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Ling218 Week 5

Halliday's system of transitivity

Annabelle Lukin

on 26 March 2018

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Transcript of Ling218 Week 5

Dr Annabelle Lukin
Department of Linguistics
Macquarie University, Sydney

LING218 Week 5
Dr Annabelle Lukin
Language construing experience
Chapter 5 of
Halliday's Introduction to Functional Grammar

Explore the nature of the experiential function
Locate it with respect to Halliday's 'function/rank' matrix
Introduce the system of 'process types'
Explore some process types: material behavioural, mental, verbal

The experiential function
The experiential function?
Our most powerful impression of experience is that it consists of a flow of events, or ‘goings-on’. This flow of events is chunked into quanta of change by the grammar of the clause: each quantum of change is modeled as a figure – a figure of happening, doing, sensing, saying, being or having [see Halliday and Matthissen, 1999]. All figures consist of a process unfolding through time and of participants being directly involved in this process in some way; and in addition there may be circumstances of time, space, cause, manner or one of a few other types … Thus … the clause is ... a mode of reflection, of imposing order on the endless variation and flow of events (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014: 213).

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafunction
Most obviously, perhaps, when we watch small children interacting with the objects around them we can see that they are using language to construe a theoretical model of their experience. This is language in the experiential function; the patterns of meaning are installed in the brain and continue to expand on a vast scale as each child, in cahoots with all those around, builds up, renovates and keeps in good repair the semiotic “reality” that provides the framework of day-to-day existence and is manifested in every moment of discourse, spoken or listened to. We should stress, I think, that the grammar is not merely annotating experience; it is construing experience.
MAK Halliday 'On the architecture of human language' Vol 3 on Collected Works, 2003.
“grammatical labels are very rarely appropriate for all instances of a category...they are chosen to reflect its central or ‘core’ signification (what has been called ‘prototypes’ in the work by Eleanor Rosch e.g. Rosch, 1978). These core areas are the central regions for each process type in Figure 5-2; and the non-core areas lie on the borders between different process types, shading into one another as the colours on a colour spectrum”. (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014: 247)
process type
+ Actor
+ Behaver; Behaver: conscious
+ Senser; Senser: conscious
+ Sayer

+ Existent
+ Carrier;+ Attribute
+ Token; + Value
The experiential function
Simple network of process type
Halliday and Matthiessen 2014: 219





process type
Simple network for process type

Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014: 219
experiential model
of the clause
material Actor Goal Scope Client/Recipient
behavioural Behaver Behaviour
mental Senser Phenomenon
verbal Sayer Verbiage
Material processes: processes of doing and happening
processes of all kinds unfold time
the way they unfold varies by process type
typical tense selection for a material process is 'present in present' (in traditional grammar: present continuous)
Note: "I am building a house" (unfolding in the here and now) v. "I build houses" (a statement about habitual time)
Actor = "the one who does the deed"
Goal = "the one to which the process is extended"
Some examples
From Bush's State of the Union address after 9/11
Americans are asking
"Who attacked our country?"
Actor Process Goal
Who attacked our country
Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity
Terrorists attacked a symbol of American
Goal v. Scope
Actor Process Goal
On September 11, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against this country
Circumstance Actor Process Scope Circumstance
The 'Scope' of a material prcoess clause is not in any way affected by the performance of the process. Rather, it:
construes the domain over which the process takes place
construes the process itself, either in general or specific terms
(Halliday and Matthiessen 2014:239)
“In a material clause, there is always one participant - the Actor. This participant brings about the unfolding of the process through time, leading to an outcome that is different from the initial phase of the unfolding. This outcome may be confined to the Actor itself, in which case there is only one participant inherent in the process. Such a material clause represents a happening, and using traditional terminology, we can call it intransitive” (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014: 225).
Transitive v. intransitive
“Alternatively, the unfolding of the process may extend to another participant, the Goal, impacting it in some way: the outcome is registered on the Goal in the first instance, rather than on the Actor. Such a material clause represents a doing and we call it transitive (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2014: 226)
The lion sprang
The lion caught the tourist
Actor Process Goal
The tourist was caught by the lion
Goal Process Actor
Subject Finite Predicator Complement
Examples from Halliday and Matthiessen 2014
Note: material action can be concrete or abstract
He built a house
They have helped build this nation.
abstract entity as Goal
See Halliday and Matthiessen 2014
material Actor Goal Scope Client/Recipient
behavioural Behaver Behaviour
mental Senser Phenomenon
verbal Sayer Verbiage

processes of (typically human) physiological and psychological behaviour, like breathing, coughing, smiling, dreaming and staring
the least distinct of all process types
partly like material and partly like mental processes
Benefaction: Recipient and Client
Halliday and Matthiessen 2014: 302
material Actor Goal Scope Client/Recipient
behavioural Behaver Behaviour
mental Senser Phenomenon
verbal Sayer Verbiage
concerned with our experience of our consciousness
can be construed either as flowing from a person's consciousness or as impinging on it
one participant must be a conscious being
typical tense selection is simple present (e.g. "I hate cockroaches" not "I'm hating cockroaches")
Prayer comforts us in sorrow
We are comforted by prayer
Senser is a conscious entity. If you make something Senser you attribute consciousness to that entity.
"Fridges don't like to be in the corner"
Fridge = Senser of a mental process
Projection - talking and thinking
With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful
Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"
Projecting clause
Projected clause
material Actor Goal Scope Client/Recipient
behavioural Behaver Behaviour
mental Senser Phenomenon
verbal Sayer Verbiage
Tonight I announce the creation of a cabinet level position
Circumstance Sayer Process Verbiage
Sayer = "symbol source" - anything that can send a message
Did Kerry give you those files there (to you)?
She poured herself a mineral water (for herself).
Mental processes can be construed as flowing out from a person's consciousness, or impinging on it
The gift pleased Mary
Mary liked the gift
Phenomenon Process Senser
The abstraction of categorizing ...
Halliday's function/rank matrix (Halliday 1971)
Mental processes
Behavioural processes
Senser Process Phenomenon
Verbal processes
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