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CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS AND THE FUNCTIONAL BASES OF LANGUAGE

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This study seeks to illustrate in what way congruence in theoretical approaches allows for the study of transitive processes, interactional processes as well as grammatical and lexico-semantic elements that stand out in discourse as a social practice. In light of this, a brief overview will be given of three inter-related language systems given that the study seeks to establish a dialogue between the functional bases of language and a critical discourse analysis model. Based upon an empirical analysis, considerations will be made as to what extent discursive-linguistic structures identify within a given text, in accordance with Halliday's proposal, categories related to embedded clauses as processes, speech acts or as messages. This also reflects actional, representational and identificational meanings as suggested in Fairclough's Social Theory of Discourse.
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932
CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS AND THE
FUNCTIONAL BASES OF LANGUAGE


Denize Elena Garcia da SILVA
(University of Brasília)

ABSTRACT: This study seeks to illustrate in what way congruence in
theoretical approaches allows for the study of transitive processes,
interactional processes as well as grammatical and lexico-semantic
elements that stand out in discourse as a social practice. In light of this,
a brief overview will be given of three inter-related language systems
given that the study seeks to establish a dialogue between the functional
bases of language and a critical discourse analysis model. Based upon
an empirical analysis, considerations will be made as to what extent
discursive-linguistic structures identify within a given text, in
accordance with Halliday’s proposal, categories related to embedded
clauses as processes, speech acts or as messages. This also reflects
actional, representational and identificational meanings as suggested in
Fairclough’s Social Theory of Discourse.

1. Introduction

This work seeks to examine in what way congruence in theoretical
approaches allows for the study of transitive processes, interactional
processes as well as grammatical and lexico-semantical elements that
stand out in discourse as social practice. On the one hand, it is known
that transitivity is a standard universal process in human languages. On
the other hand, the construction of functional plurality is seen in the
discursive-linguistic structure as the basis for lexical and grammatical
organisation (semantic and syntactic). In light of this, the objective here
is to understand the dialogical relation between the functional bases of
language in accordance with Halliday (1973, 1978, 1994), Halliday and
Matthiessen (2004) and the Critical Discourse Analysis model developed
by Fairclough (1992, 2003).
In defending the notion that function constitutes a major property of
language, Halliday leads us to identify through the ideational macro-
function that transitivity processes integrate discourse and grammar.
This is so as syntax makes access to the discursive moment possible
through an analysis of the organization of the language in use.
According to Halliday (1973), speakers make their “selections” based
upon social circumstances. Thus, formal options in linguistic structures
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



933
have contrasting meanings whilst selections of form are always
significant at the discourse level.
The proposals in question here entail a linguistic theory that is not only
extrinsic but also intrinsic since a study of the internal nature of
linguistic structure indicates the reasons for which language serves the
external structure. Based upon an empirical analysis, reflections are
developed as to what extent linguistic-discursive structures identify
within a given text categories related to embedded clauses as processes
(ideational functional), speech acts (interpersonal function) and as
messages (textual functions). This reflects in turn actional,
representational and identificational meanings as suggested in
Fairclough’s Social Theory of Discourse. This work also focuses upon
how certain linguistic structures indicate processes that can be
represented metaphorically, a notion focused upon in Fairclough’s Social
Theory of Discourse (1992, 2003), in which metaphors structure not
only the way in which we think and act but also our knowledge and
belief systems. In essence, the main point of reference for critical
textual analysis is becoming more and more upon Systemic Functional
Linguistics, especially work by Halliday (1994), Halliday and
Matthiessen (2004) concerning the relation between transitivity
processes in languages and other elements and aspects of social life.
Some studies prior to the aforementioned point of reference are
considered below.
2. The three linguistic systems in articulation with language
functions

Firstly, it must be pointed out that focusing on discourse as a social
practice implies investigating the processes that a language undergoes as
it moulds as well as is moulded by reality. In this sense, a linguistic
system is not neutral, given that the discourses conveyed through this
system may reflect in some way ideological positions and customs.
Even the specific grammar system of a language is intrinsically related
to the personal and social demands made on language and this is
reflected in the speaker’s creativity. Hence the need to establish a link
between studies of form and function with a view to studying process,
even though it is not possible, at least within the context of this study, to
find a balance between internal and external aspects in the creativity of
linguistic-discursive actions performed by any speaker of a natural
languagei.

