You are on page 1of 9

Available online at www.sciencedirect.

com

Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9

Editorial comment

Systemic-functional reflections on instructed foreign language


acquisition as meaning-making: An introduction

1. Introduction

Foreign language (L2) capacity is in the news. Not surprisingly, that newsworthiness arises from the sense that
unsatisfactory outcomes are being achieved in L2 education or that language education, like society in general, faces
language-related challenges for which it is ill prepared—conceptually, structurally, and from the standpoint of educa-
tional praxes. Such findings are at the heart of several prominent reports that have recently been issued. Among them is
the report created by the CED (2006), which warned “that the U.S. will become less competitive in the global economy
because of declining quality foreign language education” (accompanying press release). Similarly, the report of the
National Academies, which had reviewed the Title VI and Fulbright-Hayes programs, the largest programs focused
on the internationalization of higher education, found that much greater coordination of language-related efforts was
needed if sufficiently high levels of proficiency were to be attained (O’Connell & Norwood, 2007). Finally, the MLA’s
report on foreign languages and higher education strongly indicated that foreign language departments would need to
be fundamentally reconfigured if they are to succeed in enabling their students to reach the translingual and transcul-
tural competence that is so urgently needed in a post 9–11 globalized world (MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign
Languages, 2007).
As expected, these documents reflect different interests and constituencies and, to the extent that they do, they also
recommend different possible ways to tackle the problem. However, all identify an educational goal and suggest an
educational approach that has been remarkably elusive for foreign language education: a principled way of linking
the acquisition of the formal features of an L2 to high levels of ability to the acquisition of institutional, disciplinary,
professional, public, and expertise-oriented content. Although content-based instruction (CBI) has, for quite some time,
been a much-discussed educational option (cf. Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 2003), it has wavered in the educational
goals it can reasonably pursue, has chosen programmatic models that, at times, have compromised central tenets of a
language-content link, has often drawn on experiential knowledge that is short on principled approaches to language
learning and teaching (Met, 1998), and has found it difficult to actually assess both language and content learning
(Byrnes, 2008). As Wesche and Skehan (2002) characterize the situation, CBI labors under “inadequate or non-
existent curricular definitions to integrate language and content objectives, and related problems, such as unrealistic
expectations and inappropriate assessment practices” (p. 225).
This special issue of Linguistics and Education, entitled “Instructed foreign language acquisition as meaning-
making: A Systemic-functional approach”, picks up on these challenges. With its choice of systemic-functional
linguistics (SFL) as a theoretical frame of reference, it foregrounds a theory of language that understands language as
being fundamentally about meaning-making, that is, about language and content. Richly developed over now nearly
half a century by the British-Australian linguist M.A.K. Halliday and the theorists, researchers, and educational prac-
titioners he has inspired, it presents concepts and processes that make it possible to pursue the integration of cultural
content and language and the linkage between language use at a time and language acquisition over time that is at the
heart of truly content-based language teaching and learning, particularly toward advanced-level abilities in a second
or foreign language.

0898-5898/$ – see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.linged.2009.01.002
2 Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9

