47th International Systemic Functional Congress (ISFC 47)

18th China National Conference on Discourse Analysis (CNCDA 18)

Speakers and   Plenary Papers

(In Alphabetic Order of Family Names)




University of Bremen, Germany


Challenges in Multimodality Research and the Need to Reconnect Theory, Empiricism and Practice

Research into multimodal artefacts and performances has long drawn on input from systemic-functional linguistics and several of the currently most established areas of multimodality studies exhibit a strong systemic-functional and social semiotic orientation. Expanding the targets of investigation to include objects as varied as face-to-face interaction, office buildings, films or websites is not, however, without difficulty. Whereas well developed methodologies are pursued within systemic-functional approaches to language in order to ensure close interactions between the development of linguistic theory, linguistic description, and the demands of appliability, such methodologies continue to have only a restricted influence on systemic-functional and social semiotic multimodality research. In this talk, I characterise some of the challenges raised in our ongoing work on multimodality and show how a far more explicit orientation to usable methodologies is essential for bringing the complexity encountered under control. In an important sense, this requires going `back to basics' concerning how any objects of analysis are to be made accessible to analysis in the first place. To help in this discussion, the talk will explore how notions from Legitimation Code Theory on the relation between `internal languages' of theory and external `languages of description' can help illuminate problems in conducting practical multimodality research as well. This analysis will be used to design a robust methodology for multimodality research that insists on a far closer orientation to empirical data, while also not compromising multimodality's aims of engaging with ever broader cases of meaning-making practices. The discussion will then be used to reflect more generally on the relations between theory, practice and empirical investigations necessary for effective theory development.


Keywords: empirical cycle, complex data, multimodality, corpus methods, theoretical methods, Legitimation Code Theory


John Bateman received his PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh in 1986 and has worked since then in Japan, California, Germany and the UK specializing in functional, computational and multimodal linguistics. Since 1999, he has been a full Professor of Applied Linguistics in the English and Linguistics Departments of the University of Bremen, researching and teaching in the areas of functional linguistic approaches to multilingual and multimodal document design, multimodal semiotics, situated human-machine dialogue systems, natural language generation and analysis, and formal ontology. He has published widely in all these areas, including several introductory and survey articles on natural language generation, systemic-functional linguistics and, most recently, the theory and practice of multimodality research. In 2017, together with co-authors Janina Wildfeuer and Tuomo Hiippala, he produced a foundational introduction to the theory and practice of multimodality research.



David Butt

Macquarie University, Australia


Semantic Cycles: from context to lexicogrammar, and back again. 

David G. Butt (Hon.) Linguistics, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Macquarie University


Systemic Functional Linguistics and a number of congruent theories suggest that the meanings of a cultural group can be best described by the co-interpretation of 4 kinds of statement: statements of context; of semantics; of lexicogrammar; and, ultimately, of realization in phonological, graphological or other expressive substance. An account of meaning depends, in particular, on the realization statements between context, semantics, and lexicogrammar. While each of these levels can be economically described by Halliday’s system networks, nevertheless special conditions pertain to the development of the network ‘picture’ at each stratum.

There exists a wide variety of approaches as to what semantics needs to encompass – from rhetoric to folklore to formal logic and speech acts. Existing proposals are also notable for their diversity of ‘scale’ – from genre/language‘game’ to text to trope to act to semantic feature or even semantic prime (viz. in a semantic atomism). Accordingly, many linguistic theorists have sought to justify their categories with assumptions concerning evidence from theories concerning: human cognition (hence binomials like cognitive grammar and cognitive stylistics); natural categories (eg. of space, time, and causation); intention and affect (eg. speech acts, according to Searle); and ‘natural’ kinds (+/- animate; +/- male (!)).    

In Systemic Functional Theory, there are a number of proposals for linguistic semantics, each of which resonates with J.R.Firth’s notion that linguistics was just natural language “turned back on itself” (1962 [1957]). He combined this view with the dictum that one should look back at one’s language from the perspective of a typologically distant language, and that one should adopt a positively ‘ad hoc’ method. The emphasis in SFL has been on: 1) making explicit the differences of meaning within a specific language; 2) ordering the differences in degrees of delicacy, and with the possibility of defending a rank scale; and 3) relating the differences to generic or other social parameters (ie. respectively, to register: the variation in semantic resources in the activity; or to code: semantic variation in the users).

I set out from a brief survey of 6 distinctive (but complementary) perspectives on semantics from leading functional linguists. My emphasis is on what practical opportunities the proposals provide in the task of text descriptions, that is in moving between context and lexicogrammar and back again. Then, with a description of semantic cycles, I illustrate a pragmatic approach to semantics that combines networks with the emergence of a rank scale. The latter is based on the often utilised terminologies of European ways of “turning language back” to describe itself (for instance, from the long histories of rhetoric, narratology, philosophy, and linguistics, and translation studies).

In this way, I wish to suggest a useful tool, alongside those previously cited, and to illustrate the reasoning behind Firth’s often misunderstood utterances on linguistic “meaning.” As urged by Hasan (p.c.), explanations of meaning always end in a “pattern of life”- and so they are technically “ineffable” (Firth 1962[1957]; Halliday 2002 [1988]). This is not because the explanations refer to mysterious categories outside the actual manifestations of living, but quite simply because they cannot be assumed to apply beyond the conditions of the living that created them.  No language has ‘the last word’ on the terms of metalinguistic description, whether they be terms like tense, aspect, mood, accusative, etc. or greeting, excursus, parable, analogy, syllogism… and so on. The crucial issue is to bring a useful order to the plethora of potential discriminations that the linguist needs in analysing discourse.



