Sysfling Discussion Of Actor Vs Initiator

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If you already understand the difference between a transitve and an intransitive clause, you do not need to click here.

is that the war, or the war on?


series of tweets advertising a discussion, the exact meaning of which was unclear to me:

Tune in to Crikey Live at 12.30pm today. @BernardKeane, @BarrettBrownLOL & @mpesce will discuss the War on the Internet

i want to know whether that is the war ON the internet (in which case i’d be interested), or
the War [on the internet] (in which case i’d not).

so, maybe they should see if a Circumstance can be moved.
like, “On the internet, live at 12.30 pm today,@BernardKeane, @BarrettBrownLOL & @mpesce will discuss the War.”

but of course, even without grammar, we can use our brains, right?
i mean, which ‘war’ are we talking about here?
when someone uses presuming reference, then there must only be one item being referred to that we are all aware of.
so, as this is not the case wrt wars all over the place these days, it must not be one of those geographically-located wars with people getting killed and so on.

also, why say they’d be discussing anything on the internet? when it is clear where they’d be discussing it anyway. nobody says ‘on the internet’ in a tweet to remind people that the discussion will not take place, say, on the radio, or on t.v. or in a newspaper.

so, i’ve answered my question, and i should tune in.
except, i was not aware there was a war on the internet.
is there? who is waging it? why?
clearly, i am in need of information.

Sample Theme Analysis


One year [[after they got married]] they found their car keys.

Marked Theme: circumstance of temporal Location realised by a nominal group with an embedded clause as Qualifier.

Note: The reason one year after is not a conjunction group, with one year as a Premodifier of after is as follows:

(1) conjunctions form a word class within the primary word class of adverbials [Halliday & Matthiessen 2004: 358];

(2) Premodifiers in adverbial groups are grammatical items — there is no lexical premodification in the adverbial group [op cit: 356];

(3) items serving as Premodifiers in adverbial groups are adverbs of polarity, comparison or intensification [ibid];

(4) all the examples given of Premodifiers in conjunction groups are grammatical items (even, just, not, only), not lexical items [op cit: 358].

The utter ludicrousness of regarding preceding lexical words as Premodifiers within a conjunction group can be seen in the following, with the would-be conjunction group highlighted in bold:

One excruciatingly painful and somewhat hazardous, and not to say chaotic year after they got married… etc

Sensing Construed As A Bounded Domain

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Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 585, 586):

The grammar thus construes sensing as a bounded domain within our total experience of change. This picture is further enriched through lexis, prominently through lexical metaphors. Metaphors relating to space, with the mind as a container, a finite space or a physical entity reinforce the grammar’s construal of a bounded domain of sensing. …

This mind-space may enter into material processes of storing, searching, crossing, escaping etc, either as participant or as circumstance, and also into relational processes of “being + Location”. It is interesting to note that in these various lexical metaphors the Sensers are still very much present; they are not effaced. In fact, a number of these lexical metaphors constructed on the model of material clauses retain the option of projecting … [eg] he kept in mind that the moon was a balloon …

Theme In Polar Interrogative Relational Clauses

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The reason that relational processes in polar interrogative clauses such as Are you crazy? do not exhaust the thematic potential of the clause is that the experiential weight of such clauses is in the participants, not the process.  That is why Theme extends beyond the Finite/Predicator to include the Subject as well.

Here are the relevant quotes from IFG3.

How To Identify Theme

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 85):

… the Theme of a clause extends from the beginning up to, and including, the first element that has an experiential function — that is either participant,circumstance or process.  Everything after that constitutes the Rheme.


Theme In Polar Interrogative Clauses

 Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 75, 76):

 In a yes/no interrogative, which is a question about polarity, the element that functions as Theme is the element that embodies the expression of polarity, namely the Finite verbal operator. … but, since that is not an element in the experiential structure of the clause, the Theme extends over the following Subject as well.


The Experiential Weight Of Relational Processes

 Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 213-4):

… the experiential ‘weight’ is construed in the two participants, and the process is merely a highly generalised link between these two participants … Thus the verbs that occur most frequently as the Process of a ‘relational’ clause are be and have; and they are typically both unaccented and phonologically reduced … This weak phonological presence of the Process represents iconically its highly generalised grammatical nature.  The limiting case of weak presence is absence; and the Process is in fact structurally absent in certain ‘non-finite’ ‘relational’ clauses in English … and in many languages there is no structurally present Process in the ‘unmarked’ type of ‘relational’ clause … Here the ‘relational’ clause is simply a configuration of ‘Be-er1’ + ‘Be-er2’.

(Textual) Tonality And The Realisation Of Logical Relations


What the HAL9000 computer said in 2001: A Space Odyssey
I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that. …
I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

What the HAL9000 computer meant in 2001: A Space Odyssey
I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid. I can’t do that. …
I’m afraid. That’s something I cannot allow to happen.

negative parsing


suggestions solicited for parsing the aphorism

No news is good news

to demonstrate its two subtly different meanings.

The Circumstantiality Of Agent, Beneficiary And Range

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(1) Agent, Beneficiary And Range From Transitive And Ergative Perspectives

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 295):
These, seen from a transitive perspective, are circumstantial: Agent
is a kind of Manner, Beneficiary is a kind of Cause and Range is a
kind of Extent; and they can all be expressed as minor processes. But
seen from an ergative point of view they are additional participants
in the major process: the nucleus of ‘Process + Medium’ has an inner
ring of additional participants as well as an outer ring of
circumstances surrounding it …

(2) Agent, Beneficiary And Range As Mixed Categories

Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 295):
Semantically, therefore, Agent, Beneficiary and Range have some
features of participants and some of circumstances: they are mixed.
And this is reflected in the fact that grammatically also they are
mixed: they may enter in to a clause either directly as nominal groups
(participant–like) or indirectly in prepositional phrases

no grammar today

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having travelled across australia a third of the way and back just recently, i can confidently assert that there is no grammar today. there is a lot of weather about, and, in rural areas coffee is available but weak and not so milky or firm frothy for the cappuccino-afficionados out there. in addition, one has to invariably state that one would like one’s coffee to be served in a cup, not a mug.
as for grammar, we saw none on the way, and had to make do with random gurgles and unrelated-to-each-other signs or icons.

Nominal Groups Inside Prepositional Phrases: Indirect Participants

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Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 296-7):

… the Complement of a preposition can often emerge to function as Subject … This pattern suggests that Complements of prepositions, despite being embedded in an element that has a circumstantial function, are still felt to be participating, even if at a distance, in the process expressed by the clause.


Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 261):

We can make a contrast, then, between direct and indirect participants, using ‘indirect participant’ to refer to the status of a nominal group that is inside a prepositional phrase …


Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 278):

Wherever there is systematic alternation between a prepositional phrase and a nominal group, as in all the instances in Participant functions realised by prepositional phrases, the element in question is interpreted as a participant.


Halliday & Matthiessen (2004: 295-6):

… the choice of ‘plus or minus preposition’ with Agent, Beneficiary and Range … serves a textual function. … The principle is as follows. If a participant other than the Medium is in a place of prominence in the message, it tends to take a preposition (ie to be construed as ‘indirect’ participant); otherwise it does not. Prominence in the message means functioning either (i) as marked Theme (ie Theme but not Subject) or (ii) as ‘late news’ — that is, occurring after some other participant, or circumstance, that already follows the Process. In other words, prominence comes from occurring either earlier or later than expected in the clause; and it is this that is being reinforced by the presence of the preposition. The preposition has become a signal of special status in the message.

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