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MARILYN CROSS

ter Meulen, A. (1988), 'Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language', in Linguistics:


the Cambridge Survey, pp. 430-446, F. Newmeyer (ed.), Cambridge, Mass:
Cambridge University Press.
Miller, G.A. (1985), 'Dictionaries of the Mind', Proceedings 23rd Annual Meeting of
Association for Computational Linguistics, Chicago, University of Chicago, 305-314.
Nirenburg, S. and Nirenburg I. (1988), 'A Framework for Lexical Selection in
Natural Language Generation', Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on
Computational Linguistics, Budapest, 471-475.
Nirenburg, S. and Raskin V. (1987), 'The Subworld Concept Lexicon and the
Lexicon Management System', Computational Linguistics 13, 276-289.
Patten, R. (1988), Systemic Text Generation as Problem Solving, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Pazienza, M.T. and Velardi P. (1987), 'A Structured Representation of WordSenses for Semantic Analysis', Proceedings 3rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Copenhagen, 249-257.
Pustejovsky, J. and Nirenburg S. (1987), 'Lexical Selection in the Process of Text
Generation', Proceedings 25th Annual Meeting of Association for Computational
Linguistics, Stanford, 201-206.
Ritchie, G.D., Pulman S.G. Black A.W., Russell G.J. (1987), 'A Computational
Framework for Lexical Description', Computational Linguistics 13, 290-307.
de Saussure, F. (1906-1911), Course in General Linguistics. Translated by R. Harris
1983. London: Duckworth.
Small, S.L., Cottrell G.W. and Tanenhaus M.K. (1988), Lexical Ambiguity Resolution: Perspectives from Psycholinguistics, Neuropsychology and Artificial Intelligence, San
Mateo: Morgan Kaufmann:
\
Tucker, G.H. and Fawcett R.P. (1991), Modelling Lexis in a Computational SystemicFunctional Grammar, Draft Paper.
Velardi, P., and Pazienza M.T. (1989), 'Computer Aided Interpretation of Lexical
Cooccurrences', Proceedings of 27th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational
Linguistics, 185-192.
Wilks, Y., Fass D., Guo C., McDonald J.E., Plate T. and Slator B.M. (1988),
'Machine Tractable Dictionaries as Tools and Resources for Natural Language
Processing', Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computational Linguistics,
Budapest, 750-755.
Wilks, Y., Fass D., Guo C., McDonald J.E., Plate T. and Slator B.M. (1989),
'A Tractable Machine Dictionary as Resource for Computational Semantics', in
Computational Lexicography for Natural Language Processing, pp. 193-228, B. Boguraev
and T. Briscoe (eds), London: Longman.

Part VI. A unified theory of register analysis

11 Register in the round: diversity In a unified


theory of register analysis *
Christian Matthiessen

1. Register in its own right


Register analysis is not subsumed under any of the new types of analysis
that have been established in general linguistics in the last thirty years or
so - discourse analysis, conversational analysis or ethnographic analysis because 'J:~gister' is not a 'component' of discourse, conversation,
ethnographic setting or any other similar construct; it is an aspect of a
separate dimension of organization, that of functional variation. Like any
other theoretical abstraction - discourse, word, structure, lexical item register is not a separate 'thing' that can be insulated from the rest of the
linguistic system and process; but we can foreground it in register analysis
as one way into the complex of language in context.
Register analysis is both a ,linguistic and a metalinguistic activity. It is
something we engage in linguistically as language users - we interpret texts
in terms of the registers they instantiate and we also produce texts as
instances of particular register types. As linguists, we have to engage in
register analysis metalinguistically to interpret 'register' theoretically and to
produce and evaluate descriptions of registers in terms of the theoretical
potential of the metalanguage. But since the metalanguage we use as
lin~ists is itself a semiotic system, it too has registers (cf. Section 8) meta-registers - which shade into different metalanguages. The chapters in
this book contribute to different aspects of register analysis, both linguistic
and metalinguistic. Let me begin by briefly reviewing the theoretical origin
of the notion of r~gister as part of our metalanguage for construing
language.
De Beaugrande (this volume) notes that Firth's notion of restricted
languages is a forerunner of the notion of register . We can also relate
register to ~ fundamental aspect of Firthian theory de Beaugrande does not
This chapter owes its .existence to Mohsen Ghadessy's encouragement to write it and I'm
very grateful for the opportunity to bring together various perspectives on register. I'm also
greatly indebted to Michael Halliday for comments on a draft version.

222

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

varieties of single system register variation etc.

polysystemic - restricted
languages etc.

language in
context

monosystemic

o
l1Wn!r

Figure 11.1

language
out of context

poly-

The move from mono systemic thesis to synthesis of varieties of


system

mention, viz. Firth's polysystemicness. It has been held at various points


in linguistic history that language is mono systemic - one system where
everything hangs together as Saussure's follower Meillet put it. Firth
disagreed fundamentally with this type of monolithic view and argued for
a poly systemic approach, where language is interpreted as a system of
systems. (In fact, Firth didn't like the abstraction of 'a language'.) The
polystemic principle is evident at various places in his theorizing, e.g. in
Firthian system and structure phonology where phonological systems have
places of structure as their points of origin. Firth had taken over the notion
of context developed by Malinowski (e.g., 1923) and when 'context of
situation' and 'polysystemicness' are combined, then it is theoretically
reasonable to assume some sense of different systems of languages for
systemically different contexts. The Firthian notion of restricted

223

languages is thus arguably a natural consequence of his contextualism and


polysystemicness.
To idealize. the picture, we can interpret the development of current
register theory as a dialectic sequence (see Figure 11.1, where a circle
represents a linguistic system). The thesis is that language is mono systemic
- this was certainly the position Firth reacted against and, as de
Beaugrande points out, it seems to be the default in mainstream work. For
instance,
phonological systems have tended to be interpreted
mono systemically in the American Structuralist-generativist tradition
(although not necessarily any longer: cf. Henderson 1987, on this in relation to Firth) and mainstream typological work does not tend to take
registers into account. Here language is decontextualized: there is no
provision in the theory for a contextual system nor for a way of relating
context to language. Consequently, language is modelled as a system that
is insulated from contextual pressures for diversity. 1 The antithesis is
Firthian polystemicness just discussed above, with restricted languages as
the seed for systemic register theory. The uniformity of a single global
system is replaced by the diversity of a plurality of more local systems. The
synthesis is register theory in systemic linguistics -' a theory of functional
variation of the general system correlated with contextual variation. Part
of the challenge it faced was to strike a balance between uniformity and
diversity. Register theory has to be a general theory of the special case,
showing how special cases are related to the general case, i.e. showing how
diverse particular systems are varieties of a more general one. The limiting
case is still, of course, the situation where there is no general system.
Sy.~t~llli(>fuIlctional register theg!y_~o,!l~"" said t()__ oEKi!!at~}XitQ_I::I,!!!i
y wo-rk drew not only o~
g1!YL~'":ta.:s:intosh and St:revens (1964)."This
Firth but --also on worKiritlie1950s by U re, Ellis, Berg, and others. It
includes the interpretation of register in terms of variation within the
linguistic system according to different contexts of situation. In this period,
Spencer and Gregory (1964) and in particular Gregory (1967) were also
very influential. Gregory's work sorted out different kinds of differentiation
very clearly. Since then, the theory has been extended: it has become
possible to place more emphasis on the semantic system (e.g., Halliday
1973) and to identify the correlation between context and language much
more precisely thanks to the theory of metafunctions of language which
developed in the 19608 after, and independently of, the original statement
of register theory (e.g., Halliday 1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985/9). More
work has also been done on the probabilistic interpretation of the linguistic
system (in particular, Nesbitt and Plum 1988; Halliday 1991c; Halliday
and James, 1991) so that we can begin to explore registers in terms of
settings of systemic probabilities (see further Section 3.2.2 below). At the
same time, alternative ways of modelling variation have been explored;
alongside the version developed by Halliday, Hasan and others, Martin
and others have developed a stratifying model, often referred to as the
genre model. I will return to the difference between these two varieties in
Section 2.3 below. The existence of these tw.o models also underlines

earI

222

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

varieties of single system register variation etc.

polysystemic - restricted
languages etc.

language in
context

monosystemic

o
l1Wn!r

Figure 11.1

language
out of context

poly-

The move from mono systemic thesis to synthesis of varieties of


system

mention, viz. Firth's polysystemicness. It has been held at various points


in linguistic history that language is mono systemic - one system where
everything hangs together as Saussure's follower Meillet put it. Firth
disagreed fundamentally with this type of monolithic view and argued for
a poly systemic approach, where language is interpreted as a system of
systems. (In fact, Firth didn't like the abstraction of 'a language'.) The
polystemic principle is evident at various places in his theorizing, e.g. in
Firthian system and structure phonology where phonological systems have
places of structure as their points of origin. Firth had taken over the notion
of context developed by Malinowski (e.g., 1923) and when 'context of
situation' and 'polysystemicness' are combined, then it is theoretically
reasonable to assume some sense of different systems of languages for
systemically different contexts. The Firthian notion of restricted

223

languages is thus arguably a natural consequence of his contextualism and


polysystemicness.
To idealize. the picture, we can interpret the development of current
register theory as a dialectic sequence (see Figure 11.1, where a circle
represents a linguistic system). The thesis is that language is mono systemic
- this was certainly the position Firth reacted against and, as de
Beaugrande points out, it seems to be the default in mainstream work. For
instance,
phonological systems have tended to be interpreted
mono systemically in the American Structuralist-generativist tradition
(although not necessarily any longer: cf. Henderson 1987, on this in relation to Firth) and mainstream typological work does not tend to take
registers into account. Here language is decontextualized: there is no
provision in the theory for a contextual system nor for a way of relating
context to language. Consequently, language is modelled as a system that
is insulated from contextual pressures for diversity. 1 The antithesis is
Firthian polystemicness just discussed above, with restricted languages as
the seed for systemic register theory. The uniformity of a single global
system is replaced by the diversity of a plurality of more local systems. The
synthesis is register theory in systemic linguistics -' a theory of functional
variation of the general system correlated with contextual variation. Part
of the challenge it faced was to strike a balance between uniformity and
diversity. Register theory has to be a general theory of the special case,
showing how special cases are related to the general case, i.e. showing how
diverse particular systems are varieties of a more general one. The limiting
case is still, of course, the situation where there is no general system.
Sy.~t~llli(>fuIlctional register theg!y_~o,!l~"" said t()__ oEKi!!at~}XitQ_I::I,!!!i
y wo-rk drew not only o~
g1!YL~'":ta.:s:intosh and St:revens (1964)."This
Firth but --also on worKiritlie1950s by U re, Ellis, Berg, and others. It
includes the interpretation of register in terms of variation within the
linguistic system according to different contexts of situation. In this period,
Spencer and Gregory (1964) and in particular Gregory (1967) were also
very influential. Gregory's work sorted out different kinds of differentiation
very clearly. Since then, the theory has been extended: it has become
possible to place more emphasis on the semantic system (e.g., Halliday
1973) and to identify the correlation between context and language much
more precisely thanks to the theory of metafunctions of language which
developed in the 19608 after, and independently of, the original statement
of register theory (e.g., Halliday 1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985/9). More
work has also been done on the probabilistic interpretation of the linguistic
system (in particular, Nesbitt and Plum 1988; Halliday 1991c; Halliday
and James, 1991) so that we can begin to explore registers in terms of
settings of systemic probabilities (see further Section 3.2.2 below). At the
same time, alternative ways of modelling variation have been explored;
alongside the version developed by Halliday, Hasan and others, Martin
and others have developed a stratifying model, often referred to as the
genre model. I will return to the difference between these two varieties in
Section 2.3 below. The existence of these tw.o models also underlines

earI

224

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

another important issue: the notion of 'register' is not an isolated 'thing';


it is a theoretical construct that is meaningful relative to the overall theory
It is pari: of. As the systemic-functional theory' of language in context has'
expanded since the early 1960s, so 'register' has been recontextualized. For
instance, now that ideology is beginning to be covered more explicitly by
the theory it is becoming possible to relate register to ideology (cf. de
Beaugrande, this volume: Section 4; Hunston, this volume; Martin et al.
1988) for instance in terms of differential access to registers and their
different social values (see further Section 3.1.2 below). This does not in
itself mean that register has changed or has to change - merely that its
context has expanded as the overall model has expanded so that it is possible to work out theoretical consequences in new domains. In theories such
as the glossematic, stratificational and systemic ones, theoretical constructs
derive their significance from their placement relative to other constructs.
There has, then, been considerable theoretical development of register
theory since the early 1960s. And it has taken place in interaction with
ongoing descriptive work. One might conclude, as de Beaugrande does,
that there is a bias towards practical-descriptive research over theoretical
interpretation and that 'register' needs more theory. In contrast, I would
be inclined to emphasize the need for extensive and detailed descriptions
of registers: we now have the theoretical resources for undertaking such
studies and also the computational tools (up to a point, as always: we still
urgently need to bring parsers to bear on large quantities of text). At the
same time, theory and description develop in interaction and further,
extensive descriptive work will create new demands on theory and a
number of theoretical issues can only be settled with a broader descriptive
base.
The chapters in this book make various valuable contributions towards
the development" of our theoretical and descriptive uO:derstanding of
'register'. They are grouped under five headings - practice and theory,
controlling and changing ideologies, the role of metaphor: grammatical and
lexical, quantitative evidence for register analysis; and computer applications - which range particular critical aspects of the linguistic system in
relation to register (grammatical metaphor; ideology) to general issues of
theory, application and methodology. In this final chapter, I shall try to
relate to the other contributions in another, complementary way be relating
register to the general systemic-functional theory of language in context
and the dimensions that define the semiotic space of language. I shall identify the points that are developed, illustrated and challenged in this present
book in particular but also more generally in key contributions to register
analysis such as Ghadessy (1988).

discusses Tagmemic work. We can also note other developments par~lel


to the Malinowski-Firth-Halliday tradition. The Prague School pioneered
work on functional dialect and the emergence of the differentiation between
the standard language and other varieties (e.g. in terms of intellectualization) - e.g. Havranek (1932). Hjelmslev (1943) opened up important
possibilities for the interpretation of variants within the linguistic system
when he proposed the notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic whose expression system is another semiotic system, These possibilities were taken up
by Martin (e.g., 1985) in a systemic alternative to the Halliday-Hasan
register model (see Section 2.3). In the Soviet Union, Bakhtin (1986) also
developed a notion of functional varieties, which he called speech genres.
It has influenced genre theory within social semiotics. Within computational linguistics rather than linguistics, functional variety has come to be
recognized under the heading of sublanguage (see Kitteredge and
Lehrberger 1981; Kitteredge 1983). 'Sublanguage' has played a role in
particular in machine translation. While the task of translating text in
general is dauntingly complex, the task of translating weather forecasts,
technical documentation within a particular field, and the like can be
manageable.

Recognition of register outside systemic1unctional linguistics


Since the orientation in my discussion is systemic-functional, it is worth
emphasizing related work in other traditions. De Beaugrande (this volume)

225

2. The semiotic space in which register is located


Registers reflect one fundamental aspect of the overall organization of
language in context. To explore register and register variation further, it
will be useful to review the dimensions of this overall organization: see
Figure 11. 2. This will make it possible to explore different ways of interpreting registers theoretically and also to specify the theoretical significance
they derive from the location in the overall theory. The language in
context complex is organized globally along the dimensions of stratification
(orders of symbolic abstraction related by realization), metafu.nctional
diversification (modes of meaning), and potentiality (the dimension from
potential to instantialthrough instantiation - from system to text; not
shown in the diagram). This yields a set of stratal subsystems - context
and, within language, semantics, lexicogrammar, and phonology/
graphology. Each stratal subsystem manifests the same basic dimensions of
organization - axis, delicacy and rank. I will call this organization 'fractal'
simply because it constitutes the basic principle of intra-stratal organization
that is manifested in different stratal environments.
Let us start with the global dimensions of organization in Section 2.1
and then turn to those that are local to each stratal subsystem, the fractal
ones, in Section 2.2. These dimensions determine the overall semiotic
space of language in context - the universe of meaning. The important
question we can then ask. is how register expands or constrains the space
- Section 2.3.

224

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

another important issue: the notion of 'register' is not an isolated 'thing';


it is a theoretical construct that is meaningful relative to the overall theory
It is pari: of. As the systemic-functional theory' of language in context has'
expanded since the early 1960s, so 'register' has been recontextualized. For
instance, now that ideology is beginning to be covered more explicitly by
the theory it is becoming possible to relate register to ideology (cf. de
Beaugrande, this volume: Section 4; Hunston, this volume; Martin et al.
1988) for instance in terms of differential access to registers and their
different social values (see further Section 3.1.2 below). This does not in
itself mean that register has changed or has to change - merely that its
context has expanded as the overall model has expanded so that it is possible to work out theoretical consequences in new domains. In theories such
as the glossematic, stratificational and systemic ones, theoretical constructs
derive their significance from their placement relative to other constructs.
There has, then, been considerable theoretical development of register
theory since the early 1960s. And it has taken place in interaction with
ongoing descriptive work. One might conclude, as de Beaugrande does,
that there is a bias towards practical-descriptive research over theoretical
interpretation and that 'register' needs more theory. In contrast, I would
be inclined to emphasize the need for extensive and detailed descriptions
of registers: we now have the theoretical resources for undertaking such
studies and also the computational tools (up to a point, as always: we still
urgently need to bring parsers to bear on large quantities of text). At the
same time, theory and description develop in interaction and further,
extensive descriptive work will create new demands on theory and a
number of theoretical issues can only be settled with a broader descriptive
base.
The chapters in this book make various valuable contributions towards
the development" of our theoretical and descriptive uO:derstanding of
'register'. They are grouped under five headings - practice and theory,
controlling and changing ideologies, the role of metaphor: grammatical and
lexical, quantitative evidence for register analysis; and computer applications - which range particular critical aspects of the linguistic system in
relation to register (grammatical metaphor; ideology) to general issues of
theory, application and methodology. In this final chapter, I shall try to
relate to the other contributions in another, complementary way be relating
register to the general systemic-functional theory of language in context
and the dimensions that define the semiotic space of language. I shall identify the points that are developed, illustrated and challenged in this present
book in particular but also more generally in key contributions to register
analysis such as Ghadessy (1988).

discusses Tagmemic work. We can also note other developments par~lel


to the Malinowski-Firth-Halliday tradition. The Prague School pioneered
work on functional dialect and the emergence of the differentiation between
the standard language and other varieties (e.g. in terms of intellectualization) - e.g. Havranek (1932). Hjelmslev (1943) opened up important
possibilities for the interpretation of variants within the linguistic system
when he proposed the notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic whose expression system is another semiotic system, These possibilities were taken up
by Martin (e.g., 1985) in a systemic alternative to the Halliday-Hasan
register model (see Section 2.3). In the Soviet Union, Bakhtin (1986) also
developed a notion of functional varieties, which he called speech genres.
It has influenced genre theory within social semiotics. Within computational linguistics rather than linguistics, functional variety has come to be
recognized under the heading of sublanguage (see Kitteredge and
Lehrberger 1981; Kitteredge 1983). 'Sublanguage' has played a role in
particular in machine translation. While the task of translating text in
general is dauntingly complex, the task of translating weather forecasts,
technical documentation within a particular field, and the like can be
manageable.

Recognition of register outside systemic1unctional linguistics


Since the orientation in my discussion is systemic-functional, it is worth
emphasizing related work in other traditions. De Beaugrande (this volume)

225

2. The semiotic space in which register is located


Registers reflect one fundamental aspect of the overall organization of
language in context. To explore register and register variation further, it
will be useful to review the dimensions of this overall organization: see
Figure 11. 2. This will make it possible to explore different ways of interpreting registers theoretically and also to specify the theoretical significance
they derive from the location in the overall theory. The language in
context complex is organized globally along the dimensions of stratification
(orders of symbolic abstraction related by realization), metafu.nctional
diversification (modes of meaning), and potentiality (the dimension from
potential to instantialthrough instantiation - from system to text; not
shown in the diagram). This yields a set of stratal subsystems - context
and, within language, semantics, lexicogrammar, and phonology/
graphology. Each stratal subsystem manifests the same basic dimensions of
organization - axis, delicacy and rank. I will call this organization 'fractal'
simply because it constitutes the basic principle of intra-stratal organization
that is manifested in different stratal environments.
Let us start with the global dimensions of organization in Section 2.1
and then turn to those that are local to each stratal subsystem, the fractal
ones, in Section 2.2. These dimensions determine the overall semiotic
space of language in context - the universe of meaning. The important
question we can then ask. is how register expands or constrains the space
- Section 2.3.

226

(j)

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

global organization

227

(iD fractal organization

metafuJlcliUlltll
d i versi fi ca t iun

(manifestation of fundamental
intra-stratal organization in
different stratal environments)

Figure 11.2

semantics

Global and fracta! dimensions of organization

2.1 The global dimensions


The global dimensions are stratification (Section 2.1.1), metafunctional
diversification (Section 2.1. 2), and potentiality (Section 2.1. 3).

2.1.1 Stratification
Language in context is interpreted as a system of systems ordered in
symbolic abstraction. That is, these systems are stratified. Each system has
its own internal organization (see Section 2.2) but it is related to other
systems in a realizational chain: it realizes a higher system (unless it is the
highest system) and it is realized by a lower one (unless it is the lowest
system). This chain of inter-stratal realizations bridges the gap between the
semiotic in high-level cultural meanings and the material, either in speaking or in writing, through a series of intermediate strata. We can draw a
basic stratal line between context and language and other semiotic systems
that are embedded in it: see Figure 11.3. As far as the recognition and
interpretation of register are concerned, it is, or course, critical that
language is interpreted 'within' context.
(i) Context covers both context of situation and context of culture (for the
relationship between the two, see Sections 3.1.2 and 6). However it is
organized, it is clear that context is the locus of the significance or value
given to registers. Right at the beginning of work on register, context of
situation was the place where a register's contextual significance was stated
in terms of field, tenor, and mode values; and in Martin's work it has been

Figure 11.3

Stratification of language in context

further stratified to include genre as one 'plane' (see Section 2.3 below).

(ii) Language is a stratified semiotic system 'embedded' in context. It is


typically interpreted as tristratal in systemic theory - [discourse] semantics,
lexicogrammar, and phonology (I graphology). Semantics and lexicogrammar together form the two content strata of language. They stand in a
natural relationship to one another (Halliday, 1985a), which is important
to remember when we embark on interpretations of 'register' (see Section
4) and descriptions of registers (see Section 7.1). The system of expression
(phonology or graphology) is, in contrast, largely conventional relative to
lexicogrammar.
Semantics is the linguistic inter-level to context; it is the way into the
linguistic system where context can be semanticized (see Halliday, 1973).
Since semantics has the status of inter-level, it is the linguistic system that

226

(j)

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

global organization

227

(iD fractal organization

metafuJlcliUlltll
d i versi fi ca t iun

(manifestation of fundamental
intra-stratal organization in
different stratal environments)

Figure 11.2

semantics

Global and fracta! dimensions of organization

2.1 The global dimensions


The global dimensions are stratification (Section 2.1.1), metafunctional
diversification (Section 2.1. 2), and potentiality (Section 2.1. 3).

