In this essay, I will examine a televised address that Prime Minister Blair gave on the eve of sending British troops to Iraq (see Appendix). This is a high-value text, in that Blair needed to convey a message of utmost seriousness to the nation. It was also, at the time, an unpopular message: a large percentage of the British nation were opposed to the war. Although the text was broadcast on television, and delivered as speech, it is, I believe, a carefully prepared and structured piece. Following Halliday and Matthiessen (2004), I will discuss how the choices that Blair made when preparing his speech realise the metafunctional options available at the semantic level. My first task was to identify the constituent parts of the text for analysis. Following Thompson (2004: 156) I broke the text down into T-units (each independent clause, along with any accompanying dependent clause). Following Fairclough’s recommendations for critical discourse analysis (1989), I will first look at the Experiential metafunction, discussing how Blair represents his world view, and what types of process and participant dominate. I then explore the text from the view of the Interpersonal metafunction, to uncover the power differences between the author and audience, and to discuss how Blair intends his message to be received. Finally, the two metafunctional strands will be brought together, to create an understanding of how, and with what intent, Blair created the text.



2004: 96). or wishes to represent that experience to the reader. Through six main process types. there are a high number (14 in total) of Identifying clauses. The Experiential metafunction The way the author chooses to represent the world—actions. we can subdivide these into two principal types: Attributive and Identifying. In the Blair text.2. we can gain an understanding of how the author experiences the world. We may also classify or identify items in ways which suit us. Through this. The table below shows us the dominance of Material and Relational process types in the Blair text. and also the internal world of things which are sensed. we may construe a version of the external world of things which happen and are said. as I will go on to discuss. events and ideas—can be uncovered by looking at the Experiential metafunction of a text. This is perhaps unsurprising: this type of clause tends to dominate high-value discourse (especially political) where the meanings construed are symbolic ones (Halliday and c1143677 2 . is mostly concerned with ‘identifying’ and ‘characterising’ things. The text. and representing actions. Material 26 Mental 9 Verbal 3 Behaviou ral 2 Relation al 38 Existenti al 1 2. the basic function of which is to ‘identify one entity in terms of another’ (Thompson.1 Relational processes Turning first to Relational processes.

all nations are targets [token] our enemy [value] is not you but your barbarous rulers [token] Saddam [token] is not the only threat [value] Iraq [token] is not our only concern [value] In fact. Processes are shown in bold. with I fear that these threats will come together (which would focus more on Blair’s worries than on representing a fact). The two participant roles in Identifying clauses are Value and Token. • • • • • • the threat to Britain today [value] is not that of my father’s generation [token] the best way to deal with future threats [token] is to deal with present threats with resolve [value] the truth [value] is. or beliefs. By the end of the speech. which appears in the text. One of the key aims of this text is to identify (for the audience) the key participants in the war against Iraq. A selection is presented here. sensations. since the choice of this process allows an author to assign values (a Value) to an idea or thing (a Token). • My fear … is that these threats come together c1143677 3 . Blair presents this (unequivocally) as ‘truth’. Compare the nominalised clause below. the audience will be clear about what the threat to Britain is and how it is best dealt with. Thompson (2004: 98) highlights the importance of analyzing these two participants when uncovering a text’s ideological values. the former categorising the latter. By choosing Identifying processes.Matthiessen 2004: 234). rather than as actions. there seems to be a preference for Identifying process clauses over other types.

or ‘those who are with c1143677 4 . The repeated use of this Carrier + be + Attribute formula. One further point to make about Blair’s text is that by far the most common Carrier role can be categorised as belonging to the side of Britain in the war against terrorism (i. our choice [carrier] is clear [attribute]. but not by use of the more congruent collocation take pride. using have pride. he has chosen a static. Following from Francis and Kramer-Dahl’s notion of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ attributes (1992: 174). ‘us’. • their families and all of Britain [carrier] can have [process] great pride [attribute] Blair has chosen to nominalise this clause. Instead. It [carrier] is true [attribute] … Removing Saddam [carrier] will be a blessing [attribute].I will now describe the other type of Relational process in the text. as the following example demonstrates. • • • • So. In fact. Four million Iraqis [carrier] are in exile [attribute]. This can be compared with the more dynamic. Behavioural process choice (their families … can pride themselves …).e. where Carrier (the Subject) is in initial position in the clause. this representation has a ‘static quality’ (Halliday and Mattheissen. A selection may be seen below. and how Blair constructs his representation of how things ‘are’ in the world. possessive Relational process. The two major participant roles in this text are Carrier and Attribute. 2004: 212). shows that the text aims to get its representation of reality across consistently and unambiguously. we can see that Blair chooses to represent things (Carriers) objectively and neutrally —as facts rather than evaluations.

