GRAMMAR of MODERN ENGLISH
UNIT 1 - FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES
In this Unit, I address some frequently posed questions about grammar, such as the fundamental one: why study it? Although I addressed this in the Foundation Module (FND Unit 6), it seems appropriate to re-consider it at the start of this half-module explicitly devoted to the subject, and I do so from the ESOL teaching perspective. I try to make a distinction between our inevitable personal prejudices about usage and a reasoned and informed attitude. This is followed by an exposition of the inseparability of grammar and lexis ('vocabulary'), which is the basis for using the term lexicogrammar. There is then a brief discussion of the use of computers in this field, a point that I felt I should introduce although I shall not address it in subsequent Units.
Perhaps most importantly, there is an overview of some fundamental concepts in the field of grammar, particularly in Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG), also referred to as Hallidayan grammar. SFG is the focus of this Module as a whole, but in this first Unit, especially near the beginning, I eclectically pick bits from a number of other approaches in order to make some general points about analysis and lexico-grammatical classification. The other Units in the Module will be entirely taken up with the presentation of the SFG model of grammar.
At the end of this first Unit is a post-script consisting of my comments on some widespread misconceptions about grammar and some grammatical issues that arouse strong feelings among some speakers of English. You may feel free to skip this if you wish, but it may have some resonance for some of you.
By the end of this Unit , you should be able to:
o present arguments for the study of grammar
o comment on some valency constraints on verbs
o say something about the relation between grammar and lexis
o explain Sinclair's view that of is not a preposition
o explain the principle of distributional/substitutional means of identifying constituents
o outline the SFG rank scale
o analyse simple clauses into their rank scale constituents: clause, group, word, morpheme
o explain paradigmatic choice
o reproduce two simple systems
o explain some basic concepts in SFG
o comment on some prejudices and proscriptions
Why study grammar?
Grammar and ESOL
I think that I have already answered the question 'Why study grammar?' in the Foundation module (FND 6) and to some extent in the TDA Module, which you may or may not have read; it is also answered at greater length in the key text Bloor & Bloor 1995, Chapter 1. But it is an important question and one that is put to me from time to time, and so I will answer it again.
The focus of this component is on English grammar itself. This discussion is only a preamble, and I do not propose to dwell in any detail on the pros and cons of explicit grammar teaching in the second language. Whole modules could be written on how to teach grammar or whether to teach it at all. One thing I have no doubt about at all is that a language teacher ought to know as much as possible about the language, and that knowledge should include, as a major component, knowledge about grammar.
This course leads to a Master's degree in English teaching. This does not mean, though, that everything you learn should be relatable in a simple way to classroom activities. We firmly believe that everything contained in the Modules that make up the course has some relevance to your chosen profession. To me it is incomprehensible that anyone can think that the teaching of English can be divorced from the insights granted to us by the study of the systems of the language and the ways in which they are put to use in communication. Ignorant people tend to think that because we all use language, we know without study all that is necessary to teach it. On this basis, the assumption is that anyone who can speak English can teach it.
There is a centre for language study in Birmingham where I have twice signed up to learn a foreign language and both times dropped out fairly soon. This might be taken as an indication of my lack of stamina, but I prefer the explanation that the teaching was bad. The policy of this institution is to employ native speakers; it does not seem to matter whether the teacher has any expertise in teaching or formal knowledge of the language, but they must be teaching their mother tongue. As I have indicated, this is not an effective policy. Some of these teachers are disastrous. Yet, given a very good command of the target language, a non-native speaker with appropriate professional training and a good understanding of the way that the language works can do an excellent job. The native speaker criterion has been much exaggerated in the past. Since I sometimes use the term 'native-speaker', in connection with judgements about the acceptability of usage, I hope that you will bear in mind that this is my position on these issues so as not to misunderstand me.
In my very brief youthful career as a secondary school teacher, I was once asked - or rather ordered - by the school head to teach maths. When I pointed out that I did not know any maths, he said that I was intelligent and educated enough to make a go of it. Luckily, this rash experiment did not last long. This was unusual in that we rarely find people taking this attitude to subjects like maths and science; it tends to be reserved for the humanities and the teacher's L1 in particular.
To be fair, there is a fundamental difference. People who can speak a language well are in a sense experts in that language. They can be treated as a fairly reliable model for people who cannot speak it but want to do so. Put that ability together with good will, general intelligence, decent materials and a bit of classroom experience, and they can make a plausible stab at teaching it. But would you prefer to be taught by that teacher in this state of innocent naiveté, or that same teacher after s/he has acquired a comprehensive grasp of the insight gained into the workings of the language by generations of scholars dedicated to just that end? I know, from bitter experience, that I would prefer the second. Being a good linguist (in the sense of one who knows about linguistics) does not necessarily make a bad language teacher into a good one, but it does make a good one a lot better.
You cannot know too much.
The centred statement above is my credo for teaching; Bloor's First Pedagogic Principle. It may seem self-evident, but I have often heard people say that some teacher is bad at the job because s/he knows too much. If a teacher who knows a lot is bad, there may be all sorts of contributory factors: too many to list - though not selecting and presenting that knowledge efficiently and appropriately may be a strong candidate. But knowledge cannot, of itself, contribute to failure. It can only be an asset.
Grammar and lexis
Lexis is the technical term for words or vocabulary. In the sense that some people might speak of the vocabulary of English, we say the lexis of English. In the Foundation Module (FND 6), I argued that grammar and lexis are in the end the same thing. We can - and do - talk about lexis and grammar separately, but to do so is just a convenience. Hence some linguists use the term lexicogrammar (with or without a hyphen) to suggest their inseparability.
Words have their own grammar. A simple example of this is what is sometimes called verb valency. Certain verbs can occur with certain grammatical patterns and not with others. The verbs enjoy and like have closely related meanings and yet their possibility of occurring in the same linguistic setting is remote. As linguists say, they have different distribution. Consider the following data:
I like working.
I like to work.
I enjoy working.
*I enjoy to work.
(Note: I am here using the convention of putting an asterisk before unacceptable or non-occurring structures; such items are sometimes referred to as 'starred'.)
There is no apparent reason why the last of these is ungrammatical in standard English, but it is. When I say that is ungrammatical, I am not talking about the prohibition of items of common usage, but rather of something that simply does not occur in native speaker usage. The valency of enjoy accepts the pattern:
but it does not accept:
------ to V.
The verb like, on the other hand, accepts both.
As far as I can tell, there is no rational explanation for this; there is nothing else in the grammar that would tell us why this difference exists. It seems to be an example of arbitrariness in language. In fact, it is one of my favourite examples because the starred structure is one that non-native learners of English come up with all the time. It is what is known as a common error, and it is entirely understandable that it should be so, because to make the analogy from like to work to *enjoy to work is entirely reasonable. It just happens to be wrong - that is to say, it does not occur in native-speaker usage. Of course, it is not a very serious error in that it does not interfere with communication at the level of getting the idea across to the listener/reader, but it is clearly marked as non-native usage, and since most learners aspire to near-native usage it is best corrected. One feature of this kind of error is that only by having it pointed out is a learner likely to become aware that it is an error. But it is important for the teacher to be aware that the error may be the result of the kind of reasonable analogy that would often in other instances lead to a correct structure.
This is just one example of the way in which grammatical patterning is inseparably bound up with lexis. The paper by Hunston and Francis (1998), which can be found in the Resources section of this Unit, develops this point. I shall return to this issue later in the Module. My main reason for introducing it here is to emphasise the notion of grammar as lexicogrammar, and to ask you to bear this in mind throughout this half-module even when I appear to be separating the two.