In adducing SFL as a frame of reference that might be particularly well suited to contemporary concerns of L2
education, the collection of papers builds on the considerable work SFL researchers have accomplished in the Australian
native English education context, primarily through genre-based curriculum and pedagogy development in diverse
educational settings (see Martin’s overview, this volume, including extensive references). At the same time, it reorients
that work inasmuch as instructed foreign language education, particularly for adults, has characteristics that differ from
those that hold in native language instruction. It differs as well from SFL-inspired descriptive work in languages other
than English (e.g., Gruber, 2004). Instead, it continues the educationally oriented studies that have begun to explore
the potential of SFL for enhancing foreign language learning by learners at different ages, in different languages and
educational settings, and of different language abilities (e.g., Mohan & Huang, 2002, for Mandarin Chinese in the
primary grades; Caffarel, 2006, for university-level learners of French; Crane, 2008, and Ryshina-Pankova, 2006, for
college-level L2 German writers; and Teruya, 2006, for advanced learners of Japanese); and it shares approaches and
concerns that have recently been investigated for Spanish heritage language learning in the United States (Achugar &
Colombi, 2008; Colombi, 2002, 2006).
All of these explorations of SFL in foreign language contexts, just like those in native language contexts, focus on the
meaning-making or functional quality of language as a semiotic system and of contextualized language use. They make
the additional assumption that the dynamic meaning-oriented approach of SFL is particularly well suited to concep-
tualizing long-term instructed foreign language development, particularly to advanced levels of ability (Matthiessen,
2006).
Readers may well ask: what is so surprising about such an approach in language education, and haven’t we been
doing this all along? Remarkably enough, we have not, at least not in a direct and principled way. Alternatively
they might caution: inasmuch as some of the most contentious issues in second language acquisition research, in
curriculum development, in pedagogical decision-making regarding effective and efficient teaching methods, and,
finally, in assessment practice have revolved around the nature of how “form” and “meaning” are or should be linked,
what kind of rethinking would be necessary to integrate language and content more successfully?
The work assembled in this volume presents conceptual groundwork for answering such broader questions. At the
same time it reports on findings from classroom-based research that employs an SFL framework. Accordingly, the
introduction first explores general qualities that SFL, as a theory of language, might contribute to a meaning-oriented
foreign language education. It then summarizes the five accounts offered in the collection, highlighting their respective
explorations of what SFL-inspired educational action might look like. As the majority of contributions indicate, SFL
seems unusually well suited to informing adult instructed L2 learning from what is generally referred to as intermediate
levels of ability to very advanced levels—in other words, the bulk of what language education is all about once initial
steps have been taken. At the same time, it is also able to contribute to early and beginning language learning (see
Huang & Mohan’s study). In fact, in that setting it might enable the very kind of rethinking of language instruction
that is necessary for continued language development as meaning-making, a trajectory that a form- and structure-
focused approach finds difficult to support, as the inconclusive research findings and the educationally impracticable
recommendations regarding the treatment of “meaning” and “form” have demonstrated (Doughty & Williams, 1998).
That would seem to make it appropriate to consider this promise: were foreign language education to adopt an SFL
perspective, it could look forward to gaining considerable insights into its work for the benefit of foreign language
learners.

2. Exploring the contributions of SFL for L2 teaching, learning, and assessment

Published work using an SFL framework in order to inform non-English instructed foreign language learning is
relatively rare. For that reason, a shared challenge facing this collection of papers is this: if a theory that foregrounds
language-based meaning-making that has primarily been applied in English educational settings is to provide insights
that can also benefit non-English instructed foreign language learning then its claims and approaches must clarify
what can be taken as generalizable and what must be handled within the particularities of a given language. In other
words, cross-linguistic applications would be the more justified the lower the initial presumption for generalization,
much less universalities. That is the approach SFL typology takes when it “combines the particular with the general
in the description of languages” (Caffarel, Martin, & Matthiessen, 2004b, p. 1). Both aspects are necessary, inasmuch
as informed teaching and learning will benefit from constructs and processes that, conceptually, are at a sufficiently
general level to allow cross-linguistic insights while simultaneously being sufficiently specific to enable teachers and
Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9 3

learners to acquire enhanced “knowledge about language” (see Christie’s, 2006 discussion of the role of “KAL”).
Finally, to be useable in educational environments a theory should address developmental and educational phenomena
in ways that support curricular, pedagogical, and assessment decision-making and practices.

2.1. SFL as a functional theory of language

In the broadest sense, the possibility of such “educative transfer,” comes about because SFL, as a theory of language,
is itself functional, that is, it arrives at the categories and processes it postulates on the basis of how languages go about
making meaning in oral and written texts, as contrasted with isolated, or even contrived sentences. Indeed, as Halliday
(1994) states it, the theory
Is functional in three distinct although closely related senses: in its interpretation (1) of texts, (2) of the system,
and (3) of the elements of linguistic structures . . . (1) It is functional in the sense that it is designed to account
for how the language is used. . . . (2) . . . the fundamental components of meaning in language are functional
components. All languages are organized around two kinds of meaning, the ‘ideational’ or reflective, and the
‘interpersonal’ or active. . . . Thirdly, each element in a language is explained by reference to its function in
the total linguistic system. In this third sense, therefore, a functional grammar is one that construes all the units
of a language—its clauses, phrases and so on—as organic configurations of functions (pp. xiii–xiv; original
emphases).
In other words, “descriptions of languages are oriented towards context, grounded in discourse and focused on
meaning: language itself is interpreted as a meaning potential—a meaning potential that embodies three different kinds
of meaning (ideational meaning, interpersonal meaning and textual meaning)” (Caffarel, Martin, & Matthiessen, p. 2).
Given that these macro-functions are most directly expressed in the TRANSITIVITY system for ideational meanings,
the MOOD system for interpersonal meanings, and the THEME system of a language for their textual instantiation,
analysis of different languages proceeds along those lines as a first way to understand the system of a particular language
in concert with understanding language in general (see the analyses of typologically very distant languages in Caffarel,
Martin, & Matthiessen, 2004a).

