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Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday (often M.A.K. Halliday) (born 13 April 1925, Leeds, Yorkshire, England) is a British linguist who developed an internationally influential model of language, the systemic functional linguistic model. His grammatical descriptions go by the name of systemic functional grammar (SFG).[1][2]

BiographyEdit

Halliday was born and raised in England. He took a BA Honours degree in Modern Chinese Language and Literature (Mandarin) at the University of London. He then lived for three years in China, where he studied under Luo Changpei at Peking University and under Wang Li at Lingnan University, before returning to take a PhD in Chinese Linguistics at Cambridge. Having taught Mandarin for a number of years, he changed his field of specialisation to linguistics, and developed systemic functional grammar, elaborating on the foundations laid by his British teacher J. R. Firth and a group of European linguists of the early 20th century, the Prague school. His seminal paper on this model was published in 1961. He became the Professor of Linguistics at the University of London in 1965. In 1976 he moved to Australia as Foundation Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney, where he remained until he retired. The impact of his work extends beyond linguistics into the study of visual and multimodal communication, and he is considered to have founded the field of social semiotics. He has worked in various regions of language study, both theoretical and applied, and has been especially concerned with applying the understanding of the basic principles of language to the theory and practices of education. He received the status of emeritus professor of the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, Sydney, in 1987. With his seminal lecture "New Ways of Meaning: the Challenge to Applied Linguistics" held at the AILA conference in Saloniki (1990), he became one of the pioneers of eco-critical discourse analysis (a discipline of ecolinguistics).[citation needed]

Contributions to linguisticsEdit

Halliday describes himself first and foremost as a grammarian. His first major work on the subject of grammar was "Categories of the theory of grammar", published in the journal Word in 1961.[3] In this paper, he argued for four "fundamental categories" for the theory of grammar: "unit", "structure", "class" and "system". These categories he argued were "of the highest order of abstraction", but were defended as those necessary to "make possible a coherent account of what grammar is and of its place in language" [4] In articulating the category 'unit', Halliday proposed the notion of a 'rank scale'. The units of grammar formed a "hierarchy", a scale from "largest" to "smallest" which he proposed as: "sentence", "clause", "group/phrase", "word" and "morpheme".[5]Halliday defined structure as "likeness between events in successivity" and as "an arrangement of elements ordered in places'.[6] Halliday rejects a view of structure as "strings of classes, such as nominal group + verbalgroup + nominal group" among which there is just a kind of mechanical solidarity" describing it instead as "configurations of functions, where the solidarity is organic." [7]

Grammar as "systemic" Edit

This early paper shows that the notion of "system" has been part of Halliday's theory from its origins. Halliday explains this preoccupation in the following way: "It seemed to me that explanations of linguistic phenomena needed to be sought in relationships among systems rather than among structures - in what I once called "deep paradigms" - since these were essentially where speakers made their choices".[8] Halliday's "systemic grammar" is a semiotic account of grammar, because of this orientation to choice. Every linguistic act involves choice, and choices are made on many scales. Systemic grammars draw on system networks as their primary representation tool as a consequence. For instance, a major clause must display some structure that is the formal realization of a choice from the system of "voice", i.e. it must be either "middle" or "effective", where "effective" leads to the further choice of "operative" (otherwise known as 'active') or "receptive" (otherwise known as "passive").

Grammar as "functional" Edit

Halliday's grammar is not just "systemic", but "systemic functional". He argues that the explanation of how language works "needed to be grounded in a functional analysis, since language had evolved in the process of carrying out certain critical functions as human beings interacted with their...'eco-social' environment".[9] Halliday's early grammatical descriptions of English, called "Notes on Transitivity and Theme in English - Parts 1-3"[10] include reference to "four components in the grammar of English representing four functions that the language as a communication system is required to carry out: the experiential, the logical the discoursal and the speech functional or interpersonal".[11] The "discoursal" function was re-named the "textual function".[12] In this discussion of functions of language, he draws on the work of Bühler and Malinowski. Halliday's notion of language functions, or "metafunctions", became part of his general linguistic theory.

But the final volume in his 10 volumes is called Language in society, reflecting his theoretical and methodological connection to language as first and foremost concerned with "acts of meaning". This volume contains many of his early papers, in which he argues for a deep connection between language and social structure, in which language said not merely to reflect social structure. For instance, he writes:

... if we say that linguistic structure "reflects" social structure, we are really assigning to language a role that is too passive ... Rather we should say that linguistic structure is the realization of social structure, actively symbolizing it in a process of mutual creativity. Because it stands as a metaphor for society, language has the property of not only transmitting the social order but also maintaining and potentially modifying it. (This is undoubtedly the explanation of the violent attitudes that under certain social conditions come to be held by one group towards the speech of others.)
[13]

Studies in child language developmentEdit

In enumerating his claims about the trajectory of children's language development, Halliday eschews the metaphor of "acquisition", in which language is considered a static product which the child takes on when sufficient exposure to natural language enables "parameter setting". By contrast, for Halliday what the child develops is a "meaning potential". Learning language is Learning how to mean, the name of his well known early study of a child's language development.[14]

Halliday (1975) identifies seven functions that language has for children in their early years. For Halliday, children are motivated to develop language because it serves certain purposes or functions for them. The first four functions help the child to satisfy physical, emotional and social needs. Halliday calls them instrumental, regulatory, interactional, and personal functions.