America) and the Goal is ‘them’ (Saddam. Thus. it is categorising ‘us’. In the first pattern. the Actor is ‘us’ (Blair. is concerned with representing matters that are ‘true’ and timeless. with its dominant proportion of Relational clauses. two dominant patterns emerge.us’). Al-Qaida). in the same terms. the text. the audience. Here. • I gave the order • [British forces] remove Saddam • [British forces] disarm Iraq • America didn’t attack Al-Qaida • the world tried to disarm Saddam • [we] proceed to disarm him c1143677 5 . which is concerned with ‘doing’. The major participants here are Actor (the ‘doer’) and Goal (the object of the ‘doing’). 2.2 Material processes I turn now to discuss the second-most common process type in the text. • • • • the British people will now be united Britain has never been a nation to hide at the back Bali was never in the front line Our commitment … will be total. Moreover. the British. Processes are in bold.

the text aims to represent an unambiguous view of what is happening. but these actions. the Actor is ‘them’ and the Goal is an abstract concept or inanimate. However. the Actors have a less dynamic role (in Hasan’s terms). proceed to disarm) is marked. the Goal is most often an animate one.Here. ongoing. although they are still ‘operative’. the thought or feeling is the Phenomenon.3 Mental processes The last group of processes I will turn to in this discussion is concerned with what people feel or think. • • • • [these threats] deliver catastrophe the terrorists delight in destroying [human life] terrorists obtain these weapons [of mass destruction] Dictators like Saddam. that Blair is assigning the same participant role to ‘Iraq’. The text presents them. 2. as with the Relational processes. ‘threats’ and ‘Al-Qaida’ all have the same participant role. deliver. these processes are all ‘transformative’: the Actors are ‘operative’ instigators of change (Halliday and Mattheissen. ‘Saddam’ and ‘AlQaida’. terrorist groups like Al-Qaida threaten the very existence of such a world Here. In the second major pattern. Again. The participant doing the thinking is the Senser. 2004: 182–185). and timeless. and therefore. c1143677 6 . meanings and agency are not obscured. these processes would come at the top of Hasan’s dynamism cline (1985: 46). are often static. It can be noted. In addition. In this text. too. too. as the same. the dominant use of the present simple with Material processes (threaten. Therefore. ‘Saddam’. in this sense. ‘terrorists’. the lack of nominalisation would lead us to conclude that the processes are congruent.

Blair knows and hopes. • I know this course of action has produced deep divisions of opinion in our country • I know the British people will now be united • I hope the Iraqi people hear this message These Mental processes (be they cognitive or desiderative) are presented in clearly positive terms. Examples are presented below. ‘they’ do not have ‘our’ best interests at heart. Blair knows and hopes. Moreover.Notably. unlike Blair. with processes in bold. On the only occasions where Blair is not Senser. the Mental processes are also static and timeless. our freedom. Blair himself is Senser on most occasions. ‘they’ hate and do not care. our democracy • These tyrannical states do not care for the sanctity of human life Clearly. • [brutal states and terrorist groups] hate our way of life. these emotional Mental processes are not positive. someone whose thoughts are benign and directed towards ‘us’. this is someone whose thoughts are clear. Following the textual patterns described so far. In short. c1143677 7 . The Phenomena are the British and Iraqi people (belonging to ‘we’ in the text). the Phenomena are against ‘us’. we again turn to ‘them’. The choice of language in the verb group expresses that this will not change. In short.

Examples are given below. and even these have the implied Subject of ‘our choice is’. and as I will go on to show with the Blair text. Blair’s ‘speech role’ is that of ‘giving’. 3. this is enacted in. We [subject] are [finite] with you. and revealed by. but your barbarous rulers. Hundreds of thousands [subject] have [finite] been driven from their homes. and the various speech functions that can be adopted. In Blair’s text. Halliday and Mattheissen (2004: 110) point out that when language is used for this purpose. the clause takes on the form of a ‘proposition’.1 Mood As I have outlined in the section on Experiential meaning. the ‘commodity’ being exchanged is that of ‘information’ in the form of statements’ (Eggins 2004: 146). the grammar of the clause. In the interpersonal metafunction. I [subject] gave [fused finite and predicator] the order Only three clauses in the whole text do not quite follow this pattern. Authors of texts can choose their mode of interaction with the audience. • • • • Our enemy [subject] is [finite] not you. the Blair text seems concerned mostly with the exchange of information. the declarative clause is by far the most dominant form.3. c1143677 8 . this is realised by Mood choices involving Subject and Finite used in each clause. The Interpersonal Metafunction The Interpersonal metafunction allows us to uncover the way a text establishes and maintains an interaction with an intended audience.