2.1.1 Stratification
Language in context is interpreted as a system of systems ordered in
symbolic abstraction. That is, these systems are stratified. Each system has
its own internal organization (see Section 2.2) but it is related to other
systems in a realizational chain: it realizes a higher system (unless it is the
highest system) and it is realized by a lower one (unless it is the lowest
system). This chain of inter-stratal realizations bridges the gap between the
semiotic in high-level cultural meanings and the material, either in speaking or in writing, through a series of intermediate strata. We can draw a
basic stratal line between context and language and other semiotic systems
that are embedded in it: see Figure 11.3. As far as the recognition and
interpretation of register are concerned, it is, or course, critical that
language is interpreted 'within' context.
(i) Context covers both context of situation and context of culture (for the
relationship between the two, see Sections 3.1.2 and 6). However it is
organized, it is clear that context is the locus of the significance or value
given to registers. Right at the beginning of work on register, context of
situation was the place where a register's contextual significance was stated
in terms of field, tenor, and mode values; and in Martin's work it has been

Figure 11.3

Stratification of language in context

further stratified to include genre as one 'plane' (see Section 2.3 below).

(ii) Language is a stratified semiotic system 'embedded' in context. It is


typically interpreted as tristratal in systemic theory - [discourse] semantics,
lexicogrammar, and phonology (I graphology). Semantics and lexicogrammar together form the two content strata of language. They stand in a
natural relationship to one another (Halliday, 1985a), which is important
to remember when we embark on interpretations of 'register' (see Section
4) and descriptions of registers (see Section 7.1). The system of expression
(phonology or graphology) is, in contrast, largely conventional relative to
lexicogrammar.
Semantics is the linguistic inter-level to context; it is the way into the
linguistic system where context can be semanticized (see Halliday, 1973).
Since semantics has the status of inter-level, it is the linguistic system that

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

has the primary responsibility for accommodating varying contextual


demands on language: one possible reflection of this is the emergence of
semantic systems specific to particular contexts of situation, a poly systemic
semantics - semantic systems representing different registers (see Section
4.1 below). It is also important to note that the basic semantic unit is
language functioning in context or text (e.g., Halliday and Hasan 1976)
- not a unit such as a predication or proposition derived from the grammar (as in formal semantics). Consequently, it is theoretically very clear
that registers are not bound to the units of grammar; they are semantically
pervasive from the macro (whole texts) to the micro (semantic units
directly realized by lexicogrammatical ones).
Lexicogrammar is the resource for wording meanings, for realizing
meanings in terms of grammatical structures and lexical items. Relative to
semantics, it can be seen as a more highly generalized system of content:
it is at one remove from context and the contextual diversification that is
the source of different registers. Semantics will, among other things,
mediate between contextual diversity and lexicogrammatical generalization.
At the same time, since lexicogrammar is semantically natural, the two
content strata provide us with different stratal angles on registers - we can
move in either from semantics or from lexicogrammar (see Sections 4 and
7.1 below). Lexicogrammar comprises both grammar and lexis - lexis is
interpreted as most delicate grammar (from Halliday 1961, onwards; see
Cross, this volume). This poses interesting issues for register analysis
particularly since computational tools for analyzing the large text samples
typically needed to characterize registers are more accessible for lexis (cf.
Section 7.2 below). It also makes it theoretically very clear that any grammatical variation across registers (e.g., variation in favoured process types)
will be manifested more delicately as lexical variation and that lexical
variation often derives from grammatical variation.
Text is, as noted, the basic semantic unit of a functional theory of
language - language functioning in context. But in a stratal theory, the
multistratal implications are very clear: a text is a multi-strata! process in
the sense that it is contextualized, i.e. it is also a process of contextual
choices, and it is worded, i.e. it is also a process of lexicogrammatical
choices.

correlations between context of situation and language along the lines of


the functional diversification: field and the ideational metafunction
correlate, tenor and the interpersonal one, and mode and the textual one
(Halliday 1978).
Like language, a functional variety of language, a register, is multifunctional - any register is simultaneously ideational, interpersonal, and
textual. And Halliday's finding means that it is possible to identify which
aspects of context of situation will influence and be influenced by which
aspects of a register: the ideational resources of a register construe a field,
the interpersonal ones a tenor, and the textual ones a mode (see Halliday
1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985; Martin, in press). The mode distinction
between written and spoken clearly correlates with textual systems such as
THEME, ELLIPSIS/SUBSTITUTION, pnd CONJUNCTION; but it is also
realized somewhat more indirectly to achieve different types of 'information chunking' - lexical density (Ure 1971; Halliday 1985b), deployment
of CLAUSE COMPLEXING and grammatical metaphor (Halliday 1985b).
As far as the overall staging of texts- within a register is concerned, all
three contextual aspects are likely to play a role. But they tend towards
different modes of syntagmatic organization: see e.g. Martin (1992) on
tenor-oriented interpersonal prosodies running through a text contrasting
with more segmental field-oriented organization realized through ideational
resources.

228

2.1.2 Functional diversification


Both context of situation and the content strata of language, semantics and
lexicogrammar, are functionally diversified: that is, there are different
modes of contextual and linguistic meaning. The contextual modes - field,
tenor, and mode (to use the current set of terms) - were identified first,
discussed in Halliday, Macintosh and Strevens (1964). (They represent a
re-interpretation of Firth's, 1957, scheme.) Having embarked on a
systemic description of English, Halliday discovered that systems formed
three clusters and, to explain this phenomenon, he set up the three
metafunctions of systemic-functional theory - ideational, interpersonal, and
textual (Halliday 1967/8; 1978; 1985a). He then found that there were

229

2.1.3 Potentiality
Stratification and functional diversification give the semiotic space height
and breadth, as it were; potentiality introduces a kind of time to give us
a semiotic space-time. As it has been described up to now, the language-incontext complex is an atemporal resource: it is simply a specification of
information that can be processed in different ways. This is the contextual
and linguistic potential - what can be meant as Halliday (1973; 1977) puts
it. 2 It is neutral with respect to generation, understanding or any other
process using the resources: the potential is instantiated (or actualized) by
different processes - from what can be meant, various options are actually
meant. The two major types of instantiation are generation and understanding (analysis). They instantiate the same potential and the result is an
instance from the potential. Language functioning in context, text, can be
viewed either as a process, unfolding as an instantiation of the potential,
or as a product, a completed instantiation of the system.
In a general account of language, all three phases have to be in view potential, instantiation, and instance - although linguists have tended to
focus either on the potential or the instantial, leaving processes of instantiation to computational linguists (cf. Matthiessen and Bateman 1991, for
issues of instantiation). I will address the significance of potentiality to
register analysis in Section 6.1 below. But a very central point is that as
a variety of language, a register embodies all three phases of potentiality;
and this is, among other things, the key to the role of text in instantiating
and changing a register system. Along the way to Section 6.1, I will take

::

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

has the primary responsibility for accommodating varying contextual


demands on language: one possible reflection of this is the emergence of
semantic systems specific to particular contexts of situation, a poly systemic
semantics - semantic systems representing different registers (see Section
4.1 below). It is also important to note that the basic semantic unit is
language functioning in context or text (e.g., Halliday and Hasan 1976)
- not a unit such as a predication or proposition derived from the grammar (as in formal semantics). Consequently, it is theoretically very clear
that registers are not bound to the units of grammar; they are semantically
pervasive from the macro (whole texts) to the micro (semantic units
directly realized by lexicogrammatical ones).
Lexicogrammar is the resource for wording meanings, for realizing
meanings in terms of grammatical structures and lexical items. Relative to
semantics, it can be seen as a more highly generalized system of content:
it is at one remove from context and the contextual diversification that is
the source of different registers. Semantics will, among other things,
mediate between contextual diversity and lexicogrammatical generalization.
At the same time, since lexicogrammar is semantically natural, the two
content strata provide us with different stratal angles on registers - we can
move in either from semantics or from lexicogrammar (see Sections 4 and
7.1 below). Lexicogrammar comprises both grammar and lexis - lexis is
interpreted as most delicate grammar (from Halliday 1961, onwards; see
Cross, this volume). This poses interesting issues for register analysis
particularly since computational tools for analyzing the large text samples
typically needed to characterize registers are more accessible for lexis (cf.
Section 7.2 below). It also makes it theoretically very clear that any grammatical variation across registers (e.g., variation in favoured process types)
will be manifested more delicately as lexical variation and that lexical
variation often derives from grammatical variation.
Text is, as noted, the basic semantic unit of a functional theory of
language - language functioning in context. But in a stratal theory, the
multistratal implications are very clear: a text is a multi-strata! process in
the sense that it is contextualized, i.e. it is also a process of contextual
choices, and it is worded, i.e. it is also a process of lexicogrammatical
choices.

correlations between context of situation and language along the lines of


the functional diversification: field and the ideational metafunction
correlate, tenor and the interpersonal one, and mode and the textual one
(Halliday 1978).
Like language, a functional variety of language, a register, is multifunctional - any register is simultaneously ideational, interpersonal, and
textual. And Halliday's finding means that it is possible to identify which
aspects of context of situation will influence and be influenced by which
aspects of a register: the ideational resources of a register construe a field,
the interpersonal ones a tenor, and the textual ones a mode (see Halliday
1978; Halliday and Hasan 1985; Martin, in press). The mode distinction
between written and spoken clearly correlates with textual systems such as
THEME, ELLIPSIS/SUBSTITUTION, pnd CONJUNCTION; but it is also
realized somewhat more indirectly to achieve different types of 'information chunking' - lexical density (Ure 1971; Halliday 1985b), deployment
of CLAUSE COMPLEXING and grammatical metaphor (Halliday 1985b).
As far as the overall staging of texts- within a register is concerned, all
three contextual aspects are likely to play a role. But they tend towards
different modes of syntagmatic organization: see e.g. Martin (1992) on
tenor-oriented interpersonal prosodies running through a text contrasting
with more segmental field-oriented organization realized through ideational
resources.

228

2.1.2 Functional diversification


Both context of situation and the content strata of language, semantics and
lexicogrammar, are functionally diversified: that is, there are different
modes of contextual and linguistic meaning. The contextual modes - field,
tenor, and mode (to use the current set of terms) - were identified first,
discussed in Halliday, Macintosh and Strevens (1964). (They represent a
re-interpretation of Firth's, 1957, scheme.) Having embarked on a
systemic description of English, Halliday discovered that systems formed
three clusters and, to explain this phenomenon, he set up the three
metafunctions of systemic-functional theory - ideational, interpersonal, and
textual (Halliday 1967/8; 1978; 1985a). He then found that there were

229

2.1.3 Potentiality
Stratification and functional diversification give the semiotic space height
and breadth, as it were; potentiality introduces a kind of time to give us
a semiotic space-time. As it has been described up to now, the language-incontext complex is an atemporal resource: it is simply a specification of
information that can be processed in different ways. This is the contextual
and linguistic potential - what can be meant as Halliday (1973; 1977) puts
it. 2 It is neutral with respect to generation, understanding or any other
process using the resources: the potential is instantiated (or actualized) by
different processes - from what can be meant, various options are actually
meant. The two major types of instantiation are generation and understanding (analysis). They instantiate the same potential and the result is an
instance from the potential. Language functioning in context, text, can be
viewed either as a process, unfolding as an instantiation of the potential,
or as a product, a completed instantiation of the system.
In a general account of language, all three phases have to be in view potential, instantiation, and instance - although linguists have tended to
focus either on the potential or the instantial, leaving processes of instantiation to computational linguists (cf. Matthiessen and Bateman 1991, for
issues of instantiation). I will address the significance of potentiality to
register analysis in Section 6.1 below. But a very central point is that as
a variety of language, a register embodies all three phases of potentiality;
and this is, among other things, the key to the role of text in instantiating
and changing a register system. Along the way to Section 6.1, I will take

::

230

-\V,

1\

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

up the role of probabilities in the potential in register analysis (Section


3.2.2 (i and instantiation in the history of a text (Section 5.1).

different semantic rank scale of the type posited by Sinclair and Coulthard
(1975) for class-room discourse: see Sections 3.2.2 (iii) and 4.2 below.

2.2 The fractal dimensions

2.3 Construing register - theoretical alternatives: registerial variation vs. genre plane

The global dimensions place the strata, metafunctions, and phases of potentiality relative to one another and show how they interact. In addition, each
stratum is organized internally; it has intra-stratal organization. It would be
perfectly possible that the fundamental dimensions of each stratum were
quite distinct and this is the way they tended to emerge in generative
linguistics although the picture is changing with approaches such as Pollard
and Sag's (1987) Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. However, in
systemic-functional theory, the different strata have all been interpreted
according to the same fundamental dimensions and the same is true of
Lamb's stratificational theory and represe'ntation. There is one generalized
intra-stratal organization, which is manifested in different stratal
environments; this organization is what I call fractal. This is not to say that
the strata are identical in their internal organization - there are certainly
differences (such as the possibility of rank shift), but they are to be seen
against the background of the general principles of intra-stratal organization.
The fractal dimensions are axis (paradigmaticlsyntagmatic), delicacy and
rank. They are well-known and do not need any general comments. But
I will comment briefly on their significance for register. Axially,
paradigmatic organization is primary, represented by the system network,
where systemic options provide the environment for syntagmatic specifications. This is absolutely crucial to the interpretation of register since it
means that register has to be interpreted in systemic terms - as variation
in the system - which we arrive at through syntagmatic analysis (e.g.,
analysis of grammatical structures, grammatical items, and lexical items). :/(
It also has other consequences, such as the possibility of specifying a
register in terms of systemic probabilities (see Section 3.2.2 (i.3
The primacy of paradigmatic organization also opens up the possibility
of integrating another dimension - delicacy. This is the ordering of
systems in the system network from most general to most specific. This is
also of fundamental importance to the interpretation of register since it
means that registers can relate to the general system in terms of delicacy
(cf. Section 3.2.2 (ii) below) and that we can characterize registers at
various de~rees of delicacy. (cf. Section 7.1 beIO\~).Further, it. is the key
to the'relatlOn between leXIS and grammar - leXIS as most dehcate grammar, already mentioned above: see Cross (this volume).
As far as rank is concerned, there are two important points (i) Just as
a register spans the other dimensions of organization, it spans rank. In
particular it is worth noting that it is semantically pervasive from the
macro to the micro (cf. Leckie-Tarry, this volume). (ii) The grammatical
and phonological rank scales are clearly generalized but it seems quite
likely that different registers, or different families of registers, operate with

231

We have seen, then, what the overall semiotic space of language in context
is like from a systemic-functional point of view. How does register fit in?
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) provides a discussion of register and genre and
the different theoretical positions they represent but I will review the positions specifically relative to the overall theoretical space in the hope that
this will further illuminate the positions. Having considered the dimensions
that defined the 'theoretical space' we use to construe language in context,
we can now explore alternative ways of construing register. For instance,
we can ask whether register is located stratally, axially, etc. relative to the
theoretical interpretation of the linguistic system 'presented so far. However
register is construed theoretically, it seems quite clear that it is an aspect ,
of a mode of organization that expands the overall semiotic space: that
. mode of organization is a new way of making meanings by giving contextual value ~
to variation in the linguistic system. That is, in addition to the system itself
being used to make meaning, variations in the system also create meaning.)t
At the same time, each register embodies a kind of constraint on what
meanings are likely to be made. But there is nothing contradictory in this:
the stratification of content into semantics and lexicogrammar is significant
expansion of the overall meaning-making potential but at the same time.
the semantics constrains the lexicogrammar in terms of what are likely
meanings. Registerial constraints embody information - information about
diversification across different contexts and information carried by the
system itself.
So how can the expansion of the overall semiotic space be accounted for?
Within systemic linguistics, there have, in fact, been two approaches to
modelling 'register' (see Figure 11.4):

*-

(i) Register is interpreted in terms of a separate dimension of variation


within the system - functional variation or register variation (Halliday,
Macintosh and Strevens 1964; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978; Halliday
and Hasan 1985). Register is thus a name of a kind of variation. (cf.
dialect as a mass term). The notion of variation is primary. A
'register' is then a(n idealized) location along this dimension, just as
a synchronic system is a location along the dimension of diachronic
change (phylogenesis) or a dialect is a location along the dimension of
dialectal variation. But a 'register' is not, in the first instance, located
anywhere in particular in language along other dimensions although
there are principled tendencies - it is a variety of language, not a part
of it .. Language is then the assemblage of locations along the dimension of register variation. 4
(ii) Register is interpreted in terms of the dimension of stratification in

230

-\V,

1\

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

up the role of probabilities in the potential in register analysis (Section


3.2.2 (i and instantiation in the history of a text (Section 5.1).

different semantic rank scale of the type posited by Sinclair and Coulthard
(1975) for class-room discourse: see Sections 3.2.2 (iii) and 4.2 below.

2.2 The fractal dimensions

2.3 Construing register - theoretical alternatives: registerial variation vs. genre plane

The global dimensions place the strata, metafunctions, and phases of potentiality relative to one another and show how they interact. In addition, each
stratum is organized internally; it has intra-stratal organization. It would be
perfectly possible that the fundamental dimensions of each stratum were
quite distinct and this is the way they tended to emerge in generative
linguistics although the picture is changing with approaches such as Pollard
and Sag's (1987) Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. However, in
systemic-functional theory, the different strata have all been interpreted
according to the same fundamental dimensions and the same is true of
Lamb's stratificational theory and represe'ntation. There is one generalized
intra-stratal organization, which is manifested in different stratal
environments; this organization is what I call fractal. This is not to say that
the strata are identical in their internal organization - there are certainly
differences (such as the possibility of rank shift), but they are to be seen
against the background of the general principles of intra-stratal organization.
The fractal dimensions are axis (paradigmaticlsyntagmatic), delicacy and
rank. They are well-known and do not need any general comments. But
I will comment briefly on their significance for register. Axially,
paradigmatic organization is primary, represented by the system network,
where systemic options provide the environment for syntagmatic specifications. This is absolutely crucial to the interpretation of register since it
means that register has to be interpreted in systemic terms - as variation
in the system - which we arrive at through syntagmatic analysis (e.g.,
analysis of grammatical structures, grammatical items, and lexical items). :/(
It also has other consequences, such as the possibility of specifying a
register in terms of systemic probabilities (see Section 3.2.2 (i.3
The primacy of paradigmatic organization also opens up the possibility
of integrating another dimension - delicacy. This is the ordering of
systems in the system network from most general to most specific. This is
also of fundamental importance to the interpretation of register since it
means that registers can relate to the general system in terms of delicacy
(cf. Section 3.2.2 (ii) below) and that we can characterize registers at
various de~rees of delicacy. (cf. Section 7.1 beIO\~).Further, it. is the key
to the'relatlOn between leXIS and grammar - leXIS as most dehcate grammar, already mentioned above: see Cross (this volume).
As far as rank is concerned, there are two important points (i) Just as
a register spans the other dimensions of organization, it spans rank. In
particular it is worth noting that it is semantically pervasive from the
macro to the micro (cf. Leckie-Tarry, this volume). (ii) The grammatical
and phonological rank scales are clearly generalized but it seems quite
likely that different registers, or different families of registers, operate with

231

We have seen, then, what the overall semiotic space of language in context
is like from a systemic-functional point of view. How does register fit in?
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) provides a discussion of register and genre and
the different theoretical positions they represent but I will review the positions specifically relative to the overall theoretical space in the hope that
this will further illuminate the positions. Having considered the dimensions
that defined the 'theoretical space' we use to construe language in context,
we can now explore alternative ways of construing register. For instance,
we can ask whether register is located stratally, axially, etc. relative to the
theoretical interpretation of the linguistic system 'presented so far. However
register is construed theoretically, it seems quite clear that it is an aspect ,
of a mode of organization that expands the overall semiotic space: that
. mode of organization is a new way of making meanings by giving contextual value ~
to variation in the linguistic system. That is, in addition to the system itself
being used to make meaning, variations in the system also create meaning.)t
At the same time, each register embodies a kind of constraint on what
meanings are likely to be made. But there is nothing contradictory in this:
the stratification of content into semantics and lexicogrammar is significant
expansion of the overall meaning-making potential but at the same time.
the semantics constrains the lexicogrammar in terms of what are likely
meanings. Registerial constraints embody information - information about
diversification across different contexts and information carried by the
system itself.
So how can the expansion of the overall semiotic space be accounted for?
Within systemic linguistics, there have, in fact, been two approaches to
modelling 'register' (see Figure 11.4):

*-

(i) Register is interpreted in terms of a separate dimension of variation


within the system - functional variation or register variation (Halliday,
Macintosh and Strevens 1964; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978; Halliday
and Hasan 1985). Register is thus a name of a kind of variation. (cf.
dialect as a mass term). The notion of variation is primary. A
'register' is then a(n idealized) location along this dimension, just as
a synchronic system is a location along the dimension of diachronic
change (phylogenesis) or a dialect is a location along the dimension of
dialectal variation. But a 'register' is not, in the first instance, located
anywhere in particular in language along other dimensions although
there are principled tendencies - it is a variety of language, not a part
of it .. Language is then the assemblage of locations along the dimension of register variation. 4
(ii) Register is interpreted in terms of the dimension of stratification in

232

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN
(ii)

Table 11.1
Alternative (i) - Halliday &
Hasan

Alternative (ii) - Martin

register

functional variation of language


[no direct equivalent in (ii)J
- a register is a 'location' along
this dimension of variation

first plane above language


[= context of situation in (i)J

genre

not a theoretical term; either


synonymous with register or used in its
more traditional sense within literary
studies

second plane above language


[no direct equivalent in (i)J

functional variation

register 3

233

register 1
Figure 11.4

Register as state in functional variation or as connotative semiotic

its manifestation of 'planing' (due to Martin 1985, in press, etc.).


