Friday Seminar Schedule 2013: Semester 1

Friday Seminar Schedule 2013: Semester 1 

On this page you’ll find the schedule for the series of presentations for the Friday afternoon seminars held at the University of Sydney, sponsored by the Dept of Linguistics during semester 1 2013. The program is subject to change, but WITH as much notice as practicable: see sys-func mailing list for any updates. 

Seminars are held as usual from 4pm till 5.30pm at the Camperdown campus of SYDNEY UNIVERSITY, Transient Building Room 203. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

Friday March 8th -Jim Martin
Friday March 15th – Robert McMurtrie
Friday March 22rd – Jo Lander
Friday March 29/April 5 – [no seminar]
Friday April 12th – Roberta Piazza
Friday April 19th – Rosemary Huisman
Friday April 26th – tba
Friday May 3rd – Rick Iedema
Friday May 10th – Jing Hao
Friday May 17th – Shooshi Dreyfus, Namali Tilakaratna and Tobin Bales
Friday May 24th – Ken Tann and Lesley Farrell
Friday May 31st – Edward MacDonald
Friday June 7th – Elizabeth Thomson 

NB: access to archives of previous Friday seminar presentations can be found via links at the bottom of this page. 



Friday March 8th
Presenter: Jim Martin 

Evolving SFL: beyond the clause 

In November 2012, as part of the launch of my collected papers in Shanghai, I was asked to give a talk about the development of my work over the past few decades. I organised the talk to complement a presentation I gave at ISFC 37 in Vancouver where I looked at centrifugal pressures in SFL which have the potential to create different dialects, registers and even languages of theory and description. For the launch talk I took a different tack, looking at the development of my work as an example of knowledge building – evolving SFL by making room for new theory and description built upon what had gone before (considering discourse semantics, context and appraisal in particular). It weaves together both a personal and intellectual history, engaged together in the development of Halliday’s conception of appliable linguistics. 

Friday March 15th
Presenter: Robert McMurtrie 

Curating social constructs: (re)construing exhibition space 

This presentation discusses a small part of my PhD, Spatiogrammatics, which argues that movement in spatial texts is a trifunctional transformative semiotic resource which can be used to change the ways in which spaces have been organised, should be negotiated and have been construed. The talk focusses on ideational meanings in exhibition spaces of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. In particular, I elucidate that while curators may construe, or construct semiotically (Halliday, 2008: 2), exhibits as particular structures (i.e. taxonomic/analytical), visitors can (re)construe them through movement patterns. This presentation draws on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) framework for visual transitivity, as the ways in which exhibits are curated have analogues to the ways in which participants in images are presented. In addition, it draws on SFL’s observation that reality can be construed configurationally (experientially) or serially (logically) (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004) in order to demonstrate that visitors can also experience exhibition space configurationally or serially (cf. Martin and Stenglin, 2007) by opting choices from a new system I have developed for spatial texts, MOVEMENT PROCESS TYPE. I also draw on SFL’s notion of rank to highlight the functional difference between movement through a gallery and at an exhibit (cf. Pang, 2004). The choices that curators have to package visual information is formalised as a system network, before describing visitors’ movement patterns during interaction with taxonomic structures at the ranks of gallery and exhibit in order to elucidate that taxonomic structures at the rank of gallery are easy to disintegrate, but, at the rank of exhibit, they are strong. 

My PhD has contributed to the emerging field of spatial discourse (McMurtrie 2011, 2012; cf. O’Toole, 2011; Ravelli, 2006, 2008; Ravelli and Stenglin, 2008; Stenglin, 2004; 2008, 2009, 2011; Ventola, 2011; van Leeuwen 2008) by advancing the idea that spatial texts cannot be comprehensively understood if perceived merely as a conglomeration of building blocks (McMurtrie 2011);  rather, meanings are made through the process of intersemiotic transformation (cf. Ravelli, 1995; Royce, 1999) when movement, space and structure coalesce. This presentation thus pushes the theoretical framework and analytical tools of SFL beyond the limits of those for which they were initially designed, demonstrating the usefulness of SFL theory to analyse forms of communication other than language and thus supporting Halliday’s (2009: 61) statement that SFL is an appliable theory. 


