Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Institutional Texts and the Processes of Meaning Making

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Institutional Texts and the Processes of Meaning Making

Article excerpt

Abstract

Much research has been devoted to the development of analytical systems for linking different parts of texts for the purpose of determining meaning. This article introduces a referencing system meant for analysing institutional policy texts. The referencing system makes it practical to link clauses and sentences with paragraphs and policy objectives with multiple activities of institutional documents under analysis. Based on a hierarchical numbering order, the referencing system revolves around the analytical principles of Halliday's Functional Grammar. Using policy sentences of the International Monetary Fund and Ghana in their relationship, the paper demonstrates how meanings can be determined from institutional policy texts without a reference to institutional authors. Without undermining the contributions of institutional authors to the formulation of institutional policy texts, the paper questions their role in meaning making and refers to institutional authors as "scriptors" of institutional texts.

Keywords: functional meaning, hierarchical numbering order, institutional authors, institutional text, linking text, scriptors, text

1. Introduction

This paper is rooted in aspects of my doctoral research. Faced with the task of the determination of meanings from policy texts with institutional authors, I turned to functional grammar. Functional grammar provided an excellent methodological base. Functional grammar makes it possible to determine the functions of words, phrases and clauses as they appear in policy documents. However, when it became necessary to analytically link clauses and sentences with paragraphs and policy objectives with multiple activities from institutional authors like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the notion of reference in functional grammar and the concept of intertextuality provided little assistance. Hence, this developed referencing system based on a hierarchical numbering order.

The debate as to where and how meanings from an institutional text should be determined is an old and ongoing one, with the formal or functional processes assuming prominence depending on the analysts. The use of both the formal and functional methods is sometimes encouraged. Interpretive methods and procedures have developed around Speech Act Theory (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969, 1979), Deconstruction (Derrida, 1974), Content Analysis (Weber, 1990; Krippendorff, 1980) and Chomsky's Transformational-Generative (Thompson, 2004). Regardless of the adopted method, the role of authors in the meaning making process remains contested.

Even more controversial is the contributions of institutional authors in providing interpretation to their authored texts. As institutions, the World Bank, local planning authorities and sovereign states have authored and continue to author policy texts. Institutions are authors. Several issues arise when attempting to find meaning from institutionally authored documents, particularly when trying to establish where questions of interpretation should be directed. Although institutions are like humans in that they can claim existence, they can be addressed and spoken of, it is argued that institutional authors do not exist as human authors. When faced with the task of the determination of meaning from institutionally authored texts, policy analysts find themselves dealing directly with the objectives, activities, clauses and sentences of policy texts and documents. The process of determining meaning from institutionally authored texts is a complex one, not least when trying to analytically link objectives with multiple activities and phrases, clauses and sentences of policy documents.

This article introduces a referencing system that makes the linkages of phrases, clauses, sentences, objectives and activities practical when analysing policy texts. The referencing system is introduced in section four. The article begins with a detailed analysis of text and institutionally authored documents. …

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