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2006



934
According to Franchi (1976, apud Castilho, 1994), a language includes
three systems articulated by the lexicon. These systems are merely
associated since they should be considered as being autonomous at the
same time. Franchi’s affirmation is based upon the following points:

the semantic, conceptual or notional system
includes two sub-systems: the descriptive-predicate and
the deitic-referential;

the syntactic system includes classifiers,
argumentative sub-systems as well as grammatical
relations, processes and transformations and syntactic
case among others;

the discursive system includes inter-subject
negotiations that make language a social contract.
A parallel can be established between Franchi’s proposal (1976) and
Halliday’s focus (1975). Nevertheless, it is a contrasting parallel given
that for Halliday there is a deep co-relation between the three
aforementioned points for in his viewpoint, a linguistic system can only
be explained through a study of its functions. From Halliday’s
perspective (1975: 147):
(...) the specific form that the grammar system of language takes on is
intimately linked to the personal and social demands that language must
meet; however, to prove this, it is essential to consider the language
system and its functions at the same time; to do the contrary would
require an entire theoretical base to make generalisations as to how
language is used.

Whilst Halliday considers language as an integrated system related
specifically to social structure, Franchi (2000) defends the idea that
language cannot be limited to a social tool or to a study of its external
dimension. All the same, both converge on one theoretical point: the
creativity of language. The two theorists acknowledge the existence of a
creative process that allows us to elaborate and verbalise our personal
and social demands, in other words, our experiences.
The parallel continues between Franchi and Halliday. For instance, in
the principles underlying a “functional perspective of the sentence”,
Halliday (1974: 46) draws upon ideas from Daneš so as to explain that
within the syntax there are three levels:
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



935
1. the semantic structure of the sentence
2. the grammatical structure of the sentence
3. the organisation of the sentence
Halliday also bases his thinking on Svoboda’s ideas, another theorist
from the Prague School who points to the existence of three systems:
semantic, grammatical, and functional, each having its own syntactic
elements and relations. What stands out in the borders of Svoboda’s
thinking, is the proximity between Halliday’s and Franchi’s concepts.
Although the levels outlined by Halliday hold a similar relation to the
independent systems proposed by Franchi, this similarity falls apart
when Halliday affirms that these three systems constitute important and
fundamental categories and are not merely co-existing systems or levels
of independent structures. They are functional components of grammar.
According to Halliday, there are always categories of expression within
the linguistic system of language functions in the general sense in which
the term would have been used in vanguard work by Karl Bühler. It is
precisely in reference to this point that Bühler’s categories are
represented in Daneš-Svoboda’s macro-theoretical framework.
From this perspective, Halliday (1974) suggests two components in the
linguistic system, emphasizing that each has two connotations: semantic
and lexico-grammatical. Hence the two components:
1.
the
experiential (representative for Bühler and semantic for
Daneš)

2. the interpersonal (connotative and expressive for Bühler and
grammatical for Daneš)
There is at the same time a third component without which it would not
be possible to identify the others. It is the textual component that gives
to language its operational sense. As Halliday points out, this function
does not exist in Bühler’s scheme, but it can be noted in Daneš proposal,
precisely at the level of utterance organisation, whose elements Svoboda
considers as “communicative units”. The functional perspective of a
sentence can be linked to the textual component in its grammar.
Nonetheless, what is more significant to highlight in Halliday’s
comments is the fact that it is a component that differs from the other
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



936
two in that it is directly related to language in use, the focus of this
study.

Halliday’s question as well as an outline proposed by him must
be highlighted so as to synthesise some aspects that illustrate the
functional basis of language. At the end of this study, an answer will be
proposed for the following question: Is the social functioning of
language reflected in the linguistic structure, that is, in the internal
organisation of language as a system?


It can be noted that the outline below synthesises the language
functions proposed by Halliday (1975, 1978) as well as indicates what
underlies the sentence. Indeed, in my view, the organisation of a
sentence concentrates part of the semantic load on what Fairclough calls
(trad. 2001) “the force of utterances”. To follow is an outline of
language functions:
• ideational function, an expression of contents, the
speaker’s experience in relation to the real world (including
notions of time and space) and to the inner world of his very
conscience - > implying transitivity (the sentence as process
– material, mental, relational, verbal) given that language
structures experience and contribute to determining our
vision of the world;
• interpersonal function that involves the interaction
between the expression of social roles, the development of
the speaker’s personality and the interlocutor’s expectations
>
this refers to the mood/modality (the sentence as speech
act), thus serving to express both our inner world as well as
our outer world;
• textual function that entails textual construction and
organisation –> it involves a theme and information (the
sentence as message); this allows the listener/reader to
differentiate between a text from a random grouping of
sentences because the text holds cohesive elements and links
to situational contexts.
As can be noted, the function constitutes a fundamental property in
language, grammar can be understood as a “system of options available
in language”, given that the “speaker or writer makes choices within the
system, not in a vacuum, but in a context of speech situations”
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



