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Text Analysis with Systemic Functional Grammar Framework Explicatory Essay


Text for Analysis

Susan: Why don’t you want to go there with me, Teddy?

Theodore: Well… You see… Sue, I’m not really sure that I should. Besides, you are a smart girl and can do that on your own.

Susan: But… I thought we were going to the Jarreds’ together. And now… Now I do not want to go either.

Susan: Maybe I should call them and tell that we fell ill and this can be influenza?!

Theodore: Don’t, honey. They are waiting for you! And I…

Susan: You have to come with me! You are my boyfriend and I want my friends to know that and accept my decision.

Theodore: But, Sue… They don’t like me and we both know it. One doesn’t need to be a genius to know that. Look at yourself and look at me: We are from different galaxies and all your friends think so too. Did you ever notice how your friends look at me when I stand aside? No? And I did… And I didn’t like that at all. At all! Maybe you can be more successful if you find someone who fits you perfectly…?

Susan: Someone from the same galaxy? Don’t be ridiculous, Ted! I do not want to find a perfect match and don’t want to be judged by my friends. I like you and want to be with you. Isn’t that enough?

Theodore: Yes… Well, no… I don’t know what you mean. I think that you could just go without me to that stupid party…

Susan: So, now you think it stupid! Hah! I thought so. You don’t want to meet with my friends and do not try to make them like you. You just sit and moan, walk and moan, lie and moan.

What do you want me to do? Maybe I should have told them to like you, shouldn’t I? Of course! I should have taken you there and told them to be nice with you. But you are not a little boy and should take care of yourself. (She went out and slammed the door).

The Genre and the Cultural Context Variables

As the text is a composed one, it can be characterised in accordance with genre peculiarities as a fiction romantic novel (Eggins, 2004, p.56) where two main characters are involved in a dialogue. Besides, this can be treated as a dialogue between two people who have a romantic affair. It is obvious from the context that they are of different social status or have unequal background.

Munro (2008) explores researches by Halliday and other prominent linguists of the era concerning the concept of linguistics and of grammar in particular. In this respect, Halliday (2002) suggested a complicated analysis of grammar related to semiotics hence developing research on multi-functional nature and structure of language. Thus, the cultural peculiarities of the text under analysis cannot be defined.

However, the basic information can be retrieved from this text. For instance, the dialogue takes place between two people of different genders and none of them tries to take the role of another; a man and a woman have some differences in social position and do not have great difference in age.

The target readers of this passage are adults and young adults as the conversation in the text takes place between two adults. Men as well as women can be target readers of this text because it is only a passage. So, it can be a part of another text with another context.

Thus, it can be a dialogue retrieved from a romance novel or romance detective story. At the same time, this can be a kind of lyrical digression in a story aimed at male reading audience. The text does not propagate any ideological ideas or concepts. The basic idea in this excerpt concerns the relationships between men and women and complexity in understanding each other.

The text enlarges on ideas and beliefs of people and their expectations of relationships with other members of the same community. The words like ‘stupid’ mentioned by the male character concerning the party can be considered as those assessing the category of people to which his girlfriend belongs.

Table 1. Semantic choices illustrating beliefs and values

Susan Theodore
inability to make sound decisions:
  • I do not want to go either;
  • call them and tell that we fell ill and this can be influenza;

want my friends to…accept my decision;

  • wants everything to be done as she wants
    have to come with me;
  • I thought we were going to the Jarreds’ together
  • Don’t be ridiculous;
  • So, now you think it stupid! Hah! I thought so!

is not ready to compromise but wants to have everything

  • I like you and want to be with you. Isn’t that enough?
  • You don’t want to meet with my friends;
  • [You] do not try to make them like you.
  • I should have told them to like you
lack of self confidence
  • Well… You see…;
  • I’m not really sure;
  • And I…;
  • But, Sue…;
  • They don’t like me;
  • i didn’t like that;
  • Yes… Well, no… I don’t know;

opposes her position and the one of his own

  • you are a smart girl;
  • Look at yourself and look at me;
  • We are from different galaxies;
  • [you] can do that on your own;
  • you can be more successful;
  • you find someone who fits you perfectly

thinks that everyone understands his problems and waits for sympathy

  • all your friends think so too
  • They are waiting for you
  • and we both know it;
  • Did you ever notice;
  • I think that you could just go without me

Description of Experiential Meanings

The most verbs are used in the function of material, behavioural, and identifying meaning hence signalling about the material nature of the conversation. There are many negations in the text that identify the inability of two people to compromise and find a sound decision.

Thus, excessive use of “want” and “should” with and without a negative particle meaning that the problems concerns expectations, ability, necessity, and desire to make some actions. The following table introduces this situation:

Table 2. Experiential meanings: Identification of processes

MATERIAL BEHAVIORAL MENTAL VERBAL RELATIONAL
Identifying attributive
Go
See
Call
Are waiting
Accept
Loot
Look
Did… notice
Look
Stand
Find
Fits
find
Be judged
Do not try
Make them like
Sit
Walk
Lie
Have taken
Take care
Went
slammed
Want
Were going
Do not want
Want
Don’t like
Didn’t like
Do not want
Don’t want
Like
Want to be
Don’t want
Do…want
thought
know
know
think
don’t know
thought
Tell
Moan
Moan
Moan
Should have told
Told
should
can
do
Don’t
should
have to come
doesn’t need
are
did
can be successful
be
do
shouldn’t
should
should
am not sure
are a girl
can be influenza
fell ill
are my boyfriend
be a genius
don’t be ridiculous
isn’t enough
be nice
are not a boy

Description of Interpersonal Meanings, Power Relations, and Modality

The identification of participants appears to influence largely on the identification of discourse. In this respect, the main topics of concern of participants are her friends and his unwillingness to compromise.