Firth, J.R. (1962 [1957]). A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930-1955. In Studies in Linguistic Analysis, pp. 1-32. Oxford: Philological Society.

Halliday, M. A. K. (2002 [1988]). On the Ineffability of Grammatical Categories. In J. Webster (Ed.), Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday Vol.1 On Grammar. pp. 291-322. London and New York: Continuum.


Dr. David Butt, Associate Professor (Hon.) of linguistics at the Faculty of Medicine, Health, and Human Sciences, Macquarie University. Early in his training, Dr David Butt won a scholarship to study with Professor Ruqaiya Hasan at Macquarie University, who, along with Professor Michael Halliday of Sydney University, mentored him in Systemic Functional Linguistics and in various related sub disciplines of linguistics over decades (even as collaborators, friends, and neighbours, until the death of Professor Hasan in 2015 and of Professor Halliday in 2018). The research of Dr. Butt has encompassed analyses of educational, surgical, oncological, psychiatric, scientific, military, and literary text. He has been involved in many funded projects and has been the chief researcher on Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council funded investigations. His teaching and doctoral supervision has been with the large Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Sydney, although he also taught for 3 years at the National University of Singapore (1985-88), and has given invited short courses and plenary talks at major universities, for instance in Canada, the UK, India, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and universities across Australia. He has supervised c.50 candidates to completion of doctoral degrees, many of whom have gone on to be Chair Professors in Australia and overseas. For more than 10 years he was Director of Macquarie’s Centre for Language in Social life; and this role involved collaboration with over 150 researchers from different professional fields.




University of Wollongong, Australia


From the personal and private to the community and public – using SFL to improve the lives of people with severe intellectual disability

This paper takes seriously Halliday’s idea of linguistic theory as “something to be applied, to real problems either in research or in some domain of practice”, by reporting on my use of SFL to attempt to improve the lives of people with severe intellectual disability. It focuses on three different aspects of my work in this area, beginning with the personal and private, then moving on to the communal and public.

While it is largely difficult to generalise the numbers and status of people with an intellectual disability across the world, in Australia there are around 668,100 Australians (2.9% of the national population) living with some kind of intellectual disability (ABS 2012), and approximately 61% of these are in the severe range (AIHW 2008), with almost 60% having severe communication impairments. People with severe intellectual disability (SID) are defined here as sometimes or always requiring personal assistance or supervision with self-care, mobility or communication (AIHW 2008).

As a mother of a young man (now 25) with SID, who is also functionally nonverbal, I have used SFL to describe his nonverbal communication system and develop a unique model of communication in order to improve his life (see Dreyfus 2013a & b, 2011 & 2008). This work has then been turned into a training package that is used to educate the people who work with him, so they are better able to understand his nonverbal communication, thereby preventing him from the need to resort to challenging behaviour to communicate. The second aspect concerns the way I have used SFL to understand and produce the written discourse required to successfully lobby governments for change within the disability sector, for example, regarding staffing levels in institutional care, and regarding attaining housing for my son and others like him (Dreyfus in prep). The third aspect concerns building on my work on the nonverbal communication of people with SID to develop a suite of nonverbal communication methodologies which have been used to try to ascertain the opinions of a group of young adults with intellectual disability who are functionally nonverbal about a playground that is being built specifically with their needs in mind.

The significance of this work lies in the application of SFL to the nonverbal multimodal communication of people with SID, a unique site of both research and practice. It uses SFL to try to improve the lives of this most disadvantaged group and give them a voice where their voices are often missing.


Keywords: SFL, intellectual disability, nonverbal communication, social activism, discourse analysis, Communication disorder, challenging behaviour, affiliation, bonding, persuasion



AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2008) Disability in Australia: Intellectual Disability. Bulletin no. 67. Cat. no. AUS 110. Canberra: AIHW. 


Dreyfus, S. (2013a) ‘Life’s a bond: a framework for the communication of a non-verbal intellectually disabled teenager’. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders. London: Equinox. (4)2, p249-271.

Dreyfus, S. (2013b) ‘Locating and Affiliating:  A framework for understanding the non-verbal multimodal communication of a young man with complex communication needs’. AGOSCI in Focus, June, Issue 35 v1, p13-17.

Dreyfus, S. (2011) ‘Grappling with a non-speech language: describing and theorising the nonverbal multimodal communication of a child with an intellectual disability’, in S. Dreyfus, S. Hood & M. Stenglin (eds) Semiotic Margins: meaning in multimodalities. London: Continuum.

Dreyfus, S. (2008) A systemic functional approach to misunderstandings. Bridging Discourses: Online Proceedings of the Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association conference, July 2007, University of Wollongong.

Dreyfus, S. (in prep) On what basis was the decision made? A discourse analysis of successful letters to government for enacting change in the disability sector.

Roulstone, A. & Barnes., C. eds. (2005) Working futures? Disabled people, policy and social inclusion. Bristol: Policy Press.

World Health Organisation (2011) World Report on Disability. WHO: Geneva. https://www.unicef.org/protection/World_report_on_disability_eng.pdf

Peckham NG. The vulnerability and sexual abuse of people with learning disabilities. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2007,35:131-137. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3156.2006.00428.x


Shoshana Dreyfus is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She specialises in systemic functional linguistics, discourse analysis and academic literacy, and has over 20 years research and teaching experience in functional and applied linguistics. She has an additional background in education, in particular literacy education. Her research focuses on non-verbal communication and language disorder in intellectual disability; families who have a family member with disability; discipline-specific academic literacy; as well as developments in systemic functional linguistic theory and discourse semantics. She also regularly speaks on ABC radio about language and linguistics and advocates for the rights of people living with severe intellectual disabilities.