More specifically, it is interpreted as a 'plane' above language that is
the content system whose expression system is context of situation,
which itself is taken as the content system whose expression is language
(see Figure 1 in Leckie-Tarry's chapter for more detail and another
type of diagram). The critical theoretical source here is Hjelmslev's
(1943) notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic system whose expression
plane is another semiotic system. Importantly, registers are interpreted
as social actions for achieving social purposes.
Alternative (i) was the first position to be developed within systemic
linguistics. In developing alternative (ii), Martin built on this position but
he used stratification within context relative to language to model register
variation: lower-stratal linguistic variation is modelled systemically (i.e., as
a network of inter-related choices) at a higher contextual stratum specifying
the register potential of a language. This is one prominent example of the
kind of flexibility Halliday (1980) points out characterizes systemic theory;
it is a 'flexi-model', where it is possible to play off different dimensions
against one another. But the two positions are genuinely alternative ways
of modelling register; they are not part of the total picture intended to be
combined. However, there is no a priori reason why they can't be interpreted as complementarities.
Alternative (i) has often been called the register model and alternative
(ii) the genre model. However, there is potential terminological confusion
at this point since register and genre have been used in different ways by
proponents of the two models. The differences are set out in Table iLl.
Martin thus renamed 'context of situation' register and introduced genre
as a new theoretical term. 5 It is important to note that genre is not a
separate theoretical term in alternative (i). One reason the term was

avoided early on was simply that its traditional sense was far too narrow
and associated with literary varieties. Halliday (1978) indicates how this
traditional term can be interpreted according to systemic-functional theory
but this should not be read as an attempt to set up genre as a systemic term
alongside register.
.
There are, of course, yet other ways of using the terms. For instance,
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) notes that genre may be used to characterize a
whole text whereas register 'is frequently used to refer to sections within a
text which are characterized by certain linguistic forms'. If the difference
is only one of scale, it would seem better to talk about e.g. genres and
macro-genres (cf. Martin 1991).
There are also, of course, yet other terms. The Prague School termfunctional dialect was mentioned in Section 1 above, as was the computational
linguistic term sublanguage. The former makes the analogy with dialect
transparent. Sometimes terms such as text/discourse type, text/discourse typology
are used or are used to gloss genre or register. While these terms have the
advantage that they draw attention to the fact that register variation has
text as its scope they have the drawback that they focus only on (semantic)
units in the process of communication but register variation is also systemic
- a property of the linguistic potential.
As far as the recognition of particular types of register or genre is
concerned, it is important to note that there is (as in so many other areas
of language) a more or less elaborated folk theory, which includes names
for various types such as memos, telegrams, romances. However, we
cannot assume that these can automatically be taken over into a linguistic
account of types of register. Martin (p.c.) has observed that folk genres
tend to be biased towards mode - towards easily observable overt format,
etc. (this is a general feature of folk taxonomies in contrast to scientific
taxonomies, which are often based on more covert criteria: cf. Wignell et
al. 1987.) Thus, apart from any other short-comings, the folk notion of
genre tends to be functionally imbalanced and there is no a priori reason

232

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN
(ii)

Table 11.1
Alternative (i) - Halliday &
Hasan

Alternative (ii) - Martin

register

functional variation of language


[no direct equivalent in (ii)J
- a register is a 'location' along
this dimension of variation

first plane above language


[= context of situation in (i)J

genre

not a theoretical term; either


synonymous with register or used in its
more traditional sense within literary
studies

second plane above language


[no direct equivalent in (i)J

functional variation

register 3

233

register 1
Figure 11.4

Register as state in functional variation or as connotative semiotic

its manifestation of 'planing' (due to Martin 1985, in press, etc.).


More specifically, it is interpreted as a 'plane' above language that is
the content system whose expression system is context of situation,
which itself is taken as the content system whose expression is language
(see Figure 1 in Leckie-Tarry's chapter for more detail and another
type of diagram). The critical theoretical source here is Hjelmslev's
(1943) notion of konnotationssprog - a semiotic system whose expression
plane is another semiotic system. Importantly, registers are interpreted
as social actions for achieving social purposes.
Alternative (i) was the first position to be developed within systemic
linguistics. In developing alternative (ii), Martin built on this position but
he used stratification within context relative to language to model register
variation: lower-stratal linguistic variation is modelled systemically (i.e., as
a network of inter-related choices) at a higher contextual stratum specifying
the register potential of a language. This is one prominent example of the
kind of flexibility Halliday (1980) points out characterizes systemic theory;
it is a 'flexi-model', where it is possible to play off different dimensions
against one another. But the two positions are genuinely alternative ways
of modelling register; they are not part of the total picture intended to be
combined. However, there is no a priori reason why they can't be interpreted as complementarities.
Alternative (i) has often been called the register model and alternative
(ii) the genre model. However, there is potential terminological confusion
at this point since register and genre have been used in different ways by
proponents of the two models. The differences are set out in Table iLl.
Martin thus renamed 'context of situation' register and introduced genre
as a new theoretical term. 5 It is important to note that genre is not a
separate theoretical term in alternative (i). One reason the term was

avoided early on was simply that its traditional sense was far too narrow
and associated with literary varieties. Halliday (1978) indicates how this
traditional term can be interpreted according to systemic-functional theory
but this should not be read as an attempt to set up genre as a systemic term
alongside register.
.
There are, of course, yet other ways of using the terms. For instance,
Leckie-Tarry (this volume) notes that genre may be used to characterize a
whole text whereas register 'is frequently used to refer to sections within a
text which are characterized by certain linguistic forms'. If the difference
is only one of scale, it would seem better to talk about e.g. genres and
macro-genres (cf. Martin 1991).
There are also, of course, yet other terms. The Prague School termfunctional dialect was mentioned in Section 1 above, as was the computational
linguistic term sublanguage. The former makes the analogy with dialect
transparent. Sometimes terms such as text/discourse type, text/discourse typology
are used or are used to gloss genre or register. While these terms have the
advantage that they draw attention to the fact that register variation has
text as its scope they have the drawback that they focus only on (semantic)
units in the process of communication but register variation is also systemic
- a property of the linguistic potential.
As far as the recognition of particular types of register or genre is
concerned, it is important to note that there is (as in so many other areas
of language) a more or less elaborated folk theory, which includes names
for various types such as memos, telegrams, romances. However, we
cannot assume that these can automatically be taken over into a linguistic
account of types of register. Martin (p.c.) has observed that folk genres
tend to be biased towards mode - towards easily observable overt format,
etc. (this is a general feature of folk taxonomies in contrast to scientific
taxonomies, which are often based on more covert criteria: cf. Wignell et
al. 1987.) Thus, apart from any other short-comings, the folk notion of
genre tends to be functionally imbalanced and there is no a priori reason

234

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

why we should take it as our point of departure in developing an account


of register types. 6
In what follows, it will only be possible to follow through one alternative
systematically and I will use alternative (i) since it raises various issues
about variation as an independent theoretical dimension that are important
in the context of this book. A number of findings from one alternative can
be re-interpreted in terms of the other and I will do so where appropriate.
The genre model has been tremendously influential and been used in many
studies, in particular in educational linguistics and social semiotics. The
most recent summary of the model can be found in Martin (in press). It
is reviewed critically in Hasan (in press) from the point of view of her
theoretical position and the discussion will be continued from the genre
model's point of view. Since the topic of this book is variation in language
and a number of contributions demonstrate the value of this variation, it
will be very clear that variation in metalanguage is equally valuable (cf.
further Section 8). In fact it is crucial, since the existence of different
varieties of systemic-functional theory clarifies the overall theoretical space.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND


(ii!

235

higher-level

C01'lstallt

context

(i) no higher-level
'constant

language

3. Register variation
Let us explore, then, the interpretation of register as a state of the
linguistic system along the dimension of functional variation, or, as it has
also been called, diatypic variation. The variation is the primary
theoretical abstraction - the recognition that the system is functionally
variable - and the notion of 'register' is a convenient secondary idealization - just as a dialect and a synchronic system are. In fact, register is
explicitly grouped with other kinds of variation on the systemic theme (cf.
Gregory 1967; Gregory and Carol 1978; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978) dialectal (including sociolectel) and historical. (We will return to history in
Section 5: there are at least three types of history to take into account.)
This is important as it invites us to explore common ways of modelling
varieties and to generalize insights gained with one type of variation (cf.
Section 3.2.2 (ii) below). Register variation is compared with codal variation and dialectal variation in Figure 11.5, which is based on Halliday's
characterization of these types of variation according to the existence and
location of a higher-level constant in relation to which there is variation.
What is specific about register variation? The answer given by Halliday
(e.g., 1978) has two interconnected parts, relating to (i) contextual role and
(ii) domain of variation within the linguistic system:
(i) Upwards: in contrast to other types of variation, register variation has
no higher-level constant. Its higher-stratal significance pertains precisely
to diversification in context of situation - to selections within field,
tenor and mode. That is, the function of register variation is contex~
tual, in the sense of context of situation. (In contrast, dialectal variation
has a higher-level constant within language and is a realization of the
social structure of a culture).

Figure 11.5

Different types of variation according to presence and location of


constant

(ii) Within the linguistic system: since the function of register variation
is contextual, that linguistic stratum which is the interface to the
context of situation is implicated in the first instance - that is, semantics. In other words, registerial variation is semantic variation in the
first instance. In contrast, Halliday (1978) suggests, dialectal variation
primarily affects the lower strata of lexicogrammar and phonology .
However, Hasan's (e.g., 1990) research has shown that semantic variation may be codal (cf. Halliday 1991a): the difference from register
variation is that there is a higher-level constant outside language.
Let us begin with the contextual role of register variation and then turn
to the variation itself within the linguistic system.

3.1 Contextual roli

of register

variation

We can interpret register variation as the linguistic system's response to


pressures from above, from the diversity of contexts of communication:
language has to accommodate this diversity and it does so by varying itself.

234

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

why we should take it as our point of departure in developing an account


of register types. 6
In what follows, it will only be possible to follow through one alternative
systematically and I will use alternative (i) since it raises various issues
about variation as an independent theoretical dimension that are important
in the context of this book. A number of findings from one alternative can
be re-interpreted in terms of the other and I will do so where appropriate.
The genre model has been tremendously influential and been used in many
studies, in particular in educational linguistics and social semiotics. The
most recent summary of the model can be found in Martin (in press). It
is reviewed critically in Hasan (in press) from the point of view of her
theoretical position and the discussion will be continued from the genre
model's point of view. Since the topic of this book is variation in language
and a number of contributions demonstrate the value of this variation, it
will be very clear that variation in metalanguage is equally valuable (cf.
further Section 8). In fact it is crucial, since the existence of different
varieties of systemic-functional theory clarifies the overall theoretical space.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND


(ii!

235

higher-level

C01'lstallt

context

(i) no higher-level
'constant

language

3. Register variation
Let us explore, then, the interpretation of register as a state of the
linguistic system along the dimension of functional variation, or, as it has
also been called, diatypic variation. The variation is the primary
theoretical abstraction - the recognition that the system is functionally
variable - and the notion of 'register' is a convenient secondary idealization - just as a dialect and a synchronic system are. In fact, register is
explicitly grouped with other kinds of variation on the systemic theme (cf.
Gregory 1967; Gregory and Carol 1978; Hasan 1973; Halliday 1978) dialectal (including sociolectel) and historical. (We will return to history in
Section 5: there are at least three types of history to take into account.)
This is important as it invites us to explore common ways of modelling
varieties and to generalize insights gained with one type of variation (cf.
Section 3.2.2 (ii) below). Register variation is compared with codal variation and dialectal variation in Figure 11.5, which is based on Halliday's
characterization of these types of variation according to the existence and
location of a higher-level constant in relation to which there is variation.
What is specific about register variation? The answer given by Halliday
(e.g., 1978) has two interconnected parts, relating to (i) contextual role and
(ii) domain of variation within the linguistic system:
(i) Upwards: in contrast to other types of variation, register variation has
no higher-level constant. Its higher-stratal significance pertains precisely
to diversification in context of situation - to selections within field,
tenor and mode. That is, the function of register variation is contex~
tual, in the sense of context of situation. (In contrast, dialectal variation
has a higher-level constant within language and is a realization of the
social structure of a culture).

Figure 11.5

Different types of variation according to presence and location of


constant

(ii) Within the linguistic system: since the function of register variation
is contextual, that linguistic stratum which is the interface to the
context of situation is implicated in the first instance - that is, semantics. In other words, registerial variation is semantic variation in the
first instance. In contrast, Halliday (1978) suggests, dialectal variation
primarily affects the lower strata of lexicogrammar and phonology .
However, Hasan's (e.g., 1990) research has shown that semantic variation may be codal (cf. Halliday 1991a): the difference from register
variation is that there is a higher-level constant outside language.
Let us begin with the contextual role of register variation and then turn
to the variation itself within the linguistic system.

3.1 Contextual roli

of register

variation

We can interpret register variation as the linguistic system's response to


pressures from above, from the diversity of contexts of communication:
language has to accommodate this diversity and it does so by varying itself.

236

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

237

That is, the diversity of contextual demands engenders register variation.


But as always with characterizations of inter-stratal relations, we have to
remember that the relation is dialectal: register variation also construes
contextual diversity.

3.1.1 Context oj situation


Contextual demands can be characterized in terms of recurrent contexts of,
situation - that is, situation types that have become part of a culture.-\.(
Selections from context of situation are realized by register variation and
in this respect the realizational relation differs from that between
lexicogrammar and semantics. The semantic system is realized by the
lexicogrammatical one but context of situation is realized not directly by
the linguistic system but by variation in the linguistic system. So a contextual choice is a meta-choice relative to the linguistic system not only in the
general sense of a stratal move up (where semantics might be viewed as
meta-grammar) but also in the sense that it is a choice between varieties
of the linguistic system .
.Situation types are intersections of different field, tenor and mode values
- what Hasan (1985) calls contextual configurations (CCs), Each context
of situation corresponds to a location along the dimension of register variation - that is, to a register. 7 So a given combination of field, tenor and
mode (a CC) corresponds to a particular register: see Figure 11.6. The
values are selections from field, tenor and mode networks. This means that
we can state the values at variable degrees of delicacy so we can give whole
'families' of registers, subfamilies or single registers contextual values
depending on the degree of delicacy we select within context. For instance,
we can group recipes, car repair instructions, and furniture assembly
instructions into a family of procedural registers. Contextually, these may
all be similar in tenor and mode but they will certainly vary in field. Or,
to take another example, in characterizing scientific English as a
generalized register, Halliday (1988: 162) uses very general, indelicate
field, tenor and mode values: 'in field, extending, transmitting or exploring
knowledge in the physical, biological or social sciences; in tenor, addressed
to specialists, learners or laymen, from within the same group (e.g.
specialist to specialist) or across groups (e.g. lecturer to students); and III
mode, phonic or graphic channel, most incongruent (e.g. formal "written
language" with graphic channel) or less so (e.g. formal with phonic channel), and with variation in rhetorical function - expository, hortatory,
polemic, imaginative and so on.'
The contextual characterization of a register is very important since it
specifies the register's higher-level significance - it is important not just to
take over existing categories glossed in simple terms such as the language
of a particular activity or discipline or form of publication. These
categories tend to be too crude and heterogeneous. There are examples of
careful descriptions in e.g. Halliday and Hasan (1985) and Halliday (1978)
but this is one area where we need a good deal more descriptive experience
to establish descriptive categories that can be re-used and expanded -

",., register 3
P

pP

register 2
register 1

Figure 11.6

Contexts of situation characterized by ecs and corresponding


registers

~ompar~ble to the descriptive categories we now have for the grammar (as
Halhday 1985a). Ghadessy (this volume) offers a detailed commentary
on the field, tenor and mode of contexts of situation in which business
communication occurs. See also Section 7.1.
Context of situation is characterized by the fractal dimensions of
organization (see Section 2.2 above) just like any other stratal system. It
is both paradigmatically and syntagmatically organized - it has system as
well as structure. It has generally been assumed that different situation
types are characterized by different structural configurations, different
gene.ric structures. Such structures unfold over time so they are staged;
mOVIllg from one stage to another means moving from one logo genetic
state to another in the instantiation of a context of situation (cf. Section
5.1 below and see further Q'Donnell, Matthiessen and Sefton 1991 - for
a general discussion of the dynamics of context, see Hasan 1981). The
different stages may be realized by language alone, by a balanced mixture
of language and non-symbolic behaviour, or mainly by non-symbolic
behaviour. And semiotic systems other than language may also be
involved. The division of labour depends on selections within context of
III

236

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

237

That is, the diversity of contextual demands engenders register variation.


But as always with characterizations of inter-stratal relations, we have to
remember that the relation is dialectal: register variation also construes
contextual diversity.

3.1.1 Context oj situation


Contextual demands can be characterized in terms of recurrent contexts of,
situation - that is, situation types that have become part of a culture.-\.(
Selections from context of situation are realized by register variation and
in this respect the realizational relation differs from that between
lexicogrammar and semantics. The semantic system is realized by the
lexicogrammatical one but context of situation is realized not directly by
the linguistic system but by variation in the linguistic system. So a contextual choice is a meta-choice relative to the linguistic system not only in the
general sense of a stratal move up (where semantics might be viewed as
meta-grammar) but also in the sense that it is a choice between varieties
of the linguistic system .
.Situation types are intersections of different field, tenor and mode values
- what Hasan (1985) calls contextual configurations (CCs), Each context
of situation corresponds to a location along the dimension of register variation - that is, to a register. 7 So a given combination of field, tenor and
mode (a CC) corresponds to a particular register: see Figure 11.6. The
values are selections from field, tenor and mode networks. This means that
we can state the values at variable degrees of delicacy so we can give whole
'families' of registers, subfamilies or single registers contextual values
depending on the degree of delicacy we select within context. For instance,
we can group recipes, car repair instructions, and furniture assembly
instructions into a family of procedural registers. Contextually, these may
all be similar in tenor and mode but they will certainly vary in field. Or,
to take another example, in characterizing scientific English as a
generalized register, Halliday (1988: 162) uses very general, indelicate
field, tenor and mode values: 'in field, extending, transmitting or exploring
knowledge in the physical, biological or social sciences; in tenor, addressed
to specialists, learners or laymen, from within the same group (e.g.
specialist to specialist) or across groups (e.g. lecturer to students); and III
mode, phonic or graphic channel, most incongruent (e.g. formal "written
language" with graphic channel) or less so (e.g. formal with phonic channel), and with variation in rhetorical function - expository, hortatory,
polemic, imaginative and so on.'
The contextual characterization of a register is very important since it
specifies the register's higher-level significance - it is important not just to
take over existing categories glossed in simple terms such as the language
of a particular activity or discipline or form of publication. These
categories tend to be too crude and heterogeneous. There are examples of
careful descriptions in e.g. Halliday and Hasan (1985) and Halliday (1978)
but this is one area where we need a good deal more descriptive experience
to establish descriptive categories that can be re-used and expanded -

",., register 3
P

pP

register 2
register 1

Figure 11.6

Contexts of situation characterized by ecs and corresponding


registers

~ompar~ble to the descriptive categories we now have for the grammar (as
Halhday 1985a). Ghadessy (this volume) offers a detailed commentary
on the field, tenor and mode of contexts of situation in which business
communication occurs. See also Section 7.1.
Context of situation is characterized by the fractal dimensions of
organization (see Section 2.2 above) just like any other stratal system. It
is both paradigmatically and syntagmatically organized - it has system as
well as structure. It has generally been assumed that different situation
types are characterized by different structural configurations, different
gene.ric structures. Such structures unfold over time so they are staged;
mOVIllg from one stage to another means moving from one logo genetic
state to another in the instantiation of a context of situation (cf. Section
5.1 below and see further Q'Donnell, Matthiessen and Sefton 1991 - for
a general discussion of the dynamics of context, see Hasan 1981). The
different stages may be realized by language alone, by a balanced mixture
of language and non-symbolic behaviour, or mainly by non-symbolic
behaviour. And semiotic systems other than language may also be
involved. The division of labour depends on selections within context of
III

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

situation. The limiting case of context of situation being realized by


register variation is thus variation in type of social system - either from
language to another semiotic system or from a semiotic one to a nonsemiotic one (i.e., one that is primarily non-symbolic rather than symbolic
even if it has secondary interpretations). 8 Historically, it is even possible
to get a sense of how designed semiotic systems have taken over from
specialist registers - cf. Section 5.3 below.
Situation types are thus structured but it also seems highly likely that
they may be ranked. Sinclair and Coulthard's (1975) work on lessons in
class room interaction would be an example of this and Steiner's (1988)
work on activity in general demonstrates the existence of ranking. Any
ranking of situation types would be reflected in the semantic system of the
relevant register: see further Sections 3.2.2 and 4.2.

in the mid 1980s) have argued that the macro-categories cannot necessarily
be taken for granted and that it is premature to try to link up the microanalysis with a priori macro categories instead of showing how macro
categories are brought into existence in the micro of daily life. This
problem is highly relevant to register analysis since it relates directly to the
question of contextual significance beyond the context of situation. 10
Within systemic theory, the relationship between context of situation and
contexts of culture has been explored in rather different terms (elaborating
rather than extending according to the different types of expansion identified by Halliday, 1985a): the two theoretical positions are (ii) and (iii)
identified above.
(ii) Context may be modelled as stratified into two or more planes. This
is the model developed and used by Jim Martin and others, already referred to under (ii) in Section 2.3 above." The contextual planes are ideology,
genre, and 'register' (in the sense of context of situation; see Martin 1986
for pioneering the construal of ideology in systemic theory): ideology is
realized by genre, which is in turn realized by 'register', which is in turn
realized by language. This model thus provides us with a way of interpreting the ideological significance of a particular register (in the sense of
functional variety) or point of register variation. Ideology is interpreted as
a connotative semiotic whose realization is genre; it captures, among other
things, the distribution of genres according to the division of labour in a
culture.
One general point Hunston's (this volume) chapter raises is that
particular registers have higher-level ideological significance and their
ideological role constrains how meanings are made e.g. by marshalling the
metaphorical mode to achieve an interpersonal distancing in the direction
of implicitness and objectivity. Hunston explores evaluation in scientific
writing. Evaluation is inherently intersubjective and essentially interpersonal but she shows how this angle is expressed implicitly and 'objectively'
in her corpus of research articles - the evaluator tends not to be present
in the discourse. This is achieved partly through interpersonal metaphor.
While Hunston does not characterize her scientific register in terms of
context of situation (field, tenor and mode), it seems very likely that we
have to go beyond context of situation to account for the way evaluation
works in the register. We have to take the ideology of the scientific
community into account and this is precisely what she does. She shows that
the ideology is such that evaluation has to be implicit and objective: doing
science means among other things persuading fellow scientists (i.e., mode:
persuasive) but one can't be seen to be doing this so the register has to
accommodate this disjunction - it has to have resources of evaluation but
it has to express them explicitly and distanced from the evaluator.
(iii) Context may be interpreted in terms of potentiality, ranging from
the cultural potential to instantial situations with situation types of
intermediate constructs. This is Halliday's approach in Halliday (1978)
and, more explicitly, in Halliday (1991b). The contextual significance
beyond context of situation would thus be interpreted in terms of more

238

3.1.2 Beyond context oj situation


Context of situation is the most immediate aspect of the general context in
which the linguistic system is embedded and it is the system in which a
register is given its contextual significance in the first instance. But context
of situation is only one aspect of the overall social context in which
language is 'embedded': to put this in Malinowski's terms, we also have
to take account of the context of culture. The critical question is how to
model the relationship between context of culture and context of situation. 9We can look at this from the point of view of the dimensions of
systemic-functional theory; there are at least three possible dimensions:
context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
rank - a relationship of scale, a macro to micro relationship where
a culture consists of situation types.
(ii) context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
stratification - a relationship of abstract, a met a-relationship where
a culture is realized by situation types.
(iii) context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
longterm potentiality - a relationship of observer's time-depth where
a culture is a generalization across situation types.

(i)

(i) The relationship is perhaps most often discussed in rank-like terms.


