Friday Seminar Schedule 2012

On this page you’ll find the draft schedule for the series of presentations for the Friday afternoon seminars held at the University of Sydney, sponsored by the Dept of Linguistics during first semester 2012.

For this first semester we’ve asked that presenters address a theme centring on Language and the notion of Identity and/or Textual Persona

Seminars are held as usual from 4pm till 5.30pm at the Camperdown campus of SYDNEY UNIVERSITY, NEW LAW Building ROOM 340. Everyone is welcome to attend.

After each of the seminars are given, a link to the powerpoint slides themselves, or a pdf version of the talk will be added below each of the relevant abstracts. If possible we will provide audio-visual recordings of the presentations, similar to those uploaded for previous semesters. Stay tuned for new additions: check under each of the abstracts after the date for the talk.
GENTLE REMINDER: Many of the audio-visual recordings made available at this site, are of presentations of research that is sometimes still in progress. If you would like to cite any of the material you see, please contact the speaker directly by email. Contact either ChRIS CLÉiRIGh or eldon if you need to find a contact address.

Friday March 9th – Robert Hodge
Friday March 16th – Michael Walsh
Friday March 23rd – Alexanne Don
Friday March 30 – Rosemary Huisman and Tony Blackshield
Friday April 20th – Monika Bednarek
Friday April 27th – Peter White
Friday May 4th – Alison Moore
Friday May 11th – Ahmar Mahboob
Friday May 18th – Mick O’Donnell
Friday May 25th – Ken Tann
Friday June 1st – William Armour
Friday June 8th – Jim Martin

Other pages on the site can be accessed via the top menu bar. These include an “About” page, and access to the Blog (“All Posts“) where you are invited to add your comments or register and post, as well as a page where we make available a collection of pdf-ised powerpoint presentations (“Presentation Collection“) which were made at times and places other than the friday seminars…
The blog posts can also be accessed via the sidebar by clicking on the titles of any of the most recent posts.

Stay tuned for updates: abstracts are posted as soon as we have them.

4PM – 5.30 PM Fridays.

Friday March 9th
Presenter: Robert Hodge

What if the revolution never happened? Chomsky’s colorless green ideas through prisms of Halliday, Whorf and Bateson

In this paper I offer a speculative meta-theoretical reflection on linguistics today, and possible roles for SFL in the new linguistics the world needs. This reflection was provoked by comments by Bill McGregor (2009) in his recent introductory text-book about what he sees as the institutionally marginalised status of SFL, in a mainstream linguistics formed around Chomsky. McGregor complains that the dominance of the dominant form is maintained by not even being talked about. In this paper I offer ways to talk about it, a strategy for setting up a discursive meta-level.
To do so, I project a space, a meta-level in which the present state of linguistics can be rethought as a contingent outcome of different trajectories which could and should have been otherwise, for a more adequate form of linguistics. I offer a version of counter-history. I revisit Chomskyan linguistics’ foundational moment, Syntactic structures of 1957, and ask what the consequences could have been if the problems and terms of solutions he posed then had been addressed differently, using as prisms 3 works published the year before, in 1956, by Halliday, Whorf and Bateson.
To give the analysis an even sharper focus, I re-examine Chomsky’s famous sentence ‘Colorless green ideas sleep furiously’, which he used to demonstrate the disjunction between syntax and meaning, which has left linguistics fatally impoverished. I argue that even the early Chomsky could have done a better job of resolving this problem. The early Halliday had all the basic terms and models to maintain the Whorfian unity of grammar and meaning. Outside linguistics, Bateson’s model for schizophrenic language and thought could have integrated language, thought and society in a functional model, provided a meta-analysis for linguistics.
As a test of the explanatory adequacy of these ideas from the 1950s, I see what they might say about the issue that is the focus of this semester’s seminar series, modern forms of the problems of identity.

Bateson, G et al 1956 Towards a theory of schizophrenia
Chomsky, N 1957 Syntactic structures The Hague: Mouton
Halliday, M 1956 Grammatical categories in modern Chinese Transactions of the Philological society
McGregor, W 2009 Linguistics. An introduction London, Continuum.
Whorf, BL 1956 Language, thought and reality Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.

