Author Topic: SFL analysis  (Read 9218 times)

Offline SociolinguiniBlog

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 8
SFL analysis
« on: December 30, 2016, 06:29:13 AM »
Happy New Year to you all!

I am Sociolinguini, I'm a sociolinguisitcs and ecolinguistics blogger and researcher and I would like to request your assistance on the micro-SFL analysis of this particle from 2.1 onwards (marked with *):

(1) Animals should be treated with care and respect, (2) so we’re constantly (adverbial) working [to raise welfare standards]. (2.1)* From giving pigs happier lives [through improved farming methods],  [[to ensuring [[[that our own-label cosmetics meet the Humane Cosmetics Standard (HCS)]]], [and increasing our range of RSPCA Assured products, [[which meet strict RSPCA welfare guidelines]].

I identify it as a non-finite, subordinate clause to clause (2) being the main clause. Would you agree? How would you classify it? as embedded?

Thank you for your help!


Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2073
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: SFL analysis
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2016, 09:21:39 AM »
SFL = Systemic functional linguistics?
I can't comment on that specifically. But in terms of this sentence:

It's useful to simplify the sentence to figure out the structure. The gerund clauses are nominalizations, so they behave like nouns. They are embedded, and we can separate them from the rest. The structure becomes something like this:

[CLAUSE1 Animals should be treated with care and respect,]
[CONJ so]
[CLAUSE2 we’re constantly working [to raise welfare standards].
[FRAGMENT From giving X,  to [ensuring Y, and increasing Z].]

Or even more simplified, it has the same structure as:
[FRAGMENT From apples, to oranges and bananas.]

The fragment (whatever you want to call it!) is not a complete sentence/clause on its own. It doesn't have a main subject and verb. It's just a list ("from A to B", although B is complex). It functions like an adverbial element to the previous sentence (explaining the range of things they're "working" on). How you want to analyze that is up to you. For whatever reason the author included a period there to indicate a sentence boundary. Maybe it's just for emphasis. It still acts to extend the information in the previous sentence.

Regardless, the gerunds (verbs in -ing) are nominalizations, which allow a very complex embedded clause structure but are not structurally different from the fruit example I gave above. Internally a gerund clause is like a normal (verbal) clause, while externally it behaves roughly like a noun (being in an argument position, following a preposition, etc.). Cross-linguistically they're sometimes called "action nominals" (or "masdars" to use a word mostly applied to Arabic, etc.). "Gerund" is a little vague because "-ing" forms can have different functions, but in this case anyway, they're acting like nouns. Nominalizations are studied quite widely if you want to read about them, but the basic idea is that, as I said, they are internally like verbs/clauses, and externally like nouns.


As for the fragment more generally, you could paraphrase the structure like this:
"We are working to do better. In a lot of ways."
That's still obviously a fragment so you can't easily analyze it as a complete sentence on its own. But it's also generally acceptable to me on a discourse level. The options for analyzing it would include (at least):
(1) ignore that it's presented as a separate sentence in the original (maybe note that the author intended emphasis/a pause), and call it an adverbial of the first sentence. The best argument in defense of this analysis is that it appears to modify only the second conjoined clause within the first sentence, not the whole first sentence at the discourse level. So it really is syntactically related to the internal structure of the first orthographic sentence.
(2) treat it as an independent "sentence"/unit (just a free-floating prepositional phrase, I suppose, however that would work in your theory) and then at the discourse level consider it to modify the ideas already in the discourse (here, the idea of the "work" they are "working" on). As a parallel, some theories about definite nouns ("the book", etc.) like Discourse Representation Theory and File Change Semantics build up a sort of database throughout a discourse and then allow later sentences to refer back to the entities already introduced-- so if I say "I read a book. The book was good", then you know I'm talking about the same book because you can "look it up" in the database. (There are variants of how exactly this is implemented, but it works along those lines.) So in this case it's more about events than nouns/things, and it seems like the author is treating the fragment as if it's modifying the "work" event at the discourse level. I would guess that's along the lines of what you might try to do in SFL (or just go with option (1), ignoring the punctuation).


Substituting simpler syntax for those tricky parts can make the analysis clearer. But of course you can analyze the whole original text too, after figuring out what the overall structure is like.

After that part of the analysis, there are some decisions/variations in how an individual theory will handle some of the details (how do you handle nominalizations? how do you handle the sentence fragment?), but I hope my comments make the data clear, as a starting point.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline SociolinguiniBlog

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 8
Re: SFL analysis
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2016, 04:08:00 PM »
Thank you so much for your help and concise reply! :) 

Offline SociolinguiniBlog

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 8
Re: SFL analysis
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2017, 02:51:09 AM »
Good morning,

I have a follow up question to my previous post. This time, it's about themes. In clause 1.1, what is which? is it a textual theme?
Our Woodland eggs are laid by hens (1.1)[which are free [to roam]]

Thanks you!