Here is a quick activity I often do with young learners or lower level students. It’s a quick way to highlight the difference between relational and verbal clauses.
All you need is two sets of animal cards (or any semantic set really), one with the picture and one with the name of the animal printed. The game is then a simple pelmanism game but, as they turn over each card, they have to say either ‘This is (Process: relational) a dog’ for the picture or ‘This says (Process: verbal) “dog”‘ for the printed word. It’s useful also to point out the difference between the relational ‘a dog’ with the article and how the verbal “dog” is said exactly as it is written without the article.
Here is an activity I often do with Elementary or Pre-Intermediate students that gets them noticing and thinking about the difference between relational Processes which construe ‘states’, and material Processes construing change through time.
On a piece of paper, you need three columns: the middle column is blank while on either side there are opposing relational clauses (either written or visual), for example:
[The cup is empty] [ blank ] [The cup is full]
The task for the students is to explain how the change in state occurred, which requires a material clause, such as, She is pouring the tea. This also gets students noticing that there is no ONE right answer but may be construed in many different ways: She is filling the cup, The cup is being filled, The tea is being poured, etc. Some other relational clauses I’ve used are: The water is cold/ The water is hot; He is in the hall/ He is in the living room; I have the pen/ She has the pen; The door is closed/ The door is open; She is on the platform/ She is on the train, etc.
For more advanced students, the activity may also be expanded to include choices involving transitive (She is filling the bottle) or intransitive (The bottle is filling up) clauses. The sequence may also be linked into one sentence with conjunction:
The cup was empty and then she filled it until it was full;
A typical EFL first lesson often includes self-introductions of the kind like:
My name is Taro. I am 12 years old.
These clauses use relational Processes, which “serve to characterize and to identify” (H & M, p.210). These two categories may also be termed attributive, such as Taro characterized as a member of that class of beings called ’12 years olds’, and identifying, such as the identity of the person named ‘Taro’. Note the important difference between the two is that identifying relational clauses may be reversed (My name is Taro/ Taro is my name) whereas attributive clauses may not (I am 12/ *12 am I).
Within these two categories of attributive and identifying, we may also provide more information about Taro through three different types:
1. Intensive: Taro is tall (attributive) / Taro is the tallest in the class; the tallest is Taro (identifying)
2. Possessive: Taro has a black bag (attributive) / The black bag is Taro’s; Taro’s is the black bag (identifying)
3. Circumstantial: Taro is at home (attributive) / Home is Tokyo; Tokyo is home (identifying)
Relational processes “prototypically construe change as unfolding ‘inertly’, without an input of energy” (H & M, p.211). They are construed as ‘static’ as opposed to material processes which are ‘dynamic’. Also, whereas material processes construe the world of ‘outer’ experience (Taro is watching TV) and mental processes construe ‘inner’ experience (Taro likes Conan), relational processes may construe both ‘outer’ (Taro is in the living room) and ‘inner’ (Taro is happy).
The second element in the figure of the clause as representation is the Participants, which “are inherent in the process: every experiential type of clause has at least one participant” (H & M, p.175). The type of participant (bold) is dependent on the process (underlined) involved:
1. Actor + Process: material – The lion ran.
2. Senser + Process: mental – The tourist noticed the lion.
3a. Carrier + Process: relational + Attribute – The lion was hungry.
3b. Token + Process: relational + Value – The lion was the king of the jungle.
4. Behaver + Process: behavioural – The tourist screamed.
5. Sayer + Process: verbal – The police announced there would be a search.
6. Existent + Process: existential – There was no trace.