For a pdf version of the slides, and a separate audio recording of Bob’s talk, click on the appropriate links. The audio should automatically play on your browser, otherwise you may be asked to select your preferred audio software.
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Friday March 16th
Presenter: Michael Walsh

Identity and the future of Australian Languages

In Aboriginal Australia each person had access to a multilingual repertoire. However each person had a primary linguistic affiliation which was crucial in determining the identity of the individual and the group. After contact with outsiders the assignment of such identities altered as Aboriginal women had children from non-Aboriginal men. In more extreme cases of social disruption many people of Aboriginal descent lost their identity at this more localised level. There is ample evidence that many people in this latter category have felt alienated and aggrieved and this is reflected in appalling statistics concerning substance abuse, incarceration, early mortality and a host of other detriments. In rather recent times some of these people have begun to regain knowledge and use of their ancestral language(s). Often enough this process of language revitalization has led to people regaining their identity and thereby regaining the health of the individual/community: social, mental and physical. Nevertheless there are still languages which are largely unclaimed and unactivated: unclaimed in that there are few, if any, who identify with the language, and, unactivated in that the potential to start re-using the language has not been taken up.

In considering the future of Australian Languages, identity is therefore a crucial element for their retention, their revitalization or their re-claiming and re-activating.
In deference to this seminar series I will structure my discussion around three broad themes: Multimodality; The discourse of Australian languages and identity; and, what I refer to as: The ‘Macroscope’.

There is now an audio-visual recording of Michael’s presentation which can be downloaded/viewed via this link. It may take up to a minute to load, depending on your connection.
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Friday March 23rd
Presenter: Alexanne Don

Dimensions of Tenor as Positioning in Context

This paper proposes an amended set of parameters of tenor for tracking the ways that interactants construe relationships of affiliation, alignment, and degree of Status reciprocity in their contributions to group ‘conversation’, or in other modes where relationships with potential addressees are construed. While Tenor is one of three aspects of ‘register’ or context of situation under Systemic Functional Linguistics (see for example, Halliday & Hasan 1985, Halliday 1994), SFL also recognises that the grammatical resources of Field and Mode are co-articulated in any text to construe a particular contextual configuration.
The dimensions of tenor on which my classification is based were first outlined by Poynton (1985), and further elaborated by Martin (1992: 526ff), and the categories I propose are based on this previous work. The purpose of this paper is to describe this set of tenor dimensions and argue for their applicability to all areas of argumentative discourse through an illustration of one instance of written interaction. A further aim of this paper is to argue that the terms alignment and affiliation be theoretically distinguished as relations dynamically realised in interaction, but which are also usefully considered as distinct processes relating to different sets of positioning strategies. Such potential positioning strategies are proposed to rely on reference to a number of interpersonal sub-dimensions (of tenor) which will be outlined in the presentation.
Textual identities then, are effected within groups in interaction through the recurrent and/or marked positioning of self-other(s), and the proposed tenor dimensions provide a framework for tracking their negotiation.


Halliday, M.A.K. 1994: An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd ed). London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K. & R. Hasan 1985: Language, Context and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social Semiotic Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Martin, J. R. 1992: English Text: System and Structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Poynton, C. 1985: Language and Gender: Making the Difference. Geelong: Deakin University Press.

Here’s a link to Alexanne’s presentation in audio-visual form
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Friday March 30th
Presenters: Rosemary Huisman and Tony Blackshield

Tenor in judicial reasoning: majority and dissenting judgments in the High Court of Australia
(Al-Kateb v. Godwin, 2004).

In 2004, the case of Al-Kateb v. Godwin was decided in the High Court of Australia. The Migration Act of 1958 decreed that “an unlawful non-citizen” must be kept in immigration detention until they could be “removed or deported” from Australia or granted a visa. Al-Kateb had been refused a visa but he could not be deported as he was a stateless person, and no other country would accept him. Caught in this legal limbo, Al-Kateb was appealing against indefinite detention.