From a sociological point of view context of situation is the microperspective of daily dialogic encounters, written exchanges; and so on
rather than the macro-perspective of broad social organization into classes,
castes, genders, age groups, etc. and one interesting question is whether
and how the contextual significance of register extends from the micro to
the macro. It is certainly one that has faced ethnomethodologists in general
and conversational analysists in particular since their concerns with the
micro have left a gap to the macro concerns of more mainstream sociology.
If conversational analysts could bridge the gap, their work would be
legitimized from a mainstream point of view but they have tended to be
very cautious here. Schegloff and others (e.g. at a CA workshop at UCSB

239

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

situation. The limiting case of context of situation being realized by


register variation is thus variation in type of social system - either from
language to another semiotic system or from a semiotic one to a nonsemiotic one (i.e., one that is primarily non-symbolic rather than symbolic
even if it has secondary interpretations). 8 Historically, it is even possible
to get a sense of how designed semiotic systems have taken over from
specialist registers - cf. Section 5.3 below.
Situation types are thus structured but it also seems highly likely that
they may be ranked. Sinclair and Coulthard's (1975) work on lessons in
class room interaction would be an example of this and Steiner's (1988)
work on activity in general demonstrates the existence of ranking. Any
ranking of situation types would be reflected in the semantic system of the
relevant register: see further Sections 3.2.2 and 4.2.

in the mid 1980s) have argued that the macro-categories cannot necessarily
be taken for granted and that it is premature to try to link up the microanalysis with a priori macro categories instead of showing how macro
categories are brought into existence in the micro of daily life. This
problem is highly relevant to register analysis since it relates directly to the
question of contextual significance beyond the context of situation. 10
Within systemic theory, the relationship between context of situation and
contexts of culture has been explored in rather different terms (elaborating
rather than extending according to the different types of expansion identified by Halliday, 1985a): the two theoretical positions are (ii) and (iii)
identified above.
(ii) Context may be modelled as stratified into two or more planes. This
is the model developed and used by Jim Martin and others, already referred to under (ii) in Section 2.3 above." The contextual planes are ideology,
genre, and 'register' (in the sense of context of situation; see Martin 1986
for pioneering the construal of ideology in systemic theory): ideology is
realized by genre, which is in turn realized by 'register', which is in turn
realized by language. This model thus provides us with a way of interpreting the ideological significance of a particular register (in the sense of
functional variety) or point of register variation. Ideology is interpreted as
a connotative semiotic whose realization is genre; it captures, among other
things, the distribution of genres according to the division of labour in a
culture.
One general point Hunston's (this volume) chapter raises is that
particular registers have higher-level ideological significance and their
ideological role constrains how meanings are made e.g. by marshalling the
metaphorical mode to achieve an interpersonal distancing in the direction
of implicitness and objectivity. Hunston explores evaluation in scientific
writing. Evaluation is inherently intersubjective and essentially interpersonal but she shows how this angle is expressed implicitly and 'objectively'
in her corpus of research articles - the evaluator tends not to be present
in the discourse. This is achieved partly through interpersonal metaphor.
While Hunston does not characterize her scientific register in terms of
context of situation (field, tenor and mode), it seems very likely that we
have to go beyond context of situation to account for the way evaluation
works in the register. We have to take the ideology of the scientific
community into account and this is precisely what she does. She shows that
the ideology is such that evaluation has to be implicit and objective: doing
science means among other things persuading fellow scientists (i.e., mode:
persuasive) but one can't be seen to be doing this so the register has to
accommodate this disjunction - it has to have resources of evaluation but
it has to express them explicitly and distanced from the evaluator.
(iii) Context may be interpreted in terms of potentiality, ranging from
the cultural potential to instantial situations with situation types of
intermediate constructs. This is Halliday's approach in Halliday (1978)
and, more explicitly, in Halliday (1991b). The contextual significance
beyond context of situation would thus be interpreted in terms of more

238

3.1.2 Beyond context oj situation


Context of situation is the most immediate aspect of the general context in
which the linguistic system is embedded and it is the system in which a
register is given its contextual significance in the first instance. But context
of situation is only one aspect of the overall social context in which
language is 'embedded': to put this in Malinowski's terms, we also have
to take account of the context of culture. The critical question is how to
model the relationship between context of culture and context of situation. 9We can look at this from the point of view of the dimensions of
systemic-functional theory; there are at least three possible dimensions:
context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
rank - a relationship of scale, a macro to micro relationship where
a culture consists of situation types.
(ii) context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
stratification - a relationship of abstract, a met a-relationship where
a culture is realized by situation types.
(iii) context of culture might be related to context of situation in terms of
longterm potentiality - a relationship of observer's time-depth where
a culture is a generalization across situation types.

(i)

(i) The relationship is perhaps most often discussed in rank-like terms.


From a sociological point of view context of situation is the microperspective of daily dialogic encounters, written exchanges; and so on
rather than the macro-perspective of broad social organization into classes,
castes, genders, age groups, etc. and one interesting question is whether
and how the contextual significance of register extends from the micro to
the macro. It is certainly one that has faced ethnomethodologists in general
and conversational analysists in particular since their concerns with the
micro have left a gap to the macro concerns of more mainstream sociology.
If conversational analysts could bridge the gap, their work would be
legitimized from a mainstream point of view but they have tended to be
very cautious here. Schegloff and others (e.g. at a CA workshop at UCSB

239

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

longterm cultural patterns. I will return to this approach in Section 6.


It is, of course, entirely possible that other kinds of dimensions are relevant in the interpretation of the relationship between context of culture and
context of situation. But it seems important to explore the ones that have
already been identified. I will not try to reconcile the three alternatives
now - one obvious question is whether they are true alternatives or
complementarities that account for different aspects of the relationship
between context of culture and context of situation. It is worth noting,
however, . that observer-perspective becomes critical: are we looking at
langu~ge m context as outsiders, adopting the analyst's point of view (what
we mIght call meta-subjectivity) or as interactants, adopting the perspective
of those collaborating in semiotic processes (what we might call intersubjectivity?).

further, showing for example how the self is determined and negotiated in
countless interactions starting with proto-Ianguage and how persons are
constructed relative to the group through language. Trevarthen (e.g.,
1987) has emphasized the importance of the development of intersubjectivity in these early interactions. Further, Hasan (1986) has shown how the
young child may learn about an ideological position in learning about
personalities in interaction with his/her mother. Birch (this volume) argues
for a position similar to Firth's but draws on sources other then Firth
Halliday and Hasan: 'A contemporary critical position argues that we ar;
interpellated as subjects, rather than arguing that we are born with a unique
and specific social and cultural identity . -We are constructed not just as a
si~gle subject, but, in many different situations and contexts, as many
dIfferent, multiple, subjects. This simple subjectivity is made possible only
by discursive means - amongst them, language.' Firth, Halliday, Hasan,
Birch and others show how persons/subjects as constellations of
personalities or social roles are created through language in dialogic
interaction - how they are learned and negotiated as personae as Firth put
it. We can see this in the history of a child and we can see this in the
history; of a text: Birch shows with examples that Pinter's plays are good
sources for studying the use of linguistic resources to negotiate personae.
It is possible to show how different roles are enacted through the use of
interpersonal resources in dialogue: the different roles are enacted as
different locations within the overall interpersonal potential.
Given that language plays an important role here, what about variation
within fanguage, more specifically registerial variation? Dialectal variation
is a direct indication of a person's location in the social system (or perhaps
more appropriately, a personality's location, since a person may take on
different personalities in this respect - it is variation according to user but registerial variation according to context of situation - variation according to use. However, part of the social system is the distribution of the
contexts in which persons move and the registers associated with these
contexts that they have access to, so registers reflect the division of labour
within a society. To put this the other way around, persons have different
registerial repertoires (the range of registers a person has learned to use
in appropriate contexts) and their repertoires will help determine the range
of contexts they can move in. (As we will see in Section 5.1, this seems
very clear from an ontogenetic point of view: the child has to expand
his/her registerial repertoire to gain access to new contexts.) In a dialogic
context, this tan lead to imbalance. In commenting on an extract from a
Pinter play, Birch writes: 'Pete can be performed as controlling Len by
concentrating on the registerial differences of their language. . ..
Exploiting the difference, therefore, between these two levels of linguistic
skill means exploiting relations of control and power.' We can explore the
possi~ility, then, that one source of difference between persons and the way
they mteract and are positioned relative to one another lies in differences
in registerial repertoires.
Hasan's (e.g., 1990) recent research has shown very clearly that

240

3.1.3 Register, person and personalities


So far I've discussed the contextual significance of register from the
perspective of the system - situational systems, cultural systems, etc.
However, there is a complementary perspective: we can look at these
phenomena from the point of view of users of the system - in the sense
of persons and groups of persons. The system is what a person can do and
any instance of selection from the system is what a person does. Consequently, we can construe a person in terms of his/her systemic potential
and acts o.f selection from that potential. And this then also becomes a way
of construmg persons as social roles in terms of variation within th~ overall
system and of relating persons to groups, again in terms of variation. From
this. point of view, the significance of a register relates to groups and the
soc~al ~ol~s that make them up. On the one hand, it may be deployed in
an mstItutIOnal group such as those doing science or busmess characterized
b~ a particular ideology. On the other hand, it will be part of the repertOIre that shapes a person relative to various social groups. Let's consider
institutional groups first.
Studies such as Hunston's investigation of the research article or
Ghadessy's (this volume) study of business' communication focus on how
~ociocult~ral groups s~ch as a scientific community or a group entering
mto busmess transactIOns deploy the resources of a register or set of
registers. In deploying these resources, people take on social roles
, personae " or personal'"
It1es such as peer researcher, apprentice researcher,'
customer .. A lon~ time ago now, Firth (1950) established the centrality of
language I~ creatmg persons and the clusters of personalities (social roles)
that constItute them: 'The meaning of person in the sense of a man or
woman ~epresented in fictitious dialogue, or as a character in a play, is
relevant If we take a sociological view of the personae or parts we are called
upon to play in the routine of life. Every social person is a bundle of
personae, a bundle of parts, each having its lines . . . . The continuity of the
person, the development of personality, are paralleled by the continuity
and development of language in a variety of forms'. He also emphasized
the ontogenetic perspective here. Halliday (e.g., 1975; 1978) has taken this

241

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

longterm cultural patterns. I will return to this approach in Section 6.


It is, of course, entirely possible that other kinds of dimensions are relevant in the interpretation of the relationship between context of culture and
context of situation. But it seems important to explore the ones that have
already been identified. I will not try to reconcile the three alternatives
now - one obvious question is whether they are true alternatives or
complementarities that account for different aspects of the relationship
between context of culture and context of situation. It is worth noting,
however, . that observer-perspective becomes critical: are we looking at
langu~ge m context as outsiders, adopting the analyst's point of view (what
we mIght call meta-subjectivity) or as interactants, adopting the perspective
of those collaborating in semiotic processes (what we might call intersubjectivity?).

further, showing for example how the self is determined and negotiated in
countless interactions starting with proto-Ianguage and how persons are
constructed relative to the group through language. Trevarthen (e.g.,
1987) has emphasized the importance of the development of intersubjectivity in these early interactions. Further, Hasan (1986) has shown how the
young child may learn about an ideological position in learning about
personalities in interaction with his/her mother. Birch (this volume) argues
for a position similar to Firth's but draws on sources other then Firth
Halliday and Hasan: 'A contemporary critical position argues that we ar;
interpellated as subjects, rather than arguing that we are born with a unique
and specific social and cultural identity . -We are constructed not just as a
si~gle subject, but, in many different situations and contexts, as many
dIfferent, multiple, subjects. This simple subjectivity is made possible only
by discursive means - amongst them, language.' Firth, Halliday, Hasan,
Birch and others show how persons/subjects as constellations of
personalities or social roles are created through language in dialogic
interaction - how they are learned and negotiated as personae as Firth put
it. We can see this in the history of a child and we can see this in the
history; of a text: Birch shows with examples that Pinter's plays are good
sources for studying the use of linguistic resources to negotiate personae.
It is possible to show how different roles are enacted through the use of
interpersonal resources in dialogue: the different roles are enacted as
different locations within the overall interpersonal potential.
Given that language plays an important role here, what about variation
within fanguage, more specifically registerial variation? Dialectal variation
is a direct indication of a person's location in the social system (or perhaps
more appropriately, a personality's location, since a person may take on
different personalities in this respect - it is variation according to user but registerial variation according to context of situation - variation according to use. However, part of the social system is the distribution of the
contexts in which persons move and the registers associated with these
contexts that they have access to, so registers reflect the division of labour
within a society. To put this the other way around, persons have different
registerial repertoires (the range of registers a person has learned to use
in appropriate contexts) and their repertoires will help determine the range
of contexts they can move in. (As we will see in Section 5.1, this seems
very clear from an ontogenetic point of view: the child has to expand
his/her registerial repertoire to gain access to new contexts.) In a dialogic
context, this tan lead to imbalance. In commenting on an extract from a
Pinter play, Birch writes: 'Pete can be performed as controlling Len by
concentrating on the registerial differences of their language. . ..
Exploiting the difference, therefore, between these two levels of linguistic
skill means exploiting relations of control and power.' We can explore the
possi~ility, then, that one source of difference between persons and the way
they mteract and are positioned relative to one another lies in differences
in registerial repertoires.
Hasan's (e.g., 1990) recent research has shown very clearly that

240

3.1.3 Register, person and personalities


So far I've discussed the contextual significance of register from the
perspective of the system - situational systems, cultural systems, etc.
However, there is a complementary perspective: we can look at these
phenomena from the point of view of users of the system - in the sense
of persons and groups of persons. The system is what a person can do and
any instance of selection from the system is what a person does. Consequently, we can construe a person in terms of his/her systemic potential
and acts o.f selection from that potential. And this then also becomes a way
of construmg persons as social roles in terms of variation within th~ overall
system and of relating persons to groups, again in terms of variation. From
this. point of view, the significance of a register relates to groups and the
soc~al ~ol~s that make them up. On the one hand, it may be deployed in
an mstItutIOnal group such as those doing science or busmess characterized
b~ a particular ideology. On the other hand, it will be part of the repertOIre that shapes a person relative to various social groups. Let's consider
institutional groups first.
Studies such as Hunston's investigation of the research article or
Ghadessy's (this volume) study of business' communication focus on how
~ociocult~ral groups s~ch as a scientific community or a group entering
mto busmess transactIOns deploy the resources of a register or set of
registers. In deploying these resources, people take on social roles
, personae " or personal'"
It1es such as peer researcher, apprentice researcher,'
customer .. A lon~ time ago now, Firth (1950) established the centrality of
language I~ creatmg persons and the clusters of personalities (social roles)
that constItute them: 'The meaning of person in the sense of a man or
woman ~epresented in fictitious dialogue, or as a character in a play, is
relevant If we take a sociological view of the personae or parts we are called
upon to play in the routine of life. Every social person is a bundle of
personae, a bundle of parts, each having its lines . . . . The continuity of the
person, the development of personality, are paralleled by the continuity
and development of language in a variety of forms'. He also emphasized
the ontogenetic perspective here. Halliday (e.g., 1975; 1978) has taken this

241

242

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

semantic variation in general is correlated with what we might interpret as


different 'personalities', where differences run along lines of gender and
class. Now, such differences are not specific registerial differences but
rather general differences in coding orientation (in Bernstein's sense of
code). But they are an important complement to our understanding of how
registerial differences correlate differences in 'personality' or social role.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND


minimal difference

243
maximal difference

:>

3.2 Variation in the linguistic system


Having considered the contextual significance of register briefly, let's now
explore register variation as a dimension of the linguistic system.

3.2.1 Domains of variation


Since register is interpreted in terms of an independent dimension of variation, it is not in the first instance located along any of the other dimensions
that systemic theory identifies as constituting the overall semiotic space of
language in context (as described in Sections 2.1 and 2.). For instance, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular technical
vocabulary - it would include other aspects that are variable across context
types such as generic structure and 'micro-semantic styles'. Similarly, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular macrostructure or generic structure potential of text - again, this is only one
aspect and it leaves out the 'micro-semantic' realizations of the generic
stages of a text, the nature of the semantic system, and so on. A register
may be characterized by special lexicogrammatical features; it may even
have phonological (cf. Halliday et al. 1964) or graphological characteristics.
However, the theory locates the source of variation in context and since
the stratum of semantics is the linguistic 'interface' to context (Halliday
1973), we can expect that register variation is semantic variation in the
first instance rather than e.g. phonological variation. Halliday (1978: 35)
contrasts register variation and dialect variation in this respect (cf. Figure
11. 5 above). Now, if there is semantic variation, there also has to be
lexicogrammatical variation since semantics and lexicogrammar are related
naturally as the two content strata. (There does not, of course, have to be
phonological or graphological variation since their relationship to
lexicogrammar is largely conventional.) This still leaves open two
possibilities with respect to the specification of variation within semantics
and lexicogrammar: while there is one generalized lexicogrammatical
system within which register-specific systems can be located, the semantics
could be similar in this respect (i.e., mono systemic) or it might be diversified into separate register-specific systems (i.e., polysystemic). These
possibilities will be taken up briefly in Section 3.2.2 (especially under (iii)
and in more detail in Section 4.1.
3.2.2 Specification of variation
We come now to a central question of the interpretation of register variation

(i) varied probabilities

within the same system

Figure 11.7

(ii) core system with

parli lions for varieties

(ill) completely separate

system varieties

From minimal to maximal difference and different modes of


specification

I have not addressed yet. How is the variation to be specified? The other
dimensions of the semiotic space of language in context discussed in
Sections 2.1 and 2.2 all have clear forms of specification and representation. For instance, paradigmatic organization is represented by means of
system networks and syntagmatic organization by means of realization
statements resulting in function structures; inter-stratal realization is
represented by means of preselect statements and metafunction by means
of simultaneity in system networks and layering in function structures. As
far as register variation - or any other form of variation for that matter
- goes, there is less of an established convention. The question is not so
much how to specify a single register since that is easy enough: we can
specify it just as we would a linguistic system in general. Rather, the
central question is how to represent the variation itself or, alternatively,
how to represent a linguistic system as an 'assemblage' of registers. Here
I can only make a few observations (leaving out a discussion of Labovian
variation theory, for example) noting what has been done and suggesting
a new approach that has not been applied to the account of register
variation before (see (ii) below). The various issues concerning the

242

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

semantic variation in general is correlated with what we might interpret as


different 'personalities', where differences run along lines of gender and
class. Now, such differences are not specific registerial differences but
rather general differences in coding orientation (in Bernstein's sense of
code). But they are an important complement to our understanding of how
registerial differences correlate differences in 'personality' or social role.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND


minimal difference

243
maximal difference

:>

3.2 Variation in the linguistic system


Having considered the contextual significance of register briefly, let's now
explore register variation as a dimension of the linguistic system.

3.2.1 Domains of variation


Since register is interpreted in terms of an independent dimension of variation, it is not in the first instance located along any of the other dimensions
that systemic theory identifies as constituting the overall semiotic space of
language in context (as described in Sections 2.1 and 2.). For instance, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular technical
vocabulary - it would include other aspects that are variable across context
types such as generic structure and 'micro-semantic styles'. Similarly, the
theory would not support equating a register with a particular macrostructure or generic structure potential of text - again, this is only one
aspect and it leaves out the 'micro-semantic' realizations of the generic
stages of a text, the nature of the semantic system, and so on. A register
may be characterized by special lexicogrammatical features; it may even
have phonological (cf. Halliday et al. 1964) or graphological characteristics.
However, the theory locates the source of variation in context and since
the stratum of semantics is the linguistic 'interface' to context (Halliday
1973), we can expect that register variation is semantic variation in the
first instance rather than e.g. phonological variation. Halliday (1978: 35)
contrasts register variation and dialect variation in this respect (cf. Figure
11. 5 above). Now, if there is semantic variation, there also has to be
lexicogrammatical variation since semantics and lexicogrammar are related
naturally as the two content strata. (There does not, of course, have to be
phonological or graphological variation since their relationship to
lexicogrammar is largely conventional.) This still leaves open two
possibilities with respect to the specification of variation within semantics
and lexicogrammar: while there is one generalized lexicogrammatical
system within which register-specific systems can be located, the semantics
could be similar in this respect (i.e., mono systemic) or it might be diversified into separate register-specific systems (i.e., polysystemic). These
possibilities will be taken up briefly in Section 3.2.2 (especially under (iii)
and in more detail in Section 4.1.
3.2.2 Specification of variation
We come now to a central question of the interpretation of register variation

(i) varied probabilities

within the same system

Figure 11.7

(ii) core system with

parli lions for varieties

(ill) completely separate

system varieties

From minimal to maximal difference and different modes of


specification

I have not addressed yet. How is the variation to be specified? The other
dimensions of the semiotic space of language in context discussed in
Sections 2.1 and 2.2 all have clear forms of specification and representation. For instance, paradigmatic organization is represented by means of
system networks and syntagmatic organization by means of realization
statements resulting in function structures; inter-stratal realization is
represented by means of preselect statements and metafunction by means
of simultaneity in system networks and layering in function structures. As
far as register variation - or any other form of variation for that matter
- goes, there is less of an established convention. The question is not so
much how to specify a single register since that is easy enough: we can
specify it just as we would a linguistic system in general. Rather, the
central question is how to represent the variation itself or, alternatively,
how to represent a linguistic system as an 'assemblage' of registers. Here
I can only make a few observations (leaving out a discussion of Labovian
variation theory, for example) noting what has been done and suggesting
a new approach that has not been applied to the account of register
variation before (see (ii) below). The various issues concerning the

244

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

representation of mono systemic and poly systemic accounts in semantics are


identified and explored by Caffarel (1990; 1991).
To simplify the task, I will assume that there are three possible interpretations of register variation (see Figure 11. 7): (i) each register is consistent with the general linguistic system, but with different systemic
probabilities; (ii) each register is partially consistent with other registers so
that there is a common core but there are also mutually inconsistent
subsystems; and (iii) each register is essentially inconsistent with other
registers so that each register forms a separate system and there is no
common core.
I will present these alternatives using various systems to illustrate the
differences, starting with PRIMARY TENSE. This system is clearly variable
across registers: for example, narrative registers are essentially 'past'
(within which there are additional secondary options - past in past, present
in past, and future in past), expository ones may be essentially 'present'
(generalized present time), and forecasts also include (but are not restricted
to) 'future'. These can obviously all be seen as restrictions on the general
system 'past/presentlfuture' and I will show how this can be achieved with
the first approach.

narrative

temporal

Figure 11.8

~t~Jl!.!_.pr.Q!?~I:?iE!ie.!'_J(T~~

quantit~ti~~'-patter;:;~" fr~~'te~r'

expositiory

forecasting

past

.25

present

.25

future

.5

Register specified in terms of probability skews

hypotaxis
-{

parataxis

(i) Probabilistic system with register skewings. According to this alternative, the system is fixed from a qualitative point of view and registers
are specified in terms of different probabilities associated with systemic
options. For instance, the options of PRIMARY TENSE have different
probabilities depending on whether the register setting is narrative,
expository or forecasting: see Figure 11.8. The different registers are thus
within the overall semiotic space created by the general system. The
probabilities in the TENSE example are merely illustrative but we can also
draw on Nesbitt and Plum (1988) for a substantial example. They use the
system of CLAUSE COMPLEXING to illustrate the probabilistic nature of the
linguistic system and give among other things the distribution of the
intersection of the simultaneous systems TAXIS (,hypotaxis/parataxis') and
PROJECTION TYPE (,idea/locution') in four different registers (narrative,
anecdote, exemplification, and observation/comment): see Figure 11.9.
The difference between the observation/comment register and the others is
particularly noteworthy in the area of 'locution', which does not combine
with 'parataxis' in this register.
The systemic probabilities for a register that can be derived from relative
frequencies in an appropriate corpus can thus be compared with the
probabilities of other registers but they can also be compared with the
overall probabilities of the general systems - generalized probabilities
across registers inherent in the syste!!l;.;.lA givefifegistet'ca:rifnen~"oe"l
E:fiarl~n:tef'fze(r-'as'<'lt-skewin~:[j:iriibabiliti,e.,[~lativ~ to ." the . g<::n~ralized /
different
frequencies to generalized systemic probabilities correlate with different
time-depths in observer perspective along the dimension of potentiality: cf.
Section 6 below.)

