Thursday, November 7, 2013

Process Types Graphic

The cover of Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd Edition) by Michael Halliday (Arnold, 1985) featured a graphical version of the array of process types in English identified by Halliday. As well as it being a very attractive image, I have always marvelled at the simplicity and explanatory power of this illustration. The relationship between the process types and how they are realised in English is explored further in both IFG and "Construing Experience through Meaning" by Halliday and Matthiessen. Unfortunately, even in  this digital day and age, I have yet to find a good quality version of the image. The best on the net is here - it looks like a scanned and trimmed copy from the cover.
So, I tried to re-create the image, if not in detail at least in spirit. My apologies to Michael Halliday and the illustrator if my version does not match up to the original, and I will be more than happy to remove it if someone feels it is infringing a copyright. In the meantime, I will use it where I can, remembering to acknowledge it wherever possible.

Model of Process Types (from Halliday, 1985)

Model of Process Types (from Halliday, 1985)

This is a PNG version
This is a JPG version

Friday, October 4, 2013

Learn 2 Read 4 Life

November sees the inaugural conference for the Reading4Life organisation in Uppsala, Sweden entitled "Education for Social Justice." The name says it all, really! But, just in case you are not clear what Reading4Life might be about, here is their mission:
Reading for Life works towards the goal of democratising education so that all learners are given the best opportunities to develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally regardless of age, sex, ethnicity or social background and have available a range of options to enable them to participate fully in society.

Based on the successes of ReadingToLearn, this European organisation has already found partners in at least 8 countries, and counting.
The principles and philosophy that the organisation are based on also provide a clear picture of their understanding of learning and education:
Principles and philosophy 
Reading for Life’s work is based upon the beliefs that:
  • knowledge is a social construct,
  • linguistic and cognitive development are inextricably linked and dependent on social interaction,
  • school learning depends on classroom interactions, so teacher–student interactions have a powerful impact on learning and the construction of learner identity,
  • learning is fostered through a range of different experiences and reflection from multiple perspectives so learning occurs best in heterogeneous groups,
  • powerful learning occurs by experiencing success in accomplishing challenging tasks. Therefore schools/teachers need to carefully plan how to support or “scaffold” learners so that they move through continuous cycles of success,
  • language is the most important tool for learning. Therefore schools/teachers not only need to teach explicitly through language but they must also teach how language operates to make meaning in all subject areas. Therefore chlidren/students learn language, learn through language and learn about language,
  • language is the most effective tool for self-expression, communication and exercising power and influence. Therefore, all children/students need to understand and learn to use language for a variety of purposes, so that everybody has equal opportunities to make an impact and influence the development of society,
  • while competence in the official language of any country is an essential goal for education, all languages are important, for the individual and for society at large. Therefore, students’ knowledge of any language must be encouraged and supported by schools as well as the learning of new languages
  • the role of the teacher is to scaffold student learning by modelling, guiding and joint work in students’ “Zone of Proximal Development” (Vygotsky). A socio-cultural, teaching-learning centred, model of learning supports the notion of scaffolding rather than dichotomies such as teacher-centred (traditional) or student-centred (progressive/constructivist) models of teaching and learning 
  • school development is best promoted in ”learning organisations” where ideas and pedagogies are critiqued and tested in the classroom through action research. Reading for Life does not believe that school improvement will be achieved by privatisation and competition.
Just to give us a further insight into the principles of the organisation and how it operates, here are some interviews with one its main founders, Dr. David Rose

Introduction to Reading To Learn

More information on Reading to Learn

A Talk by David Rose (thanks to "Manxman" Alan Hess for sharing this)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Journal: Functional Linguistics

At the official opening of the M.A.K. Halliday library at Sun Yat-sen University during ISFC 40 (see news here), the library announced that it will sponsor the new SpringerOpen journal Functional Linguistics. The journal has the great and good of the SFL community serving as editors and on its editorial board and promises to be a major source for new research in SFL.
In addition to regular research articles, authors are invited to contribute book reviews, reviews, commentaries and short reports to Functional Linguistics. Here is the description of the journal from the website:

Functional Linguistics publishes scholarly articles and reviews in the broad area of functional studies, with a special focus on systemic functional linguistics. The journal aims to provide a platform for the exploration of language and linguistic issues from a functional and meaning-oriented perspective. Areas to be covered in this journal include: language and context, functional grammar, semantic variation, discourse analysis, multimodality, register and genre analysis, educational linguistics, etc.

