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Table 1 SFL in relation to other functional approaches to language typology

From: A survey of studies in systemic functional language description and typology

Dimensions Approaches
SFL WCF FDG RRG
theory and description an elegant metatheory; a clear distinction between theory and cross-linguistic tendencies and generalisations; emphasis on theoretically empowered typology (see e.g. Caffarel et al. 2004: Ch. 1) no explicit metatheory; a tendency to represent typological generalisations & descriptive motifs as theory a conflation of theory and generalisation of the organisation of grammatical structure (cf. Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2008) a conflation of theory and generalisation of the organisation of grammatical structure (cf. Van Valin 2000, 2007)
functional orientation systematic analysis of metafunctional diversity; functional representation of structure; the relative natural relationship between form/structure and meaning; functional variation in language metafunctional diversity is implicit and could be inferred from analysis and discussions; polyfunctionality of lexicogrammatical forms (see e.g. Laury 2008); the natural relationship between form and meaning (see e.g. Haiman 1985) unification of metafunctional realisations in grammar into one multidemsional representation of the clause; functional representation of structure; the relative natural relationship between form/structure and meaning unification of metafunctional realisations in grammar into one multidemsional representation of the clause; functional representation of structure; the relative natural relationship between form/structure and meaning
axial focus primacy is given to the paradigmatic axis or systems; a systematic analysis of structure and forms as realisation of systems and/or features varied perspectives, with some studies entering the description from systems (e.g. Comrie 1976; Bybee et al. 1994) and others from particular lexicogrammatical forms (see e.g. Laury 2008); a conscious avoidance of analysing structure (although syntactic notions are employed as metalanguage) focus on syntagmatic axis or structure focus on syntagmatic axis or structure
typological coverage equal emphasis on theoretically comprehensive description of individual languages; and typological generalisations across languages, although in practice research has been skewed to the former until 2000’s. (see Representativeness: areal and genetic coverage) emphasis on typological generalisations and universal principles and tendencies across languages; description of individual languages with the aim of making typological claims postulates typological adequacy as a theoretical principle by setting up a model to account for all languages; description of individual languages with the aim of making typological claims postulates typological adequacy as a theoretical principle by setting up a model to account for all languages; description of individual languages with the aim of making typological claims
Grammaticalisation [diachrony vrs. synchrony] an elaborate theory of language evolution (i.e. semogenesis) and indeterminacy in language (e.g. Halliday and Matthiessen 1999); Halliday 2008), but grammaticalisation is only beginning to be given attention in empirical studies (e.g. Mwinlaaru 2015) a rich body of research on grammaticalisation since the 1980’s and detailed documentation of universal tendencies and mechanisms involved in grammaticalisation (e.g. Heine and Kuteva 2002a, b) research on grammaticalisation as part of typological description of language (e.g. Mackenzie 2009; Hengeveld 2011) research on grammaticalisation as part of typological description of language (Kailuweit et al. 2008)
data and analysis empirical typology based on a large sample of languages, focus on both qualitative and quantitative analysis of texts from comparable registers across languages empirical typology based on a large sample of languages, focus on both qualitative and quantitative analysis of texts from comparable registers across languages empirical typology based on a large sample of languages; qualitative and quantitative analysis of discourse phenomena empirical typology based on a large sample of languages
goals & applications of typology ‘a human sememe project’ (Matthiessen 2015c: 2), profiling a multilingual meaning potential (Matthiessen et al. 2008); application in various contexts such as (machine) translation, language education, computational settings, healthcare and clinical contexts, discourse analysis etc. discovery of differences and similarities in languages & testing theories that explain these (Bybee et al. 1994); no explicit goals of application (but see Bybee 2008); discourse analysis is one dimension of language research rather than an application of linguistic descriptions (see e.g. Ono et al. 2000, 2012). building and testing a theory of universal grammar that is typologically empowered; computational implementation, discourse analysis (Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2008; Butler 2003a, b) building and testing a theory of universal grammar that is typologically empowered (Van Valin 2000, 2007)