Try to work out which of the following verbs are like enjoy and which are like like with regard to co-occurrence with V-ing and to V patterns.
hate, love, loathe, adore, deplore, dislike, detest
Grammar and the computer
One of the more striking innovations in recent years has been the use of computers in linguistic analysis. Firstly, this permits the storage of massive corpora (singular: corpus), useful not only for text analysis but also for work on lexis and grammar. In this Module, I shall not be focusing on computer-based analysis, but I would like to say something about the role of the computer in this field.
There are two major ways in which the computer has been exploited in grammatical studies:
1 Linguists have tried to work out grammatical computer programs for the generation of sentences or texts.
2 Linguists have used computers to store collections of linguistic data in the form of actually occurring texts (corpora) and have analysed them.
People with an orientation towards language teaching and text analysis are generally much more interested in the second of these - in fact, usually exclusively so.
Computers make it very easy to identify patterns of the kind discussed in the previous section. With the right program and a corpus of language, you can look at all the occurrences of any word (for example, enjoy or of) and find out which patterns they occur in.
Computers are also very good at indicating statistical probabilities. It is easy to find out how many times certain items occur in a given corpus and how often they combine with certain other items. Thus you can find out not only which patterns enjoy occurs with, but also how often it occurs with one pattern or another.
One very distinguished linguist, Noam Chomsky, has always denied the relevance of statistics (and of corpora) to questions of grammaticality. For him the frequency of occurrence of a grammatical form or a string of formatives (e.g. a sentence or a phrase) is of no interest. He believes that one of the key characteristics of the human language faculty is its creativity so that many - or perhaps even most - utterances are new, constructed from the speaker's knowledge of the principles of language in general, and, more narrowly, of the language in question. If a string of formatives never before uttered is in conformity with the grammar, then it is grammatical and will be so perceived by native speakers. It is no less grammatical for never having been uttered previously than is a string which has been uttered millions of times before. Many non-Chomskyans would agree with this last point even if they do not agree on its significance.
Most Systemic Functional (SF) linguists, being less interested in the question of how the human mind distinguishes between grammatical and non-grammatical structures than in how people use language to communicate, do take an interest in the relative likelihood of specific utterances, and they do see frequency as an issue. In a seminar which I attended at Birmingham University in 1992, Halliday emphasised that he had always believed that 'counting' had a part to play in linguistic work, and he was at that time in Birmingham to carry out some frequency studies using the Cobuild corpus, a huge collection of texts stored on computer.
But the most fervent advocate of frequency studies and the computational analysis of large corpora must be the father of the Cobuild corpus, John Sinclair. Sinclair has made his mark on language studies in two ways: first as one of the initiators of a new approach to the analysis of spoken discourse, and secondly with his work on the Cobuild/Birmingham University computer corpus project.
With Malcolm Coulthard, he established in 1976, a major approach to non-computational discourse analysis, that for many people was the essence of discourse analysis (see e.g. Levinson 1983, who is not sympathetic to the approach but who assumes that is what the term discourse analysis means). (Sinclair also wrote a systemic functional grammar book at that time that uses examples that he had obviously made up himself; there was no suggestion that he had done otherwise. Of course, in the 1970s, computational linguistics had barely got off the ground, and many grammarians did make up their own examples.)
In Sinclair 1991, however, he declares his faith in computational analysis and particularly the study of collocations by means of such tools as concordance programs, which he sees as the way forward in this field. Collocation is the tendency of a given lexical item to co-occur in the vicinity of other given items. The notion was first introduced into linguistics by J R Firth (1890-1960), mentor of Michael Halliday, whose grammar is the core of this Module.
These computer programs (concordancers) enable the linguist to call up from the corpus and show on a computer screen or printout every occurrence of a lexical item, for example, with its immediate co-text (e.g. the five words to the left and right of the item in question); this is a concordance. If any interesting patterns show up, the linguist can then go on to investigate further.
In Chapter 6 of Sinclair 1991, the author explains why he sees lexis as the key to grammar, and, in demonstrating how lexical concordancing reveals hitherto unsuspected patterns of a grammatical kind, he casts doubt on the classification of the lexical item of as a preposition. His arguments for this are based on the frequency with which of occurs in the Cobuild corpus in various roles (i.e. collocating with different items); he finds that of occurs most frequently in circumstances where all the other items traditionally identified as prepositions never occur:
Prepositions are principally involved in combining with following
nouns to produce prepositional phrases which function as adjuncts in clauses.
This is not anything like the main role of of, which combines with preceding
nouns to produce elaborations of the nominal group.
So whereas typical instances of the preposition in and behind are:
... in Ipswich ...
... in the same week ...
... behind the masks ...
Typical instance of of are:
... the back of the van ...
... a small bottle of brandy ...
Sinclair 1991: 82-83
By Adjunct, Sinclair means what is sometimes called an adverbial expression: a word or phrase which tells us such things as where or when the process described in the clause takes place (See next Unit). He is arguing that the most frequent occurrences of prepositions are in items like:
Doctor Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield.
They were travelling on the bus.
This is true of all words classed as prepositions except for of. Sinclair's
reasoning is that, since the distribution is so different, it is reasonable
to treat of as belonging to a different word class from all the rest. Note that,
since of does sometimes occur in that function and the others do sometimes occur
as modifiers of nouns, Sinclair is arguing this strictly on grounds of frequency.
At the time of writing, Sinclair's is still a minority position; in fact, I do not know of anyone else who thinks that of is not a preposition. I mention it not to advocate this view but to illustrate the kind of distributional arguments that can be used to classify words, and the kind of evidence that computers can help to make available. It also demonstrates the fact that these are issue open to investigation and rational debate.
Sinclair disciples Gill Francis and Susan Hunston and others developed reference grammars for Cobuild (Cobuild 1990; Cobuild 1996; Hunston et al 1997). Dave Willis' 1990 The Lexical Syllabus Collins, which you may come across in another part of the course, is of the same provenance, and hence makes similar assumptions, as do the language teaching materials of Jane and Dave Willis and the Cobuild Student's Grammar with exercises by Dave Willis (Cobuild 1991).
Tim Johns (also at Birmingham) and Mike Scott (Liverpool) have developed computer software programmes for easy analysis of corpora (Microconcord) and Scott's later programme Wordsmith, which can be downloaded from the Internet. (Unfortunately not available for Macs.) There are many such programmes available nowadays. Johns has also developed impressive discovery methods for enabling language learners to investigate the lexicogrammatical patterns of English for themselves. Nevertheless, a great deal of grammatical study still takes place independently of the computer, and some of the insights to be gained about the nature of language are not available to computational analysis.
This is not to play down the indisputable contribution that the computer has already made and will no doubt make increasingly in the future.
Sinclair believes that far from being the open-ended creative phenomenon that Chomsky believes in, languages are very tightly constrained.
All the people mentioned above, except for Chomsky - and Samuel Johnson (just kidding!) -, are in sympathy with Hallidayan assumptions about language. Some of the deviations from SFG terminology in the Cobuild publications and their spin-offs - not all - were dictated by the publishers, Harper Collins, who wanted to stick with more familiar terms.
Some basic concepts in lexicogrammar
Suppose we take the unit of sentence for granted as the maximum unit that we wish to analyse. (Be warned: I shall subsequently treat the clause as the basic unit.)
Consider sentence 1.
