Re: [xmca] Beyond Alterity/Intersubjectivity

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Thu Aug 24 2006 - 04:56:39 PDT

Thanks bb, I found quoted explanation of
instantiation very helpful (climate is to weather
as a language system is to text). How does this
use of the term "text" relate to Bakhtin's use of the term "utterance"?
- Steve

At 02:06 AM 8/24/2006 +0000, you wrote:
>I don't read the passage centered on p28 quite
>in the same way -- and following Halliday's
>reasoning, I don't think it is the ideal of
>culture that is material and social, but the
>instantiation of culture -- Hopi and Navaho
>being two instantiations. In this passage, in
>this book, Halliday and Matthiessen are more
>concenred with the grammatical dimensions of
>language (Introduction to functional grammar),
>so the focus is specifically narrowed and,
>hence, seems to suffer some distortion,
>especially if trying to relate this content to
>development -- of language and social relations,
>for example. Below, the authors make the claim
>"Most texts in adult life do not relate directly
>to the objects and events in their environment",
>and the "adult" must certainly be emphasized as
>texts produced and read by children in early
>stages of literacy can be quite different
>(picture books arguably provide their own
>environment). For reading Halliday on
>development of language and social relat!
> ions, I
> find his book "Learning how to mean" to be far better.
>Anyway, text makes it's own context --
>sentences in one section are read in cohesive
>relation to others, so it's important to
>understand instantiation through the whole
>passage, which I've scanned and appears
>below. This did not take but a minute. Images
>and tables don't appear, but at least there is a reasonable chunk of the whole.
>When we say that language is stratified in this
>way, we mean that this is how we have to model
>language if we want to explain it. A language is
>a series of redundancies by which we link our
>ecosocial environment to nonrandom disturbances
>in the air (soundwaves). Each step is, of
>course, masterminded by the brain. The
>relationship among the strata — the process of
>linking one level of organization with another
>— is called realization.* Table 1(5) presents
>this model from the point of view of the speaker
>— it is hard to present it in a way that is
>neutral between speaking and listening. Figure
>1-10 represents the stratal organization of
>language, and shows how the stratified
>linguistic system is 'embedded' in context (cf.
>Halliday, 1978; Halliday and Hasan, 1985; Martin, 1992).
>1.3.4 Instantiation
>When we want to explain how language is
>organized, and how its organization relates to
>the function it fulfills in human life, we often
>find it difficult to make things clear; and this
>is because we are trying to maintain two
>perspectives at once. One perspective is that of
>language as system; the other perspective is that of language as text.
>The concept we need here is that of
>instantiation. The system of a language is
>'instantiated' in the form of text. A text may
>be a trivial service encounter, like ordering
>coffee, or it may be a momentous event in human
>history, like Nelson Mandela's inaugural speech;
>in either case, and whatever its intrinsic
>value, it is an instance of an underlying
>system, and has no meaningful existence except
>as such. A text in English has no semiotic
>standing other than by reference to the system
>of English (which is why it has no meaning for
>you if you do not know the language).
>The system is the underlying potential of a
>language: its potential as a meaning-making
>resource.** This does not mean that it exists
>as an independent phenomenon: there are not two
>separate objects, language as system and
>language as a set of texts. The relationship j
>between the two is analogous to that between the
>weather and the climate (cf. Halliday, 1992b).
>Climate and weather are not two different
>phenomena; rather, they are the same phenomenon
>seen from different standpoints of the observer.
>What we call 'climate' is weather seen from a
>greater depth of time — it is what is
>instantiated in the form of weather. The weather
>is the text: it is what goes on around us all
>the time, impacting on, and sometimes
>disturbing, our daily lives. The climate is the
>system, the potential that underlies these variable effects.
>* With a primary semiotic system, like the
>infant protolanguage, consisting only of content
>and expression, we could still use the word
>'express'. But with a higher order
>(multistratal) semiotic this is no longer
>appropriate; we could not really say that
>wording 'expresses' meaning. Hence the use of a distinct technical term.
>** This use of 'system' is thus different from
>— although related to — its meaning as a
>technical term in the grammar (Section 1.3.2
>above). The system in this general sense is
>equivalent to the totality of all the specific
>systems that would figure in a comprehensive network covering every stratum.
>Why then do we refer to them as different
>things? We can see why, if we consider some
>recent arguments about global warming; the
>question is asked: is this a long-term weather
>pattern, or is it a blip in the climate? What
>this means is, can we explain global warming in
>terms of some general theory (in this case, of
>climatic change), or is it just a set of similar
>events? An analogous question about language
>would be if we took a corpus of, say, writings
>by political scientists and asked, are these
>just a set of similar texts, or do they
>represent a sub-system of the language? The
>climate is the theory of the weather. As such,
>it does have its own separate existence — but