2.2. SFL as an “education-friendly” theory of language

While a meaning orientation for language education would, on the surface, seem to be non-controversial, a smooth
move from theoretical assumptions about the nature of language to educational contexts is by no means a given, as
Chomsky (1966) famously indicated when he expressed his skepticism “about the significance, for the teaching of
languages, of such insights and understanding as have been attained in linguistics and psychology” (p. 40). For that
reason, the connection to educational work that Halliday himself and theoreticians and researchers engaged in SFL have
maintained is not mere embellishment after the fact. Rather, because language development is fundamentally affected
by educational processes, their influence is critical for a rich understanding of how adult language users—we may call
them literate language users—go about making meaning in and through and with language (Halliday, 1999, 2007a,b).
As Christie and Unsworth (2005) note in their reflections on how SFL has contributed to understanding educational
development, Halliday himself may well be “unique among major linguists, for he has never acknowledged a clearcut
distinction between theoretical and applied themes” (p. 217).
Among the consequences of such a stance is that it is neither prescriptive nor simply descriptive, but highlights
teaching language as making available resources for new and independent meaning-making on the part of the user.
Martin’s overview of previous educational work primarily in Australia illustrates this particularly well through the
construct of genre and the development of a genre-based approach to fostering literacy. In that context it is of interest
that Halliday’s earliest explorations in the sixties of notions of register had begun in conjunction with educational issues.
These foreshadowed the full-fledged debate within SFL of register theory (Matthiessen, 1993) which accompanied
the considerable elaboration of the construct of genre in the 80s and 90s. As Martin indicates, part of those lively
considerations was extensive genre-based educational engagement, particularly in diverse school-based programs in
Australia.
Another indication of the centrality of a meaning and knowledge orientation in SFL theorizing is Halliday’s (1993)
assertion that educational knowledge is itself massively dependent on verbal learning. In other words, learning, at least
4 Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9

in educational contexts, is essentially language-based. Thus he states, beyond the semiotic work that characterizes
children’s acquisition of their native language in speaking, “a new form of expression has evolved that we call writing,
and following on from this a new, institutionalized form of learning that we call education . . . with new modes of
language development come new forms of knowledge, educational knowledge as distinct from what we call common
sense” (p. 94, original emphases). Indeed, the notion that “educational failure is primarily linguistic failure”, expressed
in the foreword to Halliday’s foundational work “Explorations in the functions of language” (Halliday, 1973), signals
well both the urgent need to explore the relationship between language, knowing, and learning and the possibility for
doing so in a meaning-oriented theory of grammar.
With regard to the latter, Halliday’s language-based theory of learning asserts a dialectic of system and process,
according to which children construct the system of language from text while also constructing text from language in
what he calls new “acts of meaning.” Accordingly, “a language is not a mechanism for producing and understanding
text. A language is a system–text continuum, a meaning potential in which ready-coded instances of meaning are
complemented by principles for coding what has not been meant before” (1993, p. 105). The applicability of such
considerations for the tasks foreign language learners, particularly instructed learners, face, is obvious. Its inherent
pitch toward assuring a linking of content and language should be equally apparent.