1. The contact must occur at the correct time.
There are two ways of approaching the analysis of sentences: in the metaphor
taken from computer processing, these are top-down and bottom-up. If we start
with a bottom-up approach, we may begin by identifying which words are most
closely linked. We would probably associate The and contact, must and occur,
correct and time. We might then go on to associate the second the with the pair
correct time. The next stage would associate at with the correct time. Finally
we can unite The contact with must occur and at the correct time to give the
total sentence. We have thus moved from the minimum unit (assuming the word
to be the minimum) to the maximum unit, the sentence. None of this presupposes
any kind of label, however, including word or sentence.
On what grounds can we justify putting together must and occur without presupposing such grammatical categories as verb, auxiliary, etc.? One way of doing it is to try substitutions. (We are not trying to retain the semantic load, but are thinking only of what is grammatically possible.) The two words must go could be replaced by a single word goes, which suggests that they constitute a unit of a similar type to goes. Likewise, the correct time could be replaced by noon, justifying our treatment of the correct time as a unit. Similarly, at the correct time could be replaced by now, the contact by contact, and must occur now by occurs. These substitutions are set out in the following table:
Alternatively, we could pursue a top-down analysis to give the same result. First we split the sentence into three parts: the contact, must occur and at the correct time. Next we split up at the correct time into at and the correct time. Then we separate must occur into must and occur, and so on. There is no particular sequential order to be followed in this procedure. It makes no difference whether we analyse at the correct time first or must occur, though of course there is an internal logical sequence in that you can't break down the correct time until you have broken down at the correct time. The result of this type of analysis, as you can see, is a hierarchical arrangement of the units which constitute the sentence. Each constituent is analysed in terms of its own constituents until you can go no further or do not wish to go further for present purposes. This process is known as immediate constituent analysis, and is in essence the way that the American Structuralists (or Descriptivists) proceeded in the 1940s and 1950s. But, as we have already seen in the discussion of Sinclair (above), it is still considered a valid approach and has been greatly enhanced by the development of the computer. In fact, the Structuralists would normally include an additional stage to break down occurs into occur and the inflectional suffix -s.
The next step is to label the identified constituents. Any labels which distinguish the units would serve, but most linguists use terms based on traditional parts of speech with a few additional terms. Thus contact and time are labelled nouns, the is determiner (or article), correct is adjective, occur is verb, and must is modal). Going up the hierarchy, we can label the contact or the (right) moment as nominal group, and so on. We shall come back to such labelling later. The precise choice of word for the label is fairly arbitrary. We could call a noun a gumblechuck so long as we were consistent about it, but most linguists use the traditional terms (more or less), and so far no one has had recourse to gumblechuck.
Perhaps you will now be able to see the link between constituent analysis and the discussion about word classes in the Foundation Module (or in the Text and Discourse Analysis Module, if you have read it.)
The way that grammatical categories are identified in a structuralist analysis (unlike the traditional grammar approach) is not to present definitions in terms of the relation of the word to the type of real world phenomenon it refers to, but to identify the category in terms of its relation to other categories, and to determine how to assign an item to a particular category in terms of its substitutability by and for other items. So if we take out moment from Sentence 2 to give 2a, items which can fit into the blank in place of moment, i.e. items which can act as substitutes for moment, will be classed as belonging to the same category as moment. If we have decided to call moment a noun, they will also be called nouns. (Naturally, I am oversimplifying the process by dealing with only one sentence; to establish a category properly one would have to repeat the process with vast numbers of sentences. Also, we may wish to subdivide the category of nouns. I am just explaining a principle here.)
2. The right moment never arrives.
2a. The right _____ never arrives.
Substitutes might include: advice, solution, hour, day, information, occasion,
time, idea, picture, emotion, lover, analysis, booklet, ice-cream, detective,
controversy, computer, gasman, iconoclast, notion, kennel, horseshoe, anaconda,
wigwam, abstraction, leak, ending. One could go on almost interminably.
Thus, in this approach, whether or not something is classified as a noun is a question of its distribution, of whether it fits into the linguistic environment allocated to the class we have decided to label noun. Such questions as whether it can follow the and precede an instance of one of the constituents we label verb (or auxiliary and verb) e.g. goes, went, sits, is going, might sit are relevant rather than questions about whether it refers to a person, idea or thing, etc.
SFG linguists are more inclined than the American structuralists were to talk about word classes in terms of their semantic functions; for example, to describe nouns in such terms as 'items which name', but I personally feel that that kind of definition leads to more confusion than the one outlined above, though both have their drawbacks. A sort of compromise position is the circular definition of the type:
a noun is a word that functions as Head of a nominal group
with its counterpart
a nominal group is a group with a noun as its Head.
These are functional (in terms of the internal functioning of the language)
and also have a rigorous non-intuitive quality. But they are circular and so
don't go far as definitions. Also, they are not strictly true for the kind of
grammar we are focusing on in this course. Or rather, they are true but they
are not exclusively true since items other than noun can function as head of
a nominal group.
There is a stage at which we have to distinguish between syntactic and semantic criteria, of course. We may still wish to classify items as belonging to the same class even though they do not share all the same environments. I may assign bulldozer and philosopher to the same class even though I accept The philosopher was thinking yet have doubts about The bulldozer was thinking.
One way in which word classes can be arrived at is to look at the morphology of the word. This is, in fact the same kind of process as already outlined, except that it is at a more local level: within the word itself. Using this sort of method one might determine the class of verbs on the basis of their acceptance of the endings -ing , -ed, -en, -s, and so on, but not -ly, -er, est. This method works quite well for some languages, namely those which are highly inflected (i.e. systematically varied in terms of their morphology - suffixes, etc.), but it does not take us very far in English, which has lost most of its inflections.
Throughout this Module, I shall generally take word classes as a given - i.e. I will not attempt to argue for or against the set of word classes presented by Halliday -, though there will be occasions when I present argumentation about which class to assign a particular item to.
The rank scale
In this Module, the main approach to grammar will be Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG). A fundamental concept in SFG is the rank scale. This is a hierarchical model of the constituents of the clause, which is the highest unit of grammar. The rank scale is as follows:
The principle on which the rank scale works is that, in an actual clause, an
item at any rank is made up of one or more items from the rank below. Thus a
clause is the maximal grammatical unit. It is made up of one or more groups;
each group is made up of one or more words, and each word is made up of one
or more morphemes, the morpheme being the minimal unit.
Consider example 3:
This anger makes them very brutal.
This is a single clause. Its constituents are the four groups:
o This anger
o very brutal
I said that each group is made up of one or more words. Here we have two groups
consisting of two words each and two groups consisting of one word each. All
the words except two consist of a single morpheme: this; anger; them; very.
This means that they cannot be broken down any further. By contrast, the words
makes and brutal consist of two morphemes each:
(i) make + -s;
(ii) brut(e) +-al.
It is, of course, possible to break down the words further into letters or sounds, but that would be moving out of lexicogrammar into other levels of analysis: orthography and phonology. Within grammar, we cannot get any more basic than the morpheme, the smallest unit of meaning.
Analyse the following clauses into groups, words and morphemes.
1 This special property attracts some attention.
2 Shut that bloody door.
3 Capillary fittings make the neatest joints.
4 But Max had an unassailable alibi.
5 He could have been writing his will.
As explained in the TDA module and Chapter 1 of Bloor and Bloor 1995, one of the most fundamental concepts in SFG is the three metafunctions:
These are the three types of function that can occur at all ranks and levels
The ideational (meta)function is concerned with the representation of processes: the events, actions, sensations, etc., that constitute life, the world and everything. Thus ideational corresponds to what many linguists would call the semantics. To analyse the ideational metafunction at the rank of clause, we assign such labels as Actor, Process, Beneficiary. At the rank of group, we assign the labels as Deictic, Numerative, Epithet, Classifier, Thing and Qualifier. (All these terms will be explained in later Units.) The ideational metafunction is concerned, then, with the encoding of reality (or fictitious realities). As Halliday puts it:
Language enables human beings to build a mental picture of
reality, to make sense of what goes on around them and inside them. Here again
the clause plays a central role, because it embodies a general principle for
modelling experience - namely the principle that reality is made up of PROCESSES.