Cardiff University, United Kingdom


Lexis beyond rank

Meaning-driven theories of language, such as systemic functional linguistics (SFL), but also Meaning-Text Theory (Mel'čuk, 1997), naturally prioritise meaning, which necessarily leads to a speaker orientation where meaning is primary. When we are confronted with language in use, we first meet structure or form.  As argued elsewhere (Fontaine 2017a, b), the place of lexis within the framework remains somewhat abstract. Halliday & Matthiessen (2014, p. 23) explain that “structure is an essential part of the description; but it is interpreted as the outward form taken by systemic choices, not as the defining characteristic of language. A language is a resource for making meaning, and meaning resides in systemic patterns of choice.” At the lexical level, the nature of meaning is less clear.  

Lexis and word are distinct within the SFL framework, where ‘word’ is a unit of rank in the rank scale and ‘lexis’ is formal, viewed on a continuum in the delicacy dimension at one end in contrast to grammar at the other (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014).  When we think of word meaning, we are referring to lexis and not the word unit rank (see Fontaine & Schönthal 2019). We may wish to ask whether SFL should be concerned with lexical meaning. According to Mel’čuk & Polguère (2018, p. 417), we should: “linguistic theory should provide a rigorous methodology for defining word meanings if it aims at extensiveness (coverage of both lexical and grammatical knowledge), applicability and usefulness”.  As we might expect, these meanings are not static, ontological objects, and should be “construed as abstractions over clusters of word usages” (Kilgarriff, 1997, p.108). 

A focus on lexical form will provide us with empirical evidence from which we can form abstractions, but we need a way of integrating this kind of meaning into the framework. Speakers “necessarily associate each word with a network of paradigmatic and syntagmatic connections that conditions a specific sense” (Polguère 2015). This perspective seems compatible with Halliday’s early views on lexis (e.g. 1961, 1966).  The SFL concept of ‘meaning potential’ can be developed, as proposed by Allwood (2003) and Fontaine (2017b), to develop a meaning-driven account of lexical semantics.  Given that ‘system’, as meaning potential, is an abstraction from instances, lexical meaning can also be seen as an abstraction from instances.  To achieve this abstraction, I will draw on the analysis of a dataset of corpus instances of a small selection of verbs.  By combining transitivity analysis with a corpus-based formal pattern analysis (Hanks 2004) and situation type analysis ( e.g. drawing on Vendler’s (1997) classes), we can evaluate the usefulness of this evidence for developing an account of lexical meaning potential.   



Allwood, J. 2003. Meaning potentials and context: Some consequences for the analysis of variation in meaning. In H. Cuyckens, R. Dirven and J. Taylor (eds.) Cognitive approaches to lexical semantics, Mouton De Gruyter, 29-66. 

Fontaine, L. 2017a. On Prepositions and Particles: A Case for Lexical Representation in Systemic Functional Linguistics. Word 63(2): 115–35. 

Fontaine, L. 2017b. Lexis as most local context: towards an SFL approach to lexicology. Functional Linguistics. 4: 17. 

Fontaine, L. & Schönthal, D. 2019. The rooms of the house: grammar at group rank. In G. Thompson, W. Bowcher, L. Fontaine & D. Schönthal (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. 

Halliday, M.A.K. 1961. Categories of the theory of grammar. WORD 17(2). 241–92. 

Halliday, M.A.K. 1966. Lexis as a linguistic level. In Bazell, C.E. et al. (eds), In memory of J.R. Firth. London: Longman. 

Halliday, M.A.K. and Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (2014) Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. 

Hanks, P. 2004. Corpus Pattern Analysis. In G. Williams and S. Vessier (eds.) Proceedings of the 11th Euralex International Congress. Lorient, France: UBS, pp. 87–98. 

Kilgarriff, A. 1997. I don’t believe in word senses. Computers and the Humanities 31 (2), 91-113. 

McDonald, E. 2017. Form and Function in Groups. In T. Bartlett and G. O’Grady (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Routledge. 251–66. 

Mel’čuk, I. 1997. Vers une linguistique Sens-Texte. Leçon inaugurale. Collège de France, Chaire internationale. 

Mel’čuk, I. & Polguère, A. 2018. Theory and Practice of Lexicographic Definition. Journal of Cognitive Science, 19(4),417-470 

Polguère A. 2015 Lexical Contextualism: The Abélard Syndrome. In N. Gala, R. Rapp & G. Bel-Enguix (eds.) Language Production, Cognition, and the Lexicon, Text, Speech and Language Technology 48, Springer, Cham Hei-delberg New York Dordrecht London, 53–73. 

Vendler, Z. 1967. Linguistics in philosophy. Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press. 


Lise Fontaine is a Reader at Cardiff University. She lectures mainly on functional grammar, word meaning, corpus linguistics, and psycholinguistics. Her research interests include functional grammar theory and, more specifically, the study of referring expressions. She is the author of Analysing English Grammar: A systemic-functional introduction (CUP, 2012). She has also co-edited the following volumes: Systemic Functional Linguistics: Exploring Choice (CUP, 2013); Choice in Language: Applications in Text Analysis (Equinox, 2013); Perspectives from Systemic Functional Linguistics: An Appliable Theory of Language (Routledge, 2018); The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 2nd ed. (OUP, 2018); The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (CUP, 2019) and Approaches to Systemic Functional Grammar: Convergence and Divergence (Equinox, 2020). Currently she is leading the NaMeD research project (Nominality and Meaning Directness), which includes contrastive work on the semantic representations in the noun-verb continuum.  In particular, she is interested in developing the concept of meaning potential in relation to lexis.  