937
(Halliday, 1975: 147). Further, according to Halliday, texts represent
simultaneously aspects of the physical, social and mental world. In this
sense, it is Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) that most fits in with a
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective, since it takes into
account linguistic and social components within the theoretical scope of
language studies.
3. The Social Theory of Discourse
In his initial theoretical proposal, Fairclough (1992) suggests an
analytical trajectory that involves approaching discourse from a three-
fold perspective: linguistic practice, discursive practice and social
practiceii. From a textual dimension, analysis covers four categories, the
main ones being: grammar, vocabulary, cohesive devices and text
structure. In discursive practice, text production, distribution and
consumption processes as well as intertextuality, the power of
utterances and coherence are studied. It is essential to point out here one
relevant aspect brought up by Fairclough (1992: 65), and which refers to
the notion that discursive practice reproduces society as well as
transforms it in a dialectical process in which discourse and social
structure come together in a dynamic interaction. The third dimension
of analysis refers to an examination of social practice that involves social
and linguistic action in a sociohistoric context. This dimension implies
analysing the linguistic object in the immediate context, the institutional
context as well as in the global context of society. It is fitting to note
that the division between these three dimensions only meets analytical
purposes since text, discursive practice and social practice are
interconnected and so, the aforementioned order need not be strictly
adhered to during the analytical process.
This has to do with a three dimensional concept of discourse analysis
which involves three main spheres in a critical theoretical framework
geared towards the social side of language, especially political
implications that can turn language into an ideological banner.

Fairclough states that these three spheres allow for assessing relations
between discursive change and social change with a view to relating
such changes to textual instances. From this perspective, what is sought
is the linking of textual and linguistic analysis to a macro-sociological
tradition of analysing social practice and to a microsociological tradition
of conceiving social practice as actively created by people, which allows
for social practice to be considered as shared knowledge. As Fairclough
observes, in the procedures underlying shared knowledge, there are
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



938
political and ideological issues, which are in many instances
contradictory and heterogeneous.
In my view, it is essential to note that the significance of the social
theory of discourse for linguistic research lies in its three dimensional
vision that allows for considering grammar in the architecture of the text.
Grammar thus becomes associated with a critical spotlight on linguistic
practices, which under the right conditions can lead to discursive and
social changes. Further, the notion of integrating linguistic analysis with
social theory is also based upon a sociohistoric sense of discourse tied
into the meaning of interaction, factors that make language a social
contract.
4. Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis in
dialogue

Given that SFL relates the social to the linguistic, its operation becomes
transdisciplinary and so it can be appropriated to other theories. In the
case of CDA, based upon the theoretical framework proposed by
Fairclough (1992, 2003), a text not only simultaneously involves
ideational, interpersonal (identity and relational) and textual functions,
but its meanings can be seen from three dimensions: action,
representation and identification. In fact, Fairclough (2003:27) states
that he prefers to discuss these three major meaning types in semiosis
rather than functions. He explains the following:
Representation corresponds to Halliday’s ‘ideational’
function; Action is closest to his ‘interpersonal’ function,
though it puts more emphasis on text as a way of
(inter)acting in social events, and it can be seen as
incorporating Relation (enacting social relations);
Halliday does not differentiate a separate function to do
with identification – most of what I include in
Identification is in his ‘interpersonal’ function. I do not
distinguish a separate ‘textual’ function, rather I
incorporate it within action.

