Standpoint and background of author in relation to SFL model
The remarks that follow are geared to some core theoretical aspects of SFL, as opposed to its applications. They should be seen as made from the standpoint of a friendly fellow-searcher after understanding: someone whose research began within SFL but has become less centrally related to it over time, though I have taught both undergraduate and postgraduate courses using SFL approaches and materials, including different editions of IFG. Let me briefly sketch the nature of my research connections with SFL. My original involvement in the UCL research programme led me to an early exploration of comment adjuncts (Davies 1967) along lines that were not then standard, although later partly adopted in SFL, and to some attempts to set out what was then the standard account of elements of clause structure (Davies 1968b) and the relation of the model to other linguistic theories (Davies 1968a). From 1967, when I left London for Cardiff University, I was working on an interactional role theory approach to the deep grammar of mood and condition in English. This issued in a dissertation (1976) and a later book (Davies 1979) which made some fairly substantial theoretical departures from the SFL model and proposed some different components in the grammar, notably one of ‘telling’ , but still used systems to set out some of the surface grammar complexities of English interrogatives.
Perhaps on this basis it was included in the bibliography of the first edition of IFG in 1985; and some papers of mine are cited under ‘Further Reading’ for the chapter on the interpersonal component in the second edition in 1994, including one on modal verbs (Davies 1988a) in which I again used systems. But subsequently I have developed an approach in terms of set theory and operators, first sketched in my 1979 book, and have used it to develop the different components proposed there: in particular those of ‘knowledge’ (Davies 2001) and ‘telling’ (Davies 2006). In a later paper (Davies 2012: 237–238,240–245, 249–250) I have moved towards proposing a different ‘entry’, in terms of a model of interaction with factors in the existing Common Ground, to an area that is close to the textual meta-function in SFL and again involves telling. Telling is seen as what is done with reality (events and states of affairs, knowledge of them and decisions and wishes about them) to construct and present language for use between people in interaction. It is the only purely linguistic, and the only essential, meta-function and operates on those of decision and knowledge (which partly correspond to the interactional and experiential meta-functions in SFL). This is the ‘parallel perspective’ of my title.
Three suggested topics
I would like to suggest that some of the major theoretical issues which have been raised by what I regard as Halliday’s seminal insights should remain open to further debate and investigation. I believe that one respect in which SFL could be broadened now would be to explore links with other approaches and I want to indicate briefly three major topics on which I believe the theoretical discussion should be seen as still open.
Grammar and discourse
The first of these concerns the linguistics/pragmatics interface and the relationship between grammar and discourse. Put briefly, this latter is presented as a seamless transition in Halliday’s account, which uses categories, such as ‘exchange’ , derived from discourse as the foundation of his analysis of the mood component in the grammar. He earlier maintained that discourse was not merely a ‘larger form of grammar’ but involved different kinds of organization; but it might be claimed that his treatment of the mood system has some tendency to treat this aspect of grammar as a ‘smaller form of discourse’. In one sense, Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) could be said to have done something comparable (though in the opposite direction) by extending the use of categories designed originally for grammatical analysis (such as the rank scale) to the analysis of discourse.
An alternative to both these approaches would be to see the interface between grammar and discourse as a location for ‘changing gear’: moving from one type of category to another related type, which is differently constituted. This is more the approach taken in formal grammars, with their division between syntax and pragmatics, and it is also something that I have tried to do (Davies 1979
1988b) with the notion of categories of ‘significance’ , seen as derived from the combination of linguistic and extra-linguistic meanings. It seems to me that this is an area with which SFL might re-engage.