Halliday 1994: 106
The interpersonal metafunction is concerned with the way in which people interact
through language. Among the most obviously interpersonal elements in language
are personal names used in direct address; greetings such as Hi, Hello, farewells
such as Good-bye, See you, and so on; feedback responses such as Right!, Ah-ah,
I see, etc., which just show that you are listening to your interlocutor. However,
Halliday also sees as interpersonal such functions as Subject and Finite. When
we produce a clause in speaking or writing, we have to make choices about the
form in terms of declarative, interrogative or imperative. This can be seen
as an interpersonal matter: how we are framing our proposition about reality
with regard to our hearer or reader: are we asking, telling or ordering? If
it is declarative, we put the Subject before the Finite; if interrogative, the
Finite before the Subject, and if imperative, there is no Subject at all.
finish your work quickly. (etc.)
finish your work quickly? (etc.)
Finish your work quickly
The textual (meta)function is concerned with the management of the text itself.
The most obvious textual elements, perhaps, are the conjunctive words and phrases
that we use to indicate relations between stretches of language in a text: words
such as first, second, and finally; consequently, furthermore, to continue,
and so on.
Also, as part of the textual metafunction, we have certain options about what we put first in the clause, i.e. where we start from. We can say any of the following:
We called him Bonzo.
Bonzo we called him.
What we called him was Bonzo.
It was Bonzo that we called him.
These are known as thematic options, and the item that is first in each of the four is known as the Theme: we, Bonzo; what we called him; Bonzo, and it was Bonzo, respectively.
Options as system and network
One way in which SFG analyses language is as a set of choices available to users. You may have noticed that I have already used the words choice and option from time to time.
The great Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who died in 1911, after a very distinguished career, made his mark on linguistic history, ironically, with a book which he did not actually write himself. It was put together from his lecture notes and notes made by colleagues and students, and it was published after his death. It was the Cours de linguistique générale (Course in General Linguistics), published in French in 1916, as edited by his colleagues, Bally, Sechehaye and Reidlinger.
You can read a very brief outline of his work in Bloor and Bloor 1995: Chapter 12.3: 241-243.
Find examples given there of :
(i) syntagmatic relations
(ii) paradigmatic relations
Among a number of highly influential concepts, de Saussure introduced the contrasting
pairing of syntagmatic and paradigmatic. (In the English translation of the
book that I have (de Saussure 1959), the term paradigmatic does not appear but
the term associative is used. However, the standard practice now is to use paradigmatic.)
A syntagm is a string of related items, sometimes referred to in SFG as a chain. (I am using the word 'chain' here to refer to syntagmatic relations within a clause, group or word. The same word is used in a related but not identical sense in talking about cohesion in text. An 'identity chain' is made up of all the items in the text that refer to the same entity.) Syntagmatic relations are relations that exist between linguistic items as they are used to make up a structure such as a word, a group or a clause. An example of a syntagmatic relation is the relation between morphemes in a word; for example, in the word encapsulation between the morphemes en---, capsul(e), at(e) and ---ion. Another is the relation between the words in a group: the + whole + thing in the whole thing; may + be + going + to vomit in may have been going to vomit. Another relation is that between two clauses in a dependency relationship: wher'ere you walk +cool glades shall fan the glade; or two clauses in a co-ordinate relationship: I'll take the high road + and you take the low road. In fact, any sort of syntactic relation is (tautologically) syntagmatic. De Saussure presents this metaphorically as the horizontal axis in language.
Paradigmatic relations are relations of choice. A paradigm is a set of contrasting choices: alternatives. In using English pronouns, you have to choose between he and him and his, and she and her and hers, and between he and she, and her and him, and so on. In using verbs, you have to choose between alternative tenses, between active and passive voice; between first, second and third person, and so on. These are paradigmatic choices, as is the choice between a nominal group and a verbal group. The relations between these items (he/she/it, etc.) are paradigmatic relations. The choice between one lexical verb and another is also paradigmatic; and so is the choice between a countable noun and an uncountable noun; or an additive conjunction and an adversative conjunction, and so on and so on. De Saussure describes this as the vertical axis.
Of course, these paradigmatic choices are not wide open; they are constrained by the syntagmatic relations, which in turn are constrained by the paradigmatic options. To give just one example, if I start a clause by selecting she from all the paradigmatic choices available for Subject, this will oblige me to select the feature singular when I come to the verb because some features of the verb are syntagmatically determined by the Subject.
The paradigmatic/syntagmatic axes can be demonstrated as below:
<---------------------------------- SA ----------------------------------->
Paradigmatic relations have traditionally been a central focus in language
teaching. When I was taught Latin, German and French about a thousand years
ago by the grammar-translation method, I was presented with numerous tables
of noun endings, verb endings and so on, called paradigms. To be more exact,
what I was presented with in my language lessons was not sets of endings but
sets of words with varying morphological features.
Thus, in Latin, a noun such as mensa (table) would be presented as a prototype for a whole set of nouns that displayed the same morphological characteristics since Latin nouns vary according to case, as English pronouns do: I/me/my; he/him/his; she/her/hers; we/us/our. But more so. So I learned to recite tables of nouns, classified in terms of the set of endings (inflections) that they carried. Verbs too vary more in form in Latin (and in many other languages) than in English. And so I recited tables of verbs varying according to tense, person and number:
amo I love
amas you (singular) love
amat he/she/it loves
amamus we love
amatis you (plural) love
amant they love
These are paradigmatic choices. They could be represented (and sometimes are)
as a set of endings -o/-as/-at/-amus/-atis/-ant. The reasons for presenting
the information about Latin in this way were historical. The Ancient Greeks
and Romans (and especially the Greeks) devoted a lot of time and energy to working
out the paradigmatic choices of their respective languages, and representing
them in this form, and the tradition has carried on until the twentieth century,
not only for Latin and Greek but also for German, Turkish, Finnish, etc.: in
fact, for all highly inflected languages and some not so inflected. (I should
mention that Arabic and Hebrew scholars contributed substantially to this tradition,
especially in medieval times in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.)
In French, nouns are not inflected for case and so my school paradigms in that language were usually of verbs. I think that the value of the paradigm as a teaching device was over-estimated by my Latin teachers in particular, though I wouldn't write it off completely for teaching inflected languages. For the linguist, though, it does serve to spell out some important characteristics of the language. Of course, the relations identified in noun or verb paradigms of this sort are only a miniscule sample of all the paradigmatic relations in a language.
Language teaching drills of the type favoured in audiolingual techniques exploit paradigmatic substitution; sometimes this is done to teach the syntagmatic pattern; the behaviourist rationale for this type of exercise is that by ringing the paradigmatic changes with a given structure, phoneme, etc., the student would learn that structure or phoneme, etc. Thus, in teaching pronunciation, some English teaching textbooks or tapes might present paradigmatic options in this tabular form, the aim being to teach the pronunciation of the so-called 'short i' [È]:
SFG represents paradigmatic options as systems. This is a device first proposed by Firth, and it is the reason for the first bit of the name: Systemic Functional Grammar. A system is a set of choices. Simple examples follow:
NUMBER to singular or plural
VOICE to active or passive
You read a system from left to right. It is a paradigm with two members only.
