and prototypically expected and subsequent) response of the hearer or (potential) audience. (p. 13)

Section 2 consists of eight chapters which offer theoretical considerations concerning


major issues on the topic of evaluation as observed from many perspectives. In
2015 The Australian Linguistic Society

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Book Review

Chapter 2, ngel Felices-Lago highlights the largely ignored contributions to axiological semantics from linguists within the two schools of Structuralism and Transformational-Generative Grammar. Scattered ideas from such scholars as Bally,
Guiraud, Pottier, Duchek, Ullmann, Apresjan, Coseriu, Katz, Fodor, Klima and
Grzegorek suggest the presence of evaluation in the denitional structure of many
lexical units and its more or less systematic representation, revealing the key parameter
of axiological evaluation embedded in modern linguistics.
The next two chapters address a number of potential drawbacks in the application
of Appraisal theory, which is generally regarded as the most fully developed and the
only detailed framework for evaluative language. Chapter 3, by Geoff Thompson,
focuses on three practical issues in the system of Attitude. The rst relates to the
scope of affect (p. 53); Thompson proposes a more restricted denition of affect by
limiting it to interactant-sourced directed feeling (p. 56). The second issue involves
the two norms used for the distinction between Judgement and Appreciation: the
appraised entity and the ascribed value. Mismatches between them are identied
and are proved to cause ambiguities in coding appraisals. Thompson prefers to
trust the text (Sinclair 2004) by taking the wording as the basis for delimiting categories rather than adopting a more semantically-based labelling. The third
problem is the Russian doll syndrome (p. 59), in which an expression of one category
of attitude (p. 49) may imply a different appraisal, which in turn triggers yet another
kind of value, and so on. Thompson argues for a distinction between different appraisals on different levels by integrating Interaction-Oriented Appraisal (p. 63) and
Topic-Oriented Appraisal (p. 63) into the Appraisal model. In Chapter 4, by applying
Attitude and Graduation systems in the appraisal analysis of the genre of narratives,
Mary Macken-Horarik and Anne Isaac take up three challenges concerning the intertwining of explicit and implicit evaluation and their combined contribution to reader
positioning, the different orders of evaluation (p. 69) and the culture- or contextsensitive essence of evaluation. To address these challenges, the two authors
propose a cline of implicitness in different environments of Appraisal (p. 89)
which can work as a principled methodology for connecting different aspects of evaluation and for investigating discursive patterns of evaluation.
Chapter 5, by Alba-Juez and Salvatore Attardo, presents both theoretical reections
and empirical studies on the evaluative potential of verbal irony. An evaluation continuum is proposed for ironic utterances with negative irony and positive irony at the
two poles and neutral irony in the middle, and the two authors argue that irony is not
always critical and sometimes it can also be mixed. The varied hues in the evaluative
palette of verbal irony (the title of this chapter) are further identied and tested among
native speakers of both English and Spanish. In the next chapter, Felices-Lago and
Mara Enriqueta Corts-de-los-Ros examine the parameters and levels of FunGramKB, a multipurpose lexico-conceptual knowledge base for natural language processing (NLP) systems (p. 118) where axiology constitutes an essential parameter in
shaping meanings at different levels. Their results support the presence of the axiological dimension of verbs in the subontology #EVENT (p. 119) and further demonstrate

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Book Review

a high number of axiologically-loaded (p. 129) notions associated with the metaconcept #MATERIAL (p. 129), the dominant conceptual dimension created by concepts
under #PSYCHOLOGICAL (p. 119), and the constructive bias of the notions related
to #COMMUNICATION (p. 119). Chapter 7, by Istvan Kecskes, deals with the evaluative function of situation-bound utterances (SBUs) in intercultural contexts. Being a
certain type of formulaic expression, SBUs are highly conventionalized, prefabricated
pragmatic units whose occurrences are tied to standardized communicative situations
(p. 137). Kecskes distinguishes three types of SBUs: plain, loaded and charged. It is easy
to identify the evaluative function of plain SBUs in both intracultural interaction and
intercultural encounters since they are characterized by maximum semantic transparency and minimal pragmatic extension. However, for loaded SBUs and charged SBUs,
the evaluative function may be lost, or sometimes can come into being where it should
not. These misunderstandings, especially in intercultural communication, can only be
fully illustrated by taking into account the complexity of contextual effect. Kecskes
emphasizes both the selective and constitutive role of context and further distinguishes
prior context from actual situational context.
The nal two chapters of this section are devoted to the examination of evaluation at
the phonological level of language. The empirical study in Chapter 8, by Victoria
Escandell-Vidal, Victoria Marrero Aguiar and Pilar Prez Ocn, indicates that prosodic lengthening in Spanish can indicate verum focus (p. 154) and generally induces
the speakers evaluation on the parameters of certainty and expectedness. The corresponding evaluative values, such as insistence or impatience, are naturally involved. In
Chapter 9, Eva Estebas-Vilaplana analyzes and compares the evaluation of pitch range
variability in English and Spanish by means of a perception test in which the F0
scaling (p. 192) of a word makes a difference. The results show that whereas broad
pitch range utterances are considered polite in English but unnatural in Spanish,
narrow pitch range productions are perceived as being rude in English but polite in
Spanish.
Section 3 contains 10 papers which discuss evaluation in different text types. Chapters 10 and 11 are concerned with paratexts, i.e. materials that couple with main texts
and normally have a bearing on their reception and interpretation. In Chapter 10
Monika Bednarek deals with blurbs on the packaging of DVD sets of TV shows.
Corpus techniques are employed to identify and analyze evaluative resources in this
genre. It is interesting to note that among a variety of lexico-grammatical items
used for intensication and quantication, some adjectives which do not directly
express positive attitudes turn out to be indicators of specic qualities of content
that are positively judged in contemporary television. In addition, quite a number
of adjectives aimed at negative aspects of narrative contents, including characters
and events, also function to arouse interest and promote the product. Taking the
Appraisal subsystems of Graduation and Attitude as the analytical framework,
Marta Carretero and Maite Taboada in Chapter 11 present a comparative study of evaluative features in consumer reviews of books and movies (p. 221) across two
languages, English and Spanish. The quantitative analysis of a corpus of 64 reviews