Identity and number of the meta-functions
A second major issue, in my view, is the question of the identity and the number of the meta- functions, and their associated components in the grammar. Here, not only ‘theme’ but also the ‘logical component’ have perhaps not yet reached their final versions; and the question of whether the latter should be separately established at all may be open to further debate. There are also issues involving the status of the ‘Subject’ element. In the mood component, this is treated (together with the Finite) as a constituent of the Mood element; but under theme, it is the question of whether or not the Subject, as a separately established element, combines with the topical Theme that gives marked/unmarked theme selection status to the (declarative) clause (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004: 73–74, 80). In this way, the Subject element of structure has more of an independent existence in the theme component of the grammar than in that of mood; and the same is true of transitivity, where the Subject may combine with a wide range of different roles, varying, for example, from Actor to Carrier. The Subject seems to be treated as being at a different level of abstraction in the mood component as compared with theme and transitivity. If a full description of the clause consists in bringing together its description in terms of all the components of the grammar, how does a part of an element of one kind (the Subject as part of the Mood element) combine with the whole of an element of a different kind, such as Theme or Actor? This leads in to questions to do with the relationships between the different grammatical components and their contrastive delineations. The development of the concept of a multiplicity of functions, operating simultaneously and relating to different areas of lexico-grammatical organization, has always seemed to me to be one of Halliday’s most fruitful contributions to linguistic theory. But belief in multi-functionalism, which I share, need not mean that the currently established components should always remain exactly as they now stand, in every respect.
The role of systems in the model
There is a third, very major, topic that I believe would benefit from more open discussion. This is the role of systems in the model. In Halliday’s ‘deep’ grammar paper, systems and structures are initially presented as being at the same level of abstraction: equally ‘deep’ as compared, respectively, with the more surface categories of paradigm and syntagm (Halliday 1966: 60). However, as the paper develops, ‘some possible consequences of regarding systemic description as the underlying form of representation’ are considered (62–63), one of which would be that, ‘that part of the grammar which is … “closest to” the semantics may be represented in terms of systemic features’. ‘Structure would then appear as the realization of complexes of systemic features’ (63).
This second position is adopted in ‘Notes on transitivity and theme in English’ (Halliday 1967c: 37) and thereafter. In IFG 3, structural configurations are specifically presented as less ‘deep’ than terms in systems, in the sense that the former are shown as realizing the latter. In particular, the presence/absence of a given element of structure may be shown as a systemic choice, as it is in the mood system where the presence or absence of the Mood element (consisting in a combination of Subject and Finite) is shown to distinguish indicative from unmarked imperative clauses (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 111, 135, 138). In the relational clause network of systems under transitivity, we have not only the presence/absence of particular elements of structure shown as realizing terms in a system, but also detailed specification of what these elements of structure are themselves realized by in terms of the class of unit of the rank next below. For example, in the system ‘MODE OF RELATION’ the term ‘Attributive’ is shown as realized by the presence of the two elements of structure, ‘Carrier’ and ‘Attribute’ , with the further feature that the element ‘Carrier’ is realized by a group of the class ‘nominal’ (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 215–222).
The mere citation of these examples shows one major and obvious respect in which the model has evolved from the ‘deep’ structure paper of 1966: namely, by the introduction of the multiple meta- functions and their associated components in the grammar, yielding different kinds of elements of structure. That is, whereas in 1966 there were just Subject, Predicator, Complement, and Adjunct as elements of clause structure, we now also have Mood and Residue, Theme and Rheme, and a long list of different transitivity roles, including Actor, and Carrier as above, all treated as (different kinds of) elements of clause structure. This in turn leads to the possibility of distinctions to do with different combinations of these different kinds of elements, such as that of the Theme and Subject combinations mentioned above. This development represents a change in the model which could be said to affect the role of systems, in the sense that it greatly extends the range of the realizations of their terms, and, in fact, of their own number and identity, thereby substantially enriching the description.
Another respect in which the model has developed with respect to systems is that any apparent connection between rank and realization (‘exponence’) in the old Scale and Category model has been largely severed. That is, whereas in the latter a term in a system operating in the environment of an element of structure in a unit of clause rank was realized by a class of unit of the rank next below (group), we now have, mainly, a term in a system operating at clause rank realized by a type of clause, defined in terms of its own internal structural configuration. For example, the presence/absence of a given element of clause structure yields two different structural types of clause: no change of rank is involved. This development is not yet entirely consistently applied, however, as in the instance mentioned above, which allows a mixture. There the term in system, ‘Attributive’ , is shown to be realized by the presence of two elements of clause structure (‘Attribute’ and ‘Carrier’) and also by a particular form of further realization of one of them. The Carrier element must itself be realized by a particular class of the unit next below on the rank scale, the nominal class of group.
This part of the realization statement for ‘Attributive’ appears to revert to the earlier Scale and Category model.
Both these kinds of development in the way systems are used in the model are significant in terms of the different descriptions that can be generated and probably deserve to be argued through in the literature more fully and explicitly.