2.3. SFL explorations into the oral-literate continuum

Halliday’s interest in writing, particularly the oral-literate continuum, is another way of making the case that
SFL addresses issues that are central to educational concerns, both in L1 and L2 settings. Here the theory’s strong
commitment to actual texts, both oral and written, rather than to invented language samples that often completely efface
the distinction between oral and written ways of expressing things, leads to the insight that complexity resides in both
modes of meaning-making but that these complexities differ significantly from one another (see Byrnes, this issue for
a fuller treatment).
Two aspects deserve particular attention, syntactic features located at the clausal and interclausal level, and semi-
otic characteristics that pervade all meaning-making within languages. With regard to syntax, Halliday describes
the difference in these terms: as the choreographic complexity of oral language that shows rich use of paratactic,
hypotactic, and embedded clause structures; and as the crystalline complexity of written language that mani-
fests itself at the intraclausal level, most especially in its elaboration of the nominal phrase and accompanying
lexical density. With regard to semiotic features, SFL asserts that, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically, lan-
guage development seems to have evolved from more congruent and “direct” forms of semiosis that emphasize
the flow of events around us, typical in oral language, to more incongruent or metaphorical forms of semiosis
that have, over time, foregrounded the thinginess of the world, as in written forms of wording (cf. Halliday, 1996,
2002).
For both, the notion of grammatical metaphor, a resource that brings about a semantic junction between the two
ways of construing reality, is central. Variant wordings like “Because we read the contract carefully, we rejected the
offer → Because of our careful reading of the contract we rejected the offer → Our careful reading of the contract
led to our rejection of the offer” are first and foremost a different construal of the same figures in human experience.
But beyond reshaping how we “experience” the world, such variant wordings, with their heavy use of grammatical
metaphor, make available considerable logical and textual resources that are at the heart of disciplinary ways of
knowing, particularly in formal schooling (Schleppegrell, 2004).

2.4. SFL pathways to literacy

In the often contentious and ideologically marked debates about the nature of literacy, scholars in SFL generally
emphasize that a genuine literacy involves “knowledge about language” (see Christie, 2006; Christie & Martin, 1997;
Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Freedman, 1999; Gee, 1998; Kress, 1994; Martin, 2002; Whittaker, O’Donnell, & McCabe,
2006), something that is intricately connected to education. A second strand of SFL arguments regarding literacy is
a balancing act between affirming that literacy is a social phenomenon and, in fact, helps us define “what constitutes
social reality in the first place” (Street, 1999, p. 4), and a strong commitment to empowering students (Hyland,
2003; e.g., Martin, 1998, 1999) through explicit teaching, particularly through genre-based approaches (Martin, this
volume).
Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9 5

Within that interest in the meaning-oriented resources languages make available Hasan (1996) distinguishes between
recognition literacy, action literacy, and reflection literacy. The latter is concerned with “the reflexive capacities of
language when it functions as meta-discourse, analysing both the nature of expression and of content by relating both
to the exchange of meanings by socially positioned speakers for the living of life in society” (p. 415). Once more, the
issue is a broadening of semiotic resources.
Naturally, such meaning-making capacities focus on whole texts. At the same time—and this distinguishes SFL from
other textual orientations—that interest in texts is anchored in analyses of textuality—the previously mentioned textual
metafunction—that involve all strata of the language system, most particularly its realizations at the lexicogrammatical
level. With such an approach SFL challenges practitioners in both L1 and L2 education to link meaning, especially
textual meaning, with lexicogrammatical form and, therefore, ultimately with content. While the language across the
curriculum movement, on the one hand, and the content-based language learning movement on the other had similar
intentions, both were ultimately hampered because they did not have access to a rich description of language that began
with a functional orientation, that is, with an exploration of the inherent meaningfulness of language form.