Beijing Foreign Studies University, China


Extension of Systemic Functional Linguistics:

Eco-grammar for Ecological Discourse Analysis


As one main traditional paradigm of ecolinguistics, the “Halliday Model” originates from Halliday’s paper entitled “New ways of meaning: The challenge to applied linguistics” (1990). It studies how language and its use impact on environment. So far, there have been many ecolinguistic studies based on this model. Most of them are about ecological discourse analysis, aiming to reveal ecological orientations of various discourse, to arouse people’ awareness of what are beneficial, destructive and ambivalent discourse, and finally to improve their use of language for a better environment. Meanwhile, almost all of the studies are applications of different theories within the frameworks of systemic functional linguistics, cognitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, etc. to analysis of discourse concerning natural as well as social environment. As to the application of systemic functional linguistics to ecological discourse analysis, no systematic theoretical framework has been worked out yet. This study, therefore, is designed to present a more or less systematic framework of eco-grammar for ecological discourse analysis, which is developed out of systemic functional linguistics. It first of all introduces a general and feasible ecosophy — “diversity and harmony, interaction and co-existence”, and secondly extends the TRANSITIVITY system, the MOOD system, the MODALITY system, the APPRAISAL system, the THEME system and the LOGICAL system in different dimensions – all the extended systems shape the overall framework of eco-grammar. It is concluded that the development of this eco-grammar is a reflection of Halliday’s thought about language, i.e. “language is at the same time a part of reality, a shaper of reality, and a metaphor for reality.” (Halliday 1990/2007: 146)


Dr. HE Wei is Professor and Deputy Director of the National Research Centre for Foreign Language Education (MOE Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Universities), Beijing Foreign Studies University. She is author of nearly 200 publications (including articles, articles in collections, book chapters, monographs and textbooks) and 80 presentations. She has served as co-editor, column editor, associate editor, editorial advisory board member, or guest reviewer for over ten national and international journals, including Journal of World Languages, Journal of University of Science and Technology Beijing, Functional Linguistics, Language Sciences, Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Foreign Language Teaching and Research, Foreign Languages etc. Her areas of expertise include Systemic Functional Linguistics, Contrastive Linguistics, Ecolinguistics, Discourse Analysis and Translation Studies. She is particularly interested in exploring the interface between semantics and syntax from a functional point of view, and is especially keen on Ecological Discourse Analysis.




University of Southern Denmark, Denmark & University of New South Wales, Australia

The Human Touch: Power and Solidarity in Online Shopping

Markets, high streets and shopping centres have traditionally been hubs of human sociability, and in his classic paper on the language of buying and selling in North African markets, Mitchell (1957) still recognized the importance of diversity and ‘personality’ in understanding the interaction between buyers and sellers.  Later systemic-functional accounts of service encounters  (Hasan, 1987; Ventola, 1987) eliminated this element and fully focused on functionality and genericity, even though they analysed face to face interactions in corner shops, post offices and travel agencies, rather than, for instance, self-service situations.

Perhaps this echoes what happened, and is still happening, in actual buying and selling practices. In online shopping the seller is no longer physically present. Yet online shops make abundant use of interpersonal language in addressing their customers, mixing signifiers of power and solidarity, just as also happens in other forms of public communication, in which, as first identified by Brown and Gilman (1960), the rise of egalitarian and democratic ideologies has led to using the language of solidarity in contexts where in fact power differences remain.

Based on a research project titled The Digital Resemiotization of Buying and Selling Interaction (RESEMINA), conducted at the University of Southern Denmark, and funded by the Velux Foundation, this paper analyses the linguistic and multimodal interpersonal resources used by an online grocery shop and an online fashion shop in addressing their customers, looking at forms of address and conversational style as well as asking who can initiate conversational dyads, and who can utter which kinds of speech acts and multimodal acts.

It will end by discussing the question of ‘the human touch’ in contemporary social interaction, and proposing ways of re-integrating it in genre analysis.



Brown, R. and Gilman, A. (1960) The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity, in T. Sebeok, ed. Style in Language, pp. 253-276. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.  

Firth, R. (1964) On sociological linguistics. in D. Hymes, ed. Language in Culture and Society New York: Harper and Row, pp. 66-72    

Hasan, R. (1978) ‘Text in the systemic functional model’ in W. Dressler, ed. Current Trends in Text Linguistics. Berlin: De Gruyter  

Mitchell, T.F. (1975 [1957]) The language of buying and selling in Cyrenaica: A situational statement,. In T.F. Mitchell, ed.

Principles of Firthian Linguistics. London: Longman, pp. 167-200  Ventola, E. (1987) The Structure of Social Interaction – A Systemic Approach to the Semiotics of Service Encounters. London: Frances Pinter.


Keywords: Genre, Interpersonal metafunction, Online shopping, Power, Service Encounters, Solidarity


Dr. Theo van Leeuwen is Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark and Honorary Professor at Lancaster University, the University of New South Wales and the Catholic University of Australia. He has published widely in the areas of visual communication, multimodality, and critical discourse analysis and was a founding editor of the journals Social Semiotics and Visual Communication. Recent books include Visual and Multimodal Research in Organization and Management Studies (with Markus Höllerer and others), The Materiality of Writing (with Christian Johannessen), the 3rd revised edition of Reading Images – The Grammar of Visual Design (with Gunther Kress) and Multimodality and Identity.