The journal will have the support, quality and prestige of Springer publishers because of the peer review process, but will be Open Access thanks to the generous sponsorship of the library and so all of the articles will be freely available. This appears to the ideal combination. Congratulations to everyone involved in this project. The journal is now accepting papers for publication. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, July 25, 2013


It's here. (I told you it was coming.) For its 4th edition, An Introduction to Functional Grammar (known to its friends as IFG) has been re-branded as "Halliday's Introduction to Functional Grammar." Following on from the major revision by Michael Halliday and Christian Matthiessen for the 3rd Edition, IFG4 contains copious corpus samples and detailed descriptions of theory and sample analyses. IFG has now been revised four times in the last four decades and is published (officially in 2014), for the first time, by Routledge instead of (Edward) Arnold.

IFG4 is now much more of a reference grammar than the teaching grammar that appeared as IFG1 in 1985. This is probably because we now have the very useful guides by Geoff Thompson ("Introducing Functional Grammar" now in its 3rd Edition), Bloor and Bloor ("The Functional Analysis of English" also 3rd Edition), Eggins ("An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics" 2nd edition), Butt et al. ("Using Functional Grammar" 3rd edition), Drogba and Humphrey, Martin, Matthiessen and Painter, and so on.

It seems to me, at first glance, that a majority of the revisions come from connecting to other research in SFL - an extended bibliography constitutes more than 20 of the approximately 100 new pages. This, and the extended index, add great value and functionality to the volume, particularly compared with IFG1, while maintaining almost the same analytical framework.

IFG remains the definitive guide to Systemic Functional Linguistics. It is not the only approach to Systemic Functional Linguistics, (Martin's "English Text" and various volumes by Fawcett offer alternative views on SFL analysis) but it is undoubtedly the most influential and the version that most newcomers to discourse analysis try to learn.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Need a ready-prepared research tool to assess interaction patterns in a language classroom? Ask IRIS. Need to find a typical activity to evaluate reading at intermediate level? Ask IRIS. Need to find a questionnaire on learner styles? Ask IRIS. So who's IRIS?

IRIS (Instruments for Research into Second Languages) is a database of tools for language and linguistics research. Or, as they put it:
IRIS is a collection of instruments, materials and stimuli used to elicit data for research into second and foreign languages. Materials are freely accessible and searchable, easy to upload (for contributions) and download (for use).
This is a project by the University of York in the UK and Georgetown University in the US, with supporters including Rod Ellis, Susan Gass, Jan Hulstijn and Peter Skehan, and is run by Emma Marsden at York and Alison Mackey at Georgetown. You can freely browsesearch and download from the database and you can join up, which gives you the choice to upload your own research tool to the database.
As with any database, it can only be as useful as its contents. The research community is asked to contribute their research papers, using the form to identify research tools, references, participants etc.
As a quick test, I was able to filter the results to reading tests and found the page on the right, which I have also downloaded. Quick, easy and very helpful.
For researchers, the advantage of IRIS is that they do not have to reinvent a (possibly inferior) research tool while for contributors clearly the advantage is the possibility that someone may replicate their research or  validate their research tool.
There is a conference on 2-3 September in York, called Eliciting data in second language research: Challenge and Innovation, which promises to be a very stimulating event. Finally, if you would like to spread the news, here is a poster for the database

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Nunberg - The Linguistics of Punctuation

The Linguistics of Punctuation by Geoffrey Nunberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'The Linguistics of Punctuation' does just what it says on the tin. It does it very well... unfortunately. Nunberg provides a wide range of incisive remarks and observations on the function, role and syntax of punctuation in text. The problem is that he tries to place those observations within a generative framework of linguistics that neither accommodates his theory nor would accept it. His work has often been referred to by natural language processing researchers and has a wide range of followers. Trying to go with the flow of mainstream linguistics at the time of publication prevented Nunberg from stating the obvious - most schools of formal linguistics are defined by punctuation. Generative (or government and binding or minimalist or whatever the prevailing term and flavour may be) linguistic theories operate within the confines of written languages, most of which use punctuation to delimit units of language. As Nunberg points out, only modern written English and a few other romance languages are segmented this way - it is not a necessary condition of language. This latter point is not emphasised, however, as that would expose generative theories for the Euro-grapho-centric theories that they are. This does not detract however, from Nunberg's astute analysis of the behaviour of certain punctuation marks (such as parentheses versus parenthetical dashes). What is missing from the book. however, is a long-standing theory of punctuation. As far as I know, nobody has attempted a serious book-length linguistic analysis of punctuation since 1990. Anybody that attempts to will have to work hard to surpass Nunberg's volume. What is need is for someone to bring his observations up to date, or remove them entirely from a generative linguistics-bound paradigm.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Scrivener - Learning Teaching

Learning Teaching attempts to kill two birds with one stone - it aims to be an initial training handbook and also a guide to continuing teacher development - and it manages to do both better than many single-focussed books. The key to its success is its focus on practical advice. Throughout the different sections, it offers clear practical tips and hints on getting through a language teaching class with confidence. Highly recommended for anyone starting a certificate course in TEFL/TESOL as well as new and practising teachers. Everyone will find something of value in these pages, which are likely to become the most well-worn in any teacher's library. The newest edition (not pictured) is enhanced with samples of language classes on the accompanying DVD.