Here, number is used as a technical term in grammar relating to such realisations
as cat versus cats and it versus they. The system for number consists of a choice
between two options: singular and plural. Once you select for number, you must
opt for either singular or plural.
With the voice system, the choice must be for active or passive. These items singular, plural, active, passive are the terms in the system.
These two systems connect with each other and with many other systems in networks, which can get very complicated indeed.
Halliday and SFG: an overview
M A K Halliday
Michael Halliday (born 1925) has had a wandering life, working in a number of universities in Britain and overseas, most recently in Australia. He has a large army of dedicated followers and sympathisers, especially in, (alphabetically ordered) Australia, Britain, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Japan and Spain, and a smaller, but increasing, band in the USA. There has been a recent surge of interest in his work, particularly on the part of people working in ESOL, ESP, EAP and other areas of language education throughout the world, including L1 English teaching and teacher education. Also he is indisputably the greatest single name in discourse analysis and is highly influential in the spheres of sociolinguistics, critical linguistics and other applications. Linguists working in computational corpus analysis tend to be oriented towards Halliday's approach to language, and there have also been some interesting developments in the design of computer programs for generating language using his grammar (for example, the Cardiff project: Fawcett et al.)
To understand Halliday's significance, it is useful to make comparisons with Noam Chomsky, a highly influential linguist with a very different perspective on language. The first thing to say here is that where Chomsky is indifferent to the social aspect of language, Halliday sees it as crucially important. (See RESOURCES for relevant quotations.) Chomsky believes that linguistics should be concerned with the grammars internalised in the human mind and the universal linguistic principles which he believes we are programmed with by our human genes. He does not think that social uses of language are of any serious academic interest, and he does not concern himself with texts, discourse or communication. Indeed, he argues that language is not essentially a medium of communication; it is just something we are born with.
Chomsky emerged from the American Structuralist tradition, against which he reacted with his appeal to an older tradition - seventeenth century European rationalism. Even so, in retrospect, his work can still be seen as a part of the American Structuralist tradition in many respects, though one cannot deny its revolutionary impact. Somewhat different traditions have flourished in Europe, and Halliday comes out of these. However, there have always been linguists in the USA who are more in tune with Halliday, and there are a number of Hallidayans at work there now. (See Bloor & Bloor 1995, Chapter 12.)
Like many major figures in modern British linguistics, Halliday was a disciple of J R Firth (1890-1960), who held the first British chair in General Linguistics, established at London University in 1945 (hence the name 'the London School', occasionally still mis-applied to Halliday and kindred spirits.)
Firth wrote little, but seems to have had an inspirational effect on his pupils. Firth's name is usually associated with that of Malinowski, a London University anthropologist of Polish origin. (I have referred to this connection in Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis.) Firth and Malinowski's emphasis on the importance of context of situation is central to Halliday's view of language. In this approach, language is perceived as a social phenomenon, as 'doing' rather than 'knowing'.
From Firth, Halliday acquired the concept of language as a set of choices expressible as systems, hence the name systemic linguistics. (An earlier name for this type of grammar was Scale and Category Grammar.) In his youth, Halliday was a specialist in Chinese language and literature. Firth also wrote at least one article on Chinese and was an authority on Indian languages as well as English.
Another major influence on Halliday's thinking is the Prague School, a group of Czechoslovak, Russian and Austrian linguists (mainly Czech), founded in Prague in 1926 and still going strong there. (These include the founding fathers, Mathesius, Trubetskoy and Jakobson, and contemporary figures such as Firbas and Danes, to name but a few.) The concept of thematic structure, which is very important in Halliday's grammar and which will appear from time to time in this Module, is a gift from Prague, as is the label functional grammar. Theme is dealt with more fully in the Text and Discourse Analysis component.
Halliday's work cannot usefully be split up into historical periods as it is fairly consistent throughout. There are some differences in the way he describes similar phenomena at different times, but they do not obviously represent major changes in the model.
There are now too many influential names in SFG to give a fair sample, but I might mention as among those centrally involved in the development of the theory: James Martin, Ruqaiya Hasan, Christian Matthiessen, and Robin Fawcett. Fawcett working with Tucker and others in Cardiff has developed a slightly different version of the grammar, which they refer to as the Cardiff model. A slightly more detailed account of this historical background can be found in Bloor & Bloor 1995, Chapter 12.
Systemic Functional grammar
I will first address the functional aspect and then the systemic. Of course, this is a highly artificial separation and merely a pedagogic convenience.
Halliday is very concerned with the uses to which linguistic description can be put. One of his publications is called 'Linguistics and the Consumer'; an early book which he co-authored was The Linguistic Sciences and Language Teaching (Halliday et al 1964). The Introduction to Halliday 1994 contains a list of twenty-one suggested applications for linguistics (p xvii - xviii). Elsewhere in the same Introduction, Halliday writes that his grammar
(1) 'is functional in the sense that it is designed to account
for how the language is used'
and he immediately goes on to talk about text:
'Every text - that is, everything that is said or written
- unfolds in some context of use'
Halliday, like the Prague School linguists, sees function as the explanatory principle of language. Of course, function is a notoriously difficult term, and as used by Halliday it means more than what it means in, say, Wilkins' functional-notional syllabuses, i.e. it does not mean only function as speech act (persuading, defining, eliciting information, etc.). This is included, but by calling his grammar functional, Halliday also refers to the fact that:
(2) 'the fundamental components of meaning in language are
These are the 'metafunctions':
ideational ('to understand the environment')
interpersonal ('to act on other people in the environment')
textual ('which breathes relevance into the other two')
Even further from what language teachers usually mean by 'function' is Halliday's third specification:
(3) 'each element in a language is explained by reference
to its function in the total linguistic system … In other words, each part is
interpreted as functional with respect to the whole.'
(p xiii - xiv)
In this last sense, if I understand it correctly, most grammars could be said
to be functional. (It seems to be related to the Saussurean notion that 'Language
is a system of interdependent terms in which the value of one term results solely
from the simultaneous presence of the others' de Saussure 1915, 1959 p 114.)
There is a widespread use of 'function' in linguistics to mean such phenomena
as Subject, Object, etc. Thus, we might say that a noun phrase (or nominal group)
expresses the function of Subject (or that it functions as Subject). Probably
Halliday has more than this in mind, however. For example, the Prague School's
functional explanation of the frequent use of the passive voice in English,
as compared with Czech, related it to the different rules for word order in
the two languages (or, more precisely, constituent order), and this led on to
a very productive theory (involving the notion of Theme and Rheme) about the
options for the ordering of constituents in terms of what information in a sentence
is given and what is new. These are, in a sense, all to do with grammar as a
system rather than with speech act significance, but the term functional seems
In this component, the Hallidayan grammar used will be mainly that which is presented in An Introduction to Functional Grammar (1994) and mediated through Bloor & Bloor (1995) The Functional Analysis of English. Although, like both these books, the file excludes some aspects of the more systemic aspects of the grammar, it is all part and parcel of the same approach: Systemic Functional Grammar. Therefore I shall take this opportunity to give a brief account of some of the terminology and concepts of SFG even though some are somewhat incidental to the analyses we shall make. Some of these have already been presented in this Unit.