245

1
89

11

100

93

74-

14

10

86

90

21

14

79

8 S

locution
I)

idea

/
KEY to registers:

narrative
anecdote

Figure 11.9

observation/ comment
exemplification

Register specified in terms of frequency skews (based on Nesbitt and


Plum, 1988)

244

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

representation of mono systemic and poly systemic accounts in semantics are


identified and explored by Caffarel (1990; 1991).
To simplify the task, I will assume that there are three possible interpretations of register variation (see Figure 11. 7): (i) each register is consistent with the general linguistic system, but with different systemic
probabilities; (ii) each register is partially consistent with other registers so
that there is a common core but there are also mutually inconsistent
subsystems; and (iii) each register is essentially inconsistent with other
registers so that each register forms a separate system and there is no
common core.
I will present these alternatives using various systems to illustrate the
differences, starting with PRIMARY TENSE. This system is clearly variable
across registers: for example, narrative registers are essentially 'past'
(within which there are additional secondary options - past in past, present
in past, and future in past), expository ones may be essentially 'present'
(generalized present time), and forecasts also include (but are not restricted
to) 'future'. These can obviously all be seen as restrictions on the general
system 'past/presentlfuture' and I will show how this can be achieved with
the first approach.

narrative

temporal

Figure 11.8

~t~Jl!.!_.pr.Q!?~I:?iE!ie.!'_J(T~~

quantit~ti~~'-patter;:;~" fr~~'te~r'

expositiory

forecasting

past

.25

present

.25

future

.5

Register specified in terms of probability skews

hypotaxis
-{

parataxis

(i) Probabilistic system with register skewings. According to this alternative, the system is fixed from a qualitative point of view and registers
are specified in terms of different probabilities associated with systemic
options. For instance, the options of PRIMARY TENSE have different
probabilities depending on whether the register setting is narrative,
expository or forecasting: see Figure 11.8. The different registers are thus
within the overall semiotic space created by the general system. The
probabilities in the TENSE example are merely illustrative but we can also
draw on Nesbitt and Plum (1988) for a substantial example. They use the
system of CLAUSE COMPLEXING to illustrate the probabilistic nature of the
linguistic system and give among other things the distribution of the
intersection of the simultaneous systems TAXIS (,hypotaxis/parataxis') and
PROJECTION TYPE (,idea/locution') in four different registers (narrative,
anecdote, exemplification, and observation/comment): see Figure 11.9.
The difference between the observation/comment register and the others is
particularly noteworthy in the area of 'locution', which does not combine
with 'parataxis' in this register.
The systemic probabilities for a register that can be derived from relative
frequencies in an appropriate corpus can thus be compared with the
probabilities of other registers but they can also be compared with the
overall probabilities of the general systems - generalized probabilities
across registers inherent in the syste!!l;.;.lA givefifegistet'ca:rifnen~"oe"l
E:fiarl~n:tef'fze(r-'as'<'lt-skewin~:[j:iriibabiliti,e.,[~lativ~ to ." the . g<::n~ralized /
different
frequencies to generalized systemic probabilities correlate with different
time-depths in observer perspective along the dimension of potentiality: cf.
Section 6 below.)

245

1
89

11

100

93

74-

14

10

86

90

21

14

79

8 S

locution
I)

idea

/
KEY to registers:

narrative
anecdote

Figure 11.9

observation/ comment
exemplification

Register specified in terms of frequency skews (based on Nesbitt and


Plum, 1988)

246

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

(ii) Partitioned multi-register system with 'common core'. The limiting


case of probabilistic differences across registers is when an option or an
intersection of options has the probability 0 or 1: when it is categorially
absent or present although it is not in the generalized system. Here the
probabilistic difference can also be interpreted qualitatively. For instance,
we could interpret the register differences pertaining to PRIMARY TENSE as
follows: narrative - one term: 'past'; expository - one term: 'present';
forecasting
three terms: 'past/present/future'. And for CLAUSE
COMPLEXlNG, we could say that the observation/comment register
includes a marking convention that is absent in the other registers in
Figure 11.9, viz, 'if "locution", then "paratactic"'. Even though such
statements are still in some sense within the overall systemic space of the
general network, they presuppose some new form of specification that
enables us to show how registers diverge qualitatively from one another.
And such a form of specification would then also open up the possibility
of allowing registers to diverge from the general system. This would in fact
be necessary if it is the case that registers are mutually inconsistent and
cannot be drawn from one general system. It is perfectly theoretically
possible, for instance, that a particular register displays a grammatical
system that is not shared by other registers and is not part of the general
system of English grammar. ll For, instance, certain types of news reporting provide the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause that
projects a quoted locution even though it precedes it (e.g. Sad he: 'There
wll be a realignment of poltcal forces and I beleve the NP wouldbestronger this
time.') and this may not be an option in English in general. Or, to take
another example, in procedural registers, there is an option of presupposing the Goal/Complement by leaving it implicit if it is specific (e.g., add
the onions and fry until golden brown), which is not an option in the system
of general English.
Recent work on multilingual systems at the University of Sydney
suggests one possible path here. We have "developed a way of spedfying
multilingual systems as assemblages of systems from different languages
which may have common parts and language specific parts. The basic
principle is quite straightforward: commonalities across languages are
simply specified as shared system network parts and language-specific
systems are specified within language-specific partitions of the system
network (for details, see e.g. Bateman, Matthiessen, Nanri and Zeng
1991). Thus the basic MOOD systems are common across Chinese,
English, and Japanese, but more delicate ones are stated within languagespecific partitions: see Figure 11.10. Partitioning the system network is a
way of introducing conditionalization on systems (or system parts or
realization statements) - or rather, meta-conditionalization, since the
conditionalization is external to the logic of the system network itself
(unlike conditionalization represented by entry conditions to systems), in
this case conditionalization by, language.
This way of showing a generalized system network as an assemblage of
specific networks where common parts are shared and different parts are

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

247

(Japanese)

J speaker- projected
declarative

other- projected

J
l

indicative

( Chinese)

(Chinese)

~;:: )_ J ""',.,
imperative
interrogative

polarity

Lfinal
particle
'__ _ _ _--'-_ _ _ _----'"

element
Figure 11.10

Multilingual system network with conditionalized partitions

material

mental

.~bo' J '__

'1

clause

relational

unmarked theme

--{reporting

proJectiJtg
quoting

journalistic reporting

r-{i:;j

~ marked theme
Figure 11.11

Common core system and register-specific partition

other

246

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

(ii) Partitioned multi-register system with 'common core'. The limiting


case of probabilistic differences across registers is when an option or an
intersection of options has the probability 0 or 1: when it is categorially
absent or present although it is not in the generalized system. Here the
probabilistic difference can also be interpreted qualitatively. For instance,
we could interpret the register differences pertaining to PRIMARY TENSE as
follows: narrative - one term: 'past'; expository - one term: 'present';
forecasting
three terms: 'past/present/future'. And for CLAUSE
COMPLEXlNG, we could say that the observation/comment register
includes a marking convention that is absent in the other registers in
Figure 11.9, viz, 'if "locution", then "paratactic"'. Even though such
statements are still in some sense within the overall systemic space of the
general network, they presuppose some new form of specification that
enables us to show how registers diverge qualitatively from one another.
And such a form of specification would then also open up the possibility
of allowing registers to diverge from the general system. This would in fact
be necessary if it is the case that registers are mutually inconsistent and
cannot be drawn from one general system. It is perfectly theoretically
possible, for instance, that a particular register displays a grammatical
system that is not shared by other registers and is not part of the general
system of English grammar. ll For, instance, certain types of news reporting provide the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause that
projects a quoted locution even though it precedes it (e.g. Sad he: 'There
wll be a realignment of poltcal forces and I beleve the NP wouldbestronger this
time.') and this may not be an option in English in general. Or, to take
another example, in procedural registers, there is an option of presupposing the Goal/Complement by leaving it implicit if it is specific (e.g., add
the onions and fry until golden brown), which is not an option in the system
of general English.
Recent work on multilingual systems at the University of Sydney
suggests one possible path here. We have "developed a way of spedfying
multilingual systems as assemblages of systems from different languages
which may have common parts and language specific parts. The basic
principle is quite straightforward: commonalities across languages are
simply specified as shared system network parts and language-specific
systems are specified within language-specific partitions of the system
network (for details, see e.g. Bateman, Matthiessen, Nanri and Zeng
1991). Thus the basic MOOD systems are common across Chinese,
English, and Japanese, but more delicate ones are stated within languagespecific partitions: see Figure 11.10. Partitioning the system network is a
way of introducing conditionalization on systems (or system parts or
realization statements) - or rather, meta-conditionalization, since the
conditionalization is external to the logic of the system network itself
(unlike conditionalization represented by entry conditions to systems), in
this case conditionalization by, language.
This way of showing a generalized system network as an assemblage of
specific networks where common parts are shared and different parts are

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

247

(Japanese)

J speaker- projected
declarative

other- projected

J
l

indicative

( Chinese)

(Chinese)

~;:: )_ J ""',.,
imperative
interrogative

polarity

Lfinal
particle
'__ _ _ _--'-_ _ _ _----'"

element
Figure 11.10

Multilingual system network with conditionalized partitions

material

mental

.~bo' J '__

'1

clause

relational

unmarked theme

--{reporting

proJectiJtg
quoting

journalistic reporting

r-{i:;j

~ marked theme
Figure 11.11

Common core system and register-specific partition

other

248

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

partitioned can be applied to registers as well. The 'common core' of the


system shared by two or more registers are common parts in the system
network and register-specific parts are specified in conditionalized partitions. The general system network is thus an assemblage of register-specific
ones, where particular systems may be common or unique to specific
registers. For instance, if we want to state that only journalistic reporting
has the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause, we can simply
partition this THEME system: see Figure 11.11. (The example is a grammatical one, but the same principle applies to any stratum: partitioning is
an extension of the fractal systemic organization.)
The general system is, as noted, an assemblage of the various registerspecific systems. To the extent that registers are compatible, there is a
common core. 12 Now, in this model, a register-specific system is a
particular view on the assemblage system (<;f. in particular, Matthiessen,
Nanri and Zeng 1992): it includes the common core and register-specific
partitions. Thus the 'journalistic reporting' view on the fragment shown in
Figure 11.11 is the common core - PROCESS TYPE: 'material/mental/
verbal/relational', THEME SELECTION: 'unmarked theme/marked theme',
VERBAL PROJECTION: 'projecting/non-projecting', VERBAL PROJECTION
TYPE: 'reporting/quoting' - and also the partitioned system 'thematic
process/other' . 13 The specification of a register as a view consisting of the
common core and register-specific partitions is one way of answering de
Beaugrande's (this volume) question whether 'only certain instances of
language should be considered specific to some register': a register is a
complete system, a variety of the general system available in a particular
context of situation, but it shares parts with other registers - the common
core.
Carter (1987; 1988: 9-10) identifies a number of characteristics of core
lexis. For example: lexical items from the core in sets of related items tend
to be more unmarked and other items from the same set are often defined
in terms of the core item (e.g:, snigger, grin, smirk, beam are all definable
as kinds of smile, the core item: beam = 'smile happily', etc.); core items
are superordinates, i.e. less delicate (e.g., flower vs. rose, tulip, peony, etc.);
items tend to be interpersonally neutral (they 'do not carry especially
marked connotations or associations', as Carter puts it); and core items 'do
not normally allow us to identify from which field of discourse they have
been taken'.
The grammatical example above is quite specific to journalistic reporting
of certain kinds (note that the register partition is more delicate than the
common grammatical core). But the contrast between written vs. spoken
registers is very general. If we use partitions, it is easy to specify that the
systems of KEY extend the general MOOD grammar in delicacy (see Halliday 1967) but occur within a partition specific to those registers that are
associated with the spoken mode: see Figure 11.12. Again, as with lexis,
the 'core' common to both spoken and written varieties is less delicate that
the KEY systems restricted to spoken varieties. 14
Partitioning is not inconsistent with approach (i). Rather it extends the

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

249

unmarked

EiJ -{ uncommitted polarity

de-cTarative

marked

1.assertl0n
G]J

r:T1
l.2.!J

committed polarity

rtservation

El
8J

contradiotion

interro9ative

1J

Wh -

unmarked
yes/no

@J - {
marked

.J
1

ass.,tiv.

E:::!J
non-assertive

int.,actant

-{ answer demanded
.0
not d.mand.d "'\

non-int.ractant

polarity of .answer
consequential

~
polarity of answer
non-consequenUa1

ED
Figure 11.12

Partitioning of KEY within the interpersonal clause grammar

represen~~tional ~ower of the system network and probabilities can in fact


be partItIOned Just as whole systems can or realization statements
associated with systemic features.
.. When. we consid:r the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar through
preselectIO~S of lexIcogrammatical features in Section 4.2, we will see that
the collectIOn ?f preselections ~roject a register image onto the lexicogrammar. PreselectIOn from above IS thus another way of indicating the boundaries of a register.
(iii) Sep~rate r~gist~r-srstems. The limiting case of a partitioned system
net,,:ork IS ~: SItl.~~tIOn. w~ere there is no common core and only registerspeCIfic partItIOns. ThIS IS not, of course, a very likely situation since it
would mean that there was no re-use of linguistic resources across the
contexts of situation which different registers correspond to and it would
als~ suggest t~at conte~ts of situation are completely distinct. Howeve~,
settmg up r~gIster-specIfic systems can serve as a useful way into the
char~ctenzatIOn of a register, particularly at the semantic stratum: see
Halhday (19~3) and Caffarel (1990; 1991). It is also possible to argue that
a system dedIcated only to a particular context of situation is a convenient
way of compiling out register-specific information from the general system

248

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

partitioned can be applied to registers as well. The 'common core' of the


system shared by two or more registers are common parts in the system
network and register-specific parts are specified in conditionalized partitions. The general system network is thus an assemblage of register-specific
ones, where particular systems may be common or unique to specific
registers. For instance, if we want to state that only journalistic reporting
has the option of thematizing the Process of a verbal clause, we can simply
partition this THEME system: see Figure 11.11. (The example is a grammatical one, but the same principle applies to any stratum: partitioning is
an extension of the fractal systemic organization.)
The general system is, as noted, an assemblage of the various registerspecific systems. To the extent that registers are compatible, there is a
common core. 12 Now, in this model, a register-specific system is a
particular view on the assemblage system (<;f. in particular, Matthiessen,
Nanri and Zeng 1992): it includes the common core and register-specific
partitions. Thus the 'journalistic reporting' view on the fragment shown in
Figure 11.11 is the common core - PROCESS TYPE: 'material/mental/
verbal/relational', THEME SELECTION: 'unmarked theme/marked theme',
VERBAL PROJECTION: 'projecting/non-projecting', VERBAL PROJECTION
TYPE: 'reporting/quoting' - and also the partitioned system 'thematic
process/other' . 13 The specification of a register as a view consisting of the
common core and register-specific partitions is one way of answering de
Beaugrande's (this volume) question whether 'only certain instances of
language should be considered specific to some register': a register is a
complete system, a variety of the general system available in a particular
context of situation, but it shares parts with other registers - the common
core.
Carter (1987; 1988: 9-10) identifies a number of characteristics of core
lexis. For example: lexical items from the core in sets of related items tend
to be more unmarked and other items from the same set are often defined
in terms of the core item (e.g:, snigger, grin, smirk, beam are all definable
as kinds of smile, the core item: beam = 'smile happily', etc.); core items
are superordinates, i.e. less delicate (e.g., flower vs. rose, tulip, peony, etc.);
items tend to be interpersonally neutral (they 'do not carry especially
marked connotations or associations', as Carter puts it); and core items 'do
not normally allow us to identify from which field of discourse they have
been taken'.
The grammatical example above is quite specific to journalistic reporting
of certain kinds (note that the register partition is more delicate than the
common grammatical core). But the contrast between written vs. spoken
registers is very general. If we use partitions, it is easy to specify that the
systems of KEY extend the general MOOD grammar in delicacy (see Halliday 1967) but occur within a partition specific to those registers that are
associated with the spoken mode: see Figure 11.12. Again, as with lexis,
the 'core' common to both spoken and written varieties is less delicate that
the KEY systems restricted to spoken varieties. 14
Partitioning is not inconsistent with approach (i). Rather it extends the

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

249

unmarked

EiJ -{ uncommitted polarity

de-cTarative

marked

1.assertl0n
G]J

r:T1
l.2.!J

committed polarity

rtservation

El
8J

contradiotion

interro9ative

1J

Wh -

unmarked
yes/no

@J - {
marked

.J
1

ass.,tiv.

E:::!J
non-assertive

int.,actant

-{ answer demanded
.0
not d.mand.d "'\

non-int.ractant

polarity of .answer
consequential

~
polarity of answer
non-consequenUa1

ED
Figure 11.12

Partitioning of KEY within the interpersonal clause grammar

represen~~tional ~ower of the system network and probabilities can in fact


be partItIOned Just as whole systems can or realization statements
associated with systemic features.
.. When. we consid:r the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar through
preselectIO~S of lexIcogrammatical features in Section 4.2, we will see that
the collectIOn ?f preselections ~roject a register image onto the lexicogrammar. PreselectIOn from above IS thus another way of indicating the boundaries of a register.
(iii) Sep~rate r~gist~r-srstems. The limiting case of a partitioned system
net,,:ork IS ~: SItl.~~tIOn. w~ere there is no common core and only registerspeCIfic partItIOns. ThIS IS not, of course, a very likely situation since it
would mean that there was no re-use of linguistic resources across the
contexts of situation which different registers correspond to and it would
als~ suggest t~at conte~ts of situation are completely distinct. Howeve~,
settmg up r~gIster-specIfic systems can serve as a useful way into the
char~ctenzatIOn of a register, particularly at the semantic stratum: see
Halhday (19~3) and Caffarel (1990; 1991). It is also possible to argue that
a system dedIcated only to a particular context of situation is a convenient
way of compiling out register-specific information from the general system

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

(see Patten 1988, for the value from AI point of view). This poin~ and the
use of separate systems for different registers will be pursued a bIt further
in Section 4.1.

relationship is much more dialectic: for instance, in realizing context,


language construes it and in realizing semantics, grammar construes it.
Thus when Gunnarsson (this volume) writes: 'From a sociolinguistic point
of view, changes in textual patterns are reflections of changes in society',
we can explore an interpretation that gives the textual patterns an active
role (cf. Birch, this volume, and his reference to Berger and Luckman).
They construe social patterns and as they change, social patterns also
change. The correlation can be seen as a complex dialectic with mutual
influences.
.
In interpreting register, it is important to try to operate with a
comprehensively stratified model of language in context since any category
derives its significance both from its location within a given stratum and
from its inter-stratal relationships. As a result, semantic and lexicogrammatical categories are doubly responsible: a semantic category has to be
bot~ contextually and lexicogrammatically responsible; and a lexicogrammatIcal category has to be semantically responsible and also, of course,
capable of ultimately being realized phonologically or graphologically. So,
for instance, the socio-cultural significance of a grammatical system such
as MOOD is derivable from the stratified model by moving up to the
semantics to see what semantic options it realizes and then to the higherlevel contextual systems to see how the semantic system realized by MOOD
realizes these. This then takes us to considerations of tenor, of how social
roles are distributed and constituted, and so on (cf. Hasan 1990). LeckieTarry (this volume) notes that genre theorists give genre a dual emphasis
'on all contextual levels and linguistic structure'. In connection with this
it is important to emphasize that a comprehensively stratified model
provides a multiple focus - the contextual significance of both language
and register is built into the theory at the very foundation. The multiple
focus makes it possible to view the whole system globally or to move in
locally, with a semantic or lexicogrammatical focus for instance, and to
'look up' realizational connections at a higher or lower stratum. We can
thus adopt different view points, different ways into the system say for
purposes of descriptive research always remembering that the option of
shunting (cf. Halliday 1961) has to be preserved.
A comprehensive account of a register is, of course, one that 'exhausts'
it stratally. It will specify the relevant values within context of situation
and show how the situation is staged generically, it will specify the overall
semantics of the register realizing the situation type and the realization of
the situation stages, and it will also specify lower-level linguistic realizations. However, there is nothing contradictory about a lexicogrammatical
characterization of a register: this is one view from which certain semantic
and contextual kinds of information can be derived; but it is a partial view
- of necessity and as defined by the stratified model itself. For instance,
it would exclude information about the semantics of text beyond those
units that are realized by (complexes of) clauses. Or we can select certain
key aspects of a register to characterize it. For instance, Ghadessy (this
volume) shows what the staging of the situation type he is concerned with

250

4. Register and stratification


Stratification and inter-stratal realization are not easy principles of
organization to come to grips with (see e.g. Halliday 1992). It is not possible to explore the issues concerning the interpretation of stratification here,
but it is important to note two developments in the 1980s that are important to the interpretation of register.
(i) One is Martin's (e.g., 1985, in press) use of ~jelmslev's (1943~ not~on
of konnotationsprog in his development of the planmng type of stratificatIOn
(characterized briefly in Section 2.3 above): this is stratification where the
lower stratum realizing another one is itself a semiotic system. A system
realized by a semiotic system in this way is called a connotative semiotic
system. He sees this as the relationship between context and language:
context is a connotative semiotic system (or really a stratified set of such
systems) realized by language. Martin has used this type of stratification
to interpret register as was noted above.
(ii) The other is Lemke's (1984) notion of metaredundancy (further interpreted for systemic theory by Halliday 1992). Realization is seen not
simply as a relation between patterns from two adjacent strata but as a
relation between patterns and patterns realized in patterns: lexicogrammar
is realized in phonology (I graphology) and semantics is realized in the
realization of lexicogrammar in phonology (I graphology). The concentric
circle diagram shown in Figure 11.2 represents metaredundancy in this
way. It foilows that context is realized by the realization of semantics in
lexicogrammar in phonology - or, to be more precise, it is realized by the
variation in semantics realized in lexicogrammar realized in phonology.
There is thus an interesting issue as to whether metaredundancy and
connotative semiotic give us the same interpretation of the relationship
between context and language. In any case, the metaredundancy interpretation of stratification has consequences for the interpretation of
register: if a particular register is specified in semantic terms, then this
semantic specification is realized by the realization of lexicogrammar in
phonology (I graphology). In other words, the implications for lower strata
are made very clear.
Both the work on connotative semiotic and the work on metaredundancy
have highlighted the 'constructive' role of lower strata in their realization
of higher ones. Whilewordings such as 'language reflects context', 'grammar reflects semantics' and even 'grammar realizes semantics' may suggest
a passive role for the lower strata, it is now often recognized that the

251

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

(see Patten 1988, for the value from AI point of view). This poin~ and the
use of separate systems for different registers will be pursued a bIt further
in Section 4.1.