Al-Kateb lost his appeal. The case was heard by the full court of 7 judges and narrowly decided, with 4 judges in the majority and 3 dissenting.

In this paper, we consider the texts of the seven judicial opinions. These complex texts are interesting in their own right, but, given the social consequences of their outcomes (including the political tenor they can provoke), they are particularly relevant to study in a theory of language as social semiotic.

Our aim, on the SFL dimensions of instantiation and stratification, was to consider both how they were similar (a register realizing the institutional context?) and how they were different (in particular, differences in tenor construed from the individual opinions?).

An initial survey suggested that the SFL account of proposals, propositions and modality was particularly relevant. In turn, this linguistic exploration of semantics was seen to have some compatibility with an early twentieth century legal exploration of meaning: that of Hohfeld’s description of the complex of relations of legal advantage (power, immunity, right and privilege) and legal disadvantage (disability, liability, no-right and duty). This compatibility of linguistic and legal concepts then enabled the close comparison of the different judicial opinions by the detailed study of modal realization in each text. And this in turn enabled some speculative, that is interpretive, comments on differences in judicial tenor.

An audio-visual recording of Rosemary and Tony’s presentation is now available for download by clicking on the link.
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APRIL 13th : READING WEEK: No Seminar
Friday April 20th

University of Sydney Friday Research Seminar Series
in association with
The University of Sydney Language and Identity Research Network
‘You are what you eat’ – Food and identity: a corpus-based DA approach

Presenter: Monika Bednarek

In this paper I will present the results of a corpus-based discourse analysis of attitudes towards food in popular culture (Bednarek 2010: Chapter 8), using the example of the TV series Gilmore Girls (Warner Brothers, 2000-2007). Even though not quite as apparent as gender, age, ethnicity etc., attitudes towards food play a crucial role in terms of identity: ‘“minor identities” like culinary preferences … contribute significantly to our sense of ourselves: who we are, how competent we are, who our friends are or should be, whom we admire or disdain’ (Lakoff 2006: 165). The focus of my analysis will be on shared attitudes towards the eating of meat. On the one hand, we can consider this as part of a general research interest into whether and how mainstream attitudes are reproduced in fictional television, where we zoom in on attitudes towards one particular aspect of contemporary society. On the other hand, the choice of analysing attitudes towards meat eating is motivated by the important ethical dimensions involved in such attitudes (Singer & Mason 2007), where resulting eating practices have an impact on other living beings, on the environment and on developing nations. In the context of the US, it is also clear that powerful economic interests are at stake, with the meat and poultry industry being the largest agricultural section (American Meat Institute 2007). I will draw on the corpus techniques of frequency analysis and concordancing to investigate attitudes surrounding the terms vegetarian, vegan, veggie, vegetable, tofu, soy, meat, roast, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, and burger. This analysis will be complemented by qualitative studies of relevant scenes and characters. In interpreting findings I will draw on theories and concepts commonly used in the study of evaluation and ideology.


American Meat Institute 2007. ‘U.S. meat and poultry production & consumption: an overview’. American Meat Institute Fact Sheet, accessed on 1/4/09 from
Bednarek, M. 2010. The Language of Fictional Television. London/New York: Continuum.
Lakoff, R. T. 2006. ‘Identitiy à la carte: you are what you eat’. In De Fina, A., Schiffrin, D. and M. Bamberg (eds). Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: CUP: 142-165.
Singer, P. and J. Mason 2007. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. New York: Rodale.

** Monika’s audio visual seminar cannot be made available due to copyright of some of the images and video clips used. However, she has made available a pdf version of the proofs of the relevant chapter “Expressive character identity and ideology: Shared attitudes” from her book: Bednarek, M. 2010: The Language of Fictional Television. Drama and Identity. London/New York: Continuum.
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Friday April 27th
Peter R. R. White
TITLE: Affinity, Affiliation, Alignment, Bonding, Communality, Identity, Individuation, Persona, Power, Rapport and Solidarity in Mass Communicative Discourse

