One of the most important concepts in Systemic Functional Linguistics, and especially for EFL, is the concept of stratification (there seem to be a number of slightly different models of stratification in SFL so this is just my interpretation of it). As I showed in this post, the passage from the TV show ‘Friends’ – “What you guys don’t understand is, for us, kissing is as important a part of it as any other” – can be analysed on a number of different levels, from the sounds that make up the language to the culture in which it takes place.

There are three main levels to stratification:

  • Context (context of culture and context of situation)
  • Content (semantics and lexico-grammar)
  • Expression (phonology/graphology)

It is this stratification allows us to “make sense of our experience, and to carry out our interactions with other people” (H & M, p.24).

2 thoughts on “Stratification.

  1. One should be careful with “Expression” in SFL. SFL has adopted to a degree
    Hjelmslev’s Content plane vs. Expression plane, however, it is applied
    recursively. From memory, Context/Content is realised via Language/Expression,
    and within Language, each strata is Content realised by the strata below (Expression).
    I may be wrong here, I am going back to something I read years ago.

    • Thanks. From how I read H & M (p.24-26), the initial child proto-language has two strata of a content plane and an expression plane. In adult language the content stratum divides into two – semantics and lexico-grammar – and the expression stratum also divides into two – phonology and phonetics. Personally, for EFL classes, I find it easier to just think in terms of three strata: context, content and expression.

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