>(like all theoretical entities) it exists on the
>semiotic plane. It is a virtual thing. Similarly
>with the system of language: this is language as
>a virtual thing; it is not the sum of all
>possible texts but a theoretical entity to which
>we can assign certain properties and which we can invest with conside!
> rable e
>xplanatory power.
>System and text are thus related through
>instantiation. Like the relationship between
>climate and weather, the relationship between
>system and text is a cline — the cline of
>instantiation (Figure 1-11). System and text
>define the two poles of the cline — that of
>the overall potential and that of a particular
>instance. Between these two poles there are
>intermediate patterns. These patterns can be
>viewed either from the system pole as
>sub-systems, or from the instance pole, as
>instance types. If we start at the instance
>pole, we can study a single text, and then look
>for other texts that are like it according to
>certain criteria. When we study this sample of
>texts, we can identify patterns that they all
>share, and describe these in terms of a text
>type. By identifying a text type, we are moving
>along the cline of instantiation away from the
>text pole towards the system pole. The criteria
>we use when we compare the texts in our sample
>could, in principle, come from any of t!
> he stra
>ta of language — as long as they are
>systematic and explicit. However, research has
>shown that texts vary systematically according
>to contextual values: texts vary according to
>:he nature of the contexts they are used in.
>Thus recipes, weather forecasts, stock market
>reports, rental agreements, e-mail messages,
>inaugural speeches, service encounters in the
>local deli, news bulletins, media interviews,
>tutorial sessions, walking tours in a guide
>book, gossip during a tea break, advertisements,
>bedtime stories and all the other innumerable
>text types we meet in life are all ways of using
>language in different contexts. Looked at from
>the system pole of the cline of instantiation,
>they can be interpreted as registers. A register
>is a functional variety of language (Halliday,
>1978) — the patterns of instantiation of the
>overall system associated with a given type of
>context (a situation type).* These patterns of
>instantiation show up quantitatively as adjustments in the syst!
> emic pr
>obabilities of language; a register can be
>represented as a particular setting of systemic
>probabilities. For example, the future tense is
>very much more likely to occur in weather
>forecasts than it is in stories (for examples of
>quantitative profiles of registers, see Matthiessen, 2002b, in press a).
>*Here, the term 'register' thus refers to a
>functional variety of language. It has also been
>used in a related, but different way, to refer
>to the contextual values associated with such a
>functional variety (see Martin, 1992; cf. Matthiessen, 1993).
>If we now come back to the question of
>stratification, we can perhaps see more clearly
>what it means to say that the semantic stratum
>is language interfacing with the non-linguistic
>(prototypically material) world. Most texts in
>adult life do not relate directly to the objects
>and events in their environment. Mandela's text
>was highly abstract, and even when he talked
>about the soil of this beautiful country and the
>jacaranda trees of Pretoria, it is very unlikely
>that he could actually see them at the time.
>They were not a part of the setting in that
>instance. Nevertheless, the meanings that are
>realized by these wordings, and the meanings
>realized by an extraordinary human disaster and
>humanity's belief in justice are, ultimately,
>construals of human experience; and when we now
>read or listen to that text we are understanding
>it as just that. Interfacing with the ecosocial
>environment is a property of language as system;
>it is also, crucially, a feature of those instances !
> through
> which small children come to master the
> system; but it is not something that is
> re-enacted in every text. Experience is
> remembered, imagined, abstracted, metaphorized
> and mythologized — the text has the power to
> create its own environment; but it has this
> power because of the way they system has
> evolved, by making meaning out of the environment as it was given.
>As grammarians we have to be able to shift our
>perspective, observing now from the system
>standpoint and now from that of the text; and we
>have to be aware at which point we are standing
>at any time. This issue has been strongly
>foregrounded by the appearance of the
>computerized corpus. A corpus is a large
>collection of instances — of spoken and
>written texts; the corpuses now available
>contain enough data to give significantly new
>insights into the grammar of English, provided
>the data can be processed and interpreted. But
>the corpus does not write the grammar for you,
>any more than the data from experiments in the
>behaviour of light wrote Newton's Opticks for
>him; it has to be theorized. Writing a
>description of a grammar entails constant
>shunting between the perspective of the system
>and the perspective of the instance. We have
>tried in this edition to take account of the new
>balance that has arisen as a result of data
>becoming accessible to grammarians in sufficient qu!
> antity
>for the first time in the two and a half millennia history of the subject.
>From: "Kellogg" <>
>To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>Subject: Re: [xmca] Beyond Alterity/Intersubjectivity
>Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 23:49:28 +0000
>Content-Type: Multipart/mixed;
> boundary="NextPart_Webmail_9m3u9jl4l_6474_1156385198_1"
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Sep 05 2006 - 08:14:31 PDT