This paper will attempt to offer some new suggestions, or at least some new clarifications, as to how the notion of “persona as discursive performance” may be theorized and how analyses of textual persona might be conducted. As the title is meant to indicate, there has been a considerable amount of recent work on notions of “identity” and “persona” in the SFL community, with that work making use of, and choosing particular definitions for, the terms assembled in the title. The paper seeks to clarify what is at stake in the use of such terms when they are applied in work which offers a linguistically-based, theoretically principled account of persona or social identity as textual constructs. More specifically, the paper will address questions as to the basis on which it is possible to propose not only types but also sub-types of textual personae and to conduct analyses of texts by reference to such taxonomies. An attempt will be made to reconsider previous work on interpersonal “key”, “stance” and “signature” in media and history texts from the perspective of the more recent work on persona, alignment, affiliation and “individuation”. Some discussion of the discursive performance of persona by the media commentators Miranda Devine and Mike Carlton may occur.

** You can download, listen to, and watch Peter’s presentation by clicking on this link – please wait about 30 seconds while it buffers.

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Friday May 4th
Alison Moore
TITLE: That could be me: Identity and identification in discourses about food, meat, animals and sustainability.

IIn this paper I report on the analysis on a set of texts involving human-animal interaction of various kinds. These texts raise interesting questions about the discursive construction of identity, its mobilisation in explicitly political and apparently non-controversial contexts, and its limits in terms of who/what can count as a social subject that might ‘have’ or ‘perform’ or ‘negotiate’ identity.

This research forms part of a larger project on how animal discourses often conflate species-level and individual-level interests, which I am exploring as a kind of crytoptype in English. The texts include recipes, science communication, environmental and animal welfare campaigns, and bureacratic documents. The analyses include cohesive harmony (Hasan 1985) and contextual parameter analyses (Hasan 1999, Butt 2003).

Butt, D. G. (2003) Parameters of Context: On Establishing the Similarities and Differences Between Contexts. Unpublished monograph, Macquarie University. 
Hasan, R. (1985) The texture of a text. In M. A. K. Halliday and R. Hasan (eds) Language, Context and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social-semiotic Perspective 70–96. Geelong, 
Vic: Deakin University Press.
Hasan, R. (1999) Speaking with reference to context. In M. Ghadessy (ed.) Text and Context in Functional Linguistics: Systemic Perspectives, 219–328. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 

*** An audio-visual recording of Alison Moore’s presentation may be downloaded and viewed by clicking on this link. The screen may blank for 30 seconds as it loads.

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Friday May 11th
Presenter: Ahmar Mahboob

Identity Management and Education

This paper introduces the notion of ‘Identity Management’ which is defined as any institutionalized or localized effort made to deliberately shape or direct individual or group identities. After setting up this framework, the paper focuses on the role education and curricula play in identity management. The paper shows how governments can use educational curricula as institutionalized ways in which to regulate and conform the identity of the students in alignment to government policies and ideologies. In order to do this, this paper draws on examples from English language textbooks and English language classroom practices in Pakistan to shows how language and language education can be used to manage identities of school children. In doing this, we will look at ways in which language localization practices are integrated into educational material which allow textbook writers to infuse ideological beliefs as ‘normalized’ social practices within the school curricula. The paper will end with a discussion of how research using identity management as an informing framework can be useful for work not only in education, but other contexts as well.

*** There is no audio-visual recording of Ahmar’s presentation – we hope to be able to present an audio separately, and perhaps a version of the slides shortly.

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Friday May 18th
Presenter: Mick O’Donnell, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Using corpus software to explore Identity in text: visualising appraisal analyses


This talk will demonstrate how one corpus annotation tool, UAM CorpusTool 3.0 (O’Donnell 2009) can be used to explore notions of “Identity” in text, in terms of:

1) How the writer construes themself through the patterns of appraisal choices they make in writing (through their selection of ‘rhetorical voice’);
2) How the entities in the text are constructed in terms of their appraisals by the writer;
3) How entities in the text are construed in terms of how they appraise other entities in the text (through exploring the rhetorical voice they are assigned).