2.5. The dynamic nature of grammar in SFL grammatics

That broad observation returns us to the point of departure of these comments, namely the potential benefits of
a functional orientation in language analysis. This time, however, the focus is even closer to the ground, inasmuch
as SFL assumes that grammar itself, or more precisely the lexicogrammar of a language, is meaningful. In other
words, SFL departs significantly from most theories of language that foreground the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign.
While such arbitrariness can, by and large, be claimed at the phonological level (see Saussure’s explorations into the
nature of the sign), at the grammatical level meaningfulness in the semiotic sense is crucial. In fact, in SFL grammar
is a privileged part of language: “Language is powered by grammatical energy, so to speak” (Halliday, 1996, p. 4).
Historically, grammar has evolved as “an entirely abstract semiotic construct that emerges between the content and
the expression levels of the original, sign-based primary semiotic system” (Halliday, 1996, p. 6). That means that it
is does not directly interface with either the expression system (e.g., the phonological system of a language), nor the
semantic component (e.g., the realm of human experience). Instead, “grammar evolves as an interface between these
two interfaces – shoving them apart, so to speak, in such a way that there arises an indefinite amount of “play” between
the two” (Halliday, 1996, p. 6).
Because grammar is a meaning-making resource learning “the grammar” of a language is not about learning to
adhere to rules, but learning to turn experience and human existence into meaning by using the resources that the
grammar of a particular language makes available. Of course, languages have, over time, evolved vast areas of high
probabilities of use and considerable areas of fixities of use (the old meaning of “grammar”). But that does not mean
that beginning with an insistence on the mastery of the fixities (e.g., “accuracy of grammar”) is thereby the best
way to come to understand and use language as a situated meaning-making resource. Rather it is the awareness of
“play”, of possibilities for creativity, of “indeterminacies”, and of “meaning potential” that awaits realization in a given
act of meaning that will ultimately enable learners to become competent users of a language. A meaning-oriented
pedagogy will find its much greater challenge and also its much greater opportunities in precisely this dynamic tension
as contrasted with assuring simple accuracies.

3. The papers of the collection

Because this collection assembles a group of papers that share a theoretical viewpoint, that of systemic func-
tional linguistics; because this theoretical viewpoint to date is relatively unknown in North America; and because
its applications have thus far focused on native English-language as contrasted with non-native non-English educa-
tional contexts, the opening paper by Jim Martin introduces key aspects of the theory itself and the experiences and
insights that have been gained in educational practice. Specifically, his contribution, “Genre and language learning:
A social semiotic perspective,” focuses on the literacy initiatives of the so called Sydney School that takes genre
as a point of departure. Accordingly, the paper provides an overview of the concept of genre in the context of the
development of literacy and surveys the way it has been used to map curriculum, build learner pathways, and design
pedagogy. It also explicates in more detail the sense in which genres are conceived as recurrent configurations of
meaning. He illustrates this by using a short text belonging to the story family of genres. Such an analysis enables
6 Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9

