Mental Processes

Mental clauses “are concerned with our experience of the world of our own consciousness” (H & M, p.197). Mental clauses consist of a Sensor, which is a human participant, and a Phenomenon:

Mary (Sensor) liked (Process: mental) the gift (Phenomenon)

Alternatively, this example may also be construed as:

The gift (Phenomenon) pleased (Process: mental) Mary (Sensor)

There are, therefore, two directions of mental Process: those that emanate from the Sensor (‘like’-type) or those that impinge upon the Sensor (‘please’-type). More examples can be seen here. As well as this, mental Processes may be divided into four distinct types:

  1. Perceptive – He saw the car
  2. Cognitive – He knows the car
  3. Desiderative – He wants the car
  4. Emotive – He likes the car

The Phenomenon may be a thing, as in ‘the gift’ above, or it may be an act or a fact. In the case of the Phenomenon as thing, this may also be metaphorical:

Amnesty (Sensor) found (Process: mental) persistent abuses (Phenomenon)

Where the Phenomenon is an act (termed macrophenomenal clauses) it is usually realized by a non-finite clause and the Process is usually restricted to those of perception:

He (Sensor) saw (Process: mental) [[the sand dredger heading for the cruiser]] (Phenomenon)

The macrophenomenonal Phenomenon may also function as Subject, yet it is usually only the Subject of the non-finite clause that is picked out rather than the whole Phenomenon:

The sand dredger was seen heading for the cruiser

Where the Phenomenon is a fact (termed metaphenomenal clauses) it is typically realized by a finite clause:

I (Sensor) can see (Process: mental) this town is going to hell fast (Phenomenon)

(All examples from H & M, p.200-205)

One further option available to mental clauses that distinguish them from both material and relational ones is the ability to project another clause as an idea, as in this Peanuts cartoon where Charles and Linus project their ideas and opinions (underline) using mental Processes (bold) (but I don’t actually know how to embed a cartoon in here) –

Charlie: You know Linus, I admit I can see some value in this blanket business…It seems to put you in a mood for contemplation…I imagine it really quiets your mind so you can think about things…

Linus: On the contrary. I find that, to be done properly, sucking your thumb and holding your blanket requires complete concentration!

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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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