University of Sydney, Australia

Construing entities: types of structure

Over the past couple of years, Yaegan Doran, Zhang Dongbing and I have had the pleasure of editing three special issues of Word devoted to the analysis of nominal groups across a range of languages (including Dagarre, Lhasa Tibetan, Khorchin Mongolian, Korean, Serbian, Brazilian Portuguese, Old English, Ancient Greek, Pitjantjatjara, Tagalog, Mandarin Chinese, and Sundanese. In this talk I address some issues arising from this work, focusing on types of structure. In particular I will look at SFG's traditional distinction between multivariate and univariate structures and their association with non-recursive and recursive systems respectively (Halliday 1981, 1979). With respect to nominal group structure I'll suggest that the association of multivariate structure with non-recursive systems and univariate structure with recursive systems needs to be relaxed. Doing so makes room for recognition of non-iterative dependency structures, which I'll refer to as subjacency duplexes (first foregrounded as duplexes in Rose's work on Pitjantjatjara; 2001) – a structure which can be usefully applied to the analysis of what are often fudged as 'structure markers' in SFG descriptions of nominal groups – and elsewhere (i.e. adpositions and linkers).



Halliday, M A K 1981 (1965) Types of Structure. M A K Halliday & J R Martin [Eds.] Readings in Systemic Linguistics. London:Batsford. 29-41.

Halliday, M A K 1979 Modes of meaning and modes of expression: types of grammatical structure, and their determination by different semantic functions. D J Allerton, E Carney, D Holcroft [Eds] Function and Context in Linguistics Analysis: essays offers to William Haas.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 57-79

Rose, D 2001 The Western Desert code: an Australian cryptogrammar. Canberra:Pacific Linguistics.


J R Martin is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney, where he is also Deputy Director of the LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building. His research interests include systemic theory, functional grammar, discourse semantics, register, genre, multimodality and critical discourse analysis, focusing on English, Tagálog, Korean and Spanish  with special reference to the transdisciplinary fields of clinical linguistics, educational linguistics, forensic linguistics and social semiotics. Recent publications include a book on teaching academic discourse on-line (Genre Pedagogy in Higher Education, Palgrave Macmillan 2016), with Shoshana Dreyfus, Sally Humphrey and Ahmar Mahboob; a book on Youth Justice Conferencing (Discourse and Diversionary Justice, Palgrave Macmillan 2018), with Michele Zappavigna; an edited special issue of Functions of Language 2018 focusing on interpersonal grammar; an collection of papers on interpersonal grammar (Interpersonal Grammar: Systemic Functional Theory and Description, Cambridge University Press 2021) edited with Beatriz Quiroz and Giacomo Figueredo. A book on paralanguage (with Thu Ngo, Brad Smith, Clare Painter, Michele Zappavigna and Susan Hood) is in press with Bloomsbury; three special issues of Word focusing on nominal groups will appear over 2021 and 2022 (edited with Yaegan Doran and Dongbing Zhang); a book on language description, focusing on English, Spanish and Chinese (with Beatriz Quiroz and Pin Wang) is in preparation.

    Eight volumes of his collected papers (edited by Wang Zhenhua for the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press) have been published in China (2010, 2012).

Professor Martin was elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1998, and was Head of its Linguistics Section from 2010-2012; he was awarded a Centenary Medal for his services to Linguistics and Philology in 2003. In April 2014 Shanghai Jiao Tong University opened its Martin Centre for Appliable Linguistics, appointing Professor Martin as Director.

A book reviewing Martin’s contributions to Systemic Functional Linguistics has been published by Peking University Press:

Zhu, Y S & Z H Wang [Eds.] 2013 On J R Martin’s Contribution to Systemic Functional Linguistics. Beijing: Peking University Press. 209pp.

A play imagining a debate between Martin and Quintilian, holder of the first Roman Chair of Rhetoric, about the analysis of the summary recount at the end of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom has also appeared (cf. Martin's 1999 paper ‘Grace: the logogenesis of freedom’):

McCormack, R 2014 Reading Mandela: genre pedagogy vs Ancient Rhetoric. Linguistics and the Human Sciences  9.2. 177-200.

A festschrift honouring Martin's contributions to Systemic Functional Linguistics has been published by Bloomsbury (Doran's paper in this volume reviews his work):

Zappavigna, M & S Dreyfus (Eds.) 2020 Discourses of Hope and Reconciliation: on J R Martin's contributions to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Bloomsbury. 227pp.




Hunan University, China


The language (registers, discourses) of healthcare: theory and practice

Abstract  [to be coming]

Dr. Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen is Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, Hunan University. He has degrees in linguistics from Lund University (BA), where he also studied Arabic and philosophy, and from UCLA (MA, PhD), and has previously held positions at USC/ Information Sciences Institute, Sydney University, and Macquarie University. He has held visiting appointments at e.g. the University of Hamburg and the Brain Science Division of the RIKEN Institute in Tokyo. He is Honorary Professor, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, the Australian National University, Canberra, and Guest Professor, University of Science and Technology, Beijing. Since the late 1970s, Matthiessen has worked on many areas of SFL — including medical discourse/ health communication, language across the curriculum and other aspects of educational linguistics, multilingual studies (language comparison and typology, translation studies and second/foreign language education), language arts, and the language of space. 

