An introduction to systemic functional linguistics

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  • 1. Was taken from : Hand Book “An introduction systemic functional linguistics by Suzzane Eggins”
  • 2.
    • Overview: introduction
    • The systemic approach is increasingly being recognized as providing a very useful descriptive and interpretive framework for viewing language as strategic, meaning-making resource.
  • 3.
    • Twenty one possible applications of systemic theory:
    • Theoretical concerns: to understand the nature and functions of language
    • Historical concerns: to understand how language evolve through time
    • Developmental concerns: to understand how a child develops language, and how language may have evolved in the human specifies
    • Educational concerns: to help people learn their mother tongue…foreign languages
  • 4.
    • Authentic products of social interaction (texts), considered in relation to the cultural and social context in which they are negotiated.
    • To understand the quality of texts: why a text means what it does, and why it is valued as it is
  • 5.
    • Four main theoretical claims about language:
    • That language use is functional
    • That its function is to make meanings
    • That these meanings are influenced by the social and cultural context in which they are exchanged
    • That the process of using language is a semiotic process, a process of making meanings by choosing
  • 6.
    • Because it asks functional questions about language: systemicists ask how do people use language?
    • Because it interprets the linguistic system functionally: systemicists ask how is language structured for use?
  • 7.
    • 1. Can we differentiate between types of meanings in language? i.e. how many different sorts of meanings do we use language to make?
    • 2. How are texts (and the other linguistic units which make them up, such as sentences or clauses) structured so that meanings can be made? i.e how is language organized to make meanings?
  • 8.
    • Having purpose (clear, pragmatic purpose or less tangible, but equally important, interpersonal purpose)
    • Complete text (not single isolated sentences)
    • Involving at least two communicative moves
    • Context is in text
  • 9.
    • Evidence of the language/context relationship: we can deduce/predict context from text
    • Language use is sensitive to context
    • Simply not possible to tell how people are using language if you don’t take into account the context of use
  • 10.
    • Yea, I brought some French reds
    • French reds: red wine
    • Friends
    • Let’s both of us start drinking the red wines
  • 11.
    • Exactly what dimensions of context have an impact on language use. Since clearly not every aspect of context makes a difference to language use (e.g. the hair color of the interactants is usually irrelevant), just what bits of the context do get “into” the text
    • Which aspects of language use appear to be effected by particular dimensions of the context. For example, if we contrast texts in which the interactants are friends with texts where the interactants are strangers, can we specify where in the language they use this contextual difference will be expressed?
  • 12.
    • Register theory describes the impact of dimensions of the immediate context of situation of a language even on the way language is used.
    • Three key dimensions of the situations are identified as having significant and predictable impacts on language use.
    • The register variables of mode: amount of feedback and role of language (differentiate speak or write)
    • Tenor: role relations of power and solidarity (differentiate speak to who (boss/lover))
    • Field: topic or focus of the activity (differentiate the theme (jogging))
  • 13.
    • The concept of genre is used to describe the impact of the context of culture on language, by exploring the staged, step-by-step structure cultures institutionalize as ways of achieving goals.
    • Examples:
    • Asking times (two moves : a question and an answer)
    • Telling a story (many steps: set the scene (time, place, participants), develop the actions, relate the dramatic events, give the happy ending, express the judgement on the outcome, wrap up).
  • 14.
    • When we describe the staged, structured way in which people go about achieving goals using language we are describing genre.
    • Example: explanation texts (statement of problematic behavior, explanation of possible causes, suggestion alleviating actions, statement of outlook)
  • 15.
    • A higher level of context to which increasing attention is being given within systemic linguistics is the level of ideology.
    • The values we hold (consciously or unconsciously)
    • The biases and perspective we adopt
  • 16.
    • Example:
    • That we should write for parents in a very different way from the way we write for trainee medical personnel
    • That it is important for the medical text to foresee the possible negative outcomes of behavior, while the magazine article foresees the positive outcomes
    • WE NEED A WAY OF TALKING ABOUT HOW LANGUAGE IS NOT JUST REPRESENTING BUT ACTIVELY CONSTRUCTING OUR VIEW OF THE WORLD.
  • 17.
    • The overall purpose of language can be described as a semantic one, and each text we participate in is a record of the meanings that have been made in particular context.
    • Systemic analysis seeks to demonstrate that linguistic texts are typically making not just one, but a number of meanings simultaneously.
  • 18.
    • Experiential meanings: real world
    • Interpersonal: expresses the writer’s role relationship with the reader, and the writer’s attitude towards the subject matter
    • Textual: refers to the way the text is organized as a piece of writing (or speech)
  • 19.
    • A system has the following basic attributes:
    • It consists of a finite set of choices or oppositions
    • The choices in the system are discrete
    • It is the oppositions, not the substance, in the system that are important
  • 20.
    • TO CONSTRUCT THE SEMIOTIC SYSTEM, WE NEED TO OBSERVE THAT EACH CHOICE TRIGGERS DIFFERENT BEHAVIORS IN THE RECEIVERS.
    • Signs in a semiotic system are a fusion or pairing of a content (meaning) and an expression (realization or encoding of that meaning)
    • Semiotic systems are established by social convention.
    • Semiotic systems are arbitrary
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