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Book Review

(32 for each language, equally divided between reviews of books and of lms) shows
the same general tendencies in these two languages, e.g. more instances of graduated
Appreciation than of Affect and Judgement and more occurrences of Force than of
Focus. Signicant differences are also found in the study. For instance, the Graduation
spans in the Spanish reviews are more dependent on what is evaluated: movie reviews
are found to be characterized by more instances of Force than of Focus, more occurrences of Sharpen than of Soften and more instances of Intensication than of
Quantication.
Chapters 1214 deal with evaluation in different registers of written discourse in
academic contexts (p. 17). Chapter 12, by Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb and Elke
Teich, explores epistemic and attitudinal evaluation of propositions in English scientic writing through a corpus-based analysis of the SciTex corpus, an academic discourse corpus which covers ve seed disciplines (p. 249), e.g. linguistics and
electrical engineering, and four contact disciplines (p. 249), e.g. computational linguistics and microelectronics. In Chapter 13 Laura Hidalgo-Downing concentrates
on the combined effect of negative particles and modal expressions (p. 260) in the
articulation of authorial stance and intersubjective positioning in Darwins The
Origin of Species (p. 260). Chapter 14, by Marianna Ryshina-Pankova, examines academic argumentation in course-related blogs (p. 281) by employing the Appraisal
subsystem of Engagement.
Chapters 1517 treat evaluation in the broad context of media and politics (p. 17). In
Chapter 15, Ruth Breeze carries out a multimodal analysis of newspaper articles on the
wearing of clothes and religious symbols by Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, specically
focusing on evaluation in texts, direct quotations, headlines and visual images, as well as
on the interaction between them. She notes the possible conict between different
modes of news reporting, stating that the message of openness and tolerance expressed
in the text is undermined by the alienating evaluative effect of the images that are frequent in some of the newspapers (p. 317). Based on the analysis of a corpus containing
30 articles found in the magazines Time and The Economist, in the next chapter Elena
Martnez Caro looks into linguistic patterns involved in evaluation along the parameters
of goodbad, certainty and importance in this particular genre. She also discusses the
locus of evaluative expressions in this type of text and its implications for the macrolinguistic structure of the text. Chapter 17, by Donna R. Miller and Jane H. Johnson, is
entitled Evaluative phraseological choice and speaker party/gender: a corpus-assisted
comparative study of register-idiosyncratic meaning in Congressional debate. They
look in particular at the it is * time to/for/that frame.
The book ends with two chapters on evaluation in more personal worlds (p. 18).
Chapter 18 is Evaluation in emotion narratives by Manuela Romano; the narratives
analyzed took place in an agony column radio program (p. 18). In Chapter 19, by
Carmen Santamara, 100 Facebook messages by British and American university students are examined.
It is obvious that the manifold faces and phases of evaluation amply illustrated in
this book will enrich our understanding of evaluation, a multifarious phenomenon

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Book Review

whose interpretation is highly context-dependent, and, at the same time, will considerably expand the study of evaluation in discourse. This can be evidenced in a number of
important aspects. Firstly, evaluation is illuminated from multiple theoretical perspectives, including not only well-grounded frameworks within Functionalism, but also
classical approaches such as Axiological Semantics and Politeness Theory. Secondly,
evaluation is examined at different linguistic levels, encompassing not only the
lexical and semantic levels, but also, more importantly, the under-researched and
equally fascinating phonological level. Thirdly, evaluation is investigated in a range
of text types and contexts, covering not only narratives, news discourse, political
texts and academic genres, but also e-communication such as blogs and other internet-mediated interaction, as well as paratexts such as blurbs. In addition, there are
comparative studies of evaluation in different languages or cultures, especially
English and Spanish.
It is also worth noting that Evaluation in Context not only focuses on attitudinal
meanings occurring in language, but also looks at evaluative connotations in other
semiotic resources such as images in news texts and emoticons in online exchanges,
and explores their combined contributions to the construction of a text. It serves as
an effective continuation of Evaluation in Text (Hunston & Thompson 2000) by substantially updating and extending the different research elds initiated in the latter,
and opens up promising avenues of research in evaluation studies. These attributes
make this book an excellent asset for researchers working with evaluation in discourse.
Funding
The writing of this review was nancially supported by the Humanities and Social
Sciences Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (Grant No. 10YJC740130).
References
Alba-Juez L 2009 Perspectives on Discourse Analysis: theory and practice Newcastle upon Tyne:
Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Hunston S & G Thompson (eds) 2000 Evaluation in Text: authorial stance and the construction of
discourse Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Martin JR & PRR White 2005 The Language of Evaluation: appraisal in English New York: Palgrave
Macmillan.
Sinclair J 2004 Trust the Text: language, corpus and discourse (edited with Ronald Carter) London:
Routledge.
Thompson G 1996 Introducing Functional Grammar (1st edition) London: Edward Arnold.