a re-interpretation of central aspects of language in the area of phonology/graphology, lexicogrammar, and discourse
semantics. Now considered as resources for meaning-making, features such as tense, modality, nominal deixis, attitude,
metadiscourse, conjunction, and text reference can be used to facilitate the acquisition of foreign or second languages.
The paper concludes by placing genre within systemic functional models of language and attendant modalities of
communication.
The second paper, by Jingzi Huang and Bernard Mohan, “A functional approach to integrated assessment
of teacher support and student discourse development in an elementary Chinese program,” would seem to be
at a considerable distance from the concerns of L1 literacy education in Australia: learners are Canadian 8-
and 10-year-olds learning Mandarin Chinese in a foreign language setting, the study is a close-up and longi-
tudinal investigation of how instruction, learning, and assessment can be completely integrated through central
constructs of SFL, and content and language learning are examined in terms of growth in meaning and word-
ing of text in context. And yet, the paper connects well with underlying issues that animated decision-making in
Australia. An added benefit occurs in that it resonates well with existing professional discussion in the United
States, particularly the foreign language standards movement in the United States, spearheaded by language orga-
nizations under the leadership of ACTFL. Within this widely accepted framework, ‘Communication’, ‘Culture’,
and ‘Connection’ require that particular attention be given to the integration of content and culture. Similarly,
the NCATE/TESOL Standards (2005) for teacher certification explicitly call for content teaching in ESL instruc-
tion by using authentic texts and authentic tasks. In examining developmental data gathered over a three year
period from the study’s third and fourth graders, Huang and Mohan not only exemplify how SFL can be used
as a tool for discourse analysis; they also show how Mohan’s Knowledge Structure Analysis can integrate lan-
guage, content, and culture in the teaching of Chinese. Such an integrated approach applies to the assessment
of Chinese as a foreign language in North American classrooms. It also sheds light on the larger issue of
how to assess the learning of curricular content in any foreign language, a mandate that all educators face
but one that has become a particular challenge for teachers of English language learners in the United States
who must comply with the mandates of the highly controversial No Child Left Behind legislation (see Byrnes,
2005).
Whereas the acquisition of Chinese at the primary school level is a relatively rare phenomenon in North America,
assuring that Spanish heritage language speakers are able to use their language not only in familial environments
but have the requisite competence for using it in public settings, which may include competent writing abilities, is
among the most pressing concerns in U.S. language education. With this learner group, the foreign language profession
faces challenges that it rarely confronts, namely to specify their advanced abilities, to conceptualize how their usually
oral abilities might become written abilities, and to chart curricular and pedagogical courses of action to support their
development at a level that instructed language learners generally do not reach in U.S. undergraduate programs. Cecilia
Colombi’s paper, “A systemic functional approach to teaching Spanish for heritage speakers in the United States,”
addresses those concerns through SFL constructs that establish a curricular trajectory that is thematically organized by
field and through a genre- and register-based pedagogy that promotes students’ awareness of discourse semantics and
the lexicogrammatical features of academic language, particularly Theme-Rheme progressions for organizing texts
and grammatical metaphor as a marker of academic language.
The central construct of grammatical metaphor is the explicit focus of my own contribution. As indicated by its
title, “Emergent L2 German writing ability in a curricular context: A longitudinal study of grammatical metaphor,”
the paper presents a longitudinal investigation across three consecutive curricular levels of writing development by
learners of German in my home department. Located in an integrated, genre-based curriculum that targets advanced
levels of ability as a desired outcome for its learners, the study uses both quantitative, syntactically oriented measures
and qualitative meaning-oriented features associated with grammatical metaphor to trace learner development in terms
of meaning-making. On the basis of group and individual learner data a developmental trajectory can be ascertained
that describes learner development as moving from narrative genres that rely primarily on congruent semiosis, to
genres that involve both human and abstract participants in their relationship to societal issues and values, particularly
through the nominalization of processes afforded by GM; and finally, writing tasks in academic and institutional
genres that feature both human and abstract actors in created textual spaces. In this fashion, the construct of GM not
only helps chart a curricular progression, it also supports pedagogical decision-making and learners’ meta-awareness
because it projects ways in which they might reach high levels of academic performance in disciplinary content
areas.
Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9 7

The concluding paper returns once more to Australia, this time to the context of teaching Japanese as a foreign
language at the university level. Kazuhiro Teruya’s paper “Grammar as a gateway to discourse: A systemic functional
approach to SUBJECT, THEME, and logic,” addresses the meaning-form connection explicated in SFL by representing
grammar as a meaning-making resource that facilitates language development by early intermediate to advanced adult
learners. It illustrates the theoretical and praxis-oriented power of such an approach in the area of combining clauses
by means of logico-semantic relations into clause complexes, an operation that unifies the functions of the clause
such as Subject and Theme. The paper discusses the possible conceptual and practical gains when these functions are
not dealt with in isolation in reference to the static, rule-oriented structure of a two-clausal construction, the usual
approach, but are related to the realization and construal of various social contexts. By raising learners’ awareness of
nuanced meaning-form relationships in clause complexes such an approach can contribute to their ability to “think
grammatically” and to attain the kinds of sophisticated forms of interpretation and language use that characterize
advanced levels of performance.

