Some Linguistic Tools. Linguistic features are analysed at the sentence level often to explore: (i) Interpersonal meaning (ii) Ideational meaning (iii)
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Linguistic features are analysed at the sentence level often to explore: (i) Interpersonal meaning (ii) Ideational meaning (iii) Textual meaning
How language in texts creates particular social relationships between the writer and reader, and expresses judgments and attitudes of the writer Interpersonal meaning How texts construct particular representations of people, events and ideas Ideational meaning How texts are organised (method of development) to carry different meanings Textual meaning
A particular view of people, events or ideas can be spread through the system of transitivity – i.e. a set of choices for representing different aspects of “who does what to whom in what circumstances?”. Thus, the use of language in relation to different views of people, events or ideas constructed by a text can be explored through an analysis of transitivity elements (who, what, whom, what circumstance).
The following table shows basic transitivity elements and their realisation by lexical categories. ElementRealised by Process (what)Verb / Verbal group Participant (who, whom)Noun / Nominal group Circumstance (how, where, when etc.) Adverb / Adverbial group / Prepositional phrase
For example: The student reads the book quietly in the library. The studentreadsthe bookquietlyin the library SubjectVerbObjectAdverbial ParticipantProcessParticipantCircumstance
Elements represented in the subject and object of the clause can be referred to as the participants. The number and type of participants depends on the kind of process that is realised by a verb or verbal group.
The following table explains the basic process types. Process TypeMeaningParticipantsExamples Material‘doing’Actor -> GoalThe child opened the door. Mental‘feeling’ ‘thinking’ ‘sensing’ Senser -> Phenomenon She hates cats. I realised that… Did you see the picture? Relational‘attributing’ ‘identifying’ Carrier -> Attribute Token -> Value The performance is great. Mr Nathan is the President.
Manipulation of transitivity elements (process, participants, circumstances) gives a number of options for representing events or ideas in different ways. In other words, events or ideas can be expressed by a text in different ways of manipulating patterns of processes, participants, and circumstances.
Selection of process type Use of passive voice Nominalisation These patterns include:
As the type of participant depends on the type of process, dominant use of a particular process type in a text can reflect a certain representation of ideas or people involved in the events.
For example: In the representation of different characters in a story, a prominent use of material processes with the character as the actor acting upon some goal may give a notion of power to that character. It may represent the assertive and confident personalities of the character.
The subject participant is essentially the ‘actor’ in the process and the object participant is the ‘acted upon’ (i.e. the person or thing that the action happens to). But the use of passive form changes the positioning of ‘actor’ and ‘acted upon’ in a clause: e.g. i. The army attacked the rioters. ii. The rioters were attacked by the army.
Different view of events or ideas can be presented by manipulating the participant positions. For example, by using a passive form, the role of the actor can be left implicit when presenting an event. E.g. iii. The rioters were attacked.
The choice whether to include or omit the actor from a process may constitute an important part of message construction. It can foreground or background the involvement of the actor. It then reflects a particular way of seeing / presenting events.
Nominalisation is substituting a noun for a verb (or an adjective). A process expressed by the verb can alternatively be expressed by the noun. E.g. Subject (noun) + VerbSubject (noun) He departedHis departure… She spoke concerning poverty Her speech concerning poverty… Each side accusedAccusations from each side…
Nominalisation is a common feature of academic writing as it allows authors to compress a lot of information into a few words. Through this feature of nominalisation, things rather than actions can also be foregrounded.
Different meanings can be created by different ways a text is organised. Methods of development or patterns of relation between clauses in a text carry meanings both in the text itself and in relation to the context. This can be explored through an analysis of the grammatical feature – Theme, Rheme.
Theme is the element which serves as the point of departure of the message; the remainder of the message is Rheme. ThemeRheme (i) The libraryhas installed self-service fines payment booths for students. (ii) For studentsthe library has installed self-service fine payment booth.
It is more likely for the subject to be in the first position. Therefore, if the theme is the subject of the clause, it is Unmarked, e.g. “The library” in (i). If the theme is non-subject, it is Marked, e.g. “For students” in (ii).
The first positions of a clause can give the information particular prominence. Information in the first position has two important functions: It links up with the previous text, and It guides readers’ comprehension of subsequent segments.
With the possibilities of placing information in different places, placing of particular information in the first position can be a significant matter to communicate the message effectively. It will involve considering and manipulating the readers’ expectations. Thus the selection of themes can reflect, for example, the purpose or the target audience of the text.
Themes at the clausal level can include more than the first content element. The first content element (e.g. “The library” and “For students” in the earlier examples) are topical theme of the clause. It may be preceded by elements whose function is: Textual (organisation or development of a text) and/or Interpersonal (creating relationships between language users)
Some examples of textual and/or interpersonal themes preceding a topical theme are given in the following table: ThemeRheme TextualInterpersonalTopical Well,probablytheyhave finished their work. And yes,Ann,the letterhas been sent. On the other hand,taking vitaminsaffects our body system. Pleasewriteyour name.
An analysis of theme can be done not only at the clausal level but also at the levels of paragraph or even whole text. For example, it can be done for an interpretation of the design of a text including the language and accompanying visual elements.