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Systemic Functional Linguistics
The proof of the pudding is in the [piano] playing
Bill Greaves and Jim Benson
1. Experiential meanings and fields of discourse.
2. Interpersonal meanings and tenor of discourse.
Consider the following utterances all containing the [declarative] wording I like it (Subject^Finite^Predicator^Complement), spoken in reference to a painting seen at an art gallery
The structures vary independently:
Climate and weather are the same thing, but they vary in instantiation.
“No man is an island”
We are all familiar with the English PHONEME and GRAPHEME systems. But to make their abstract nature perhaps a bit clearer, here is an alternative GRAPHEME system.
It was developed by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and used by bonobo apes at the Language Research Center.
There are 384 GRAPHEMES. These directly realize a set of 384 LEXICOGRAMMATICAL WORD choices. The next slide shows a number of the tokens:
When one GRAPHEME token is pressed, a computer speaker produces the sound of its word.
A “jam session”. The goal is for Panbanisha to make music at the keyboard interactively with Peter Gabriel
The musical interaction is inherently dialogic
The stages in the surrounding conversations:
SONG TOPIC NEGOTIATION: Panbanisha takes the lead in deciding on a song topic
SONG PRODUCTION: Panbanisha plays the song (with verbal FACILITATION by Sue and Peter where necessary)
EVALUATION: Sue and Peter appraise the song
CODA: Sue and Peter discuss its significance
FIRST ORDER (Dealing with “the world”)
Peter Gabriel brought three members of his band to interact with the bonobo apes (99.6% of our genes) Kanzi and Panbanisha and their caregiver Dr. Sue Savage Rumbaugh.
He presented them with an electronic keyboard.
Here is a clip of Panbanisha and the keyboard near the beginning of the first day:
Computer speaker emitting male English words
Arbitrary Graphic computer keys
The three participants:
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh (human)
Peter Gabriel (human)
FIELD OF DISCOURSEGoal directed social action. Not the same thing as subject.“What am I?” is a good test. If our goal is to make music, I’m a musician.
Panbanisha makes a computer say Orange, Banana.
Opening field: Caregiving: dining: dining on fruit: dining on orange and banana
Peter and Sue bend the field through qualification:
Song about oranges and bananas
The field is now music. oranges and bananas together designate a class of songs.
FIRST ORDER (Dealing with “the world”)
Upper case – sound from a LEXIGRAM
Sue: QUIET. Quiet things, and grooming is a QUIET THING. It\'s a quiet thing.
Peter: That\'s true. Let\'s start it.
Sue whisper: Quiet. Can you play a grooming song.
Peter: Can you play a grooming song?
Sue: whisper: I want to hear a grooming song. Play a real quiet grooming song.
Pan (piano): 2 NOTES (followed by jam session)
(Upper case -- /*/1 QUIET=computer saying the word in male voice with falling contour when Sue presses the lexigram key)
Sue: /*/1 QUIET /*/5 quiet things // 5 ^ and */grooming is a /*/ 1QUIET /*/1THING // 5 ^ it\'s a */quiet thing //
Peter: // 1 ^that\'s */true //1 ^ let\'s */ start it //
Sue whisper: // 1 quiet // 2 can you / play a / grooming */ song //
Peter: // 2 can you / play a / grooming */ song //
Sue: whisper: //1 I want to /hear a */grooming song. //1 Play a /real /quiet /grooming */song //
Pan: // 1 GROOM // (Panbanisha presses lexigram)
Pan (piano): 2 NOTES
The sight, touch and sound of the keyboard have been re-presented as components of Panbanisha’s new social role as a musician involved in a jam session.
Language? Well, the trialogue didn’t take place in German! Or Chinese! Pambanisha was, by selecting and pressing computer lexigrams keys, producing sounds that were English. The clauses to which she responded were English clauses. The semantic network – the meanings which changed her from a disinterested “couch potato” in front of the keyboard into a full participation in a jam session was enacted through choices in the English mood system. And the culture which was created through this, although a unique bonobo-human culture, was composed of English speakers.
Weaving ideational and interpersonal meaning together into message.
SECOND ORDER (Dealing with the first order)
Work done by the lexicogrammar stratum:
Theme – Rheme structure. Grammatical work realized in lexicogrammatical structure
Work done by the phonology stratum:
Given – New structure. Grammatical work realized in phonological structure.
Grooming is Theme of the first clause. (Grooming is the first ideational element.)
The word it is Theme of the second clause. (It is the first ideational element.)
The first clause is spoken as three information units because the computer speaker always gives a [tone 1] Tonic utterance. The second clause is a single information unit.
Quiet is New in the second clause. (Why? Because the speaker is boss. When she places Tonic (*/ indicates the most significant pitch change) on the syllable quiet she forces us to treat the word as New.)
Thing is Given. (Why? Anything after New is being treated by the speaker as Given.)
Frederick, Prince of Wales had a stately home at Kew. In 1736 the poet Alexander Pope gave him a puppy complete with a collar inscribed:
I am his Highness’ Dog at Kew;
Pray tell me Sir, whose Dog are you?
The functional questions are:
what are the ideational and
what are the interpersonal choices which create this imagined world, and
how are these choices woven together into a recognizable literary genre?
We can think of CONTEXT at any level of generality:
All the contexts that have been created over time
Commerce: The first attempt to barter
Gender based power relationships in Homer’s Greece
An unlimited (we can always create new ones) number
Contexts of a clearly defined “register”: a discussion between skipper and crew about whether or not to set a spinnaker at the next mark in the race. This is a slice towards the instance end. In such a tight register huge ranges of language choice are simply not up for grabs.