4. Concluding comments

Each of the papers in this collection addresses distinct challenges in contemporary foreign language learning, some
of long standing, some being raised with particular urgency in the current socio-political environment as ever higher
performance demands in multiple languages and in expanding social contexts and content areas are being made: (1) the
need for principled approaches to curricular and pedagogical decision-making; (2) the demand for formative assessment
within a content- and language-integrated instructional approach; (3) the urgency that attends to expanding heritage
learners’ capacities from oral to written language use; (4) the desire to guide instructed L2 learners efficiently and
effectively toward the kind of meaning-making resources that are valued in public and professional discourse; and (5)
the call for enabling learners to develop a coherent textual logic with which to organize the rhetoric of oral and written
texts confidently and competently. For each of these concerns, the authors found rich conceptual and practice-oriented
resources in systemic functional linguistics that can help orient L2 education toward integrating content and language
learning from beginning levels of instruction to advanced forms of literacy.
Can SFL enhance our understanding of key features of L2 development? Does it support the specification of major
developmental stages over a longer developmental trajectory? Does it enrich our understanding of what would constitute
advanced abilities, be these in speaking or in writing? Would insights gained through SFL be suited as well for an
integrated assessment of content and language learning? Finally, might such descriptive and developmental knowledge
enhance the very attainment of such abilities, in other words, might SFL, particularly in the L2 context, be able to
facilitate the work of both educational practitioners in curriculum and materials development as well as pedagogical
approaches? Most important, might it enhance L2 learners’ meta-cognitive awareness of the nature of making meaning
in and with and through language, and, by extension, their ability to attain it? The papers assembled in this collection
have provided first positive answers to those questions in a range of educational settings with a range of languages.
They have thereby offered encouragement that SFL-inspired educational praxes might indeed foster principled ways
of supporting the development of the kind of language capacities that contemporary societies urgently call for. In so
doing they have proposed an exciting agenda for foreign language education.

References

Achugar, M., & Colombi, M. C. (2008). Systemic functional linguistic explorations into the longitudinal study of advanced capacities: The case of
Spanish heritage language learners. In L. Ortega & H. Byrnes (Eds.), The longitudinal study of advanced L2 capacities (pp. 36–57). London:
Routledge.
Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. B. (2003). Content-based second language instruction. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Byrnes, H. (Ed.). (2005). Perspectives. The No Child Left Behind Act and teaching and learning languages in U. S. schools. Modern Language
Journal, 89, 248–282.
Byrnes, H. (2008). Assessing content and language. In E. Shohamy (Ed.), Language testing and assessment (pp. 37–52). Berlin: Springer-Kluwer
Academic Publishers.
Caffarel, A. (2006). Learning advanced French through SFL: Learning SFL in French. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The
contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 204–224). London: Continuum.
Caffarel, A., Martin, J. R., & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (Eds.). (2004). Language typology: A functional perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:
Benjamins.
8 Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9

