Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Systemic Functional Linguistics as Interpersonal Semantics: Appraisal and Attitude in the Stylistic Analysis of an English Novel

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Systemic Functional Linguistics as Interpersonal Semantics: Appraisal and Attitude in the Stylistic Analysis of an English Novel

Article excerpt


Subsumed under Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) that emphasizes functionality of language in social contexts, Appraisal is a recent theoretical framework that extends the interpersonal dialogistic semantics dimension of SFL into interesting elaboration. This system, in turn, has three subsystems, one of which is Attitude which is geared to justifying and explaining the processes through which writers and speakers communicate their evaluations towards individuals, material objects and phenomena, or even their own emotions. Since Appraisal has evolved in recent years, studies have often been concerned with introducing the framework, and extensive attention could obviously not have been paid to tapping into the practical, and equally, enormous use of this system in illuminating and insightful discourse analysis. This study is a small step in such a direction. The selected corpus for this research was "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the whole novel was analyzed discursively, linguistically, and stylistically through one of the subsystems of Appraisal, namely Attitude. Two research questions at the macro level were concerned with the analysis of the whole text (the whole novel) employing Attitude. Two other research questions at the micro level were concerned with the analysis of the discourse of each of the main discourse producers (main characters of the novel) when employing Attitude. The data that included frequencies and percentages of each of the Attitudinal modes were used to answer and discuss the four research questions. It was found that Attitude was deployed in the expected order of Appreciation, Judgment, Affect, and also that Attitude was stylistically indicative of and worked in line with character and context within the novel in question. Finally, the role of this research in paving the way for prospective further studies was presented concisely.

Keywords: Systemic Functional Linguistics, Appraisal, Attitude, Appreciation, Judgment, Affect

1. Introduction and the Framework

Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), the substantive father discipline to which the Appraisal framework belongs and out of which it has evolved, favors the possibility of a more profound exposition of linguistic phenomena in the light of references to the functional demands put upon language by its users plus social functions performed by language in social contexts. The social metafunctions according to Systemic Functional Linguistics are attributable to three broad categories. Through the "ideational" metafunction, language reflects totality of experiences. The "interpersonal" metafunction fashions social roles and relationships, and the "textual" metafunction molds both internal and contextual coherence of texts.

Emerging within the zone of the "interpersonal" social metafunction of language in Systemic Functional Linguistics, Appraisal is a framework for investigating the mechanisms language employs in the evaluation and adaptation of stances adopted by discourse producers. It was driven in its early days by work in the field of educational linguistics and the development of Australia's genre-based literacy programs. It is important to know that the medium for the realization of Appraisal is mainly lexical rather than grammatical, although the significant role grammatical structures play in such realization is unchallengeable. Appraisal enquires into how discursive productions of writers and speakers are a reflection of the way they pass judgment on other people, events, material objects, and in general, the way they see the world. Appraisal is the language of evaluation composed of three focal simultaneous subsystems each of which consists of subcategories of their own: Attitude, Engagement and Graduation.

Attitude negotiates the manner in which attitudes are explicated and demonstrated in English texts. Attitude in turn, is the crux of three semantic regions traditionally pointed out as emotion, ethics and aesthetics, also respectively known as Affect, Judgment and Appreciation (Martin & White, 2005; White, 2011):

* Affect is concerned with the manifestation of the emotions brought alive to the speaker or the writer mainly by an external agent other than the speaker or writer himself/herself. …

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