In considering the ideas presented above, we are led to take up
Halliday’s position (1975) for whom the textual element is distinct from
the other two (experiential and interpersonal) precisely because it is
directly related to language in use. In this sense, Fairclough’s decision
to incorporate the textual function with actional meaning is
understandable. At the same time, the identity function suggested
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



939
involves a link with modes through which social identities are
established, whilst the relational function implies the manner in which
social relations among discourse participants are negotiated and
represented. Fairclough explains that identities in society indicate their
operation in terms of power relations, reproduction and social change.
For Fairclough, separating Halliday’s ‘interpersonal’ function is
necessary given that it allows for proving the importance of discourse in
constituting, reproducing, contesting and restructuring identities.
As can be perceived, Fairclough (2003) considers texts as
multifunctional, differently however from Halliday, that is, based upon
the distinction between genre, discourse and style. According to the
former’s explanation, genres, discourses and styles are relatively stable
modes of acting, representing and signifying. They are also responsible
for linking the text to other social elements as well as for linking internal
text relations to external ones. In terms of the three meaning types,
actional meaning, linked to genre, propitiates the perception of the text
as a mode of inter(action) in social events. Representational meaning,
associated with discourse entails representing aspects of the world
(physical, mental and social) in texts, whilst identificational meaning,
related to style, involves constructing and negotiating identities in
discourse. From this perspective, embedded in all discourse orders are
characteristic discursive genres that ariticulate styles and discourses in a
relatively stable manner in a specific sociohistoric and cultural context.
Thus, in reformulating his theoretical proposal for discourse analysis
(critical), particularly textual analysis geared towards social research,
Fairclough (2003) acknowledges, based upon Halliday’s proposal, that
each utterance is multifunctional and hence the reason why he suggests a
combination of meanings that come together with ideational,
interpersonal (identity and relational) and textual functions. In light of
this, as pointed out by Ramalho (2005: 34), each utterance in a given text
can be seen as a semiotic production (textual function) that constructs
the world (ideational function) and establishes social relations among its
producers as well as among other participants that occupy this world
(relational function) so that the social thread is tied into to the
grammatical fabric of language. This implies the internalisation of
language in other moments of social practice.



Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



940
5. In search of a functional and critical analysis: “Admirável chip
novo”

This section is a critical linguistic-discursive study based upon the lyrics
of a new song, “Admirável Chip novo” Brave new chip, composed by
Pitty, a young Brazilian singer. The song transmits intertextuality from
the onset. It internalizes other traces of discursive and social practices
that can be identified through a study of the grammar in each utterance
as well as in lexical choices, cohesive aspects and the textual structure.
See below.
ADMIRÁVEL CHIP NOVO
Brave new chip


Pane no sistema alguém me
A breakdown in the system,
desconfigurou
someone disconfigured me
Aonde estão meus olhos de robô?
Where are my robot eyes?
Eu não sabia que tinha percebido

Eu sempre achei que era vivo
I didn’t know that you had noticed
parafuso e fluido em lugar de

articulação
I always thought that I was alive
Até achava que batia um coração

Nada é orgânico, é tudo
programado
Screws and fluid instead of
articulation
e eu achando que tinha me
libertado
I even thought that my heart used
to beat
Mas lá vem eles novamente e eu
sei o que vou fazer:
Nothing is organic, all is
programmed
Reinstalar o sistema
And me thinking that I had freed

myself
Pense, fale, compre, beba
But here they come again and I
know what I’m going to do:
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006



941
Leia, vote não se esqueça
know what I’m going to do:
Use, seja , ouça, diga
Reinstall the system
Tenha, more, gaste e viva


Think, talk, buy, drink,
Não sinhô, sim sinhô,
Read, vote, don’t forget,
Não sinhô, sim sinhô.
Use, be, listen, tell,

Have, live, spend and live

No sir, yes sir,
No sir, yes sir.

The title of the song as well as the words “chip”, “system”,
“disconfigured”, “robot” and “programmed” contribute not only to
textual cohesion in that they are expressions from the same semantic
field but also allow for identifying the song’s intertextuality with the
book called Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley in 1931, a
portrait of an imagined society in which the story of a young girl takes
place. This story parallels or even contrasts with song writer’s life.
According to Max Cancilieri’s review, the Huxley protagonist “…lives
in a society in which people are genetically and psychologically pre-
programmed to fulfil a social role and like it without questioning it or
desiring to do so…”iii For Cancilieri, it is a form of criticising the
replacement of people by machines in a distinct way, that is, through the
replacement of the human side, linked to feelings and emotions, by pre-
programmed sensations. In short, whilst the protagonists in Huxley’s
book represent a juxtaposition between the old and new society, Pitty
portrays, at least in the context of the song, an identity crisis in today’s
society, which seems typical of the “digital generation”. iv
It must be pointed out moreover that in today’s world contact with
automated tasks has become so widespread and banalised that we have
not even perceived this. All the same, relatively common actions such
as using a credit card, talking by mobile phone or listening to music on
Proceedings
33rd International Systemic Functional Congress

2006


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