The context being construed, enacted and engendered in these instances: two particular readings of Pope’s epigram.
SFL is an “appliable” linguistic theory. That it to say, it focuses on the three kinds of work that language does.
Ideational work. Construing FIELD of DISCOURSE:
Experiential: re-presenting, as symbols, the world we encounter through our senses
Logical: organizing our reasoning on the basis of our experience
Interpersonal work. Enacting TENOR of DISCOURSE: Enacting our relationship with others.
Textual work: Engendering MODE of DISCOURSE: Weaving ideational and interpersonal meaning together to create message.
HISTORY would shed light on cause and effect in the linear flow of events unfolding in time: how “His Highness” came to live in Kew, etc.
POLITICAL SCIENCE might take a less linear view and focus on the effectiveness of “His Highness’s” place in the governance of England.
SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL LINGUISTICS sheds light on the role that language plays in creating and maintaining the social world in which His Highness, His Highness’ dog, and His Highness’ courtiers play out their respective lives (just as language played a role creating the three day context in which Panbanisha grew to be a jazz pianist).
The tool we make field with is (mostly) language.
This room has four walls, a floor, a ceiling, and rows of chairs with people in them.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire . . .
See! Just by language I have (sort of) changed the field to a Eighteenth Century religious discussion in which I have great social power because I’m preaching a sermon. But the room hasn’t changed.
In this epigram the work of construing field is done primarily through lexis:
His Highness (Lexical set: My Lord, Your Majesty, Your Grace, etc.)
Kew (Lexical set: Kew, Windsor, Buck House, etc.)
Whose dog (Important lexis because the vocative “Sir” of “Pray tell me Sir,” predicts e.g.Whose Private Secretary, but definitely not whose *dog.
The [statement] I am His Highness’dog places the imagined audience (courtier at Kew) in the complementary role of acknowledger.
The [command] pray tell me Sir places Sir in the complementary role of complier.
The [question] whose dog are you? places Sir in the complementary role ofanswerer.
We can read this as though we are overhearing one half of a conversation between the dog and a courtier
Or we can read it in the shoes of the courtier, as though the dog is speaking to us.
In the first case, we may be amused.
In the second case, even though we know full well that it is fiction, it might not seem quite so funny.
What follows are annotations in Praat of these two different spoken version of the epigram.
The top tier displays the waveform and the second the spectrogram.
The third tier displays the words, with */ indicating that a particular word is Tonic.
The fourth tier distinguishes Given from New information (Location of the Tonic).
The fifth tier explains interpersonal meaning (shape of the Tonic).
The bottom tier identifies the speaker.
Similarities: Greaves and Benson wove field and tenor together in identical ways in the first line of the couplet with two information units, and the same distribution of Given and New information.
Differences: In the second line they also had the same number of information units, but these were distributing New and Given information differently.
The main difference in sound was not textual but interpersonal: Benson’s voice quality was markedly nasty and signaled his ironic interpretation.
But if your appetite is whetted . . . . .
Functional Dimensions of Ape-Human Discourse
http://www.equinoxpub.com/equinox/books/showbook.asp?bkid=5&keyword=bensonEdited by: James D. Benson, William S. GreavesSeries: Functional LinguisticsHardback Price£60.00/$95.00Paperback Price£15.00/$25.00DescriptionPAPERBACK PUBLISHED JULY 2009Functional Dimensions of Ape-Human Discourse asks the question ‘what do interactions between apes and humans mediated by language tell us?’. In order to answer this question the authors explore language-in-context, drawing on a multi-leveled, multi-functional linguistics. The levels are context of culture, context of situation, semantics, lexicogrammar, and phonology; and the functions are ideational, interpersonal, and textual.
2)http://onthehuman.org/2011/01/human-language-human-consciousness/comment-page-1/“Human Language—Human Consciousness” Sue Savage Rumbaugh. See also the comments by Tom Givon and Paul Thibault.
Leong Ping Alvin: http://www.alvinleong.info/sfg/sfgtrans.html
This cheerful website is a great help when getting into the lexicogrammatical stratum.
Key Terms in Systemic Functional Linguistics [Paperback] (Continuum, 2010) by
Christian Matthiessen (Author), Marvin Lam (Author), Kazuhiro Teruya (Author). This is very useful for all strata.
Working with Functional Grammar (Arnold, 1997) by J. R. Martin, Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen and Claire Painter also focuses on the lexicogrammar.
An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. (2nd ed. Continuum 2005)by Suzanne Eggins.
Intonation in the Grammar of English(Equinnox 2008) by M.A.K. Halliday,and William S. Greaves.
Focuses on phonology and phonetics, but is also an introduction to SFL theory. Has a CD with “hot” sound and video icons.
Analysing Casual Conversationby Suzanne Eggins, Diana Slade
Introducing Functional Grammar (2nd ed Arnold Publication) by Geoff Thompson.
Lexicogrammatical Cartography: English Systems by Christian Matthiessen (Tokyo: International Language Sciences Publishers, 1995) http://www.isfla.org/Systemics/Print/Books/Book.lexcartog.
Expensive. Hard to get. Important.
Construing Experience Through Meaning: A Language-Based Approach to Cognition (Open Linguistics) [Paperback] (Continuum 1999/2006) by M.A.K. Halliday , Christian Matthiessen.
(Although the title says “introduction”, this is much more easily digested as an entrée.)
An Introduction to Functional Grammar (3rd ed Hodder Arnold 2004) by M. A. K. Halliday and Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen