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Ruqaiya Hasan is a professor of linguistics who has taught and held visiting positions at various universities in England, America and Australia.[1] Her last appointment was at Macquarie University, Australia, from where she retired as Emeritus Professor in 1994. Throughout her career she has researched and published widely in the areas of verbal art, culture, context and text, text and texture, lexicogrammar and semantic variation. The latter involved the devising of extensive semantic system networks for the analysis of meaning in naturally occurring dialogues.

BiographyEdit

Hasan took her undergraduate degree at the University of Allahabad, in 1953, in English literature, education and history. From 1954 to 1956, she was a lecturer at the Training College for Teachers of the Deaf, in Lahore, in Pakistan. In 1958, she completed an M.A. in English Literature at the University of the Punjab. From 1959 to 1960 she was Lecturer in English Language and Literature at Lahore's Queen Mary College. With a British Council scholarship, Hasan went to Edinburgh where she completed a postgraduate diploma at the University of Edinburgh in Applied Linguistics. In 1964 she completed her Ph.D in Linguistics, also at the University of Edinburgh. The title of her thesis was 'A Linguistic Study of Contrasting Features in the Style of Two Contemporary English Prose Writers'.(Angus Wilson and William Golding). She drew on Halliday's early work, in particular, his 'Categories of the Theory of Grammar' paper, which had been published in 1961.

Between 1964 and 1971 she held various research fellowships, first with the Nuffield Foreign Languages and Teaching Materials Project, at the University of Leeds, where she directed the Child Language Survey. Between 1965 and 1967 she was Research Fellow with the Nuffield Programme in Linguistics and English Teaching, at University College London. From 1968 to 1971, she worked in the Sociological Research Unit, with Basil Bernstein, where she directed the Nuffield Research Project on Sociolinguistic Aspects of Children's Stories. Following this she went to the Department of Linguistics and Anthropology, at Northwestern University in Illinois, before returning to England and taking up a position as Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, at the University of Essex. She migrated to Australia in 1976, and was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Macquarie University. She retired from Macquarie in 1994 as Emeritus Professor. She has held numerous visiting appointments in America, Kenya, Japan, Singapore, Denmark and Hong Kong.

Contributions to linguisticsEdit

Hasan has worked in her over 50 year career in linguistics around a number of central concerns, but all have set out from a basic conviction concerning the 'continuity from the living of life right down to the morpheme'.[2]

Her early PhD research began her long interest in language and verbal art. In the 1960s, she worked at the Sociolinguistic Research Centre with Basil Bernstein, on issues concerning the relation of language and the distribution of forms of consciousness. This engagement spawned both her later work on Semantic Variation,[3] and provided the impetus and data for her early studies of what underpins text unity, in her terms: texture and text structure. in 1976, with M.A.K. Halliday she published what remains the most comprehensive discussion of cohesion in English.[4] In their further co-authored book, Language Context and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social-Semiotic Perspective,[5] Hasan sets out the inter-relationships of texture and text structure (i.e. her notion of "generic structure potential" or "GSP").

In all these endeavours, language as a social semiotic (following the account of language developed by M.A.K. Halliday over many years) has served as the point of departure.

The specific type of connection she sees between language and social context has meant her work has been concerned with many important problems in linguistics, such as the relations between language and culture, language and social class, language and learning [see list of Collected Works below]. What distinguishes her contribution is that she has worked on many of these larger questions at the same time that she attends to matters of detailed linguistic description.

She divides linguistic theories into two categories: 'externalist' or "internalist". She applies the term 'externalist' to those theories where language is assigned a 'subsidiary role' in the creation of meaning. In such theories, language plays no role in bringing about the existence of the thing to be understood or expressed. In the externalist approach, 'language is reduced to a name device: it becomes a set of 'names' that label pre-existing things, properties, events, actions, and so on. It is a condition of naming that the phenomena should exist and be recognisable as having specific identities quite independent of the 'names' that the speakers of the language choose to give them.'.[6] She has urged linguists to abandon the externalist view. She argues instead for a linguistic model ‘that is capable of doing two seemingly disparate things at once: first, we need to show that meanings are the very artefact of language and so are internal to it; and secondly, that these linguistically created meanings nonetheless pertain to our experience of the world around us and inside us’.[7]

Studies in contextEdit

Hasan has followed but extended the model of linguistic context set out by Michael Halliday going back to the 1960s, in which he proposed that linguistic context must be seen as a 'semiotic construct' with three essential parameters: field, tenor and mode [8] Hasan has argued that context is essential to resolving Saussure's dichotomy of 'langue' and 'parole'.
Hasan makes a theoretical distinction between 'relevant context' [aspects of context encapsulated in the text], and what she called in 1973 the 'material situational setting'.[9] 'Relevant context' she defines as 'that frame of consistency which is illuminated by the language of text' and 'a semiotic construct'.[10] Since relevant context is a 'semiotic construct', she argues that it should be 'within the descriptive orbit of linguistics'. Further, since systemic functional linguistics is a social semiotic theory of language, then it is incumbent on linguists in this tradition to 'throw light on this construct'.[11]
Hasan has critiqued the typical application of Halliday's terms 'field', 'tenor' and 'mode' by systemic linguists, on the basis that the terms have been applied as if their meaning and place in the theory was self-evident.[12] She has argued for the application of the system network as a mechanism for the systematic description of the regularities across diverse social contexts.[13]

Studies in semantic variationEdit

File:Cover semantic variation.jpg

While working at Macquarie University in Sydney, Hasan undertook ten years of research into the role of everyday language in the formation of children's orientation to social context. She adopted the term Semantic Variation to describe her findings from this research, a term first coined by Labov and Weiner.[14] Having proposed the concept, the authors explicitly rejected the possibility of semantic variation as a sociolinguistic concept, except as possibility a function of age.[15][16]

Hasan's work is an empirical investigation of semantic variation. Her findings represent linguistic correlates of Basil Bernstein's conception of 'coding orientation'. Hasan collected 100 hours of naturally occurring discourse in families across distinct social locations. She used the terms 'higher autonomy professional' and 'lower autonomy professional' to distinguish social locations, the latter describing professionals who have discretion over the way their working time is organized, as distinct from those whose time is at the discretion of others higher up in a workplace hierarchy. Her findings are significant and substantial, and are set out in Hasan 2009, the second volume of her collected papers.[17] Of this work on semantic variation, Jay Lemke, adjunct Professor of Communication at the University of California, writes:

The results of this work were at least twofold. First, it established in great detail and with high statistical significance that across social class lines there were major differences in how mothers and young children from working class vs middle class families framed questions and answers, commands and requests, and grounds and reasons in casual conversation in normal settings. And second, it showed that the usual mode of teachers’ talk with these children was if anything an exaggerated version of the typical middle-class ways of meaning.
The theoretical significance goes well beyond even these important results. Educationally, and in terms of social policy, it faces us with the truth of Basil Bernstein’s hypothesis of many years ago that ways of meaning differ significantly across social class positions, and that home and school, functioning as critical settings for socialization, tend to inculcate these ways of meaning and then evaluate and classify them in ways that lead to or at least significantly support the realities of social class differentiation and hierarchization in modern societies (Bernstein, 1971). Linguistically and sociologically, Hasan argues from her data, variation in meaning making must be considered an integral if not the primary factor in our understanding of the role of language in the constitution of social structure." [18]

Studies in verbal artEdit

Hasan's studies of verbal art are a linguistic extension of the Prague School, and in particular the work of Jan Mukařovský. According to Hasan, of the Prague School linguists Mukařovský has produced “the most coherent view of the nature of verbal art and its relation to language”.[19] Mukařovský argued that poetic language cannot be characterised by reference to a single property of language. The aesthetic function is instead a mode of utilizing the properties of language.[20] From Mukařovský, Hasan takes the notion of foregrounding. ] The process of foregrounding, or making salient, depends on contrast: an aspect of the text’s language, or a set of textual features, can only be foregrounded against a patterning which becomes the ‘background’. This is the notion of a figure and ground relationship. Foregrounding, for Hasan, is contrast with respect to the norms of the text.[21] However the idea of contrast is not self-evident. We need to be able to specify under what conditions a pattern in language is significant such that we consider it to be foregrounded, and, therefore, can attribute to it some of the responsibilities for conveying the text’s deeper meanings.

A pattern draws attention to itself, i.e. is foregrounded, when it displays consistency. There are two aspects to this consistency: consistency in terms of its ‘semantic drift’ (Butt 1983) and consistency in terms of its textual location. ‘Semantic drift’ refers to the manner in which an ensemble of features take the reader toward “the same general kind of meaning” (Hasan, 1985a: 95). Consistency of textual location refers not to any gross notion of location, such as every other paragraph or every five lines. Rather, consistency of textual location refers to “some significant point in the organisation of the text as a unity” (ibid: 96). The process of attending to the foregrounded patterns in the text is the means by which we proceed from simple statements about the language to an explication of the ‘artness’ of the text.

Ultimately, Hasan describes the patterning of language patterns as 'symbolic articulation'.[22] 'Symbolic articulation' is the means by a process of 'second order semiosis' emerges, that is the process by which 'one order of meaning acts as metaphor for a second order of meaning”.[23]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Koul, Omkar Nath; Imtiaz S. Hasnain (2004). Linguistics, theoretical and applied: a festschrift for Ruqaiya Hasan, Indian Institute of Language Studies.
  2. Hasan, R. 1996. Ways of Saying, Ways of Meaning. Selected Papers of Ruqaiya Hasan. Edited by Carmel Cloran, David Butt and Geoff Williams. Cassell.
  3. Hasan, R. 2009. Semantic Variation: Meaning in Society and Sociolinguistics. Volume Two in the Collected Works of Ruqaiya Hasan. Edited by Jonathan Webster. Equinox.
  4. Halliday, M.A.K. and Hasan, R. 1976. Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
  5. Halliday, M.A.K. and Hasan, R. 1985/89. Language, context and text: Aspects of language in a social semiotic perspective. Deakin University Press/OUP: Geelong/Oxford.
  6. Hasan, Ruqaiya. 1988. Language in the processes of socialisation: home and school. From Language and Socialisation: Home and School – Proceedings from the Working Conference on Language in Education, edited by L Gerot, J Oldenburg and T Van Leeuwen. School of English and Linguistics, Macquarie University. Reprinted in full in Semantic Variation: meaning in Society and Sociolinguistics. Volume 2 of Hasan Collected Papers. Edited by Jonathan Webster. London: Equinox. p135
  7. Hasan, Ruqaiya. 1988. Language in the processes of socialisation: home and school. From Language and Socialisation: Home and School – Proceedings from the Working Conference on Language in Education, edited by L Gerot, J Oldenburg and T Van Leeuwen. School of English and Linguistics, Macquarie University. Reprinted in full in Semantic Variation: meaning in Society and Sociolinguistics. Volume 2 of Hasan Collected Papers. Edited by Jonathan Webster. London: Equinox. p136
  8. Halliday, M. A. K., McIntosh, A., & Stevens, P. (2007 [1964]) The users and uses of language. In Webster, J.J. (ed.) Language and Society. Volume 10 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London and New York: Continuum. pp. 5—37.
  9. Hasan, R. 1973. Code, register and social dialect. In Class, Codes and Control, vol II, edited by Basil Bernstein. Routledge and Kegan Paul. Reprinted in Full in Hasan, 2005. Language Society and Consciousness. Volume 1 in the Collected Works of Ruqaiya Hasan. Edited by J.J.Webster. London: Equinox.
  10. Hasan, R. 2009. The Place of Context in a Systemic Functional Model. In M.A.K. Halliday and J.J. Webster, Continuum Companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London and New York: Continuum. p177.
  11. Hasan, R. 2009. The Place of Context in a Systemic Functional Model. In M.A.K. Halliday and J.J. Webster, Continuum Companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London and New York: Continuum. p177.
  12. Hasan, R. 2009. The Place of Context in a Systemic Functional Model. In M.A.K. Halliday and J.J. Webster, Continuum Companion to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London and New York: Continuum. p179-180.
  13. Hasan, R. 2004. Analysing Discursive Variation. In L. Young and C. Harrison (eds) Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis: Studies in Social Change. London and New York: Continuum. pp15—52.
  14. see Weiner, E.J. and Labov, W. 1983. Constraints on agent-less passive. Australian Journal of Linguistics 19(1): 29–58.
  15. see Weiner, E.J. and Labov, W. 1983. Constraints on agent-less passive. Australian Journal of Linguistics 19(1): 29–58.
  16. Hasan, R. 2009. On Semantic Variation. In Hasan, R. Semantic Variation: Meaning in Society and in Sociolinguistics. London: Equinox. p41.
  17. Lemke, J. 2011. Review of Semantic Variation: Meaning in society and sociolinguistics. Linguistics and the Human Sciences. London: Equinox. pp1-7.
  18. Lemke, J. 2011. Review of Semantic Variation: Meaning in society and sociolinguistics. Linguistics and the Human Sciences. London: Equinox. pp1-2.
  19. (Hasan, R. 1985. Linguistics, language and verbal art. Geelong: Deakin University Press: 122)
  20. Mukařovský J., 1977. The Word and Verbal Art. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  21. Hasan, R. 1985. Linguistics, language and verbal art. Geelong: Deakin University Press: 94
  22. Hasan, R. 1985. Linguistics, language and verbal art. Geelong: Deakin University Press
  23. Hasan, R. 1985. Linguistics, language and verbal art. Geelong: Deakin University Press: 100

Selected worksEdit

  1. Hasan, Ruqaiya, 2005. Language, Society and Consciousness. Volume One in the Collected Works of Ruqaiya Hasan. Edited by Jonathan Webster. London: Equinox.
  2. Hasan, Ruqaiya. 2009. Semantic Variation: Meaning in Society and Sociolinguistics. Volume Two in the Collected Works of Ruqaiya Hasan. Edited by Jonathan Webster. London: Equinox.

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