Sunday, 25 August 2019

Misrepresenting Halliday (1993) On Realisation And Instantiation

Fawcett (2010: 90):
Let me summarise the "basic concepts' of "Systemic theory". These are: 'system', 'system network', 'selection expression', 'realisation' and 'structure' — the latter, however, only being used in a highly generalised sense. In addition, Halliday makes a fundamental distinction between 'realisation' and 'instantiation', exactly as we have done as in Chapter 3. However, he then he goes on to blur the distinction by saying that the term "realisation" is not only used for "the relation between strata" but also, "by analogy", for "the relation between the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic phases of representation within one stratum". I find this an unfortunate formulation, because it suggests that there is an immediate relationship between the system networks ("the paradigmatic [...] phase") and the output structure ("the [...] syntagmatic phase"). In other words, this way of describing matters overlooks (1) the relation of instantiation between the system networks and the selection expression, (2) the selection expression itself, (3) the realisation rules (which are triggered by the features in the selection expression), and finally (4) instantiation relation between these and the output structures that they generate. In other words, at this point in "Systemic theory" Halliday's second view of 'meaning' (as described in Section 4.6 of Chapter 4) appears to be dominant — i.e., the one in which the system networks are assumed to be at the same level as the final output structures. Apart from this short passage, however, the theoretical model of language presented in "Systemic theory", with its two components of the system networks and the realisation statements, is essentially the same as the general systemic functional model proposed in Chapter 3.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, Halliday (1995[1993]: 272-3) presents the system, which includes realisation statements and selection expressions, as the basic concept of Systemic theory, and lists rank, realisation (stratal and axial), delicacy, instantiation and metafunction as the other basic concepts.  Structure, on the other hand, is only mentioned in relation to metafunction:
These metafunctions define the dimensions of semantic space; and since they tend to be realised by different structural resources — experiential meanings segmentally, interpersonal meanings prosodically, logical meanings in iterative structures, and textual meanings in wavelike patterns …
[2] This is misleading, because it is untrue.  As previously demonstrated, Fawcett's model (Figure 4) confuses the realisation relation between system and structure with the instantiation relation between potential and instance; see further below.

[3] This is misleading, because it is untrue.  It is Fawcett who "blurs the distinction", not Halliday.  The relation between the paradigmatic axis (system) and the syntagmatic axis (structure) is realisation, not instantiation.  Instantiation, on the other hand, is the relation between potential (system) and instance (text).

[4] To be clear, this is neither unfortunate, nor a suggestion.  It is a statement about the architecture of Systemic theory: paradigmatic systems are realised by syntagmatic structures.

[5] These four claims are misleading, because they are untrue.
  • A selection expression is not an instance of system; it is the bundle of features that define a unit, whether as potential or instance, as in the case of the features [voiceless, velar, stop] defining the phoneme /k/, as potential or instance.
  • As such, a selection expression is irrelevant to both instantiation and axial realisation.
  • Realisation statements are activated by feature selection, not selection expressions.  Here Fawcett is presenting his own logically-inconsistent model as the benchmark for assessing Halliday's.
  • The relation between realisation rules and the structures they generate is, as the name implies, realisation, not instantiation.
[6] This is misleading, because it is untrue.  Halliday has one view on meaning.  As previously demonstrated, Fawcett's misunderstanding on the matter derives from his confusing meaning potential (language as system) with meaning (the stratum of semantics).

[7] This is misleading, because it is untrue.  Moreover, it is contradicted by Fawcett's own report (above) of Halliday (1993):
"realisation" is not only used for "the relation between strata" but also, "by analogy", for "the relation between the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic phases of representation within one stratum".
Clearly, Fawcett does not understand that realisation is a relation between different levels of symbolic abstraction.

[8] This is very serious misrepresentation indeed.  As previously demonstrated, Fawcett's model (Figure 4) is not only inconsistent with Halliday's theory, it is internally inconsistent, as shown again here, where Fawcett presents selection expressions as instance of systems, and syntagmatic structures as instances of realisation rules.

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