In this respect, it is possible to suggests that this is a couple of people who are not married and who try to build their relations. There are many aspects and hidden conflicts that interfere with their feelings and true emotions.

Table 3: Participants

MATERIAL PROCESS MENTAL PROCESS
actor goal/range/beneficiary senser phenomenon
Go

Call

Tell

Are waiting

Accept

Look

Look

Did… notice

Look

I stand

Find

Fits

find

Be judged

Do not try

Make them like

Sit

Walk

Lie

Have taken

Take care

Went

slammed

There with me

Them (to tell)

That we fell ill

For you (to come)

My decision

At yourself

At me

How your friends look…

At me

Aside

find someone who fits

you perfectly

a perfect match

by my friends

to make them like you

you

and moan

and moan

and moan

you there

of yourself

out

the door

thought

know

know

think

don’t know

think

thought

going to the Jarreds’ together

that you are my boyfriend

that they don’t like me

so too

what you mean

that you could go without me so

BEHAVIORAL
behaver phenomenon
Want

Were going

Do not want

Want

Don’t like

Didn’t like

Do not want

Don’t want

Like

Want to be

Don’t want

Do…want

To go there

To the Jarreds’

To go either

My friends to know

Me

(the way they stared)

To find a match

To be judged

You

With you

To meet

Me to do

VERBAL PROCESS RELATIONAL PROCESS
sayer verbiage receiver Id fd / carr. Id fr / attr
Tell

Moan

Moan

Moan

 

Should have told

 

 

Told

 

Influenza

}protest

Imperative (to make them like him)

To be nice with her boyfriend

Them

His girlfriend

 

 

 

Them (friends)

 

 

Them (her friends)

should

can

do

Don’t

should

have to come

doesn’t need

are

did

can be successful

be

do

shouldn’t

should

should

am not sure

are a girl

can be influenza

fell ill

are my boyfriend

be a genius

don’t be ridiculous

isn’t enough

be nice

are not a boy

 

The text is based on interrogative and negative forms to emphasise the importance of the conflict and frequency of using mutual reproaches in the conversation. Both participants of the dialogue use incomplete sentences but the male character uses those incomplete sentences more often than the female signalling about shifted roles and her dominance on their couple.

Description of Textual Meanings and Textual Coherence

The clauses are not always organised in the way when a ‘theme’ occurs in the initial position as there are functional words in the initial position whereas a certain meaning is attributed to the initial position of a clause in a sentence. Thus, Rose (2001 as cited in Mushin & Baker, p. 34) suggests that the ‘theme’ refers to “this is what I’m talking about” while the ‘rheme’ is treated as “this is what I’m saying about it”.

The use of various types of grammar is emphasised in the study by O’Halloran (2011, p.19) where the author analyses the political debates.

Any type of conversation where more than one person is enrolled requires more complicated grammar. In this respect, the text under analysis can be characterized with the help of systemic functional grammar framework. Fawcett (2000) suggests a few principles of treating the theory of systemic grammar with a branch of syntax.

The textual interactivity of the text is very high as both characters use hesitators, pauses, and repetitions. For instance, ‘Well… You see…’, ‘And now… Now I do not want to go either’, ‘And i didn’t like that at all. At all!’, ‘Yes… Well, no… I don’t know what you mean’. Spontaneity of the text is obvious as there are many phrases with irregular structure and those where a nominal group is absent.

Even those phrases that should have been built in accordance with coordination of sentences were separated to make the text more emotionally coloured and make those pauses more meaningful. The text is coherent because it has a beginning, a climax, and a dénouement. All facts are presented in a clear way and explained by characters with the help of introduction of a conflict and mutual reproaches.

Classroom Applicability of This Text

The text can be used in the class for analysis because it has different grammatical forms, means of expression, and stylistic devices. Before introducing this text for analysis in classroom, it is necessary to discuss different situations that can occur between people that have various relationships.

It would be great to provide students with examples of situations and ask them to characterise the mood of each situation. For instance, even positive lexical units can be used in the situation marked with negative mood and vice versa. In this respect, lesson objectives and tasks can be the following:

  1. Read the text and assess the situation given. Try to give constructive feedback on the content of the text. Critically evaluate the actions and cues of characters;
  2. Analyse the characters and relations between them. Identify the level of intimacy between characters and their social distance (implicitly or explicitly shown in the text). Evaluate the usage of the words with positive and negative connotation and identify the effect produced by non-typical use of words with certain connotation;
  3. Identify the mood of the text (the whole text if the mood did not change in the course of the story or mood of each part if the mood changed in the story);
  4. Mark contacted forms and explain their meaning. Trace those cases when a contacted form is used in the same phrase as the full one. Explain such use of contracted forms and effects produced with the help of this technique. Assess the frequency of using short and full forms and emotional colouring of those cases.

Reference List

Eggins, S. (2004). An introduction to systemic functional linguistics. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Fawcett, R. P. (2000). A theory of syntax for systemic functional linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Halliday, M. A. K. (2002). On grammar. London: Continuum.

Munro, R. A. (2008). Probabilistic representation of systemic functional grammar. London: Endangered Languages Archive Department of Linguistics School of Oriental and African Studies University of London.

Mushin, I. & Baker, B. J. (2008). Discourse and grammar in Australian languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

O’Halloran, K. L. (in press 2011). . In K. Hyland and B. Paltridge (eds.). Companion to Discourse. London and New York: Continuum. Web.

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