Berry (1975) labels the 'primary levels of language' as substance, form and situation. 'Substance is the raw material of language' (sounds or written symbols); 'form is the arrangement of substance into recognisable and meaningful patterns'; 'situation is precisely what it sounds like', e.g. the date to which today refers depends on when it is uttered. Substance is either phonic (speech sounds) or graphic (written symbols); form consists of grammar and lexis. Phonology/graphology are an 'interlevel' linking form and situation, according to Berry, following Firth.
That level is not a very clearly defined concept is evident from the different ways in which it is described. Compare Berry's definitions (above) with Halliday's own words (Halliday 1961):
These are what we call the 'levels of analysis' of descriptive linguistics: phonic, phonological, grammatical, lexical and contextual.
Berry takes great pains to distinguish levels of language from branches of linguistics, but for our purpose levels can be thought of simply as phonology, grammar and discourse. (Compare Young 1980 p 9. This is also the sense in which linguists of other persuasions use the term; see e.g. Chomsky in page 1 of Syntactic Structures.)
Categories in grammar are not always discrete; they merge into each other on a continuum, e.g.:
'… the relation between the two levels /grammar and lexis/ is a 'cline'; formal patterns in all languages shade gradually from the grammatical to the lexical.'
Frequently, for convenience, the linguist has to pretend that the cut-off points are more clearly defined than they really are.
Delicacy is the scale of varying degrees of precision or detail in a grammatical statement. It is possible to analyse and classify linguistic items with more or less depth or detail. To make an analogy with professional classification a group may be described by any of the terms in the following list: all would be accurate, but the amount of information, the preciseness with which the group is described, thus distinguishing it from other groups, increases as we go down the page:
consultant obstetric surgeon
To take an example from linguistic analysis, the bolded item in Sentence 1 could be classified as follows:
1. They did not enjoy the experience.
Direct object complement
Or a further linguistic example:
2. The President may have been lying to the committee.
finite active perfect continuous verbal group
present modal finite perfect continuous verbal group
A more delicate analysis is not necessarily better than a less delicate one; it depends on the reason for the analysis. Sometimes it is enough to say that an item is a verb, for example, and sometimes it may be useful to give more exact information, subclassifying the item to distinguish it from other types of verb.
This is the term which gives Systemic Grammar its name, and is, of course, a key concept, though it is not exploited in Halliday 1985 (the prescribed book). A system is a set of choices available in the language. Examples of systems have been given earlier in this Unit.
Systems can be grouped into networks. Networks will not figure much in our analyses. (If you want to know more about networks, see Eggins 1994 Chapter 7.)
Units of structure form a hierarchy: such a hierarchy is the scale of rank. A unit of one rank in the hierarchy is made up of one or more of the units at the rank below. The ranks at the level of grammar are: clause, group, word, morpheme. This has already been explained.
A lexical item can be classed as belonging to one of the following eight types: noun, determiner, adjective, numeral, verb, preposition, adverb, conjunction. They may be labelled with greater delicacy as belonging to various sub-classes; for example: nouns can be sub-classified as proper noun (e.g. Jim, Birmingham), common noun (e.g. button, theory), and pronoun (e.g. she, someone). Common nouns can in turn be sub-classified as abstract/ concrete; or as countable/uncountable. And so on.
Read Bloor & Bloor (1995) Chapter 1, 2 and 12 for an alternative presentation of much of this material with more detail in some areas.
Postscript: Grammar and L1 English
Correctness and variable rules
Grammatical rules exist; they have been extensively codified, and form the core of the structure of (both spoken and written) language. Rules exist, for example, that prescribe that in Standard British English a plural subject has to be followed by a plural form of the verb, and that it is simply incorrect for us to write or say, therefore, that 'the buildings is very high'. Within a central core, choice is not possible.
As we have seen, however, there are areas of meaning which
are selected within the grammar. Within the domain of spoken grammar we have
also seen that it may be more accurate to speak of variable rather than absolute
rules for certain choices.
Carter 1998: 51
The quotation from Carter (1988) above is from an article about grammar in
spoken English, based on a large corpus of data 'drawn from everyday situations
of language use collected for CANCODE and developed with an eye to their potential
relevance to ELT.
The question of what speakers of English actually say is of central importance to second language teaching. What they write is at least as important. Views about what constitutes 'correct' English need to be considered carefully but not accepted unquestioningly.
The vast majority of participants on this course are concerned with teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL). Hence, debates about what to teach in a first language (L1) setting are peripheral. It is generally - and rightly - taken for granted in L2 teaching that students must somehow master the grammar of the target language; the extent to which this is made explicit is determined by a number of factors, including the age and background of the students, the teacher's expertise, and so on. In L1 teaching, the issues are somewhat different. However, although much of this section is not central to ESOL issues, it does have a bearing on them, particularly the sub-section headed 'Some vexed issues'.
Why grammar is (un)popular
Much as I love the study of grammar, I am often reluctant to be drawn into discussions about it with non-professionals. The reason is that most people have a concept of grammar that is very different from mine, and I know that to explain what I mean by it will be a long struggle comparable with that of the poor soul in Dante's Inferno, who had to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down whenever he neared the top.
In the first language (L1) English teaching field, debates about whether or not grammar should be taught generate enough heat to fuel a small planet but little or no light. There are two positions: those who are for grammar in schools and those who are against. Both are hopelessly misguided. Both camps see grammar as a branch of social discipline, closely allied to corporal punishment and essentially undemocratic. The pro-grammar position is like a magnet to the authoritarians who want to clamp down on sloppy speech as on any other form of social disorder; the free spirits who believe that creativity is all and whose slogan is 'anything goes' rally behind the anti-grammar banner.
For the authoritarians grammar is primarily concerned with setting up - or rather maintaining - shibboleths. The term shibboleth has its origins in the Old Testament story of Jephthah and the Gileadites, who sorted out the goodies from the baddies on the basis of whether they could pronounce the word shibboleth/sibboleth in the prescribed manner. If they got it wrong, they were killed. Drastic methods by most L2 teaching standards, but of such stuff are famous victories made. It was not that the Gileadites cared about the language itself; rather that the pronunciation indicated where the speaker came from. Prescriptivists probably draw the line at capital punishment for any breach of grammatical etiquette, but they are certainly passionate about it. Great wrath can be inspired by key usages which are held to be forbidden by long - or sometimes not-so-long - tradition.
The debate about whether or not to teach grammar to native speakers is usually fought out on the grounds of whether it helps them with reading and, more particularly, writing (activities now often referred to by linguists jointly as literacy). All kinds of research (often of dubious significance) are cited on both sides.
My own position on this is that children should study the grammar of their own language, regardless of whether or not it helps with literacy. The justification for studying the nature of English is the same as for studying the nature of plants and animals (biology) or the way the physical world functions (physics). Of course, the study of English language is not restricted exclusively to grammar, but grammar has an important role to play in understanding how language functions. It should be studied in conjunction with other aspects of English, including literacy, and it should be related to the study of other languages, and possibly other subjects, too.
In many cultures, any suggestion that grammar should not be taught in schools would be considered insane, but in much of the Anglophone world the rejection of English grammar in schools has been a reality for some time. I suspect that, even when it was taught, it was not taught well for the most part, and perhaps that is the root of the problem. It is now clear that the tide has turned for grammar teaching; it is up to all of us involved in education to ensure that the right kind of grammar will be taught and taught well, whether it be in L1 or L2 settings.
In the 1980s, I carried out a modest survey of undergraduates' familiarity with basic traditional linguistic terminology and related matters. The results were not surprising but they were not reassuring. Many students knew nothing at all about grammar beyond the ability to identify noun and verb, and even there was some evidence of great confusion. The most positive feature was that students entering Modern Languages degree courses showed more familiarity with these matters than most others, which was slightly reassuring. They had, for the most part, acquired this knowledge in foreign language classes and not in English lessons (Bloor 1986).