and identifies two methods in which an author may express a degree of probability or usuality. have. c1143677 9 . Again. Similarly.• • • back down and leave Saddam hugely strengthened or proceed to disarm him by force The Mood pattern of Subject + Finite is used throughout the text. Finite modal operators are used sparingly. there are consistent patterns within the text. gave.2 Modality Eggins (2004: 172–173) sees propositions of either it is or it is not as being two extreme ends of a cline. therefore. The dominant tense used in the finite is the present (is. which I will now describe in Blair’s text.). 3. Blair’s propositions. which I would interpret as an ‘asymmetrical status relation’ (Francis and Kramer-Dahl. Only on one occasion do we find something of a low or median classification. the dominant polarity is a positive one. we can also assign temporality and polarity. The effect is that of a consistent one-way dialogue between a giver and a receiver of information. 1992: 181). are concerned with arguing about what is (Eggins 2004: 172). etc. Within the Mood component.

thus presenting his lack of commitment to the idea. or what the threat is. Where he uses modality. his authorial and ideological stance comes across clearly by his choice of language. a series of absolute is or is not propositions. high-value modality is used. Following Martin’s notions of judgement (2000: 142–175). growing and of an entirely different nature From these examples. therefore. he expresses high usuality (never) and intensifies the notion of the threat (entirely). • • • • the British people will now be united it wouldn’t avail us our commitment will be total Removing Saddam will be a blessing Modal adjuncts are similarly uncommon. 3.3 Appraisal Although I have described Blair’s propositions as being factual and somewhat absolute. it is in reference to ‘retreat’. giving a proposition with a high degree of certainty. Otherwise. On the one occasion he uses a low-value modal. it is to express a firm commitment to notions of what the British can do.• Retreat might give us a moment of respite. • • Britain has never been a nation to hide at the back this threat is real. we can identify in Blair’s text. In the following. we may clearly see Blair’s views on ‘us’ (the British people and military): c1143677 10 .

• Our enemy is not you. We may see examples of this type of pronoun use in Blair’s text. or more negatively. following Thompson’s notion of appraisal (Thompson. our democracy deliver catastrophe to our country and world the carnage they could inflict to our economies.• • the courage and determination of British men and women They are the finest in the world and ‘them’: • • • brutal states like Iraq These tyrannical states your barbarous rulers In addition. but your barbarous rulers c1143677 11 . Blair has involved the reader fully in his message. • • • Both hate our way of life. Furthermore. our security This clearly positions the reader as belonging ‘us’. • • • this threat is real. 2004: 75) we can identify how Blair indicates his sure stance towards key ideas. nationalist sentiments. our freedom. growing the best way to deal with future threats peacefully is to deal with present threats with resolve Removing Saddam will be a blessing 3. by the end of the text. who ‘they’ would like to destroy in some way.4 Pronoun use Bloor and Bloor (2004: 228) make the point that the use of pronouns such as my and our in relation to abstract concepts such as language or country (which in fact cannot be owned) can encourage group loyalty.

In Fairclough’s terms. He is declaring that the threat is. ‘it assimiliates ‘the people’ to the c1143677 12 . In terms of actions. Blair presents the ‘threat’ to his audience. our democracy). 2) world. our freedom. ‘we’ the British are dynamic and transformative. In terms of possession of knowledge. are the receiver of information. the power relationship is asymmetrical. 7) weapon. terrorists. Blair doesn’t distinguish between them in terms of participant roles. They are as follows: 1) threat. as what ‘we’ the people are doing. Al-Qaida or ‘tyrannical states’.• • We shall help Iraq move towards democracy I have asked our troops to go into action tonight Thus. Blair seems to be referring to us (Both hate our way of life. 6) Britain. This lack of clarity allows Blair to put across what ‘we’ the government are doing. The high level of Relational clauses shows us that he is possessor of information. 10) thousand In terms which are certain. we may not respond to them. In setting up a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ scenario. 4) Saddam. the reader is positioned as someone with a vested interest in the military action Blair is proposing. the audience. and jointly ‘owns’ the troops now going into action. We. and because his propositions are absolute. ‘They’ are loosely defined: equally Saddam. At other times. Blair is deliverer of information. it is ambiguous who he is referring to (We will strive to see it done). 9) peace). 5) British. Concluding remarks As regards what this text is about. He defines the situation. is involved in ‘helping Iraq’. 3) Iraq. fixed and factual. it is helpful to list the ten most frequently repeated nouns. 8) action.

for example. Whether or not this particular text is representative of such speeches would warrant further research. and already involved in his actions. We. Blair is represented by the text as the unflinching. resolve. avail). sure leader. c1143677 13 . It would be interesting. to compare this text with other serious. or the leadership’ (1989: 180). It would also be interesting to compare it with other texts which impart information as an unequivocal world view: religious texts. the audience. In short. Certainly there are a number of lexical choices within Blair’s message which would seem appropriate in such texts (sanctity. are receivers of this information. high-value messages to the nation. repentance. in total control of the information. blessing. for example.leader.

