Systemic Functional Linguistics

Systemic functional linguistics is an approach to linguistics that considers language as a social semiotic system. It was developed by Michael Halliday, who took the notion of system from his teacher, J R Firth. Whereas Firth considered systems to refer to possibilities subordinated to structure, Halliday in a certain sense 'liberated' the dimension of choice from structure and made it the central organising dimension of this theory. In other words, whereas many approaches to linguistic description place structure and the syntagmatic axis in the foreground, Hallidean systemic-functional theory adopts the paradigmatic axis as its point of departure. The term 'systemic' accordingly foregrounds Saussure's 'paradigmatic axis' in understanding how language works. For Halliday a central theoretical principle is then that any act of communication involves choices. Language is a system, and the choices available in any language variety are mapped using the representation tool of the 'system network'.

Systemic functional linguistics is also "functional" because it considers language to have evolved under the pressure of the particular functions that the language system has to serve. Functions are therefore taken to have left their mark on the structure and organisation of language at all levels, which is said to be organised via metafunctions. The term metafunction is particular to systemic functional linguistics. The organisation of the functional framework around systems, i.e., choices, is a significant difference to other 'functional' approaches, such as, for example, Dik's functional grammar (FG or as now often termed, functional discourse grammar) or lexical functional grammar. Thus it is always important to use the full designation: systemic functional linguistics rather than just functional grammar or functional linguistics.

For Halliday, all languages involve three very generalized functions, or metafunctions: construing experience (meanings about the world), enacting social relations (meanings concerned with interpersonal relations) and the weaving together of these functions to create text. Because these functions are considered to come into being simultaneously, language must also be able to bring these meanings together: this is the role of structural organisation, be that grammatical, semantic or contextual. These three generalized functions are termed "metafunctions".

Read more about Systemic Functional Linguistics:  Multidimensional Semiotic System, The Notion of "system" in Linguistics, System Network in Systemic Linguistics

Other articles related to "systemic functional linguistics, systemic, linguistic, systemic functional":

Systemic Functional Linguistics - System Network in Systemic Linguistics
... The label systemic is related to the System Networks used in the description of human languages ... System networks capture the dimension of choice at each stratum of the linguistic system to which they are applied ... The system networks of the lexicogrammar make up systemic functional grammar ...

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