Halliday, M.A K. 2008. Complementarities in Language. Beijing: The Commercial Press. 

Halliday, M.A.K. and Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. 2004. An introduction to Functional Grammar. 3rd edition. London: Arnold. 

Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. 2006. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge. 

Martin, J.R. and Stenglin, M. 2007. Materializing reconciliation: Negotiating difference in transcolonial exhibition. In T.D. Royce and W.L. Bowcher (eds.), New Directions in the Analysis of Multimodal Discourse, 215—238. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Publishers. 

McMurtrie, R.J. 2013. Spatiogrammatics: A social semiotic perspective on moving bodies transforming the meaning potential of space. Unpublished PhD Thesis, UNSW. Faculty of Arts and Media. 

McMurtrie, R.J. 2011. The meaning of [exiting]: Towards a grammaticalization of architecture. Text & Talk 31(6): 706-731. 

O’Toole, M. 2011. The Language of Displayed Art. 2nd edition. London: Leicester University Press. 

Pang, K.M.A. 2004. Making history in From Colony to Nation: A multimodal analysis of a museum exhibition in Singapore. In K.L. O’Halloran  (ed.), Multimodal Discourse Analysis: Systemic Functional Perspectives, 28—54. London: Continuum. 

Ravelli, L. 1995. Intersemiosis: the constraints and potential of verbal-visual interaction. Paper presented to The International Systemic Functional Congress Beijing

Ravelli, L. 2006. Museum Texts: Communication Frameworks. London: Routledge. 

Ravelli, L. 2008. Analysing space: Adapting and extending multi-modal frameworks. In L. Unsworth (ed.), Multimodal Semiotics – Functional Analysis in Contexts of Education, 17—33. London: Continuum. 

Ravelli, L. and Stenglin, M. 2008. Feeling space: Interpersonal communication and spatial semiotics. In G. Antos and E. Ventola (eds.), Interpersonal Communication Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Volume 2, 355—398. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 

Royce, R. 1999. Visual-verbal intersemiotic complementarity in The Economist magazine. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Linguistic Science. The University of Reading, Centre for Applied Language Studies. Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences. 

Stenglin, M. 2004. Packaging curiosities: Towards a grammar of three dimensional space. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Sydney. Department of Linguistics. 

Stenglin, M. 2009. Space odyssey: A guided tour through the semiosis of three-dimensional space. Visual Communication  8(1): 35—64. 

Stenglin, M. 2011. Spaced out: an evolving cartography of a visceral semiotic. In S. Dreyfus, S. Hood and M. Stenglin (eds.), Semiotic Margins: Meaning in Multimodalities, 73—100. London and New York: Continuum.   

Van Leeuwen, T. 2008. Discourse and Practice; New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Ventola, E. 2011. Semiotisation processes of space: From drawing our homes to styling them. In K.L. O’Halloran and B.A. Smith (eds.), Multimodal Studies: Exploring Issues and Domains, 220—238. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Friday March 22nd
Presenter: Jo Lander 

How can Exchange Structure Analysis help us understand asynchronous online discourse?

In this presentation I report on that part of my recently-submitted thesis (Negotiating community and knowledge in asynchronous online discussions in higher education) in which I seek to describe the (Curriculum macro)genre of these discussions. I start by discussing the structuring of the discussions by the technological affordances of the medium, in itself quite problematical. I then move to insights gained by using the system of Negotiation as an analytical tool. I propose a curriculum macrogenre and show ways in which Exchagne Structure Analysis problematises this type of interaction, and ways in which using ESA in this new context problematises certain aspects of ESA itself. 


