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Systemic Functional Grammar Essay

Systemic functional grammar (SFG) is a form of grammatical description originated by Michael Halliday. Michael Halliday (born 13 April 1925) is a British linguist who developed the internationally influential systemic functional linguistic model of language. His grammatical descriptions go by the name of systemic functional grammar (SFG). Halliday describes language as a semiotic system, “not in the sense of a system of signs, but a systemic resource for meaning”. For Halliday, language is a “meaning potential”; by extension, he defines linguistics as the study of “how people exchange meanings by ‘languaging'”. Halliday describes himself as a generalist, meaning that he has tried “to look at language from every possible vantage point”, and has described his work as “wander[ing] the highways and byways of language”. However, he has claimed that “to the extent that I favoured any one angle, it was the social: language as the creature and creator of human society”.

Systematic functional grammar (SFG) is part of a social semiotic approach to language called systemic functional linguistics. In these two terms, systemic refers to the view of language as “a network of systems, or interrelated sets of options for making meaning”; functional refers to Halliday’s view that language is as it is because of what it has evolved to do (see Metafunction). Thus, what he refers to as the multidimensional architecture of language “reflects the multidimensional nature of human experience and interpersonal relations.”

According to Halliday (1985), there are three major functions of Language, namely: the ideational, the textual, and the interpersonal. The ideational function is the use of language to express content and to communicate information. Where content is the focus, the emphasis will be on transferring information clearly and effectively so that it can be comprehended quickly and easily. The ideational function involves two main systems, namely: transitivity and ergativity.

The other two functions of language are the textual and the interpersonal. The textual function is the use of language to signify discourse. Here, language becomes text, is related to itself and to its contexts of use, including the preceding and following text, and the context of situation. The textual can be classified into two structures, namely: thematic structure (theme and rheme) and Information structure (NEW and GIVEN). The interpersonal function is the use of language to establish and maintain social relations. This function involves modalities so that it is related to modus system. The system is signified by two main elements, namely: mood and residue.

In this paper, however the writers will analyze about the transitivity, so only about the transitivity that can be explained more detail. Traditionally, transitivity is normally understood as the grammatical feature, which indicates if a verb takes a direct object; and we know some of the terms: a. If the verb takes a direct object, then it is described as transitive, and b. It is called intransitive if it does not; c. An extension of this concept is the ditransitive verb, which takes both a direct and an indirect object..

Halliday, however, found the new concept of transitivity. The new concept represents a further development of the old concept. In Halliday’s conception in his Introduction to Functional Grammar, whether a verb takes or does not take a direct object is not a prime consideration. There are three components of what Halliday calls a “transitivity process”, namely: a. The process itself, b. Participants in the process; c. Circumstances associated with the process Then, Halliday divides the system of transitivity or process types into six processes, namely: material, mental, relational, behavioral, verbal, and existential.

One distinct aspect of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) is the analysis of clauses in terms of process types. According to the theory, the grammar provides a number of schemas for packaging information into a clause. For instance, material clauses consist of an Actor, a Process and a Goal, while mental clauses contain a Sensor, a Process and a Phenomenon. Each of these schemas corresponds to a process type.

Normally, six process types are identified: material, behavioural, verbal, mental, relational and existential. Process type analysis was first described in Halliday (1976), which stemmed from Halliday’s attempt to develop the kind of grammar, which would support teachers in teaching language. A fuller, more evolved description was given in Introduction to Functional Grammar (Halliday 1985, henceforth IFG), and its two later editions. However, these texts proved too technical for beginners, and easier introductions were introduced.

According to Halliday (1985), if we talk about grammar in English, there are three kinds of grammar, namely: ‘theme is the grammar of discourse’, and ‘mood is the grammar of speech function’, then ‘transitivity is the grammar of experience.’ Halliday (1981) also defines transitivity as ‘the grammar of the clause’ as ‘a structural unit’ for ‘expressing a particular range of ideational meanings’. In the transitivity system, there are six types of process, namely: material, mental, relational, verbal, existential, and behavioral.


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