In the 1980s, a start was made in developing L1 British teachers' awareness of English language in a project headed by Professor Ron Carter, whose work you may be familiar with from other components. This was called the LINC Project (Language in the National Curriculum). In spite of large amounts of money invested, the government of the day saw fit to close down the project and suppress the materials produced by and for teachers because (as far as I can gather) they objected to (i) some criticisms of the government in the materials produced and (ii) the inclusion of actual spoken data, transcripts of authentic teenage conversation, rather than textbook English. However some of the materials were published in the end, for example Carter (1990).
Some vexed issues
What are these touchstones of social order that I referred to above as shibboleths? Among the most frequently cited are those in the table:
|split infinitive||to boldly go|
|ending a sentence with a preposition||She's the woman that I'm crazy for|
|wrong pronoun case||
Me and Joe go back a long way
He's been very kind to Joe and I
|using hopefully as a sentence adverb||Hopefully, it won't rain|
|using flaunt when you mean flout||Butchers warned for flaunting ban|
Which of the 'shibboleths' do you fall foul of yourself;
i.e. do you ever say any of the things listed or things that fit the same description?
Are you upset by any of the usages mentioned?
These are open-ended questions and there are no key answers to them.
I have to confess to strong prejudice with regard to the items listed above.
Like most linguistically well-informed people, I regard the traditional ban
on split infinitives and sentence final prepositions utterly absurd. Also, the
ban on this particular use of hopefully seems to me misguided. Of course, no
one objects to, say, He looked at me hopefully (i.e. in a hopeful manner); what
the prescriptivists condemn is using hopefully as what is traditionally called
a 'sentence adverb' or what Halliday would call a comment Adjunct. There is
a sort of rational point here: that it is the person who is hopeful and not
the proposition, but there is a parallel with words like frankly and honestly,
and it is quite a useful word. I cannot accept the argument that it causes confusion:
I have never experienced any confusion about what was meant, and I doubt whether
anyone else has.
However, I do get a bit prescriptive with the other two. The prescriptive position on the choice of pronouns exhibits unassailable logic and a very simple guideline:
If you say 'I' when the pronoun stands alone, you also say 'I' when it is part of a conjunction; and the same goes for 'me'. You wouldn't say: '*Me go back a long way' (Actually a hard-core prescriptivist would not like the expression 'go back a long way', either, but I won't go into that.), and so you don't say, '*Me and Joe go back a long way'.1 And you wouldn't say '**He was very kind to I', so you don't say, '*He was very kind to Joe and I'.
(Note: an asterisk before a word or string of words in some models of linguistics indicates an ungrammatical or unattested form. Hence, such a form is sometimes referred to as 'starred'.)
So it seems simple enough. Yet huge numbers of native speakers of English get it wrong (or perhaps that should be 'wrong' in quotes, since descriptive linguists do not make value judgements.)
My personal position on this one is utterly untenable. I am quite tolerant of conjoined structures with me in the Subject role, but I in the Object role makes me wince. This is irrational and personal and, I suspect, partly motivated by class prejudice. Me and Joe as Subject has a down-market feel to it; it is widespread working class usage, and it is often used by educated people when they want to sound informal. (So you might argue that it is stylistically justified in the context of the expression go back a long way, which is rather colloquial and idiomatic) Using Joe and I for the objective case sounds to me not only wrong but a bit prissy.
Even saying It is I instead of the more usual it's me sounds very pretentious, even though it appears to be compatible with the prescriptive rules. Of this last, Halliday says that it:
was constructed on a false analogy with Latin (and used to
be insisted on by English teachers though they seldom said it themselves). The
clause It is I is simply 'bad grammar' in the sense that it conflicts wth the
general principles that apply to such a clause.
Halliday 1994: 125-126
I used to think that people who say I when they 'should say' me were indulging in hyper-correction (where a change made to correct an error is carried too far, as it were, and changes 'correct' items to 'incorrect' ones.) But - except for it is I - I do not now believe this to be the explanation. I think that many people acquire it as part of their natural acquisition of English. They internalise a sort of generalisation along the lines:
'me becomes I when it is joined to another noun or pronoun'.
The people who use Joe and me for all purposes internalise a rule that says something like:
'I becomes me when it is joined to another noun or pronoun'.
Of course, neither group is conscious of the rule, but they observe it all
the same. Speaking as a linguist, though, rather than as an inverted snob, I
view the phenomenon with interest and objectivity and set my prejudices aside.
Also, in my own usage, I generally conform to the prescriptive norms on pronoun
case - except for the silly ones like It is I.
The last item flaunt for flout is more straight-forward. It stems from confusion of two words with very different meanings but partly similar forms.
o if you flout something such as a law, an order or an accepted way of behaving, you deliberately disobey it or do not follow it
o if you flaunt your valuable possessions, abilities, or qualities, you display them in a very obvious way in order to try to obtain other people's admiration or to shock them
(Source: Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary)
This confusion seems to be quite widespread. The example in the table was a
headline in the conservative British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper
that might well be thought to be the voice of prescriptivism. No doubt some
sub-editor was soundly thrashed for this error. Still, I think it can be taken
as a symptom of what is happening to these two words. Oddly enough, the error
only operates in one direction: people do not seem to say flout instead of flaunt.
As the distinction between these two words has never been a problem for me,
I have no sympathy for the trend (if that is what it is).
But words do change their meanings over time, and confusions of this kind are one way in which change occurs. I shall continue to restrict my use of flaunt to the meaning given by Cobuild, but I would not place a large bet on the distinction between these two words remaining intact in educated usage for the next fifty years. This, of course, is a purely lexical point since both are nouns with similar grammatical characteristics, but it is a nice example of changing usage in action.
I make this frank confession about my personal prejudices not least to demonstrate that it is possible to separate to some extent our professional stance from the inevitable emotional involvement we have with language. This emotional involvement might be expected to pertain to our mother tongue, but it also applies to any language in which we have a personal investment, as is bound to be the case with teachers of English even when it is not their first language. In fact, L2 speakers can be as fanatically and irrationally prescriptive as retired British colonels, American schoolmarms and other traditional stereotypes of linguistic bigotry, though with slightly more excuse.
o How far do you agree with my position on prescriptive attitudes to common usage?
o Do you think that any usage that is widespread among native speakers can be condemned as 'wrong'?
o Are there any widespread usages in English that irritate or upset you?
Try to make your thoughts clear on this.
o Are there any 'rules' of English that you have doubts about.
Try to make your doubts explicit.
Open-ended questions. No key provided.