Christie, F. (1997). Curriculum macrogenres as forms of initiation into a culture. In: F. Christie & J.R. Martin (Eds), Genre and Institutions: Social processes in the workplace and school (pp 134 – 160). London: Cassell. 

Christie, F. (2002). Classroom discourse analysis: a functional perspective. London: Continuum. 

Eggins, S. & Slade, D. (1997). Analysing casual conversation. London:  Cassell. 

Hunt, I. A. (1991). Negotiation in joint construction: teaching literacy in early childhood. (Unpublished fourth year honours thesis)  University of Sydney, Australia. 

Martin, J. R. (1992). English text: system and structure. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins 

Martin, J. R., Zappavigna, M. & Dwyer, P. (2009). Negotiating shame: exchange and genre structure in youth justice conferencing. In: A Mahboob & C Lipovsky (Eds) Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning (pp 41-73). Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Press. 

Piriyasilpa, Y. (2009). Genre and discourse in online discussions: a study of online discussion postings in a Thai EFL writing course. (Unpublished doctoral thesis) Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. 

Ventola,  E. (1987). The structure of social interaction: a systemic approach to the semiotics of service encounters. London, England: Pinter. 

Friday April 12th
Presenter: Roberta Piazza (University of Sussex, UK)
and Louann Haarman (University of Bologna, Italy)

A pragmatic approach to TV news reports as multimodal ensembles 

This study explores TV news reports as communicative ‘ensembles’ combining speech and writing, moving and still images, ambient sound and tables/graphs. It shows how on a verbal level such reports may be construed as a carefully assembled succession of information clusters including an initial statement followed by expansion, in the form of the Hallidayean elaboration, extension or enhancement. (Halliday, Matthiessen 2004) 

It also investigates how the message is constructed both by words and the ‘structures of representations’ expressed through the images – both narrative, presenting ‘unfolding actions and events’, and conceptual, portraying ‘participants in terms of their more generalized…essence’ (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2007: 78). 

Verbal-visual synchrony in news reports has been explored, amongst others, by Montgomery (2007), who indicates some general principles for understanding the relationship between the two tracks, and by Meinhof (1994) who identifies 3 ways in which images relate to speech (overlap, displacement and dichotomy). 

This study continues to explore the co-construction of discourse through the combination of the verbal and visual tracks. Analysis of a corpus of BBC and ITV evening news (2009) suggests that the cognitive processes involved in decoding the messages are of various kinds and display high or low relevance (Sperber & Wilson, 1995) in the sense of requiring a high or reduced inferencing effort in relation to the degree of information retrievable from the context. While in some cases the presence of deictics and demonstratives ease visual comprehension, elsewhere visuals display low relevance and require the viewers to draw complex implications and implicatures. 

For instance in the 18/02/09 ITV news regarding the need of further 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, the following verbal text, The Americans, the British and their allies were sent there to take the fight to the Taliban, but now it’s the other way round is accompanied by an image of US troops seen from behind climbing a mountain moving away from viewers, their lack of frontality suggesting lack of involvement (Kress & van Leeuwen 1996). The implicature is possibly that the allied forces are turning their back on rather than confronting and engaging with the enemy. 

In line with multimodal studies that adapt linguistic categories to a range of semiotic texts, this study adopts a pragmatic approach to TV news to explore the important meaning-making function of the visual text in the construction of TV news discourse. 