A. M.stm Bloor T. London: Hodder Arnold Eggins. Language and Verbal Art. S. (1985) Linguistics. Kramer-Dahl 1992: "Grammaticalising the Medical Case History". Harlow: Longman Francis.References BBC NEWS. J. (2004) The Functional Analysis of English. & A. London: Routledge Halliday. (2004) An Introduction to Functional Grammar (3rd edn. G. London Fairclough. Francis Pinter. & Bloor.co. R. S. Oxford: OUP Thompson. M. Deakin. (2004) An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics.. (2004) Introducting Functional Grammar (2nd edn) London: Edward Arnold c1143677 14 .uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_politics/2870581. G. available online at http://news. Text and Context. & Matthiessen. in Toolan. and Thompson. (1989) Language and Power. M. (2000) ‘Beyond exchange: APPRAISAL systems in English’.) Hodder Education Hasan. C. (ed) Language.).K. R. NSW: Deakin University Pres Martin. (eds. in Hunston.bbc. N. Evaluation in text: authorial stance and the construction of discourse. G. (20 March 2003) Full transcript of Blair’s speech.

Tonight British servicemen and women are engaged from air. I know that this course of action has produced deep divisions of opinion in our country but I know also the British people will now be united in sending our armed forces our thoughts and prayers .Word count: 2. Europe is at peace. These tyrannical states do not care for the sanctity of human life . land and sea. But this new world faces a new threat of disorder and chaos born either of brutal states like Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction or of extreme terrorist groups. The threat to Britain today is not that of my father's generation. Their mission: to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. America didn't attack al-Qaeda . War between the big powers is unlikely. Some say if we act we become a target the truth is all nations are targets.the terrorists delight in destroying it.they are the finest in the world and their families and all of Britain can have great pride in them. Both hate our way of life. Bali was never in the frontline of action against terrorism. our freedom. deeply held. My fear. Britain has never been a nation to hide at the back but even if we were it c1143677 15 . the Cold War already a memory. our democracy.they attacked America. based in part on the intelligence that I see is that these threats come together and deliver catastrophe to our country and our world.778 Appendix Story from BBC NEWS (2003) On Tuesday night I gave the order for British forces to take part in military action in Iraq.

Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. We shall help Iraq move towards democracy and put the money from Iraqi oil in a UN trust fund so it benefits Iraq and no-one else. to world peace would be beyond our most vivid imagination. 60% of the population dependent on food aid. President Bush and I have committed ourselves to peace in the Middle East based on a secure state of Israel and a viable Palestinian state. growing and of an entirely different nature to any conventional threat to our security that Britain has faced before. thousands of children die every year through malnutrition and disease. the ravages of disease require a world of order and stability. But these challenges and others that confront us: poverty. Our enemy is not you but your barbarous rulers. VX nerve agent and mustard gas remain unaccounted for in Iraq. We are with you. Should terrorists obtain these weapons now being manufactured and traded around the world the carnage they could inflict to our economies. Our commitment to the post-Saddam humanitarian effort will be total. It is true that Saddam is not the only threat but it is true also as we British know that the best way to deal with future threats peacefully is to deal with present threats with resolve. UN weapons inspectors say vast amounts of chemical and biological poisons such as anthrax. So our choice is clear: back down and leave Saddam hugely strengthened or proceed to disarm him by force. We will strive to see it done. I hope the Iraqi people hear this message. the environment. Dictators like Saddam.wouldn't avail us. hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes or murdered. I believe. For 12 years the world tried to disarm Saddam after his wars in which hundreds of thousands died. to our security. follow. Retreat might give us a moment of respite but years of repentance at our weakness would. Neither should Iraq be our only concern. My judgment as prime minister is that this threat is real. Removing Saddam will be a blessing to the Iraqi people: four million Iraqis are in exile. threaten the very c1143677 16 .

Thank you. As so often before on the courage and determination of British men and women serving our country the fate of many nations rest.existence of such a world. That is why I've asked our troops to go into action tonight. c1143677 17 .