Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Stylistic Analysis of "Xuma" and "Leah" in Peter Abraham's Mine Boy: A Verbal Transitivity Process

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Stylistic Analysis of "Xuma" and "Leah" in Peter Abraham's Mine Boy: A Verbal Transitivity Process

Article excerpt


This study is an application of Michael Halliday's Transitivity theory in the depiction and portrayal of personality. The paper confined itself to the verbal transitivity process of two main characters- Xuma and Leah- of Peter Abraham's "Mine Boy'. The findings hope to reveal the fact that the words given to characters reveal a lot of who they are (as replica of human beings) and that the transitivity analysis of their verbiages and interactive nature of the receivers and targets of their verbiages are very telling of their epistemic, emotive and social nature.

The essay consists of six sections. Section one is a brief introduction about linguistic analysis within the framework of social and functional construction of meanings to reveal speakers' personality. The second section is review of literature in which stylistic analyses have been carried out with transitivity theoretical framework as a guide. The third is the transitivity theoretical framework for this study as presented by various scholars. The fourth section is a brief account of Peter Abraham's "Mine Boy" by different reviewers while section five is presentation of the findings featuring analysis of the verbal processes of Xuma and Leah. The sixth and last section is a conclusion to the study.

Keywords: Language, Transitivity, Process, Verbal, Sayer, Verbiage, Receiver, Traget

1. Introduction

Stylistic analysis is concerned with the uniqueness of a text for delivering the message. To arrive at the linguistic features of this variety of language, there are various linguistic options or approaches that could be explored. These include the Text linguistic approach, Discourse Analysis, General and Linguistic Stylistic approaches and so on. It is in this respect that Crystal and Davy (1969) stress that stylistics aims at "analyzing language habits with a view to identifying, from the general mass of linguistic, features common to English as used on every conceivable occasion. For Halliday (1985) language is a semiotic system, that is, a "meaning potential", which are of three sorts, and every utterance encodes meaning on three levels: ideational, interpersonal and textual. These broad types of meaning are in fact called "metafunctions", used by speakers use a) to represent experience, b) to achieve interpersonal goals, and c) to structure information as efficiently and effectively as possible. Thus for Halliday "meaning" means "function", more specifically, "function in context". The kinds of meaning we communicate can be overt, as in the words we use and what we say, or covert, in that the structures we employ indirectly also convey more abstract kinds of meaning.

Our major focus is largely on ideational meta-function where language serves for the expression of content, i.e. of the speaker's experience of the real world, including the inner world of our own consciousness (Webster, 2002:174). Additionally, this meta-function is concerned with communication and interlinking of ideas and may itself be broken into the experiential and logical functions (Morley, 2000). The former is focused on relating experiences whereas the latter is on describing experiences.

This experiential function is manifested by transitivity system. The main argument of the transitivity system is that the experiences we go through in life consist of "goings-on' - happening, doing, sensing, meaning, being and becoming' (Eggins, 1994:106), which are shared by people through clauses that constitute language they use to communicate. In the Original Hallidayan (1975) simplified system shown in Figure 1 below for transitivity (categories of experience), three semantic options are available: material ("doing'), mental ("sensing') or relational ("relating').

Later on other three processes were added: verbal, behavioral and existential so that we now have six processes. In other words, as attested by Stewart and Vaillette (2001), people can perform acts by using language. …

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