Halliday, M.A.K. Matthiessen C. 2004 An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London, Arnold.
Kress, G. van Leeuwen, T. Reading Images 2007 Abingdon, Oxon Routledge
Meinhof, U. 1994 Double encoding in news broadcasts. In Graddol, D. & Boyd-Barrett, O. eds Media Text: Authors and Readers. Clevedon, Multilingual matters, 212-223.
Montgomery, M. 2007. The Discourse of Broadcast News. London/NY Routledge
Sperber, D. Wilson, D. 1995 Relevance. Oxford, Blackwell 

Friday April 19th
Presenter: Rosemary Huisman 

Time in the Texture of Verbal Art 

In a 2011 SFL seminar, “Transitivity, Temporalities, Narrative: construing experience of different worlds,” I described compatibilities between J.T. Fraser’s model of time and M.A.K. Halliday’s model of language, and then suggested the relevance of this modelling to the study of literary narrative in English. This paper further develops that work, but with a focus on Mode, rather than Field; it was given at the 2013 Register and Context symposium at Macquarie, for which the theme was “Mode, Text and Texture”. 

 In SFL, the word “time” appears to be used unproblematically to refer to one of Fraser’s six temporalities, that which he would call “biotemporality”, the time of the biological organism which moves from birth to death, with an experienced “present”. This is the understanding of time in SFL talk on “narrative” as a genre of story-telling (a comparatively restricted use of the term narrative). However, implicitly in its modelling, SFL can offer a more complex understanding of time, or rather, of the construal of temporal meanings in language. 

 How has SFL discussed texture, the property of being a text? What are the linguistic resources for textual organization relevant to the construal of temporal meaning? Exploring these questions in detail takes the paper through aspects of cohesion and grammatical metaphor. 

 The paper finally returns to the temporalities of narrative texts. Social and historical differences in the context of situation are realised in different discursive textures (examples of English literary narratives are given in a handout). From such study of texture in individual texts one can ‘move up’ the SFL instantiation cline to make generalisations about register (semantic configuration) and genre (social purpose). 

 (If time permits, we can also glance briefly at the different understanding(s) of time implicit in different theorisings of narrative, linguistic and philosophical.) 

Friday April 26th
Presenter: tba

Friday May 3rd
Presenter: Rick Iedema

This Friday’s seminar will be presented by Rick Iedema,  Professor of Organisational Communication and Director of the Centre for Health Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney. Rick will discuss ways in which the theory and principles of SFL have informed his practice and how they help build understanding of the complexities facing healthcare practitioners.

Friday May 10th
Presenter: Jing Hao 

Investigate entity in undergraduate biology texts 
 This presentation reports on part of my ongoing PhD study. This PhD project makes an attempt to explore the trajectory of apprenticeship in the discipline of biology across three undergraduate years. Data texts are high-graded laboratory reports and research reports. From the ideational perspective, this study approaches understanding the discipline of biology by analysing field that is construed in the texts.

In this presentation, I mainly focus on the levels of discourse semantics and lexicogrammar. Firstly, drawing on Martin & Rose 2007 and Halliday & Matthiessen 1999, I define entity as a discourse semantic category within figure. And then I report on the ontogenetic occurrence of types of entities across the data texts. I propose the network of ENTITY is one crucial aspect in understanding a field. In the second half of the presentation, I discuss the ways in which entities are configured into types of figures. And further, by looking at various metaphorical realisations of figures in lexicogrammar, I explore the stratal tension between discourse semantics and grammar. It is expected that understanding the tension between lexicogrammar and discourse semantics enables understanding the tension between discourse semantics and register, which will further allow for a better understanding of the field.

> Halliday, M.A.K. 2004. The Language of Science. London: Continuum (Vol. 5 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday J. Webster Ed.). London: Continuum
> Halliday, M. A. K. & C. M. I. M. Matthiessen, 1999. Construing Experience Through Meaning: a Language-based Approach to Cognition. London: Continuum.
> Martin, J.R. 1992. English text. Amsterdam: John Benjamins
> Martin, J.R. & Rose, D. 2007. Working with Discourse: Meaning beyond the clause. London Continuum

Friday May 17th  

Presenter: Shooshi Dreyfuss 

This paper raises (more) questions arising from a research project that used
appraisal to analyse 91,000 lines (one morpheme per line) of blog entries. After
introducing the project, this paper will pose questions and raise issues that the
analysts faced when applying appraisal to a large corpus. It will propose answers
to some of the questions raised, but will also pose questions to which an answer has
not been found. Participants attending this seminar will be encouraged to join the
discussion. The kinds of questions that will be posed are as follows: 

· How should we distinguish between Appreciation: reaction: impact and
Appreciation: reaction: quality? 