The presentation assumes Appraisal Theory (Martin and White 2005), with particular focus on Attitude (ignoring Graduation and Engagement). A special interface has been built into UAM Corpustool for those who annotate text within this framework, allowing a range of visualisations to explore the above-mentioned aspects of Identity.

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Friday May 25th
Presenter: Ken Tann

Corporate Personas: identity management and governance

Can organizations have identities? The notion of corporate identities has occupied management scholars since the 1950s who were primarily concerned with marketing and public relations (e.g. Martineau 1958; Olins 1978; Bernstein 1986; Abratt 1989). Subsequent work has extended the extant literature to include concepts such as legitimacy, reputation, responsibility and citizenship (e.g. Suchman 1995; Greyser 1999; Matten, Crane & Chapple 2003), alongside an increasing acknowledgement of communication as playing a central role in linking these various aspects of the organization (Csordás 1994; Balmer & Gray 2000). Amongst them, of particular interest to the present discussion is the ‘stakeholder’ approach to identities as personas that are constructed through a dialogic relationship with the audience (Heath 1994; Scott & Lane 2000).

I shall explore, as an example of corporate identities, the personas of AGL as they are enacted through its corporate website, reports and media releases. In deliberately focusing my attention on corporate entities, I seek to underscore the social constructivist position on identity in SFL by challenging and engaging with the other studies presented in this series in three respects. Firstly, I shall argue against the categorical distinction between individual and collective identities in favor of studying the interface between persona and identity discourse. Secondly, I seek to problematize the image of coherent, deterministic and stable individuals that theories of individuation often seem to conjure. Finally, as an alternative to the affiliative account of identity that glosses over pragmatic functions and the workings of power, I shall argue for a complementary account of identity as strategic management and social governance.

*** The slides from Ken’s talk may be downloaded in pdf form by clicking on this link

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Friday June 1st
Presenter: William Armour

TITLE: Learning to mean in an additional language and culture: issues of individuation, affiliation and the problems of ‘identity’

This presentation uses Martin’s (2010: 24) concepts of individuation and affiliation as a springboard to contribute to the ongoing discussion regarding ‘identity’ and its relationship/s to additional language/culture learning (L2). The presentation will consist of (I hope) four related parts. At the outset, I’m interested in understanding the English language construction, “as a/an X, I…”, as a way to enter and position this talk. In Part 2 I’ll briefly introduce several cinema texts including Zelig (1983; dir. Woody Allen), Dances with Wolves (1990; dir. Kevin Costner), The Last Samurai (2003; dir. Edward Zwick) and Avatar (2009; James Cameron) to understand how individuation and affiliation can be represented. In Part 3 I move to the debate regarding native and non-native speakers. Here I plan to revisit some previous work on passing and I’ll also introduce the reality television show Black/White (2006; produced and created by Ice Cube, R. J. Cutler). Finally, in light of the discussion regarding individuation and affiliation, I consider the identities of two androids from science fiction, Andrew Martin from the 1976 novella The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov and Lieutenant Commander Data from the American SF series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and subsequent full-length movies.


Martin, J.R. (2010) Semantic Variation – Modelling Realisation, Instantiation and Individuation in Social Semiosis, in Monika Bednarek and J.R. Martin (eds.) New Discourse on Language: Functional Perspectives on Multimodality, Identity, and Affiliation. London and New York: Continuum, 1-34.    

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Friday June 8th
Presenter: Jim Martin
TITLE: Users in uses of language: realisation, instantiation and individuation in SFL

Some of the Friday seminars this semester have made reference to emerging work on identity I have been engaged in with colleagues over the past decade or so, very little of which has actually been presented in Sydney. In this seminar I’ll try and review some of the key ideas as they developed out of the work of Stenglin, Welch, Knight, Tann, Caldwell, Caple, Zappavigna and others – with special reference to their deployment modelling identities in NSW Youth Justice Conferences and the recontextualisation of one dimension of Maton’s LCT as a persona modelling strategy.

The pdf version of the slides from Jim’s presentation are available for downloading here. Be careful! This file is over 30MB.

***Please remember to ask permission before citing any of the material on this site.

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** 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.
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