Matthiessen has lectured and given courses around the world, including in China, Japan, S. Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Greece, Germany, Denmark and the UK, Lebanon, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, Tunisia and Ghana; and he is involved in a number of international research networks. His most recent book is the first volume out of eight of his collected works; and three more are about to be published: a guide to SFL (with Kazuhiro Teruya, Routledge), “system” as a key concept in SFL (with Equinox), and Systemic Functional Linguistics (Volume 1, based on interviews with co-authors: Wang Bo, Isaac Mwinlaaru & Helen Ma).


Recent Publications:


Halliday, M.A.K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 2014. Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. 4th, revised edition. London: Routledge. Manuscript submitted in June 2012. Publication date: July 2013.


Slade, Diana, Marie Manidis, Jeannette McGregor, Hermine Scheeres, Eloise Chandler, Jane Stein-Parbury, Roger Dunstan, Maria Herke & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 2015. Communication in Hospital Emergency Departments. Berlin: Springer. 


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2021, forthc. The Collected Works of Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen [working title], in 8 volumes, edited by Kazuhiro Teruya, Wu Canzhong & Diana Slade. Volume 1: 2021. Equinox. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/collected-works-christian-m-m-matthiessen/ 

Volume 1: Systemic Functional Linguistics


Matthiessen. Christian M.I.M.  & Kazuhiro Teruya. in press. Guide to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Routledge. Under contract, MS submitted to Routledge.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Bo Wang, Yuanyi Ma & Isaac N. Mwinlaaru. forthcoming. Systemic functional insights on language and linguistics. Volume 1. Under contract. To be submitted to Springer in September 2021.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. forthcoming. System in Systemic Functional Linguistics: a system-based theory of language. Sheffield: Equinox. Under revision. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/system-sfl/ 


Book chapters and journal articles (selection from 2015 onwards)

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2015. “Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen.” [An interview of Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen by Eva Maagerø and Thomas Hestbaek Andersen.] In Eva Maagerø & Thomas Hestbaek Andersen (eds.), Social semiotics: key figures, new directions. London: Routledge. Chapter 2.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2015. “Halliday on language.” In Jonathan J. Webster (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to M.A.K. Halliday. London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic. 137-202. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=34627

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2015. “Register in the round: registerial cartography.” Journal of Functional Linguistics 2(9): 1-48.  


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2015. “Systemic Functional Morphology: the Lexicogrammar of the Word.” In Edson Rosa de Souza (ed.), Estudos de descrição funcionalista: objetos e abordagens. LINCOM Studies in Theoretical Linguistics 55. München: LINCOM. 150-199.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & Kazuhiro Teruya. 2015. “Grammatical realization of rhetorical relations in different registers.” Word 61(3): 232-281.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2017. “Language use in a social semiotic perspective.” In Anne Barron, Gu Yueguo & Gerard Steen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics. London: Routledge. Chapter 34.  


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2018. “The notion of a multilingual meaning potential: a systemic exploration.” In Akila Baklouti & Lise Fontaine (eds.), Perspectives from Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Routledge. Chapter 6. Version with additional figures to be available at: http://www.syflat.tn

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2018. Transitivity in Systemic Functional Linguistics: achievements and challenges. In Sara Regina Scotta Cabral & Leila Barbara (eds.), Estudos de transitividade em linguística sistêmico-funcional. [Transitivity studies in systemic functional linguistics.] Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil: PROGRAMA DE PÓS-GRADUAÇÃO EM LETRAS - PPGL UFSM. Chapter 1: 14-108.

Mwinlaaru, Isaac, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & Ernest Akerejola. 2018. “A system-based typology of MOOD in African languages.” In Augustine Agwuele & Adam Bodomo (eds.), Handbook of African Languages. London: Routledge. 93-117.


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2019. “Register in Systemic Functional Linguistics.” In Register Studies 1(1): 10-41. Published by Benjamins: https://benjamins.com/catalog/rs 

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2020. “Translation, multilingual text production and cognition: a systemic functional approach.” In Arnt Jakobsen & Fabio Alves (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Cognition. London: Routledge. 517-544.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & Guo Enhua. 2020. “Matthiessen’s Thoughts on Some Key Issues in SFL.” Word 66(2):  130-145.


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. in press. “Theory: a resource for engaging with language.” [Translated into Japanese.] In Kazuhiro Teruya (ed.), Taikei Kinoo Gengogaku heno shootai: Sekai kara no kooken (An introduction to systemic functional linguistics: contributions from the world). Kuroshio Shuppan (Tokyo: Kuroshio Publishers).

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2020. “Approaching register trinocularly.” Language, Context and Text: The Social Semiotics Forum 2(1). 3-21. https://benjamins.com/catalog/langct.00019.mat

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Jorge Hita Arús & Kazuhiro Teruya. 2021. “Translations of representations of moving and saying from English into Spanish.” Word. Published online 22 July 2021.


Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. in press. “The Moomin Family: an elastic permeable multi-dimensional construct in semiotic and social space.” To appear in Eija Ventola & A. Jesús Moya Guijarro (eds.), Challenging gender stereotypes and the traditional family unit in children’s picture books. A multimodal analysis. London: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/A-Multimodal-Approach-to-Challenging-Gender-Stereotypes-in-Childrens/Moya-Guijarro-Ventola/p/book/9780367703592#

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Moslem Yousefi & Fatemeh Mardian. in press. “Systemic functional linguistics as a resource in appliable linguistics: new applications.” To appear in Language, Text, Context 4(1), January 2022.

Xuan Wenhui, Winfred & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. forthcoming. “System networks as a resource in L2 writing education.” Submitted to Journal of Second Language Writing.


