Text and SFL (1).

What is a text? A text is basically “language that is doing some job in some context” (Halliday & Hasan, 1985, p10). A text may be written or spoken, long or short, but must be ‘functional’. A single sentence can not generally be considered a text. “I’m in the bath”, for example, is not a text but the famous dialogue here is:

  • A: The phone’s ringing.
  • B: I’m in the bath!
  • A: Ok.

This implies that both spoken and written text is essentially interactive – just as a speaker has a listener, a writer has an imagined reader – and has a goal or purpose. It also implies that texts take place, function, within particular contexts, or register, and those contexts affect the choices made within the texts.

A text can be recognised as such through ‘textuality’. This is the external and internal factors that bind it as text. The first can be called its coherence, which has two parts. The first is generic coherence which gives the text a sense of completeness – we can recognise a staged conversation of ‘request followed by refusal followed by acknowledgement’ – and the second is register coherence – we know it is a casual conversation.

As well as this, a text has what is termed cohesion. This is what ties a text together internally. At first glance the conversation above does not seem to have any internal ties to make it cohesive but, looking more closely, we could say that both ‘the phone’ and ‘the bath’ refer to shared experience of household routines and thus join the two statements together (cf ‘a phone’ and ‘a bath’).

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About eflfunc

I'm an EFL teacher in Japan and this is a blog to record some thoughts on using Systemic Functional Linguistics in the foreign language classroom.
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