Bloor T & Bloor M 1995 The Functional Analysis of English London, New York, etc.: Arnold. Chapters 1, 2, 12
Hunston S and Francis G 1998 Verbs observed: a corpus-driven pedagogic grammar Applied Linguistics Vol. 19 No. 1: 45 - 72
Carter R 1998 Orders of reality: CANCODE, communication, and culture ELT Journal 52/1
Cobuild (editorial team: Francis G, Hunston S & Manning E) 1996 Grammar Patterns 1: Verbs. London: Harper Collins
Eggins S 1994 An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Pinter. Chapter 6
Halliday M A K 1994 Introduction to Functional Grammar London, New York, etc.: Arnold. Chapters 1.5; 2
Hunston S, Francis G & Manning E 1997 Grammar and vocabulary: showing the connections ELT Journal 51/3: 208 - 216
Saussure F de 1916 (ed. C Bally & A Sechehaye with A Reidlinger) Cours de linguistique générale Paris: Payot
_____ 1959 (English translation: W Baskin) Course in General Linguistics. London: Peter Owen
Sinclair J 1991 Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford, New York, etc.: Oxford University Press (especially Chapter 6)
Berry M 1975 Introduction to Systemic Linguistics: 1. Structures and Systems London: Batsford
Bloor T 1986 University students' knowledge about language. Birmingham: CLIE Working Papers No. 8
Carter R (ed.) 1990 Knowledge About Language and the Curriculum. London, etc.: Hodder & Stoughton
Cobuild 1990 Cobuild English Grammar. London: Harper Collins
Cobuild 1991 Collins Cobuild Student's Grammar (with exercises by Dave Willis). London: Harper Collins
Kasher A (ed.) 1991 The Chomskyan Turn. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA: Blackwell
Sinclair J M 1972 A Course in Spoken English Grammar. London: Oxford University Press
Sinclair J M & Coulthard M 1975 Towards an Analysis of Discourse Oxford: Oxford University Press
Willis D 1991 The Lexical Syllabus
TWO APPROACHES TO GRAMMAR
There are many variables in the way grammars are written, and any clustering of these is bound to distort the picture; but the more fundamental opposition is between those that are primarily syntagmatic in orientation (by and large the formal grammars, with their roots in logic and philosophy) and those that are primarily paradigmatic (by and large the functional ones, with their roots in rhetoric and ethnography). The former interpret a language as a list of structures, among which, as a distinct second step, regular relationships may be established (hence the introduction of transformations); they tend to emphasise universal features of language, to take grammar (which they call 'syntax') as the foundation of language (hence the grammar is arbitrary), and so to be organized around the sentence. The latter interpret a language as a network of relations, with structures coming in as the realization of these relationships; they tend to emphasize variables among different languages, to take semantics as the foundation (hence the grammar is natural), and so to be organized around the text, or discourse. There are many cross-currents, with insights borrowed from one to the other; but they are ideologically fairly different and it is often difficult to maintain a dialogue.
(Halliday 1994 p xxviii)
HALLIDAY ON CHOMSKY
Fifty years after Saussure, Chomsky created a new opposition by calling his own syntagmatic, formal grammar 'generative' and claiming that as its distinguishing feature. He seems to have been unaware of, or perhaps just uninterested in, the ethnographic tradition in linguistics; his polemic was directed solely at those he was building on, referred to as 'structuralists'. By generative he meant explicit: written in a way which did not depend on the unconscious assumptions of the reader but could be operated as formal system. His tremendous achievement was to show that this is in fact possible with a human language, as distinct from an artificial 'logical' language. But you have to pay a price: the language has to be so idealized that it bears little relation to what people actually write - and still less to what they actually say.
Halliday 1994 pxxviii
CHOMSKY ON LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS
Language is not intrinsically a system of communication, nor is it the only system used for communication.
(Chomsky 1991 in Kasher A (ed.) The Chomskyan Turn Blackwell p51)
Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker- listener, in
a completely homogeneous speech community, who knows its language perfectly
and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations,
distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic)
in applying his knowledge in actual performance.
(Chomsky 1965 Aspects of the Theory of Syntax MIT p 3)
SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR
This then is the theory. Language is a social activity. It has developed as it has, both in the functions it serves, and in the structures which express these functions, in response to the demands made by society and as a reflection of those demands.
(Kress 1976 Introduction to Halliday: System and Function in Language (Selected Papers edited by Gunther Kress) OUP p xx)
It is natural that we should want to gain some understanding of how language
is used, so that the search for valid principles of language use is perhaps
the most obvious and immediate goal of such enquiries. But an equally significant
question, for the linguist, is that of the relations between the functions of
language and language itself. If language has evolved in the service of certain
functions, that may in the broadest sense be called 'social' functions, has
this left its mark in determining the nature of language? It is the purpose
of this paper to suggest that it has, and that this fact is one that may be
systematically reflected in the construction of a grammar.
(Halliday in Kress (ed.) p 7)
Perhaps the most important distinguishing feature of systemic linguistics is
the very high priority it gives to the sociological aspects of language.
(Berry 1975 Introduction to Systemic Linguistics: Vol. 1 Structures and Systems Batsford p 22)
DATA IN SFG
An important feature of Halliday's approach to linguistic study is its insistence on studying actual instances of language that have been used (or are being used) by speakers or writers. That is not to say that we may never take an interest in sentences that we, as speakers of the language, have thought of 'in our heads', but that, on the whole, we are more likely to arrive at interesting useful descriptions of English if we investigate authentic texts.
(Bloor & Bloor 1995 p4)
It is perhaps true to say that systemic linguists are more inclined than transformational-generative
linguists to seek verification of their hypotheses by means of observations
from collections of texts and by means of statistical techniques. (It is again
important to stress that this is a relative question.)
(Berry 1975 p 30-31)
There is always some idealization, where linguistic generalizations are made,
but in a sociological context this has to be, on the whole, at a much lower
level. We have, in fact, to 'come closer to what is actually said'; partly because
the solutions to problems may depend on studying what is actually said, but
also because even when this is not the case the features that are behaviourally
relevant may be just those that the idealizing process most readily irons out.
(Halliday 1973 Explorations in the Functions of Language. Arnold)
SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR
GRAMMAR AND TEXT
The grammar, then, is at once both a grammar of the system and a grammar of the text.
(Halliday 1994 p xxii)
A text is a semantic unit, not a grammatical one. But meanings are realised
through wordings; and without a theory of wordings - that is, a grammar - there
is no way of making explicit one's interpretation of the meaning of a text.
Thus the present interest in discourse analysis is in fact providing a context
within which grammar has a central place.
(ibid p xvii)
In Halliday's view, a grammar that was only satisfactory for the analysis of
individual sentences would be incomplete. We need a grammar that can also account
for conversations or other types of spoken or written English longer than a
sentence. For one thing, the choice of words and the word order of one sentence
often depends on the sentence that it follows. For another, the language has
special words, such as pronouns, that can refer to the same entities as previously
(Bloor & Bloor 1995 p5)
Keys to tasks
Key to Task 1.1
enjoy type ( i.e. --- V-ing only):
loathe, adore, deplore, dislike, detest
like type (i.e. --- V-ing and --- to V):
Key to Task 1.4
Clause: This special property attracts some attention.
Groups: This special property; attracts; some attention.
Words: this; special; property; attracts; some; attention.
Morphemes: this; special; property; attract; ---s; some; attention* (*or probably: attent; ---ion (from attend + ion) )
Clause: Shut that bloody door.
Groups: shut; that bloody door.
Words: shut; that; bloody; door.
Morphemes: shut; that; blood; ---y; door.
Clause: Capillary fittings make the neatest joints.
Groups: Capillary fittings; make; the neatest joints.
Words: Capillary; fittings; make; the; neatest; joints.
Morphemes: Capillary; fit(t); ---ing; ---s; make; the; neat; ---est; joint; --s.
Clause: But Max had an unassailable alibi.
Groups: But; Max; had; an unassailable alibi.
Words: But; Max; had; an; unassailable; alibi.
Morphemes: But; Max; had; an; un---; assail; ---able; alibi.
Clause: He could have been writing his will.
Groups: He; could have been writing; his will.
Words: He; could; have; been; writing; his; will.
Morphemes: He; could; have; be---; ---en; writ(e); ---ing; his; will.