relationship is much more dialectic: for instance, in realizing context,


language construes it and in realizing semantics, grammar construes it.
Thus when Gunnarsson (this volume) writes: 'From a sociolinguistic point
of view, changes in textual patterns are reflections of changes in society',
we can explore an interpretation that gives the textual patterns an active
role (cf. Birch, this volume, and his reference to Berger and Luckman).
They construe social patterns and as they change, social patterns also
change. The correlation can be seen as a complex dialectic with mutual
influences.
.
In interpreting register, it is important to try to operate with a
comprehensively stratified model of language in context since any category
derives its significance both from its location within a given stratum and
from its inter-stratal relationships. As a result, semantic and lexicogrammatical categories are doubly responsible: a semantic category has to be
bot~ contextually and lexicogrammatically responsible; and a lexicogrammatIcal category has to be semantically responsible and also, of course,
capable of ultimately being realized phonologically or graphologically. So,
for instance, the socio-cultural significance of a grammatical system such
as MOOD is derivable from the stratified model by moving up to the
semantics to see what semantic options it realizes and then to the higherlevel contextual systems to see how the semantic system realized by MOOD
realizes these. This then takes us to considerations of tenor, of how social
roles are distributed and constituted, and so on (cf. Hasan 1990). LeckieTarry (this volume) notes that genre theorists give genre a dual emphasis
'on all contextual levels and linguistic structure'. In connection with this
it is important to emphasize that a comprehensively stratified model
provides a multiple focus - the contextual significance of both language
and register is built into the theory at the very foundation. The multiple
focus makes it possible to view the whole system globally or to move in
locally, with a semantic or lexicogrammatical focus for instance, and to
'look up' realizational connections at a higher or lower stratum. We can
thus adopt different view points, different ways into the system say for
purposes of descriptive research always remembering that the option of
shunting (cf. Halliday 1961) has to be preserved.
A comprehensive account of a register is, of course, one that 'exhausts'
it stratally. It will specify the relevant values within context of situation
and show how the situation is staged generically, it will specify the overall
semantics of the register realizing the situation type and the realization of
the situation stages, and it will also specify lower-level linguistic realizations. However, there is nothing contradictory about a lexicogrammatical
characterization of a register: this is one view from which certain semantic
and contextual kinds of information can be derived; but it is a partial view
- of necessity and as defined by the stratified model itself. For instance,
it would exclude information about the semantics of text beyond those
units that are realized by (complexes of) clauses. Or we can select certain
key aspects of a register to characterize it. For instance, Ghadessy (this
volume) shows what the staging of the situation type he is concerned with

250

4. Register and stratification


Stratification and inter-stratal realization are not easy principles of
organization to come to grips with (see e.g. Halliday 1992). It is not possible to explore the issues concerning the interpretation of stratification here,
but it is important to note two developments in the 1980s that are important to the interpretation of register.
(i) One is Martin's (e.g., 1985, in press) use of ~jelmslev's (1943~ not~on
of konnotationsprog in his development of the planmng type of stratificatIOn
(characterized briefly in Section 2.3 above): this is stratification where the
lower stratum realizing another one is itself a semiotic system. A system
realized by a semiotic system in this way is called a connotative semiotic
system. He sees this as the relationship between context and language:
context is a connotative semiotic system (or really a stratified set of such
systems) realized by language. Martin has used this type of stratification
to interpret register as was noted above.
(ii) The other is Lemke's (1984) notion of metaredundancy (further interpreted for systemic theory by Halliday 1992). Realization is seen not
simply as a relation between patterns from two adjacent strata but as a
relation between patterns and patterns realized in patterns: lexicogrammar
is realized in phonology (I graphology) and semantics is realized in the
realization of lexicogrammar in phonology (I graphology). The concentric
circle diagram shown in Figure 11.2 represents metaredundancy in this
way. It foilows that context is realized by the realization of semantics in
lexicogrammar in phonology - or, to be more precise, it is realized by the
variation in semantics realized in lexicogrammar realized in phonology.
There is thus an interesting issue as to whether metaredundancy and
connotative semiotic give us the same interpretation of the relationship
between context and language. In any case, the metaredundancy interpretation of stratification has consequences for the interpretation of
register: if a particular register is specified in semantic terms, then this
semantic specification is realized by the realization of lexicogrammar in
phonology (I graphology). In other words, the implications for lower strata
are made very clear.
Both the work on connotative semiotic and the work on metaredundancy
have highlighted the 'constructive' role of lower strata in their realization
of higher ones. Whilewordings such as 'language reflects context', 'grammar reflects semantics' and even 'grammar realizes semantics' may suggest
a passive role for the lower strata, it is now often recognized that the

251

j.l

252

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

is and then identifies the realizational patterns in language for each. See
further Section 7.1 on the selection of 'selections' or 'slices' through the
whole system.
Starting with context, I will now move down through the strata noting
how registers can be characterized.

253

context

4. 0 Realization of context of situation

The way into a register is from a context of situation type - from a


particular CC in Hasan's (1985) terms: the semantic system of that register
as a whole realizes the situation type - (cf. Figure 11.6 above). But the
realization is further differentiated according to the unfolding of the situation in semiotic space-time in stages - the elements of generic structure.
One example of such a staging is given by Ghadessy (this volume); cf. also
Gunnarsson's (this volume) superthematic structure. Each stage or element
is realized by preselections within the semantic system of the register. This
is one of the areas of register analysis where we need much more descriptive work but Hasan (1984) provides some theoretical underpinnings and
a, descriptive example drawn from the register of nursery tales. She
differentiates between nuclear meanings and elaborative meanings in the
realization of a generic element: nuclear meanings are necessary and
elaborative meanings may flesh out the realization further. In her account
of matter cycles, Cross (1991; cf. this volume) extends Hasan's work as
situational realization.

4.1 Register and semantics - register-specific semantic systems

As we have seen, a given context of situation corresponds to a particular


~S"i~!<;:rL~hich is in the first instance a::semantic variety of the -fmguisfic
system since semantics is the interlevel between context and the rest of the
linguistic system. One way of specifying such a semantic variety is to set
up a separate semantic system in accordance with strategy (iii) of Section
3.2.2 above - a system dedicated to a particular context of situation with
its settings of field, tenor, and mode: see Figure 11.13. The figure shows
different contexts of situation corresponding to different semantic systems
realized in different ways by one generalized lexicogrammatical system.
This will bring out the organization of the particular communicative
strategies we employ in different contexts of situation; and it is a useful
research approach for getting started on the task of describing registers and
semantics. 16
The semantic level can thus be thought of as a repertoire of situationspecific semantic systems. Such systems include the different text structures
associated with different genres. For instance, it is possible to describe the
semantic systems of stock market reports, of weather forecasting, of advertising, of culinary instruction, the system used by a mother controlling her

Figure 11.13

Situation-specific semantic systems as a way of stating registers

child, .and so on. ~hese semantic systems are all realized by means of the
one hIghly generalIzed grammatical system. This model takes account of
unity (the . gra~m~tical) in diversity (the various semantic systems). To see
what t~e In:-phcatIOns ~re, v:e can consider a summary of certain aspects
of Halhday s (1973) dISCUSSIOn of regulatory semantics.
. Im~gine a c?~text of situation of one of the types Bernstein (1973) has
ldentl~ed, as crltl~al for socialization - one where a mother tries to regulate
her chIld s behavIOur. Her son has been playing at a construction site and
she wants to prevent him from doing so again. The tenor is thus one of
m~ther t~ young c~ild, with the mother having the authority. The field
chIld-r~anng: behavIOur control and the child's body and behaviour. The
mode IS spo~en ~nd hortatory. What can the mother do semantically to
add~ess the sltuatIOn~ Two basic regulatory strategies are threatening (with
pumshme~lt or .restramt) and warning (about what will happen to the child
or the chIld will cause to happen). Examples of texts include
threat
if you do that again I'll smack you
Daddy'll be cross with you
you do that again and you'll get smacked

j.l

252

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

is and then identifies the realizational patterns in language for each. See
further Section 7.1 on the selection of 'selections' or 'slices' through the
whole system.
Starting with context, I will now move down through the strata noting
how registers can be characterized.

253

context

4. 0 Realization of context of situation

The way into a register is from a context of situation type - from a


particular CC in Hasan's (1985) terms: the semantic system of that register
as a whole realizes the situation type - (cf. Figure 11.6 above). But the
realization is further differentiated according to the unfolding of the situation in semiotic space-time in stages - the elements of generic structure.
One example of such a staging is given by Ghadessy (this volume); cf. also
Gunnarsson's (this volume) superthematic structure. Each stage or element
is realized by preselections within the semantic system of the register. This
is one of the areas of register analysis where we need much more descriptive work but Hasan (1984) provides some theoretical underpinnings and
a, descriptive example drawn from the register of nursery tales. She
differentiates between nuclear meanings and elaborative meanings in the
realization of a generic element: nuclear meanings are necessary and
elaborative meanings may flesh out the realization further. In her account
of matter cycles, Cross (1991; cf. this volume) extends Hasan's work as
situational realization.

4.1 Register and semantics - register-specific semantic systems

As we have seen, a given context of situation corresponds to a particular


~S"i~!<;:rL~hich is in the first instance a::semantic variety of the -fmguisfic
system since semantics is the interlevel between context and the rest of the
linguistic system. One way of specifying such a semantic variety is to set
up a separate semantic system in accordance with strategy (iii) of Section
3.2.2 above - a system dedicated to a particular context of situation with
its settings of field, tenor, and mode: see Figure 11.13. The figure shows
different contexts of situation corresponding to different semantic systems
realized in different ways by one generalized lexicogrammatical system.
This will bring out the organization of the particular communicative
strategies we employ in different contexts of situation; and it is a useful
research approach for getting started on the task of describing registers and
semantics. 16
The semantic level can thus be thought of as a repertoire of situationspecific semantic systems. Such systems include the different text structures
associated with different genres. For instance, it is possible to describe the
semantic systems of stock market reports, of weather forecasting, of advertising, of culinary instruction, the system used by a mother controlling her

Figure 11.13

Situation-specific semantic systems as a way of stating registers

child, .and so on. ~hese semantic systems are all realized by means of the
one hIghly generalIzed grammatical system. This model takes account of
unity (the . gra~m~tical) in diversity (the various semantic systems). To see
what t~e In:-phcatIOns ~re, v:e can consider a summary of certain aspects
of Halhday s (1973) dISCUSSIOn of regulatory semantics.
. Im~gine a c?~text of situation of one of the types Bernstein (1973) has
ldentl~ed, as crltl~al for socialization - one where a mother tries to regulate
her chIld s behavIOur. Her son has been playing at a construction site and
she wants to prevent him from doing so again. The tenor is thus one of
m~ther t~ young c~ild, with the mother having the authority. The field
chIld-r~anng: behavIOur control and the child's body and behaviour. The
mode IS spo~en ~nd hortatory. What can the mother do semantically to
add~ess the sltuatIOn~ Two basic regulatory strategies are threatening (with
pumshme~lt or .restramt) and warning (about what will happen to the child
or the chIld will cause to happen). Examples of texts include
threat
if you do that again I'll smack you
Daddy'll be cross with you
you do that again and you'll get smacked

254

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

:=J--{ "' ". . .

,.~'"' 00 "''''",,

-f""

-{

mental punishment

physical punishment

warning

-1

agency specified

255

**->
instructing

by other
,_

interacting

agency unspecified

informing

condition explicit

temporally

-{

qualifying
condition implicit

->*
Figure 11.14

Fragment of regulatory semantics

conditionally

warning

culinary operation

you'll get hurt


you'll get your feet wet
you'll tear your clothes
The semantic network consists of systems like 'threat/warning', 'physical
punishment/mental punishment/restraint on behaviour', and so on. Part of
the semantic system network discussed in Halliday (1973: 81) is given in
Figure 11.14 (only the category of 'threat' is further elaborated in delicacy
here).
Let's consider one more example - the semantics of culinary instruction
deployed in written recipes. This is quite a simple semantic variety; it is
a fairly restricted register. The tenor is one of expert to non-expert with
the expert providing a service for the non-expert. The field is one of
procedures in the culinary realm. The mode is written and instructional.
Interpersonally, the writer can either choose to interact with the reader by
instructing or informing him/her or just choose to qualify some instruction.
Ideationally, the writer represents either a culinary doing or a culinary
being, with states of wanting/liking as a third minor option. Figure 11.15
presents a very simple semantic network; it is presented in more detail in
Halliday and Matthiessen (forthcoming). I will return to this semantic
network in Section 4.2 below to discuss its lexicogrammatical realizations.
We have seen two examples of simple registerial semantic networks.
What is the status of such networks in theory and praxis? I suggested at
the outset that at the very least they provide us with a convenient way of
characterizing a 'profile' of a register and a way of working on semantics

->**

doing

*->

liking

culinary happening

being

Figure 11.15

Culinary instructional semantics

without having achieved a general comprehensive account of the semantic


system yet. If this is all there is to them, then from a theoretical point of
view they are only transient descriptive steps in the direction of an account
of register variation in the semantic system according to strategy (i) or (ii)
of Section 3.2.2. I Will say a few words about this possibility presently.
However, even if that turns out to be the case - and it is a desirable
outcome - register-specific semantic systems still have an interesting
theoretical status. Patten (1988) presents a computational system based on
Halliday's (1973) account summarized in part here. The system can
generate short texts in the regulatory register. Patten demonstrates the
value of registerial semantic systems from an AI point of view. They

254

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

:=J--{ "' ". . .

,.~'"' 00 "''''",,

-f""

-{

mental punishment

physical punishment

warning

-1

agency specified

255

**->
instructing

by other
,_

interacting

agency unspecified

informing

condition explicit

temporally

-{

qualifying
condition implicit

->*
Figure 11.14

Fragment of regulatory semantics

conditionally

warning

culinary operation

you'll get hurt


you'll get your feet wet
you'll tear your clothes
The semantic network consists of systems like 'threat/warning', 'physical
punishment/mental punishment/restraint on behaviour', and so on. Part of
the semantic system network discussed in Halliday (1973: 81) is given in
Figure 11.14 (only the category of 'threat' is further elaborated in delicacy
here).
Let's consider one more example - the semantics of culinary instruction
deployed in written recipes. This is quite a simple semantic variety; it is
a fairly restricted register. The tenor is one of expert to non-expert with
the expert providing a service for the non-expert. The field is one of
procedures in the culinary realm. The mode is written and instructional.
Interpersonally, the writer can either choose to interact with the reader by
instructing or informing him/her or just choose to qualify some instruction.
Ideationally, the writer represents either a culinary doing or a culinary
being, with states of wanting/liking as a third minor option. Figure 11.15
presents a very simple semantic network; it is presented in more detail in
Halliday and Matthiessen (forthcoming). I will return to this semantic
network in Section 4.2 below to discuss its lexicogrammatical realizations.
We have seen two examples of simple registerial semantic networks.
What is the status of such networks in theory and praxis? I suggested at
the outset that at the very least they provide us with a convenient way of
characterizing a 'profile' of a register and a way of working on semantics

->**

doing

*->

liking

culinary happening

being

Figure 11.15

Culinary instructional semantics

without having achieved a general comprehensive account of the semantic


system yet. If this is all there is to them, then from a theoretical point of
view they are only transient descriptive steps in the direction of an account
of register variation in the semantic system according to strategy (i) or (ii)
of Section 3.2.2. I Will say a few words about this possibility presently.
However, even if that turns out to be the case - and it is a desirable
outcome - register-specific semantic systems still have an interesting
theoretical status. Patten (1988) presents a computational system based on
Halliday's (1973) account summarized in part here. The system can
generate short texts in the regulatory register. Patten demonstrates the
value of registerial semantic systems from an AI point of view. They

256

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

constitute compilations of semantic strategies needed to solve recurrent


communicative problems. Instead of having to search the vast general
semantic system for appropriate semantic means, we can simply confine
ourselves to the semantic potential associated with the current context of
situation. Semantically, a register is thus a 'customized' network of
strategies for addressing the task of a particular context of situation. Such
a network may have been compiled out of a generalized semantic network
- it. may have been compiled from a representation such as (i) or (ii) of
SectIOn 3.2.2. Patten's argument seems compatible with the notion that a
register is a view on the general system, which consists of an assemblage
of systems.
The theoretical possibility that registerial semantic systems can be
:iewed as variants of a general system, with a common core, is explored
In recent work by Caffarel (1990; 1991). She then demonstrates that this
works for French tense semantics in narrative registers and one expository
one. Caffarel's work is thus very central to the fundamental question how
register variation can be specified.
One area where it seems hard to set up a generalization within the
semantic system is rank.!7 It is plausible that there are a number of
different semantic rank scales for different registers, just as Sinclair and
Coulthard's (1975) for lessons, mentioned earlier. The extent of a rank
scale would depend on the nature and size of texts that have to be
produced in a given context of situation.

4.2 Register and lexicogrammar

Contexts of situation are projected onto semantics as register-specific


semantic potentials in the way discussed above. The situation specific
'image' projected onto semantics in the first instance is also projected onto
lexicogrammar; that is, it is first projected onto content-stratum 1 and then
onto content-stratum 2. Here the modelling situation is different: we have
fairly extensive accounts of the grammatical system of various languages
(for English, Halliday 1985a, specified systemically in Matthiessen 1990/2).
Consequently, it is possible to try to 'capture' the register corresponding
to a given situation along the lines of either strategy (i) or (ii) discussed
above in Section 3.2.2 even though that is still not a general option for
semantics: see Figure 11.16. I will illustrate with lexicogrammatical realizations of the two earlier examples, the regulatory and instructional semantic
systems.
Semantic features are realized by preselections of grammatical features.
For example, the semantic feature 'threat' is realized by selection of the
grammatical feature 'declarative'. In general, delicate grammatical features
are preselected and the less delicate features they presuppose can then be
~hosen automatically by moving from right to left (by backward chaining)
In the system network rather than by explicit preselection. This method

257

context

Figure 11.16

Lexicogrammatical realizations of register-semantic systems

makes good use of the 'logic' of the lexicogra~matical system net~ork;. see
11 .17. The collection of preselectIOns
from
semantICS
Into

F 19ure
.
.
.
lexicogrammar constitute the projectior: of a re?lster Image .or vle.w onto
lexicogrammar. I will illustrate how thIS works In more detaIl for Instructional semantics b e l o w . . .
.
As the diagram indicates, there is a tenden.cy for ~he sltuatIOn-spe~l~c
semantics to be more delicate than the generalIzed lexlcogrammar. T~lS IS
to be expected, particularly in fairly restri~ted registers: only a restncted
subset of the lexicogrammatical resources WIll be employed and the semantics can simply 'turn off' or deactivate certain parts of the g~a~mar by
never preselecting grammatical featur~s in these .parts. (If t?lS IS to be
made explicit, the disabling of lexlCogr~mmatlc.~ pot:ntlal may. be
represented either by 0 probabilities or negatlve partl.tIOn~, l.e. of par:lt!ons
of what is not part of the register. In the current .Nlge~ Implementatlon of
systemic-functional grammar it would also be possIble sImply to change the
status of systems that are never entered to 'disabled'. Cf. also <?'Donnell
(1990) on activation of a register potential fro~ above. In parslI~g, there
could be a benefit making it explicit that certaIn parts of the lexlcogrammatical potential have been turned off sir:ce .th~y do not t?en have to ?e
explored; the search space is reduced, which IS Important sInce. complexIty
is a real problem in parsing. This is surely what readers and hsteners do.

256

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

constitute compilations of semantic strategies needed to solve recurrent


communicative problems. Instead of having to search the vast general
semantic system for appropriate semantic means, we can simply confine
ourselves to the semantic potential associated with the current context of
situation. Semantically, a register is thus a 'customized' network of
strategies for addressing the task of a particular context of situation. Such
a network may have been compiled out of a generalized semantic network
- it. may have been compiled from a representation such as (i) or (ii) of
SectIOn 3.2.2. Patten's argument seems compatible with the notion that a
register is a view on the general system, which consists of an assemblage
of systems.
The theoretical possibility that registerial semantic systems can be
:iewed as variants of a general system, with a common core, is explored
In recent work by Caffarel (1990; 1991). She then demonstrates that this
works for French tense semantics in narrative registers and one expository
one. Caffarel's work is thus very central to the fundamental question how
register variation can be specified.
One area where it seems hard to set up a generalization within the
semantic system is rank.!7 It is plausible that there are a number of
different semantic rank scales for different registers, just as Sinclair and
Coulthard's (1975) for lessons, mentioned earlier. The extent of a rank
scale would depend on the nature and size of texts that have to be
produced in a given context of situation.

4.2 Register and lexicogrammar

Contexts of situation are projected onto semantics as register-specific


semantic potentials in the way discussed above. The situation specific
'image' projected onto semantics in the first instance is also projected onto
lexicogrammar; that is, it is first projected onto content-stratum 1 and then
onto content-stratum 2. Here the modelling situation is different: we have
fairly extensive accounts of the grammatical system of various languages
(for English, Halliday 1985a, specified systemically in Matthiessen 1990/2).
Consequently, it is possible to try to 'capture' the register corresponding
to a given situation along the lines of either strategy (i) or (ii) discussed
above in Section 3.2.2 even though that is still not a general option for
semantics: see Figure 11.16. I will illustrate with lexicogrammatical realizations of the two earlier examples, the regulatory and instructional semantic
systems.
Semantic features are realized by preselections of grammatical features.
For example, the semantic feature 'threat' is realized by selection of the
grammatical feature 'declarative'. In general, delicate grammatical features
are preselected and the less delicate features they presuppose can then be
~hosen automatically by moving from right to left (by backward chaining)
In the system network rather than by explicit preselection. This method

257

context

Figure 11.16

Lexicogrammatical realizations of register-semantic systems

makes good use of the 'logic' of the lexicogra~matical system net~ork;. see
11 .17. The collection of preselectIOns
from
semantICS
Into

F 19ure
.
.
.
lexicogrammar constitute the projectior: of a re?lster Image .or vle.w onto
lexicogrammar. I will illustrate how thIS works In more detaIl for Instructional semantics b e l o w . . .
.
As the diagram indicates, there is a tenden.cy for ~he sltuatIOn-spe~l~c
semantics to be more delicate than the generalIzed lexlcogrammar. T~lS IS
to be expected, particularly in fairly restri~ted registers: only a restncted
subset of the lexicogrammatical resources WIll be employed and the semantics can simply 'turn off' or deactivate certain parts of the g~a~mar by
never preselecting grammatical featur~s in these .parts. (If t?lS IS to be
made explicit, the disabling of lexlCogr~mmatlc.~ pot:ntlal may. be
represented either by 0 probabilities or negatlve partl.tIOn~, l.e. of par:lt!ons
of what is not part of the register. In the current .Nlge~ Implementatlon of
systemic-functional grammar it would also be possIble sImply to change the
status of systems that are never entered to 'disabled'. Cf. also <?'Donnell
(1990) on activation of a register potential fro~ above. In parslI~g, there
could be a benefit making it explicit that certaIn parts of the lexlcogrammatical potential have been turned off sir:ce .th~y do not t?en have to ?e
explored; the search space is reduced, which IS Important sInce. complexIty
is a real problem in parsing. This is surely what readers and hsteners do.