  • Instrumental: This is when the child uses language to express their needs (e.g.'Want juice')
  • Regulatory: This is where language is used to tell others what to do (e.g. 'Go away')
  • Interactional: Here language is used to make contact with others and form relationships (e.g. 'Love you, mummy')
  • Personal: This is the use of language to express feelings, opinions, and individual identity (e.g. 'Me good girl')

The next three functions are heuristic, imaginative, and representational, all helping the child to come to terms with his or her environment.

  • Heuristic: This is when language is used to gain knowledge about the environment (e.g. 'What the tractor doing?')
  • Imaginative: Here language is used to tell stories and jokes, and to create an imaginary environment.
  • Representational: The use of language to convey facts and information.

According to Halliday, as the child moves into the mother tongue, these functions give way to the generalized "metafunctions" of language. In this process, in between the two levels of the simple protolanguage system (the "expression" and "content" pairing of the Saussure's sign), an additional level of content is inserted. Instead of one level of content, there are now two: lexicogrammar and semantics. The "expression" plane also now consists of two levels: phonetics and phonology.[15]

Halliday's work represents a competing viewpoint to the formalist approach of Noam Chomsky. Halliday's concern is with "naturally occurring language in actual contexts of use" in a large typological range of languages whereas Chomsky is concerned only with the formal properties of languages such as English, which he thinks are indicative of the nature of what he calls Universal Grammar. While Chomsky's search for Universal Grammar could be considered an essentially platonic endeavor (i.e. concerned with idealized forms), Halliday's orientation to the study of natural language has been compared to Darwin's method[16]

Selected worksEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. includeonly>Zimmer, Ben. "Chunking", 16 September 2010. Retrieved on 30 January 2011.
  2. includeonly>Ferrari, Justine. "National English curriculum to include grammar guide", 8 May 2009. Retrieved on 30 January 2011.
  3. Halliday, M.A.K. 1961. "Categories of the theory of grammar". Word, 17 (3), pp. 241–92.
  4. Halliday, M.A.K. 1961 "Categories of the theory of grammar. Word 17(3). Reprinted in full in Halliday, M.A.K. 2002. "On Grammar". Volume 1 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. p. 41.
  5. Halliday, M.A.K. 1961 "Categories of the theory of grammar. Word 17(3). Reprinted in full in Halliday, M.A.K. 2002. "On Grammar". Volume 1 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. p. 45.
  6. Halliday, M.A.K. 1961 "Categories of the theory of grammar. Word 17(3). Reprinted in full in Halliday, M.A.K. 2002. "On Grammar". Volume 1 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. p. 46.
  7. Halliday, M.A.K. 2005. Introduction. Studies in English Language. Volume 7 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London and New York: Continuum. pxvii.
  8. Halliday, M.A.K. forthcoming. Meaning as Choice. In Fontaine, L, Bartlett, T, and O'Grady, G. Choice: Critical Considerations in Systemic Functional Linguistics,Cambridge University Press. p1.
  9. Halliday, M.A.K. forthcoming. Meaning as Choice. In Fontaine, L, Bartlett, T, and O'Grady, G. Choice: Critical Considerations in Systemic Functional Linguistics,Cambridge University Press. p1.
  10. M.A.K. Halliday. 1967/68. Journal of Linguistics. 3.1, 1967; 3.2, 1967; 4.2, 1968. Reprinted in full in Halliday, M.A.K., 2005, Studies in English Language, Volume 7 in the Collected Works of M.A..K. Halliday. Edited by J.J.Webster. London and New York: Continuum.
  11. M.A.K. Halliday. 1968. Journal of Linguistics. 4.2, 1968. Reprinted in full in Halliday, M.A.K., 2005, Studies in English Language, Volume 7 in the Collected Works of M.A..K. Halliday. Edited by J.J.Webster. London and New York: Continuum, p145.
  12. Halliday, M.A.K. 1970. Functional Diversity in Language as seen from a Consideration of Modality and Mood in English. Foundations of Language: Internaional Journal of Language and Philosophy, 6, pp322-61. Reprinted in Full in Halliday, M.A.K., 2005, Studies in English Language. London and New York: Continuum.
  13. Halliday, M.A.K. 1978. "An interpretation of the functional relationship between language and social structure", from Uta Quastoff (ed.), Sprachstruktur – Sozialstruktur: Zure Linguistichen Theorienbildung, 3–42. Reprinted in Volume 10 of Halliday's Collected Works. 2007. Edited by Jonathan Webster. London and New York: Continuum.
  14. Halliday, M.A.K. 1975. Learning how to mean. London: Edward Arnold.
  15. Halliday, M.A.K. 2003. On the "architecture" of human language. In On Language and Linguistics. Volume 3 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London and New York: Equinox.
  16. Butt, D. G. 2005. Method and Imagination in Halliday's science of linguistics. In Continuing Discourse on Language: A Functional Perspective. Volume 1. London: Equinox.

External links and referencesEdit


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