· When words such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, (and other such general evaluations) are
used to evaluate things (ie as appreciation), should they be assigned to
Appreciation: reaction: quality, or is it possible there is a general category of
positive and negative appreciation (and even judgement), where there is not enough
information in the appraisal item or cotext to give a finer grained reading? 

· How can we expand appreciation categories to reflect what we find in our data? 

· How to deal with ambiguity in meaning – particularly in graduation. 

Time permitting, some other questions may be posed, however, experience has shown us
that even one or two questions can generate an hour’s worth of discussion. 

Friday May 24th
Presenters: Ken Tann and Lesley Farrell 
Institutional policy and ruling relations in the Australian Curriculum

The newly introduced national curriculum presents an unprecedented opportunity in
Australian history to study the extent to which standardised, centralised systems of
schooling change teachers’ professional practice. As part of the Peopling Education
Policy project funded by the ARC, NSW DET, VCAA, CEO Melbourne and ACARA to examine
how vernacular professional practice is produced in policy negotiations around
curriculum development, we explore the ruling relations around the Australian
Curriculum by bringing together the sociological framework of Institutional
Ethnography (Smith 2006) and the linguistic lens of SFL. 

Curriculum design and pedagogical practices have always been a significant part of
the research agenda in SFL (Rose & Martin 2012). While curriculum, pedagogy and
assessment are usually regarded as three distinct functions of education, we have
found that in practice, curriculum documents and assessment programs impact on
pedagogic practices, where social relations are as crucial as epistemic principles
in shaping educational policies, if not more. This paper reports on our analysis of
the documents that enact the ruling relations and negotiations between the federal
and state bodies as well as teachers’ professional associations, in terms of how
institutional prescription and teacher professionalism are differently construed and
negotiated through transitivity (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004), engagement (Martin &
White 2005) and legitimation (van Leeuwen 2008). 

The paper is therefore of interest to educators who are interested in understanding
policy decisions around curriculum development, and discourse analysts who are
interested in exploring the potential in interdisciplinary collaboration between
linguistic and sociological approaches. 

Friday May 31st
Presenter: Edward McDonald 

Do we need to revive the concept of a “General Linguistics?” – historical reflections on the shared tenets of modern linguistics since Saussure 


The supposedly foundational work of modern linguistics, Saussure’s Cours de linguistique générale (1916), was never actually written by its putative author, and with the publication of the full range of sources on which it was based (Godel 1957; Komatsu et al. 1993-97), as well as the recently discovered outline of his approach to language by Saussure himself (2002/2006), it has become increasingly evident that on many matters of substance and emphasis the editors of the Cours underplayed or even distorted the genuinely “revolutionary” nature of Saussure’s ideas about language. The banner of “revolutionary” in modern linguistics, however, is normally awarded to Chomsky, who from the launch of Transformational Generative Grammar (1957, 1965), claimed that what had started out as the development of certain trends within American Structuralism (e.g. Harris 1951) in fact represented a radical break with all previous approaches, approaches which it aimed to supersede. While rhetorically Chomsky’s approach combined the “maximum ideological power of the comfortingly familiar with the excitingly up-to-date” (McDonald 2008: 191), historically it was Chomsky’s seemingly casual reaffirmation of the validity of the categories of “traditional grammar”, which he regarded as “substantially correct and essential to any account of how the language is used or acquired” (1965: 64), that marked the most radical break from previous linguistic theories. The generative paradigm that Chomsky launched has consistently demonstrated a largely ahistorical approach to its own linguistic traditions (for the “exception that proves the rule” see Newmeyer 1980), apart from a few carefully selected and selectively interpreted “predecessors” (Chomsky 1966), a stance that only serves to obscure the particularities of its own avowedly “universalist” approach to language. 