259

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

258

)
""rning

-{ -i

.. .,..
.. 0

0 ....
r-IrI

explicit

threat

~ ~

ll:

implicit
physioal punishment
mental punishment
restraint on behaviour

\"MOOd \

indioative
olause

-{

r-~
+ Mood
+Finite .
Mood ( Fi nite)
+subject
Mood(Subj)

interactant INT.
TVPE
IND.
MOOD
PERS.

addressee
ISu: 'you: I
speaker-plus
IS\,we' l
spea er - - -

exPlicit

DECL.

SUBJ.
PRESUMPTION

. .
i mpllclt
\ "Subject \

non-i nteractant

imperative

<
PRIMARV
temporal
TENSE

Figure 11.17

Lexicogrammatical realization of situation-specific semantics

DEICTlCITV

past
IFi nite: past)
present

~:pres]

future
Fi nite: 'will ']

modal

The principle with the realization of the semantic system of culinary


instruction is the same. It projects a registerial image or view onto the
generalized lexicogrammatical system through preselections. Let me
illustrate this in some more detail with respect to the grammatical system
of MOOD (for the details of the description used here, see Matthiessen
1990/2). The interpersonal semantic features of the instructional system
presented in Figure 11.15 above are realized as follows

tagged
+ Moodtag (
+Tagfi nite "
+Tagsubject )
Moodtag""
untagged

semantic feature ...,. lexicogrammatical feature


Qualifying
interacting
instructing
informing

...,. bound: expanding: enhancing


...,. free

...,. imperative: jussive: implicit & untagged


...,. indicative: declarative & non-interactant &
untagged & temporal: present

These preselections constitute a set of paths through the MOOD grammar


(including MOOD PERSON, DEICTICITY and MOOD TAG) as shown in
Figure 11.18. The bold underlining indicates features preselected from the
semantics. (The early system 'free/bound' is not shown, nor are the
systems differentiating different types of bound clause, 'expanding' and
'enhancing' .) Collectively the preselections show which part of the overall
grammatical potential can be activated in this register. This selection from
the overall MOOD grammar is the registerial image or view projected from
the semantics through the preselections.

I-

imperative

Figure 11.18

Registerial image projected from semantics through preselection

~f ~he f~;~e~r;:sa:a:r~et~~~ue;~; ;;l~~t~~r!~dt~~

<?nly certain parts


regtster. BYil thble. s.ampero~a~~iistic terms, their probabilities have ~een reset
or not ava a e. In
. ,. o th
Ipe gram.
h
babilit of ' interrogative IS m e rec
to 0; ; : mst~c~9 \~o~o this b; blocking out those featur~s t~at ~re never
mar. 19ure
'.
.
clearl that the regtstenal Image or
selected. From thIS we can see very
y.
bbreviation For
. 'l'f d
l' f the full grammar IS an a
.
b
h'
This means that it is possible
view that IS 1 te ou 0
instance, certain paths are non- ranc mg.

259

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

258

)
""rning

-{ -i

.. .,..
.. 0

0 ....
r-IrI

explicit

threat

~ ~

ll:

implicit
physioal punishment
mental punishment
restraint on behaviour

\"MOOd \

indioative
olause

-{

r-~
+ Mood
+Finite .
Mood ( Fi nite)
+subject
Mood(Subj)

interactant INT.
TVPE
IND.
MOOD
PERS.

addressee
ISu: 'you: I
speaker-plus
IS\,we' l
spea er - - -

exPlicit

DECL.

SUBJ.
PRESUMPTION

. .
i mpllclt
\ "Subject \

non-i nteractant

imperative

<
PRIMARV
temporal
TENSE

Figure 11.17

Lexicogrammatical realization of situation-specific semantics

DEICTlCITV

past
IFi nite: past)
present

~:pres]

future
Fi nite: 'will ']

modal

The principle with the realization of the semantic system of culinary


instruction is the same. It projects a registerial image or view onto the
generalized lexicogrammatical system through preselections. Let me
illustrate this in some more detail with respect to the grammatical system
of MOOD (for the details of the description used here, see Matthiessen
1990/2). The interpersonal semantic features of the instructional system
presented in Figure 11.15 above are realized as follows

tagged
+ Moodtag (
+Tagfi nite "
+Tagsubject )
Moodtag""
untagged

semantic feature ...,. lexicogrammatical feature


Qualifying
interacting
instructing
informing

...,. bound: expanding: enhancing


...,. free

...,. imperative: jussive: implicit & untagged


...,. indicative: declarative & non-interactant &
untagged & temporal: present

These preselections constitute a set of paths through the MOOD grammar


(including MOOD PERSON, DEICTICITY and MOOD TAG) as shown in
Figure 11.18. The bold underlining indicates features preselected from the
semantics. (The early system 'free/bound' is not shown, nor are the
systems differentiating different types of bound clause, 'expanding' and
'enhancing' .) Collectively the preselections show which part of the overall
grammatical potential can be activated in this register. This selection from
the overall MOOD grammar is the registerial image or view projected from
the semantics through the preselections.

I-

imperative

Figure 11.18

Registerial image projected from semantics through preselection

~f ~he f~;~e~r;:sa:a:r~et~~~ue;~; ;;l~~t~~r!~dt~~

<?nly certain parts


regtster. BYil thble. s.ampero~a~~iistic terms, their probabilities have ~een reset
or not ava a e. In
. ,. o th
Ipe gram.
h
babilit of ' interrogative IS m e rec
to 0; ; : mst~c~9 \~o~o this b; blocking out those featur~s t~at ~re never
mar. 19ure
'.
.
clearl that the regtstenal Image or
selected. From thIS we can see very
y.
bbreviation For
. 'l'f d
l' f the full grammar IS an a
.
b
h'
This means that it is possible
view that IS 1 te ou 0
instance, certain paths are non- ranc mg.

260

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

261

interactant: addressee
indicative: declarative &
temporal: present

IND.

TYPE

Subject: 'you'
non-interactant

+ Mood

~
+ Mood
... fi nite
Mood( Fi nite)
... Subject
Mood(Subj)

i nteractant
IND.

INT.

TYPE

free

+ Finite
Mood (Finite)
+ Subject
Mood (Subject)
Subject 1\ Finite
Finite: present

MOOD
PERS.

no n- i nte racta nt

imperative: jussive: implicit

Figure 11.20

i mperelive

Figure 11.19

'Blocked' grammar not part of recipe grammar

~nf~r ~?re ~elicate

features from less delicate ones. Thus it is possible


enve JussIve' and 'implicit' and 'untagged' from 'imperative' sim I
bec~ubsle there are no alternatives on their path. In principle it would Pb~
POSSI e to construct a recipe g
bb"
f II
al
rammar as an a revIated version of the
u t' gener f g~mmar by collapsing such non-branching paths and leaving
~u parts 0 t e full potential that can never be activated (such as the
AG~ING system or the DECLARATIVE SUBJECT PRESUMPTION
t ).
see FIgure 11 20 Th f
Id b
sys em .
. .
e e ect wou
e even more dramatic in the ideational
to
to

Recipe grammar as abbreviation of full potential

area of the clause grammar since TRANSITIVITY is extended in delicacy


towards lexis (see Cross, this volume) and culinary processes are a very
narrow band through the full system.
In the examples above, the registerial image projected onto the grammar
falls within the common core grammar. However, we have already seen
that it is possible that the generalized system network of the grammar
contains certain register-specific partitions - Figures 11.11 and 11.12 in
Section 3.2.2 above illustrate. this possibility. And in certain registers this
may be more prominent - in particular the grammar of 'little texts' (Halliday 1985a: Appendix 2): headlines (,headlinese'), telegrams, etc. where
there is a need for compression (see Sinclair 1988).
In my discussion of registerial images projected onto lexicogrammar, I
have proceeded from situation specific semantic systems. However, another
alternative has also been explored by Bateman and Paris (1991). They use
situational constraints of field, tenor, and mode to guide the semantically
informed selection of lexicogrammatical features. I won't go into a more
detailed account here since it presupposes familiarity with the chooser and
inquiry approach to the lexicogrammar's semantic interface: the general
principle is that responses to semantic inquiries are made sensitive to
contextual factors.
Finally, I should note that the effect of preselections from semantics to
lexicogrammar can in principle also occur between lexicogrammar and

260

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

261

interactant: addressee
indicative: declarative &
temporal: present

IND.

TYPE

Subject: 'you'
non-interactant

+ Mood

~
+ Mood
... fi nite
Mood( Fi nite)
... Subject
Mood(Subj)

i nteractant
IND.

INT.

TYPE

free

+ Finite
Mood (Finite)
+ Subject
Mood (Subject)
Subject 1\ Finite
Finite: present

MOOD
PERS.

no n- i nte racta nt

imperative: jussive: implicit

Figure 11.20

i mperelive

Figure 11.19

'Blocked' grammar not part of recipe grammar

~nf~r ~?re ~elicate

features from less delicate ones. Thus it is possible


enve JussIve' and 'implicit' and 'untagged' from 'imperative' sim I
bec~ubsle there are no alternatives on their path. In principle it would Pb~
POSSI e to construct a recipe g
bb"
f II
al
rammar as an a revIated version of the
u t' gener f g~mmar by collapsing such non-branching paths and leaving
~u parts 0 t e full potential that can never be activated (such as the
AG~ING system or the DECLARATIVE SUBJECT PRESUMPTION
t ).
see FIgure 11 20 Th f
Id b
sys em .
. .
e e ect wou
e even more dramatic in the ideational
to
to

Recipe grammar as abbreviation of full potential

area of the clause grammar since TRANSITIVITY is extended in delicacy


towards lexis (see Cross, this volume) and culinary processes are a very
narrow band through the full system.
In the examples above, the registerial image projected onto the grammar
falls within the common core grammar. However, we have already seen
that it is possible that the generalized system network of the grammar
contains certain register-specific partitions - Figures 11.11 and 11.12 in
Section 3.2.2 above illustrate. this possibility. And in certain registers this
may be more prominent - in particular the grammar of 'little texts' (Halliday 1985a: Appendix 2): headlines (,headlinese'), telegrams, etc. where
there is a need for compression (see Sinclair 1988).
In my discussion of registerial images projected onto lexicogrammar, I
have proceeded from situation specific semantic systems. However, another
alternative has also been explored by Bateman and Paris (1991). They use
situational constraints of field, tenor, and mode to guide the semantically
informed selection of lexicogrammatical features. I won't go into a more
detailed account here since it presupposes familiarity with the chooser and
inquiry approach to the lexicogrammar's semantic interface: the general
principle is that responses to semantic inquiries are made sensitive to
contextual factors.
Finally, I should note that the effect of preselections from semantics to
lexicogrammar can in principle also occur between lexicogrammar and

262

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

phonology/graphology. The difference is that the stratal line here is largely


conventional so that registerial restrictions will not be projected onto
phonemic systems, for example. We will, however, see the effect with
TONE systems since they are related in a fairly natural way to KEY
systems within lexicogrammar and SPEECH FUNCTION systems within
semantics. Consequently, any registerial constraints on the speech functional systems will 'ripple' through. Sefton (1991: Section 5) discusses how
to deal with register in a systemic account of graphology.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

process
configuration
element

congruent realization

metaphorical realization

4.3 Congruent and metaphorical realization

In the discussion of the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar up to


now, I have not considered the distinction between congruent and
metaphorical realization and its relationship to register variation but I will
say a few words about this important phenomenon now starting with
metaphor itself. Once a semiotic system has been established along the
basic dimensions of the semiotic space, it may be possible to expand the
whole system by shifting some basic parameter. For instance, within the
phonological stratum, a whole vowel system may be more or less doubled
by advancing the position of the tongue root as in Akan (cf. Stewart 1967;
Pike 1967): a new global systemic parameter is introduced. Similarly, the
content system of language can be expanded by shifting semantics and
lexicogrammar relative to one another. Relative to the congruent realizational correspondences between the two content strata, the realization is
shifted from one domain of lexicogrammar to another. For instance, intensity is congruently realized by very, much, more, less etc. but it can be
realized metaphorically by being shifted to the domain of (vertical space,
e.g. high, low, rise, fall; expanded, shrink, etc. Similarly, realizations may be
shifted down the grammatical rank scale from clause to group, from group
to word, and so on: see Figure 11.21. Thus a process configuration is
realized congruently as a clause, e.g. De Klerk will depart from office, and
metaphorically as a group, e.g. De Klerk's departure from office. And these
metaphorical lexicogrammatical realizations also construe new types in the
semantic system itself thereby expanding its potential. 18 (Indeed, new
domains of meaning may be opened up; cf. Goatly, this volume, on
metaphor and 'lexical gaps'.) For instance, from a semantic point of view,
De Klerk's departure from office is a process configuration realized as if it was
an element of the type participant.
It is important to note that the domain of the realizational shift in
metaphor is all of lexicogrammar: metaphor can be grammatical as well as
lexical and they can be interpersonal as well as ideational (Halliday 1985a:
Ch. 10). The example given above is one of grammatical metaphor and
further examples are given in Eggins et al. (this volume). Goatly's (this
volume) contribution is primarily concerned with lexical metaphor. Thus
when he cites his examples (120) to' illustrate a paragraph in scientific
English which shows 'minimal use of metaphor', his focus is on lexical

263

Figure 11.21

Congruent and metaphorical realization

metaphor. The paragraph is, in fact, highly metaphori~al at the gram.matical end of lexicogrammar. For instance, in As evolutIOn progressed, thzs
biological weathering increased, process configurations of 'things continuing to
evolve' and 'living organisms weathering things more and more' that
would congruently be realized by clauses are reconstrued metaphorically as
participants that can take on roles in ot~er process configurat~ons and are
realized by groups. And there are associated metaphors; for Instance,. the
phase of 'continue to evolve' is reconstrued as a separate process, reahzed
by progressed. These metaphors are at the very general ~rammatical e:r;td of
the lexicogrammatical continuum. Science depends cruClal~y on the reI~ca
tion of the fluid experience of everyday, casual conversatIOn (cf. Halhday
1987).
.
Now, the central significance of metaphor for regIster variat.ion is t~is.
Metaphorical realization expands the content system. by. IntroducIng
metaphorical varieties. This means that the mode of reahzatIOn can then
itself be a point of register variation: the content system has expanded a~d
so has its potential for variation. And the variation seems fairly systematIc.
At least in the area of grammatical metaphor, registers as a whole tend to
be more congruent or more metaphorical in their type of realization. Hal~i
day (1985b) has shown that prototypical spoken regis.ters te~d to be low In
ideational grammatical metaphor whereas prototypIcal wntten ones are

262

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

phonology/graphology. The difference is that the stratal line here is largely


conventional so that registerial restrictions will not be projected onto
phonemic systems, for example. We will, however, see the effect with
TONE systems since they are related in a fairly natural way to KEY
systems within lexicogrammar and SPEECH FUNCTION systems within
semantics. Consequently, any registerial constraints on the speech functional systems will 'ripple' through. Sefton (1991: Section 5) discusses how
to deal with register in a systemic account of graphology.

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

process
configuration
element

congruent realization

metaphorical realization

4.3 Congruent and metaphorical realization

In the discussion of the realization of semantics in lexicogrammar up to


now, I have not considered the distinction between congruent and
metaphorical realization and its relationship to register variation but I will
say a few words about this important phenomenon now starting with
metaphor itself. Once a semiotic system has been established along the
basic dimensions of the semiotic space, it may be possible to expand the
whole system by shifting some basic parameter. For instance, within the
phonological stratum, a whole vowel system may be more or less doubled
by advancing the position of the tongue root as in Akan (cf. Stewart 1967;
Pike 1967): a new global systemic parameter is introduced. Similarly, the
content system of language can be expanded by shifting semantics and
lexicogrammar relative to one another. Relative to the congruent realizational correspondences between the two content strata, the realization is
shifted from one domain of lexicogrammar to another. For instance, intensity is congruently realized by very, much, more, less etc. but it can be
realized metaphorically by being shifted to the domain of (vertical space,
e.g. high, low, rise, fall; expanded, shrink, etc. Similarly, realizations may be
shifted down the grammatical rank scale from clause to group, from group
to word, and so on: see Figure 11.21. Thus a process configuration is
realized congruently as a clause, e.g. De Klerk will depart from office, and
metaphorically as a group, e.g. De Klerk's departure from office. And these
metaphorical lexicogrammatical realizations also construe new types in the
semantic system itself thereby expanding its potential. 18 (Indeed, new
domains of meaning may be opened up; cf. Goatly, this volume, on
metaphor and 'lexical gaps'.) For instance, from a semantic point of view,
De Klerk's departure from office is a process configuration realized as if it was
an element of the type participant.
It is important to note that the domain of the realizational shift in
metaphor is all of lexicogrammar: metaphor can be grammatical as well as
lexical and they can be interpersonal as well as ideational (Halliday 1985a:
Ch. 10). The example given above is one of grammatical metaphor and
further examples are given in Eggins et al. (this volume). Goatly's (this
volume) contribution is primarily concerned with lexical metaphor. Thus
when he cites his examples (120) to' illustrate a paragraph in scientific
English which shows 'minimal use of metaphor', his focus is on lexical

263

Figure 11.21

Congruent and metaphorical realization

metaphor. The paragraph is, in fact, highly metaphori~al at the gram.matical end of lexicogrammar. For instance, in As evolutIOn progressed, thzs
biological weathering increased, process configurations of 'things continuing to
evolve' and 'living organisms weathering things more and more' that
would congruently be realized by clauses are reconstrued metaphorically as
participants that can take on roles in ot~er process configurat~ons and are
realized by groups. And there are associated metaphors; for Instance,. the
phase of 'continue to evolve' is reconstrued as a separate process, reahzed
by progressed. These metaphors are at the very general ~rammatical e:r;td of
the lexicogrammatical continuum. Science depends cruClal~y on the reI~ca
tion of the fluid experience of everyday, casual conversatIOn (cf. Halhday
1987).
.
Now, the central significance of metaphor for regIster variat.ion is t~is.
Metaphorical realization expands the content system. by. IntroducIng
metaphorical varieties. This means that the mode of reahzatIOn can then
itself be a point of register variation: the content system has expanded a~d
so has its potential for variation. And the variation seems fairly systematIc.
At least in the area of grammatical metaphor, registers as a whole tend to
be more congruent or more metaphorical in their type of realization. Hal~i
day (1985b) has shown that prototypical spoken regis.ters te~d to be low In
ideational grammatical metaphor whereas prototypIcal wntten ones are

264

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

high; see also RaveIli (1985). Ideational grammatical metaphor has become
very prominent in wfitten scientific English (Halliday, 1988). Hunston
(this volume) points out that interpersonal evaluation is often realized
metaphorically in the scientific research articles she studied, making them
more implicit and objective. Goatly (this volume) contrasts a range of
different types of metaphor (but with a lexical rather than grammatical
focus and ideational rather than interpersonal focus) in conversation, Ilews
reporting, popular science, advertising, and poetry. It is not clear to what
extent these constitute registers that can be characterized in detailed
contextual and linguistic terms - they may be 'pre-registerial' approximation~; but it is clear from Goatly's study that there is considerable variation
in the use of metaphorical. strategies across these types. For instance, inactive metaphors aside, conversation (based on Quirk and Svartvik's
.
London-Lund corpus) seems to be largeIy congruent; ~ wh en active
metaphors are used, they are marked in some way. One of his interesting
findings is that different aspects of the metaphorical strategies are deployed
in the different varieties. For instance, in popular science, metaphors are
used systemically to reconstrue and explain some (new) domain of meaning
and the grounds are an important aspect of this. This relates to the use
of grammatical metaphor in history, studied by Eggins et al. (this volume),
and in the register of physical science, discussed by Halliday (1988). In
contrast, in advertising, inactive metaphors tend to be revitalized to
achieve what Goatly calls the decorative function.
Eggins et al. show that within a secondary school history book, we find
a range of registers. They analyze and discuss narratives, reports and
arguments. These differ in various systematically related ways, e.g. in their
conjunctive organization, but the important point in the present context is
that these varieties differ in their mode of realization. From the point of
view of ideational grammatical metaphor, the narrative register is the most
congruent, the report much more metaphorical, and the argument the
most metaphorical. For instance, process configurations are realized
congruently in narratives but metaphorically in reports and arguments;
and in arguments further semantic types, qualities and logico-semantic
relations, also tend to be realized metaphorically. There is thus a correlation between register variation and variation in mode of realization here.
Eggins et al. also show what the registers achieve - how, for instance, the
metaphorical nature of the reports and arguments makes it possible to 'depopulate' history as story is turned into history. There is thus an effect of
creating a distance to everyday experience of concrete episodes unfolding
in time. In examining cognitive science texts, I have also found this effect
of metaphorizing out people, the individual sensers engaging in conscious
processing, (see Matthiessen, forthcoming).

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

265

phylogenetic time.
ontogenetic time
logogenetic time

time in
semohistory

~otential for
Figure 11.22

The three semohistories, based on Halliday (1989)

5. Register variation and semohistory


In the previous section, I 'considered register variation as it intersects with
stratification. I will not discuss register variation and metafunctional diversification, another global dimension of organization, in more detail here:
the basic principle of the covariation of field and ideational resources, tenor
and interpersonal resources and mode and textual resources is well-known.
Instead, I will turn right away to register variation and semohistory. Halliday (1989) identifies three kinds of semiotic history or semohistory logogenetic, ontogenetic, and phylogenetic (see also Halliday and
Matthiessen, forthcoming: Section 5.3) - and I will base my discussion on
his interpretation. The three histories embody different time scales - that
of the text, that of the individual, and that of the species. They contextualize one another: phylogenesis provides the environment for
ontogenesis, which in turn provides the environment for logogenesis. ~t
the same time, they each provide the potential for change for another, m
reverse order. Figure 11.22 is an attempt to summarize these
characteristics diagrammatically. It shows a system as a circle as in all the

264

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

high; see also RaveIli (1985). Ideational grammatical metaphor has become
very prominent in wfitten scientific English (Halliday, 1988). Hunston
(this volume) points out that interpersonal evaluation is often realized
metaphorically in the scientific research articles she studied, making them
more implicit and objective. Goatly (this volume) contrasts a range of
different types of metaphor (but with a lexical rather than grammatical
focus and ideational rather than interpersonal focus) in conversation, Ilews
reporting, popular science, advertising, and poetry. It is not clear to what
extent these constitute registers that can be characterized in detailed
contextual and linguistic terms - they may be 'pre-registerial' approximation~; but it is clear from Goatly's study that there is considerable variation
in the use of metaphorical. strategies across these types. For instance, inactive metaphors aside, conversation (based on Quirk and Svartvik's
.
London-Lund corpus) seems to be largeIy congruent; ~ wh en active
metaphors are used, they are marked in some way. One of his interesting
findings is that different aspects of the metaphorical strategies are deployed
in the different varieties. For instance, in popular science, metaphors are
used systemically to reconstrue and explain some (new) domain of meaning
and the grounds are an important aspect of this. This relates to the use
of grammatical metaphor in history, studied by Eggins et al. (this volume),
and in the register of physical science, discussed by Halliday (1988). In
contrast, in advertising, inactive metaphors tend to be revitalized to
achieve what Goatly calls the decorative function.
Eggins et al. show that within a secondary school history book, we find
a range of registers. They analyze and discuss narratives, reports and
arguments. These differ in various systematically related ways, e.g. in their
conjunctive organization, but the important point in the present context is
that these varieties differ in their mode of realization. From the point of
view of ideational grammatical metaphor, the narrative register is the most
congruent, the report much more metaphorical, and the argument the
most metaphorical. For instance, process configurations are realized
congruently in narratives but metaphorically in reports and arguments;
and in arguments further semantic types, qualities and logico-semantic
relations, also tend to be realized metaphorically. There is thus a correlation between register variation and variation in mode of realization here.
Eggins et al. also show what the registers achieve - how, for instance, the
metaphorical nature of the reports and arguments makes it possible to 'depopulate' history as story is turned into history. There is thus an effect of
creating a distance to everyday experience of concrete episodes unfolding
in time. In examining cognitive science texts, I have also found this effect
of metaphorizing out people, the individual sensers engaging in conscious
processing, (see Matthiessen, forthcoming).