Caffarel, A., Martin, J. R., & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004). Introduction: Systemic functional typology. In A. Caffarel, J. R. Martin, & C. M. I.
M. Matthiessen (Eds.), Language typology: A functional perspective (pp. 1–76). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Committee for Economic Development. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language
education for U.S. economic and national security. Washington, DC: Committee for Economic Development.
Chomsky, N. (1966). Linguistic theory. In R. G. Mead (Ed.), Language teaching: Broader contexts (pp. 43–49). Middlebury, VT: Northeast
Conference.
Christie, F. (2006). Literacy teaching and current debates over reading. In R. Whittaker, M. O’Donnell, & A. McCabe (Eds.), Language and literacy:
Functional approaches (pp. 45–65). London: Continuum.
Christie, F., & Martin, J. R. (Eds.). (1997). Genre and institutions: Social processes in the workplace and school. London: Continuum.
Christie, F., & Unsworth, L. (2005). Developing dimensions of an educational linguistics. In R. Hasan, C. Matthiessen, & J. J. Webster (Eds.),
Continuing discourse on language: A functional perspective (pp. 217–250). London: Equinox.
Colombi, M. C. (2002). Academic language development in Latino students’ writing in Spanish. In M. J. Schleppegrell & M. C. Colombi (Eds.),
Developing advanced literacy in first and second languages: Meaning with power (pp. 67–86). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Colombi, M. C. (2006). Grammatical metaphor: Academic language development in Latino students of Spanish. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced
language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 147–163). London: Continuum.
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (1993). Introduction: How a genre approach to literacy can transform the way writing is taught. In B. Cope & M. Kalantzis
(Eds.), The powers of literacy: A genre approach to teaching writing (pp. 1–21). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Crane, C. (2008). Evaluative choice in advanced L2 writing of German: A genre perspective. Washington, DC: Georgetown University. Unpublished
doctoral dissertation.
Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (1998). Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Freedman, A. (1999). Beyond the text: Towards understanding the teaching and learning of genres. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 764–767.
Gee, J. P. (1998). What is literacy? In V. Zamel & R. Spack (Eds.), Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and
cultures (pp. 51–59). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Gruber, H. (2004). Scholar or consultant? Author-roles of student writers in German business writing. In L. Ravelli & R. Ellis (Eds.), Analysing
academic writing: Contextualized frameworks (pp. 45–65). London: Continuum.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1973). Explorations in the functions of language. Explorations in language study. London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1993). Towards a language-based theory of learning. Linguistics and Education, 5, 93–116.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An introduction to functional grammar (2nd. ed). London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1996). On grammar and grammatics. In R. Hasan, C. Cloran, & D. G. Butt (Eds.), Functional descriptions: Theory in practice
(pp. 1–38). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1999). Grammar and the construction of educational knowledge. In R. Berry, B. Asker, K. Hyland, & M. Lam (Eds.), Language
analysis, description and pedagogy (pp. 70–87). Hong Kong: Language Centre, The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and
Department of English, Lingnan University.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2002). Spoken and written modes of meaning. In J. J. Webster (Ed.), On grammar (pp. 323–351). London: Continuum.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2007a). A language development approach to education (1994). In J. J. Webster (Ed.), Language and education (pp. 368–382).
London: Continuum.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2007b). On the concept of educational linguistics (1990). In J. J. Webster (Ed.), Language and education (pp. 354–367). London:
Continuum.
Hasan, R. (1996). Literacy everyday talk and society. In R. Hasan & G. Williams (Eds.), Literacy in society (pp. 377–424). London: Longman.
Hyland, K. (2003). Genre-based pedagogies: A social response. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 17–29.
Kress, G. (1994). Learning to write (2nd ed.). London/New York: Routledge.
Martin, J. R. (1998). Linguistics and the consumer: The practice of theory. Linguistics and Education, 9, 411–448.
Martin, J. R. (1999). Mentoring semogenesis: ‘Genre-based’ literacy pedagogy. In F. Christie (Ed.), Pedagogy and the shaping of consciousness:
Linguistic and social processes (pp. 123–155). London: Cassell.
Martin, J. R. (2002). Meaning beyond the clause: SFL perspectives. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 22, 52–74.
Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (1993). Register in the round: Diversity in a unified theory of register analysis. In M. Ghadessy (Ed.), Register analysis:
Theory and practice (pp. 221–292). London: Pinter.
Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2006). Educating for advanced foreign language capacities: Exploring the meaning-making resources of languages
systemic-functionally. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 31–57). London:
Continuum.
Met, M. (1998). Curriculum decision-making in content-based teaching. In F. Genesee & J. Cenoz (Eds.), Beyond bilingualism: Multilingualism
and multilingual education (pp. 35–63). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
MLA Ad hoc Committee on Foreign Languages. (2007). Foreign languages and higher education: New structures for a changed world. Profession
234–245.
Mohan, B., & Huang, J. (2002). Assessing the integration of language and content in a Mandarin as a foreign language classroom. Linguistics and
Education, 13, 405–433.
O’Connell, M. E., & Norwood, J. L. (Eds.). (2007). International education and foreign languages: Keys to securing America’s future. Committee
to review the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs. Washington, DC: Center for Education, Division of Behavioral
and Social Sciences and Education. The National Academy Press.
Ryshina-Pankova, M. (2006). Creating textual worlds in advanced learner writing: The role of complex theme. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced
language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 164–183). London: Continuum.
Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Editorial comment / Linguistics and Education 20 (2009) 1–9 9

Street, B. V. (1999). New literacies in theory and practice: What are the implications for language in education. Linguistics and Education, 10, 1–24.
Teruya, K. (2006). Grammar as a resource for the construction of language logic for advanced language learning in Japanese. In H. Byrnes (Ed.),
Advanced language learning: The contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 109–133). London: Continuum.
Wesche, M. B., & Skehan, P. (2002). Communicative, task-based and content-based language instruction. In R. B. Kaplan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook
of applied linguistics (pp. 207–228). New York: Oxford University Press.
Whittaker, R., O’Donnell, M., & McCabe, A. (Eds.). (2006). Language and literacy: Functional approaches. London: Continuum.

Heidi Byrnes ∗
German Department, Georgetown University, ICC 469,
Washington, DC 20057, United States
∗ Tel.:
+1 202 687 8386.
E-mail address: byrnesh@georgetown.edu