Be lazy! Copy & Paste your Goodreads reviews into your blog. I do!

BALEAP Competency Framework

BALEAP (formerly British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) is the self-professed "Global Forum for EAP Professionals." The BALEAP competency framework was published in August 2008. (As usual with me, this is not news!) That has given the world (or at least the UK) of EAP a good 5 years to demonstrate the usefulness of the document and show how it has been used as per the aims of the document which are:
  • An agreed description of good practice
  • A reference document acting as a basis for:
    • supporting the professional development of EAP teachers within institutions
    • self-monitoring of professional development for freelance teachers
    • accreditation of individual teacher portfolios as evidence of professional achievement
    • EAP teacher recruitment and selection
    • course design for teacher training in EAP
    • course accreditation for teacher training in EAP
  • A means of raising the profile of the profession within institutions and the further and higher education sector
You would think someone had given it a thorough road-test by now, wouldn't you? Well, apart from a few plucky individuals at recent BALEAP conferences, that does not seem to be the case. I have no doubt that the TEAP Working Party (probably the following:  Olwyn Alexander, Douglas Bell, Sandra Cardew, Julie King, Anne Pallant, Mary Scott, Desmond Thomas, Magdalen Ward Goodbody) did their very best to identify best working practices based on the most up to date information. However, that is not the same as empirically validating the document. It is about time someone did. Watch this space!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

O'Toole - The Language of Displayed Art. Second Edition

This book is astonishing in so many ways, but let's stick with perhaps the most significant. Michael O'Toole's aim in this book is to offer everyone the chance to say what a piece of art means to them. To achieve this, none of us need to spend decades studying the history of art, the influences of different movements on different painters, the changing techniques and tools, or the personal stories, triumphs and tragedies of individual artists so often considered the mainstay of academic art "appreciation." All we need is a framework to translate what we already know into something that we can say. Fortunately, that framework is available to us all, by virtue of having language. O'Toole has taken Halliday's social semiotic framework for language and applied it to visual art, sculpture and architecture. The application works because these art forms have meaning for us all - they are social and semiotic - and so the three 'metafunctions' that work for language also work for art. Halliday has continuously claimed that language simultaneously enacts meaning between people (the interpersonal metafunction) and represents meanings of the world around us (the ideational metafunction) within the bounds of a social context and a textual co-text (the textual metafunction), and has spent many years showing exactly how these meanings are achieved in language. What O'Toole has managed so well is to take the three metafunctions and demonstrate how interpersonal, representational and textual meanings are realised in non-linguistic messages and artifacts. He presents a highly-practical framework of analysis that anyone can use and then demonstrates what an analysis might look like for very different forms and examples of art. The "proof of the pudding" are his highly perceptive but instantly recognisable interpretations of a wide variety of works of art.

Also available as a Goodreads review.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Svenbro - Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece

Some modern theorists on reading in the modern and ancient world want to view the act, process and social position of reading from a modern position. What Svenbro manages in this volume is to make clear just how different the social position of reading was in ancient Greece. The debate around silent reading seems to produce violent reactions because, I believe, modern theorists do not want their heroes viewed as somehow deficient, and maintaining that Plato or Plutarch had to, at least, subvocalise when reading or, at worst, always read aloud is liking calling them dunces (put on the cone-shaped hat & stand in the corner Plato!). Svenbro makes very clear that the social stigma attached to reading aloud simply did not exist in ancient Greece. In fact, writing was only seen as a (poor) replacement for the voice. The role of the written word was to produce a voice, and only when the ear caught the words could a meaning be reproduced. This was so important to the Greeks that myths were developed to separate Greek writing from its Phoenician roots. Unlike other commentators, however, Svenbro disagrees that the ancients could not read silently. It was possible (although the form of writing in scriptura continua made it far less efficient than modern spaced writing), but it was very unusual and was only practiced by scholars, playwrights or poets that had to read a lot of text. Svenbro deduces all of this from original documents, placing particular emphasis on inscriptions on statues that announce themselves to the reader as well as extracts of plays and poetry.

Yep. You guessed it - also available as a Goodreads review.