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Book Review: An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics, 2nd Edition

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Book Review: An Introduction to Sytemic Functional Linguistics,2nd Edition

An introduction to systemic functional linguistics, 2nd edition, is an updated overview of the concepts and methods of linguistic analysis in the framework developed by M.A.K. Halliday. The book introduces the concepts and demonstrates how the techniques of systemic functional linguistic theory can be applied to the analysis of texts. Written in ascending order, the book begins with the general understanding of language use and gradually moves into the more complex and sophisticated linguistic analysis. At the end, the reader who may not have prior knowledge of systemic functional linguistics, feel quite equipped with the conceptual clarity to deal with both the dimensions of systemic functional theory of language: these dimensions are (a) theory of language as social process (what language is, how it works, its relation with context and (b) analytical methodology (analysis of transitivity, mood, theme and the clause complex etc.)

Organized into eleven chapters, the book has the forward summarizing changes in the second edition, appendix which provides detailed analysis of texts and a bibliography. The first chapter: An overview of systemic functional linguistics aims at the orientation: the author attempts to initiate a dialogue with the reader and set out to give an overview of systemic functional linguistics. The chapter introduces many key concepts and terms to the readers which are developed in detail in subsequent chapters. The author begins with the explanation of the book which is “to introduce you the principles and techniques of the systemic functional approach to language” Besides explaining a functional semantic approach to language, the author provides with text examples the answers to the questions concerning the systemic functional approach to language (1) How do people use language? (2) How is language structured for use?

In order to clarify the basic unit, the second chapter: What is (a) text. explains (1) What is a text? 2 How do we know when we’ve got one? And (3) what does the nature of text tell us about the organization of language as a text forming resource? The author distinguishes between “a text” and “a non text”, by explaining the concepts, texture, cohesion and coherence with the help of examples. The chapter defines cohesive devices such as reference, lexical cohesion and conjunctive cohesion with the help of text examples. Reminding the readers of the Hallidayan concept of text, which refers to both spoken and written forms, the author says that “text is a technical term for any unified piece of language that has the properties of texture.”

In the third chapter: genre: culture of context in texts, the term genre is specifically used in a systematic functional way. The chapter explores the first dimension of contextual coherence, that of genre by interpreting genre as the cultural purpose of texts and examines how texts express genres through structural and realizational patterns of language. The chapter reconnoiters how texts are coherent in terms of their cultural context, through the notion of genre. Concepts of register configuration, schematic structure the uses of genre analysis and critical genre analysis are discussed with text examples of both written and spoken English.

Having explored how texts are coherent with respect to their cultural context, the fourth chapter register: Context of situation in text looks more closely at how texts are coherent with respect to their context of situation through the concept of register. The author framed the chapter to explore answers to the following questions (1) what is meant by context of situation and the register variables? (2) how is register realized in language? The author deals with the idea of context of situation by answering the basic problems like why does context matters and how context gets into text? The pivot of the chapter is the register theory around which the three variables of field, tenor and mode revolves. The author concludes with a clear illustration of the relationship between the ideational, interpersonal and textual metafunctions and the register.

The fifth chapter: Introduction to the Lexico grammar begins by exploring the lexicogrammatical level of language by asking: what is the function of grammar? Why does language have this intermediate level of grammatical coding? Examining the basic principles of systematic functional linguistic grammatical analysis the author presents the multifunctional perspective on the clause that is developed in the following chapters. Assuming that language allows us to mean anything we wish to mean and that language enables us to make more than one meaning at a time, the author describes how language can take a finite number of expression

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