Email: cmatthie@mac.com 

Websites: Wikipedia entry:


ResearchGate profile (under construction):


Academia (under construction):


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Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

The appraisal system in Spanish: resources for building graduation

This presentation focuses on some language resources for building graduation of attitudes in written Spanish language in the field of History. The analysis is framed in the SFL multifunctional theory of language (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014) and particularly, in the appraisal system, which organizes interpersonal meanings at the more abstract stratum of discourse semantics (Martin & White 2005; Martin 2019). The language potential for building graduation has been proven to be a highly sophisticated phenomenon in languages (Halliday & Matthiessen 2014; Martin & White 2005; Hood 2010, 2019; Vian 2008). Indeed graduation can be realized in an ample range of lexicogrammatical resources if we consider that both, attitudes as regions of evaluative meanings, and the construction of writers’ intersubjective stances can be manifested with different degrees in discourse creating flows of evaluative patterns (Martin & White 2005; Hood 2019). Following SFL typological principles (Caffarel et al. 2004; Martin et al. 2010), this presentation seeks to demonstrate how meanings of graduation of attitudes in Spanish written language can be realized not only at the rank of the clause, phrase or word, but also at the rank of the morpheme as suffixation (Oteíza et al. in preparation), taking into account the role of graduation in the construction of evaluative rhetorical effects in the text rather than in its grammatical forms. In addition, this study focuses on the patterns for building graduation as force or focus in Spanish language that also require an analysis of the inter-stratal tension between discourse semantics and lexicogrammar, due to their functioning at different rank levels in experiential grammatical metaphors and lexical mataphors (Martin 1991, 2017; Halliday 1992; Oteíza & Pinuer 2013; Oteíza 2019; Oteíza et al., in preparation; Taverniers 2017, 2019).


Keywords: appraisal system, graduation, engagement, Spanish language, SFL typology, interpersonal meanings, grammatical metaphor



Caffarel, A., J.R. Martin & C.M.I.M. Matthiessen (2004). Language Typology. A Functional Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1992/2003).Systemic Grammar and the Concept of a “Science of Language”. In On Language and Linguistics. Vol. 3. Jonathan Webster (Ed.). (pp. 199-212). London: Equinox.

Halliday, M.A.K. y C.M.I.M. Matthiessen. (2014). Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. (Fourth Edition). London/New York: Routledge.

Hood, S. (2010). Appraising Research: Evaluation in Academic Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hood, S. (2019). Appraisal. In  G. Thompson, W. Bowcher, L. Fontaine & D. Schönthal (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (pp.382-409). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, J. R. (2019). Discourse Semantics. In  G. Thompson, W. Bowcher, L. Fontaine & D. Schönthal (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (pp.358-381). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, J. R. (2017). The Discourse Semantics of Attitudinal Relations: Continuing the Study of Lexis. Russian Journal of Linguistics 21(1): 22–47.

Martin J.R. (1991) Nominalization in science and humanities: Distilling knowledge and scaffolding text. In Ventola E (Ed.) Functional and Systemic Linguistics. (pp.307–337). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Martin, J.R., C. Matthiessen & C. Painter (2010). Deploying Functional Grammar. Beijing: The Commercial Press.

Martin, J.R. & P. White. (2005). The Language of Evaluation. Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Oteíza, T. (2019). Events and processes in the discourse of history: Disciplinary History and classroom interaction. In J.R. Martin, K. Maton & J. Doran (Eds.), Understanding Academic Discourse: Systemic Functional Linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory. (pp.177-207). London/New York: Routledge.

Oteíza, T. (2017). The Appraisal Framework and discourse analysis. In T. Bartlett & G. O’Grady (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics. (pp. 457-472). London/New York: Routledge.

Oteíza, T., C. Castro & C. Pinuer (in preparation) Appraisal in Spanish: Resources for building graduation through suffixes.

Oteíza, T. & C. Pinuer. (2013) Valorative Prosody and the symbolic construction of time in historical recent national discourses, Discourse Studies 15(1): 43-64.

Taverniers, M. (2017). Grammatical metaphor. In Bartlett, T. & G. O’Grady (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (pp. 354-371). London: Routledge.

Taverniers, M. (2019). Semantics. In In  G. Thompson, W. Bowcher, L. Fontaine & D. Schönthal (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics. (pp.55-91). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vian, O. (2008). Appraisal system in Brazilian Portuguese: Resources for graduation. Odense Working Papers in Language and Communication 29: 825–9.


Teresa Oteíza is an Associate Professor and Director of the Doctorate Program in Linguistics of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Her interests include the areas of social and ideological discourse analysis, educational linguistics, discourse of history and systemic functional linguistics. Teresa Oteíza is Editor of two journals dedicated to the area of discourse studies:  Discurso & Sociedad with Viviane Resende from University of Brasília and Antonio Bañón from University of Almería, and of Revista de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios del Discurso (RALED) with Viviane Resende. She is currently working with Claudio Pinuer from University of Concepción, Chile on the project “The language of appraisal in Spanish: description and systematization of linguistic resources to build intersubjectivity”. She published the book El discurso pedagógico de la historia: Un análisis lingüístico sobre la construcción ideológica de la historia de Chile (1970-2001) in 2006, and En (re)construcción: Discurso, identidad y nación en los manuales escolares de historia y de ciencias sociales, (ed. with Derrin Pinto) in 2011. Her forthcoming book What to Remember, What to Teach: Human Rights Violations in Chile’s Recent Past and the Pedagogical Discourse of History, will be published by Equinox. E-mail: moteizas@uc.cl.  




