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Ideational Grammar. Transitivity describes the kinds of processes that can be expressed in a clause and the number and kinds of participants therein (nuclear transitivity) describes the circumstantial elements that accompany a process (circumstantial transitivity. Ideational Grammar.

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Ideational Grammar

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ideational grammar
Ideational Grammar
  • Transitivity
  • describes the kinds of processes that can be expressed in a clause and the number and kinds of participants therein (nuclear transitivity)
  • describes the circumstantial elements that accompany a process (circumstantial transitivity
ideational grammar2
Ideational Grammar
  • Transitivity structure:

Quite recently the Norwegians were whaling off Greenland.








ideational grammar3





Ideational Grammar
  • Transitivity system:



(+ Goal)










+ Token

+ Value



ideational grammar4
Ideational Grammar
  • English: „ergative“ (Medium) vs. „transitive“ (Agent) organization: e.g.,

Peter opened the door.

The door opened.

He walked her home.

She walked (for an hour).

 effective

 middle

ideational grammar5
Ideational Grammar
  • English:
    • material (processes of doing & happening): Actor, Goal, Beneficiary, Range
    • mental (processes of cognition, perception & affection): Senser, Phenomenon
    • verbal (processes of saying): Sayer, Saying
    • relational (processes of “being“); Carrier, Attribute – Token, Value
    • behavioral (intermediate between mental/verbal and material; Behaver)
    • existential (resemble relational, but only one participant: Existent)
ideational grammar6
Ideational Grammar
  • Material processes
    • One inherent participant: Actor; who/what did it?

She drove (down the coast).

    • possibly: Goal; what did x do to/with whom?

She drove him (down the coast).

    • possibly: Beneficiary (participant benefiting)

I built a gazebo for the kids. (Client)

She gave a teapot to his aunt. (Recipient)

    • If no Goal, possibly a Range (scope of a happening)

They climbed a mountain.

test: *what did they do to the mountain? (unlike Goal)

ideational grammar7
Ideational Grammar
  • Mental processes
    • One inherent participant: Senser; endowed with consciousness

The man knew too much.

    • possibly: Phenomenon; what is being sensed

The man knew too much.

I like swimming in the morning.

Her tasks interested her.

The witness heard her threatening him.

He thought that the moon was a balloon.

wide range of realizations of the Phenomenon (nominal groups, adverbial groups, verbal groups, projected clauses); unlike Goal in material processes

ideational grammar8
Ideational Grammar
  • Relational processes
    • Cf. copula construction in traditional terms
    • Attributive (class membership): Carrier, Attribute

This girl is very energetic.

This girl is an energetic type.

    • Identifying: Token, Value

Peter is the boss.

The boss is Peter.

Chien means dog.

The reservoir functions as emergency supply.

ideational grammar9
Ideational Grammar
  • Verbal processes
    • Processes of ‘saying‘, but also semiotic processes more generally
    • Central participants: Sayer (human or human-like), Verbiage (content of what is being said; verbal Range)

She told me a funny story.

The note says that he went back to the office.

The sign indicates that his office is left of the entrance.

    • Possibly: Receiver (verbal Beneficiary)
    • She told me a funny story.
    • Range of realizations of the Verbiage: nominal group, projected clause (finite, nonfinite); unlike Goal in material clauses
ideational grammar10
Ideational Grammar
  • CIRCUMSTANTIAL (across process types)
  • English:
    • Extent (temporal/spatial), e.g., for three hours, for six miles
    • Location (temporal/spatial), e.g., in June, in the back yard
    • Manner (means/quality/comparison), e.g., with a hammer, quickly, like mad
    • Cause (reason/purpose/behalf), e.g., because of this, for the better, on behalf of him
    • Contingency (condition/concession/default), e.g., in the case of, in spite of, in the absence of
    • Accompaniment (comitative/additive), e.g., with, instead
    • Role, e.g., as a teacher I‘m concerned with this issue
    • Matter, e.g., about Halliday
    • Angle, e.g., according to Halliday

(1)The cat chased the mouse.

(2) The cat jumped.

(3) The prime minister resigned.

(4) The mayor dissolved the committee.

(5)Mary liked the gift.

(6)The gift pleased Mary.

(7)Mary is smart.

(8) Mary is the boss.

(9)The workshop is on Friday.

(10) Tomorrow is the 25th. 

(11) Carl has a trombone.

(12) The trombone belongs to Carl.

(13)John said (to me) 'I'm hungry'.

(14)John said (to me) that he was hungry.

(15)He told me a pack of lies.

(16)He told me to buzz off.


There are many species of whales. They are conveniently divided

into toothed and baleen whales. The toothed whales are found world-

wide in great numbers. The largest is the Sperm whale, which grows

to about the size of a boxcar. Other species familiar to Canadians are

the Beluga or white whales, the Narwhal with ist unicorn-like tusk,

the Killer whale or Ocra, the Pilot or Pothead whale, which is commonly

stranded on beaches, the Spotted and Spinner Dolphins that create a

problem for tuna seiners, and the Porpoises which we commonly see

along our shores.

There are fewer species of the larger baleen whales, that filterkrill and

small fish through their baleen plates. The largestis the Blue whale

which is seen frequently in the Gulf of St Lawrence. It reaches a length

of 100 feet and a weight of 200 tons. The young are25 feet long at birth

and gainabout 200 lbs a day on their milk diet.


(Martin, W.R., 1989. Innovative fisheries management: international



My name‘s Laura and his is my place. I turned ten last week. Our

house is the one with the flag on the window. Tony says it shows

we‘re on Aboriginal land, but I think it means the colour of the earth,

back home. Mum and Dad live here too, and Terry and Lorraine, and

Aunty Bev, and Tony and Diane and their baby Dean. He‘s my nephew

and he‘s so cute! We come from Bourke, but Dad thought there‘d be

more jobs in the city. This [picture] is me and Gully. I have to keep her

on a lead because she chases cars. She comes from Bourke too. I guess

she thinks they are sheep. This is a map of my place. We‘ve got

McDonalds right on the corner!

(Wheatley N., 1989. My place)

  • Halliday MAK, 1985/1994/2004. Introduction to Functional Grammar. Arnold, London (chapter 5)

Assignment 3

  • Exercises 4 and 5 , p.132-133 from handout: discriminating
  • process types.
  • Analyze Text1 and Text2 in terms of process types and
  • circumstantial types, pp.136-137 from handout. Compare the
  • two texts: How do the selections of process types and
  • circumstantial types reflect the purposes of the texts?