Through the first half of the 20th century, the concept of “general linguistics” which gave its name to Saussure’s famous Cours, although more widely used in Europe than the United States, was understood as providing a shared basis for the emerging discipline, as systematized in various forms on both sides of the Atlantic (Sapir 1921; Bloomfield 1933; Hockett 1958; Martinet 1960/1964; Robins 1964). Post-Chomsky (1957, 1965) however, with the proliferation of various “theories” and “schools”, there seems to have been less about linguistics that can be claimed as “general” to all approaches, and the concept has thus fallen out of favour. At the same time, while most contemporary introductions to linguistics pay at least lip service to Saussure as the “Father” of the discipline, the truly radical implications of his ideas have effectively been ignored, especially in relation to his crucial insight that the language system needed to be characterised both psychologically and socially in order to comprehensively capture the nature of linguistic meaning. Now with a much better understanding of Saussure’s thinking about language, still developing when he died, it seems timely to revisit the full range of issues he raised about the study of language, and imagine what a new “general linguistics” informed by them might look like. 


Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 

Chomsky, Noam. 1957. Syntactic Structures, The Hague: Mouton. 

_____ 1965. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Cambridge MA: MIT Press. 

Chomsky, Noam. 1966. Cartesian linguistics: a chapter in the history of rationalist thought. New York: Harper & Row.   

Godel, Robert (ed.) 1957. Les sources manuscrites du Cours de linguistique générale de F. de Saussure, Geneva: Droz; Paris: Minard. 

Harris, Zellig S. 1951. Methods in Structural Linguistics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Hockett, Charles F. 1958. A Course in Modern Linguistics, New York: Macmillan. 

Komatsu, Eisuke & Roy Harris (trs & eds). 1993. Troisième Cours de linguistique générale  / Third Course in General Linguistics (1910-1911), d’après des cahiers d’Emile Constantin, Oxford: Pergamon. 

_____ & George Wolf (trs & eds). 1996. Premier Cours de linguistique générale  / First Course in General Linguistics (1907), d’après des cahiers d’Albert Riedlinger, Oxford: Pergamon. 

_____ & George Wolf (trs & eds). 1998. Deuxième Cours de linguistique générale  / Second Course in General Linguistics (1908-1909) d’après des cahiers d’Albert Riedlinger et Charles Patois, Oxford: Pergamon. 

Martinet, Andre. 1960. Eléments de Linguistique Générale, Paris: Librairie Armand Colin. Elisabeth Palmer (tr.). 1964. Elements of General Linguistics, London: Faber. 

McDonald, Edward. 2008. Meaningful Arrangement: exploring the syntactic description of texts, London: Equinox. 

Newmeyer, Frederick. 1980. Linguistic Theory in America: The First Quarter-Century of Transformational Generative Grammar. New York: Academic Press. 

Robins, R.H. 1964. General Linguistics: An Introductory Survey, London: Longmans. 

Sapir, Edward. 1921. Language, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. 

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1916, Cours de linguistique générale, Lausanne & Paris: Payot. 1959. Wade Baskin (tr.). Course in general linguistics, New York: Philosophical Library. 

_____ 2002. L’essence double du langage. in Simon Bouquet & Rudolf Engler (eds). Ecrits de linguistique générale, Paris: Gallimard. 2006.  Carol Sanders & Matthew Pires (trs). On the dual essence of language (from the Orangery Manuscripts), Part One. Writings in general linguistics. 3-62. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Friday June 7th
Presenter: Elizabeth Thomson 

** archives of earlier seminar series and the links to recordings and/or pdfs of the presentations may be accessed by clicking on the links below:
Second Semester 2010
First Semester 2011.
Second Semester 2011.
First Semester 2012
Second Semester 2012
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