Shanghai Jiaotong University, China

Nominal group systems and structures: a systemic typological perspective

This paper presents a text-based study of the construal of entities through nominal groups, with examples drawn from two Sino-Tibetan languages, i.e. Chinese and Tibetan. It approaches the grammatical description of nominal groups from the ideational and textual perspectives, and gives priority to the perspective ‘from above’, taking as point of departure the discourse semantic systems of ideation and identification (Martin, 1992; Martin & Rose, 2007). From the perspective of ideation, nominal groups construe entities that realise items in field, which are classified or composed with or without associated properties (Doran & Martin, 2021). From the perspective of identification, nominal groups either present or presume the identity of entities in discourse. In terms of grammatical realisations, in both languages the nucleus function of a nominal group, Thing, enters into multivariate structures with a range of pre- and post-Thing functions. However, configuration of the functions is language-specific. This study makes explicit structural consequences of systemic choices in nominal group grammar, and attends to the problem of structural markers, drawing on the notion of ‘subjacency’ structure proposed in Martin et al. (2021). This study demonstrates the value of important hierarchies in SFL, e.g. axis, rank, metafunction and stratification in grammar description and is expected to provide an enriched perspective both complementary and supplementary to existing grammars of nominal groups.



Doran, Y. J., & Martin, J. R. (2021). Field relations: understanding scientific explanations. In Maton, K., Martin, J.R., & Doran, J. (eds.) Studying Science: language, knowledge and pedagogy. London: Routledge.

Martin, J. R. (1992). English Text: System and Structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2007). Working with discourse: meaning beyond the clause  (2nd ed.). London: Continuum.

Martin, J. R., Doran, Y. J & D. Zhang. (2021). Nominal Group Grammar: System and Structure. WORD, 67(3).


Dr. Pin Wang is a lecturer and researcher at the Martin Centre for Appliable Linguistics of the School of Foreign Languages, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. His chief research interests are: Systemic Theory, Functional Grammar, and Functional Language Typology, with particular focus on Mandarin and minority languages of China. His recent publications in English include: Complementarity Between Lexis and Grammar in the System of Person: A Systemic Typological Approach (2017 Routledge); ‘Verbal group in Manchu’ (2018 WORD); ‘Axial argumentation and cryptogrammar in interpersonal grammar: a case study of Classical Tibetan mood’ (J.R. Martin, Y.J. Doran & G. Figueredo eds. 2020 Systemic Functional Language Description: Making Meaning Matter, Routledge); ‘Construing entities through nominal groups in Chinese’ (M. Zappavigna & S. Dreyfus eds. 2020 Discourses of Hope and Reconciliation: On J. R. Martin’s Contribution to Systemic Functional Linguistics, Bloomsbury); ‘Interpersonal grammar in Chinese’ (J.R. Martin, B. Quiroz & G. Figueredo eds. 2021 Interpersonal Grammar: Systemic Functional Linguistic Theory and Description, CUP); ‘Instantiation and individuation in Buddhist scripture translation’ (2021 Language, Context and Text); ‘Nominal group systems and structures in Lhasa Tibetan’ (Y.J. Doran, J.R. Martin & D. Zhang eds. 2021 WORD special issue).




East China Normal University, China


The Diachronic Typology of Constructions: A Systemic Functional Framework

Saussure’s segregation of diachrony from synchrony ignores the role diachrony plays in engendering synchrony, giving rise to some fundamental problems in contemporary linguistic research. This study aims to illustrate the role of diachrony in mediating the balance between typological universals and cross-language diversities with a framework developed on the basis of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL).  As such, the study first discusses the value of SFL to solving the perceived problems arising from the theoretical modal of grammaticalization. The dominance of grammaticalization theory in historical linguistics has led some to equate grammaticalization with language change. However, the importance of the semantic change and discourse context is frequently lost in the literature on grammaticalization. The major problem of grammaticalization enterprise is thus the narrowness of focus which has the effect of leaving much of language change out of the picture. SFL, since its beginning in the early 1980s, has become a leading framework in dealing with semantic and lexico-grammatical changes and the mapping between meaning and form. This study proposes a framework in which SFL theories allow us to address the critical issues in language change, hence providing mechanisms for the diachronic analysis of both semantic and lexico-grammatical changes.  On the basis of the framework, this study focuses its analysis on the change of three essential constructions in Old Chinese and Old English with a Chinese corpus of approximately 600,000 characters and an English corpus of about 500,000 words. Similar constructions in other languages are also taken into account for comparison. The diachronic analysis shows that new constructions emerge through a cycle of language change in which the interaction of semantics and lexico-grammar plays a central role. In addition, the semantic condensing and junction are critical steps in the creation of new constructions. More generally, this study shows that the typological diversities of a construction arise diachronically from different sources across languages. However, these sources exhibit both semantic and lexico-grammatical similarities which were determined by their target functions.


Keywords: Diachrony, Typology, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Old Chinese, Old EnglishConstruction change


YANG Yanning is a Professor at East China Normal University (ECNU). His research areas include Systemic Functional Linguistics, Historical Linguistics and Linguistic Typology. His current research consists of two primary elements. The first focuses on the comparison of Old English and Old Chinese, two genetically unrelated languages. The second is concerned with the exploration of new theoretical framework for diachronic analysis of language on the basis of SFL. This work is a continuation of his earlier work on Grammatical Metaphor in Chinese. He received his PhD from National University of Singapore and worked as an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University for six years before joined ECNU. In 2016, he was appointed by Ministry of Education (MOE), China as a member of Advisory Board of English Teaching. He is also the Editor of Researching and Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (RTCFL) published by Equinox.