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

265

phylogenetic time.
ontogenetic time
logogenetic time

time in
semohistory

~otential for
Figure 11.22

The three semohistories, based on Halliday (1989)

5. Register variation and semohistory


In the previous section, I 'considered register variation as it intersects with
stratification. I will not discuss register variation and metafunctional diversification, another global dimension of organization, in more detail here:
the basic principle of the covariation of field and ideational resources, tenor
and interpersonal resources and mode and textual resources is well-known.
Instead, I will turn right away to register variation and semohistory. Halliday (1989) identifies three kinds of semiotic history or semohistory logogenetic, ontogenetic, and phylogenetic (see also Halliday and
Matthiessen, forthcoming: Section 5.3) - and I will base my discussion on
his interpretation. The three histories embody different time scales - that
of the text, that of the individual, and that of the species. They contextualize one another: phylogenesis provides the environment for
ontogenesis, which in turn provides the environment for logogenesis. ~t
the same time, they each provide the potential for change for another, m
reverse order. Figure 11.22 is an attempt to summarize these
characteristics diagrammatically. It shows a system as a circle as in all the

266

267

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

other diagrams and it indicates change through time by slightly shifted


circles. Logogenesis is shown at the frontier.
We are also here concerned with variation. However, while register
variation can be idealized as 'static oscillation', semohistoric variation is
'dynamic oscillation'. But there is still a connection between the two types
of variation or oscillation (cf. Section 6 below).

register-specific lexical potential of a text has to be build up through


various forms of elaborating strategies (identifying relational clauses,
elaborating [appositional] complexes, and so on) and full terms have to be
used before they can be compressed as acronyms and other forms of
abbreviation.
An instantial system is thus one that emerges and 'grows' as a text of
a particular register unfolds. At any given point in the unfolding, it is a
record of the text's past and it is the resource out of which the future can
be selected. The text instantiates the potential of the register system and
in the course of doing so it thus create~ its own instantial system. If we
adopt a probabilistic interpretation, we can see that the difference between
the potential and the instantial is one of time-depth, just as the difference
between today's weather and this region's climate: see Halliday (1991b, c)
and Section 6 below. The instantial system is by nature transient; but
repeated instantiations may change the registerial system itself and thus the
general linguistic system: new aspects of the system emerge in the text.
This is the link between logogenesis and ontogenesis and also, ultimately,
the link to phylogenesis. To understand the dynamics of register, we have
to work more on modelling these relationships.

5.1 Logogenesis

The first semohistory is the instantiation of the system in the unfolding of


text - text history. As a text unfolds, it moves from one logogenetic state
to another. O'Donnell (1990) introduces a way of representing such states
and O'Donnell, Matthiessen and Sefton (1991) apply"this to informationseeking phone dialogues.
A text has to build up its own background gradually - it has to produce
material for itself to build on - and registers provide different strategies for
achieving this. This accumulation of meaning is recorded in an instantial
system - a system specific to a particular text instance which is developed
in the course of the unfolding of the text (for examples of instantial
systems, cf. Halliday 1973, on Golding's Inheritors). The way in which
instantial systems are built up in the course of the development of a
discourse may be typical of a register - for example, lexical subsystems
(see Hasan 1984a; Fries, 1982) including technical lexis (Wignell et al.,
1987), constraints in the transitivity system on process types and participant role fillers, metaphorical grammar (see Halliday 1988). It is only
possible to give one short local example here. It is common to prepare for
the interpretation of ideational grammatical metaphors by introducing a
congruent realization first - this increases the instantial potential for interpreting the metaphor; for example:
'Despite the fact that he wants to stay, de Klerk will probably have to make
way for Mandela or somebody else by 1993 or 1994.' De Klerk's departure from office will be neither as sudden nor as unseemly as was
Gorbachev's. (Newsweek)
Thus we know from its history that De Klerk's departure ]rom office is in
future and probable. This example is taken from a news article and Nanri
(in prep.) shows that there is a general move from the congruent to the
metaphorical in news paper reports of assassinations (cf. also Trew 1979, on
sequences of articles and the ideological implications of metaphorical
codings), a pattern first documented and explained for scientific English by
Halliday (1988; 1989). In a study of computer manuals for the EDA project
(see Section 7.2 below), we have found one source of problems being the
lack of congruent forms before metaphorical ones are introduced: it may be
difficult for the reader to supply the information about transitivity relations
that is often implicit in nominalizations, for example. Similarly, the

5.2 Ontogenesis
The second type of semohistory is the development of language in the
individual from proto-Ianguage through a transition into adult language
(see e.g. Halliday 1975; Painter 1984). Proto-Ianguage does not display
any register variation - or, to interpret it another way, there is no distinction in proto-Ianguage between specific systems and a general one: there
is a small set of contexts of use (regulatory, instrumental, interactional,
personal, etc.) and each corresponds to its own proto-semantic potential
(cf. approach (iii) in Section 3.2.2). It is only later in the transition to
adult language that the generalized metafunctional organization "begins to
appear together with the grammatical system as the content stratum is
bifurcated into semantics and grammar. The developing lexicogrammatical
system ,is a general one but, as far as I understand, it takes time for
contextually valued register variation to emerge. This stands to reason:
young children do not engage in a great variety of diversified contexts. The
potential is arguably already there right from the beginning in the differentiated uses of language but once the general system has begun to develop
they do not yet need their own specific registers. However, young children
do, . of course, encounter register variation; alongside the dialogues they
learn to engage in, they meet and learn rhymes, songs, stories, etc. See
further Martin (1983) on the development of register.
,
The written registers of primary school develop from the very simple
observation/comment register, which splits into two strands, one narrative
and one expository, each of which becomes gradually more complex: this
development has been documented in detail in the Australian setting by

266

267

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

other diagrams and it indicates change through time by slightly shifted


circles. Logogenesis is shown at the frontier.
We are also here concerned with variation. However, while register
variation can be idealized as 'static oscillation', semohistoric variation is
'dynamic oscillation'. But there is still a connection between the two types
of variation or oscillation (cf. Section 6 below).

register-specific lexical potential of a text has to be build up through


various forms of elaborating strategies (identifying relational clauses,
elaborating [appositional] complexes, and so on) and full terms have to be
used before they can be compressed as acronyms and other forms of
abbreviation.
An instantial system is thus one that emerges and 'grows' as a text of
a particular register unfolds. At any given point in the unfolding, it is a
record of the text's past and it is the resource out of which the future can
be selected. The text instantiates the potential of the register system and
in the course of doing so it thus create~ its own instantial system. If we
adopt a probabilistic interpretation, we can see that the difference between
the potential and the instantial is one of time-depth, just as the difference
between today's weather and this region's climate: see Halliday (1991b, c)
and Section 6 below. The instantial system is by nature transient; but
repeated instantiations may change the registerial system itself and thus the
general linguistic system: new aspects of the system emerge in the text.
This is the link between logogenesis and ontogenesis and also, ultimately,
the link to phylogenesis. To understand the dynamics of register, we have
to work more on modelling these relationships.

5.1 Logogenesis

The first semohistory is the instantiation of the system in the unfolding of


text - text history. As a text unfolds, it moves from one logogenetic state
to another. O'Donnell (1990) introduces a way of representing such states
and O'Donnell, Matthiessen and Sefton (1991) apply"this to informationseeking phone dialogues.
A text has to build up its own background gradually - it has to produce
material for itself to build on - and registers provide different strategies for
achieving this. This accumulation of meaning is recorded in an instantial
system - a system specific to a particular text instance which is developed
in the course of the unfolding of the text (for examples of instantial
systems, cf. Halliday 1973, on Golding's Inheritors). The way in which
instantial systems are built up in the course of the development of a
discourse may be typical of a register - for example, lexical subsystems
(see Hasan 1984a; Fries, 1982) including technical lexis (Wignell et al.,
1987), constraints in the transitivity system on process types and participant role fillers, metaphorical grammar (see Halliday 1988). It is only
possible to give one short local example here. It is common to prepare for
the interpretation of ideational grammatical metaphors by introducing a
congruent realization first - this increases the instantial potential for interpreting the metaphor; for example:
'Despite the fact that he wants to stay, de Klerk will probably have to make
way for Mandela or somebody else by 1993 or 1994.' De Klerk's departure from office will be neither as sudden nor as unseemly as was
Gorbachev's. (Newsweek)
Thus we know from its history that De Klerk's departure ]rom office is in
future and probable. This example is taken from a news article and Nanri
(in prep.) shows that there is a general move from the congruent to the
metaphorical in news paper reports of assassinations (cf. also Trew 1979, on
sequences of articles and the ideological implications of metaphorical
codings), a pattern first documented and explained for scientific English by
Halliday (1988; 1989). In a study of computer manuals for the EDA project
(see Section 7.2 below), we have found one source of problems being the
lack of congruent forms before metaphorical ones are introduced: it may be
difficult for the reader to supply the information about transitivity relations
that is often implicit in nominalizations, for example. Similarly, the

5.2 Ontogenesis
The second type of semohistory is the development of language in the
individual from proto-Ianguage through a transition into adult language
(see e.g. Halliday 1975; Painter 1984). Proto-Ianguage does not display
any register variation - or, to interpret it another way, there is no distinction in proto-Ianguage between specific systems and a general one: there
is a small set of contexts of use (regulatory, instrumental, interactional,
personal, etc.) and each corresponds to its own proto-semantic potential
(cf. approach (iii) in Section 3.2.2). It is only later in the transition to
adult language that the generalized metafunctional organization "begins to
appear together with the grammatical system as the content stratum is
bifurcated into semantics and grammar. The developing lexicogrammatical
system ,is a general one but, as far as I understand, it takes time for
contextually valued register variation to emerge. This stands to reason:
young children do not engage in a great variety of diversified contexts. The
potential is arguably already there right from the beginning in the differentiated uses of language but once the general system has begun to develop
they do not yet need their own specific registers. However, young children
do, . of course, encounter register variation; alongside the dialogues they
learn to engage in, they meet and learn rhymes, songs, stories, etc. See
further Martin (1983) on the development of register.
,
The written registers of primary school develop from the very simple
observation/comment register, which splits into two strands, one narrative
and one expository, each of which becomes gradually more complex: this
development has been documented in detail in the Australian setting by

268

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

269

5.3 Phylogenesis

expanding types of context

expanding registerial
repertoire

Figure 11.23

The child's expanding semiotic universe

Martin and Rothery (1980 etc.) in their writing project. The child's
increasing registerial repertoire co-develops with the eve~-wider contexts ~f
situation in which s/he can move semiotically: see Figure 11.23. ThiS
underlines the important point that persons develop as they learn new
registers by learning to take on new 'personae' thus gaining acc.ess to new
contexts (cf. Section 3.1.2 and also again de Beaugrande, thiS volume:
Section 4).
The study of written registers in primary school has been followed up
by a study of the registers of the disciplines secondary school st~dents have
to learn, including now grammatical metaphor upor: which e~uca
tional/scientific knowledge depends. They have to move mto the registers
of the educational knowledge of different disciplines, away from the
commonsense knowledge of pre-school life. Eggins et al. (thi~ volume)
analyze the discourse of history and Wignell et al. (198~) .diSCUSS the
discourse of geography. These two secondary school vaneties show a
considerable difference in the deployment of the linguistic resources and,
while the studies do not focus on the texts produced by secondary students,
it is clear that, by this stage in their education, the studen:s .have to
develop a registerial repertoire that construes a ~onsiderable ~emi~tic space.
Without this repertoire, it will be impossible to mtegrate a diversity of new
kinds of educational knowledge.
Within a matter of a few years, students have to move from the
language9f the family and the neighbourhood embodying sense knowledge
- folk taxonomies, a world view construed in the congruent mode, personal
experience, and so on - to include also the registers .in :vhich educa:ional
or uncommonsense knowledge can be negotiated - SCientific taxonomies, a
world view construed in the metaphorical mode, vicarious experience, and
so on.

The third type of semohistory to be considered is the evolution of the


system in the species - phylogenesis. Here the time frame is much longer
and the basic type of change is evolution rather than individual development or growth. In traditional diachronic studies, the focus has been on
items, subsystems or systems, but not on registers from a detailed and
theoretical linguistic point of view (studies of the development of advertising, journalism, ll.istorical writing, and so on are very valuable but tend
not to be explicit and detailed enough for register analysis). However,
Gunnarsson (this volume) reports on an extensive study of scientific and
popular scientific articles from medicine, technology, and economics from
three ten-year periods between 1895 and 1985 in Sweden. There are clear
changes along the different parameters measured that seem both systematic
and internally coherent. Interestingly, while the tendencies in science are
fairly clear, those in popular science are less clear 'probably reflecting the
fact that this genre is more heterogeneous'. This highlights the fact that
registers may develop in different ways. Gunnarsson is also able to point
to interesting correspondences between what she calls 'changes in the
contextual frames within which the texts function' and 'changes in
society'. I have already noted that she describes these correspondences in
terms of textual changes reflecting changes in society and I have suggested
that we can explore the interpretation according to which registerial
changes also construe social changes - the scientific community changes
discursively.
Other accounts of changes in scientific registers include Slaughter (1986),
Bazerman (1988) and Halliday (1988). Slaughter (1986) is not primarily
concerned with scientific registers but rather with the 'philosophical
languages' of the early taxonomic stage in science around 16th-17th
century. However, she illustrates the changing format in descriptions of
plants from the 17th century up through Carl von Linne, which occurs at
the same time as the experiential lexical system shifts from folk taxonomy
to scientific taxonomy - these are both aspects of registerial changes. This
period also provides an interesting insight into the possibility of new
semiotic systems being derived from specialized registers. In spite of the
work on universal characters/philosophical languages in the period, the
proposals for designed semiotics with a taxonomic focus never took off.
However, after the taxonomic period of science, modern symbolic logic was
derived from language, reflecting Leibniz' interest in an algebra for
thought and reasoning - the domain of the logical metafunction rather
than the experimental one. Logic, knowledge representation systems within
AI, and other similar semiotics are responses to contextual demands and,
like specialized registers, they serve in a narrow set of contexts of situation.
However, unlike specialized registers, they are designed, axiomatic
semiotics, not evolved ones.
Halliday (1988) traces a syndrome of certain features during five
hundred years of emerging scientific English. In particular, he shows the

268

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

269

5.3 Phylogenesis

expanding types of context

expanding registerial
repertoire

Figure 11.23

The child's expanding semiotic universe

Martin and Rothery (1980 etc.) in their writing project. The child's
increasing registerial repertoire co-develops with the eve~-wider contexts ~f
situation in which s/he can move semiotically: see Figure 11.23. ThiS
underlines the important point that persons develop as they learn new
registers by learning to take on new 'personae' thus gaining acc.ess to new
contexts (cf. Section 3.1.2 and also again de Beaugrande, thiS volume:
Section 4).
The study of written registers in primary school has been followed up
by a study of the registers of the disciplines secondary school st~dents have
to learn, including now grammatical metaphor upor: which e~uca
tional/scientific knowledge depends. They have to move mto the registers
of the educational knowledge of different disciplines, away from the
commonsense knowledge of pre-school life. Eggins et al. (thi~ volume)
analyze the discourse of history and Wignell et al. (198~) .diSCUSS the
discourse of geography. These two secondary school vaneties show a
considerable difference in the deployment of the linguistic resources and,
while the studies do not focus on the texts produced by secondary students,
it is clear that, by this stage in their education, the studen:s .have to
develop a registerial repertoire that construes a ~onsiderable ~emi~tic space.
Without this repertoire, it will be impossible to mtegrate a diversity of new
kinds of educational knowledge.
Within a matter of a few years, students have to move from the
language9f the family and the neighbourhood embodying sense knowledge
- folk taxonomies, a world view construed in the congruent mode, personal
experience, and so on - to include also the registers .in :vhich educa:ional
or uncommonsense knowledge can be negotiated - SCientific taxonomies, a
world view construed in the metaphorical mode, vicarious experience, and
so on.

The third type of semohistory to be considered is the evolution of the


system in the species - phylogenesis. Here the time frame is much longer
and the basic type of change is evolution rather than individual development or growth. In traditional diachronic studies, the focus has been on
items, subsystems or systems, but not on registers from a detailed and
theoretical linguistic point of view (studies of the development of advertising, journalism, ll.istorical writing, and so on are very valuable but tend
not to be explicit and detailed enough for register analysis). However,
Gunnarsson (this volume) reports on an extensive study of scientific and
popular scientific articles from medicine, technology, and economics from
three ten-year periods between 1895 and 1985 in Sweden. There are clear
changes along the different parameters measured that seem both systematic
and internally coherent. Interestingly, while the tendencies in science are
fairly clear, those in popular science are less clear 'probably reflecting the
fact that this genre is more heterogeneous'. This highlights the fact that
registers may develop in different ways. Gunnarsson is also able to point
to interesting correspondences between what she calls 'changes in the
contextual frames within which the texts function' and 'changes in
society'. I have already noted that she describes these correspondences in
terms of textual changes reflecting changes in society and I have suggested
that we can explore the interpretation according to which registerial
changes also construe social changes - the scientific community changes
discursively.
Other accounts of changes in scientific registers include Slaughter (1986),
Bazerman (1988) and Halliday (1988). Slaughter (1986) is not primarily
concerned with scientific registers but rather with the 'philosophical
languages' of the early taxonomic stage in science around 16th-17th
century. However, she illustrates the changing format in descriptions of
plants from the 17th century up through Carl von Linne, which occurs at
the same time as the experiential lexical system shifts from folk taxonomy
to scientific taxonomy - these are both aspects of registerial changes. This
period also provides an interesting insight into the possibility of new
semiotic systems being derived from specialized registers. In spite of the
work on universal characters/philosophical languages in the period, the
proposals for designed semiotics with a taxonomic focus never took off.
However, after the taxonomic period of science, modern symbolic logic was
derived from language, reflecting Leibniz' interest in an algebra for
thought and reasoning - the domain of the logical metafunction rather
than the experimental one. Logic, knowledge representation systems within
AI, and other similar semiotics are responses to contextual demands and,
like specialized registers, they serve in a narrow set of contexts of situation.
However, unlike specialized registers, they are designed, axiomatic
semiotics, not evolved ones.
Halliday (1988) traces a syndrome of certain features during five
hundred years of emerging scientific English. In particular, he shows the

270

'[','

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

role grammatical metaphor has played both ideationally in building up


scientific information and textually in organizing scientific text.
One interesting question concerning the nature of registerial
phylogenesis is whether register systems and general linguistic systems
change in the same way or not. Halliday has suggested that it is possible
that while phylogenetic change in general is evolutionary, registers have
growth cycles - they come into being, flourish, become rigid and
ritualistic, and die. This is again an area where further descriptive work
is needed.

6. Register and potentiality


We have considered register variation in relation to two central dimensions
defining the semiotic space we call language in context. Stratification defines
the symbolic domain of register variation - it is variation within the linguistic
system in correlation with contextual diversification; and the centre of the
perturbation is the semantic system since it is the interface between context
and language. Semohistory locates register variation in time and we can ask
how registers change - how they evolve, develop and are instantiated over
time. This last temporal dimension, or set of temporal dimensions, takes us
to another dimension, potentiality, since registers only change in the
exchange between potential and instance through instantiation.
I noted in Section 2.1.3 above that all three phases of potentiality - the
potential, instantiation, and the instance - have to be kept in view; they
are all part of language. It follows that all three phases also have to be in
view in an account of registers. Importantly, processes of instantiation are
part of the responsibility of register analysis. It seems quite clear that
registers differ not only in their potentials but also in their modes of instantiation. For instance, in spoken registers we tend to see online editing
whereas in written registers, editing is a more separate process; at any
rate, it is not part of the final product (cf. Halliday 1985b). Makkai (1988)
provides an account of the cycles of instantiation in writing a poem - and
he illustrates how one may access the potential in different ways; e.g., to
achieve rhymes one might use a reverse dictionary. This is clearly an area
where we need many more ,register studies.
In recent 'post-structuralist' work on text and register, there has been
a tendency to foreground instantiation and the instance - text as process
or product - and to neglect the potential. This is one way of using
intertextuality and of talking about discourses negotiating with one
another. However, an .
without the potential seems to me to
be impossible to sustain in
at explicit modelling. The potential
is what grounds metaphors
engaging in dialogue: the
information being exchanged
has to be recorded somewhere
and the record is precisely
the potential. This does
mean that
the record is fixed or
is merely a generalization across
has pointed out that the difference
generalizations. Halliday

not

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

271

between the potential and the instance is one of time-depth and observer
view-point:
I have suggested that the context for the meaning potential - for
language as a system - is the context of culture . . . . The context for
the particular instances - for language as processes of text - is the
context of situation. And just as a piece of text is an instance of
language, so a situation is an instance of culture. So there is a proportion here. The context for an instance of language (text) is an instance
of culture (situation). And the context for the system that lies behind
each text (language) is the system which lies behind each situation namely, the culture . . . .
We can perhaps use an analogy from the physical world: the difference
between 'culture' and 'situation' is rather like that between the 'climate'
and the 'weather'. Climate and weather are not two different things;
they are the same thing, which we call weather when we are looking at
if close up, and climate, when we are looking at it from a distance. The
weather goes on around us all the time; it is the actual instances of
temperature and precipitation and air movement that you can see and
hear and feel. The climate is the potential that lies behind all these
things; it is the weather seen from a distance, by an observer standing
some way off in time. So of course there is a continuum from one to
the other; there is no, way of deciding when a 'long-term weather
pattern' becomes a 'temporary condition of the climate', or when
'climatic variation' becomes merely 'changes in the weather'. And
likewise with 'culture' and 'situation' ... (Halliday 1991b: 7-87).
The relation between the two, potentiality or istantiation, is thus a
continuum and we can identify potentials relative to instances at different
time-depths. Now if we consider the endpoirtts of this continuum, the most
general potential and the instance, we can locate both register and context of
situation along this dimension. Halliday (1991 b) shows this diagrammatically
in his Figure 1. I have represented ~the relationship in terms of the type of
diagram used throughout this chapter: see Figure 11.24. Looked at from the
point of view of the instantial, a register is thus a generalization about recurrent patterns across instances; and looked at from the point of view of the
general potential, it is variation within this potential. Figure 11. 25 represents
the intersection of the dimensions of potentiality and register variation.
The relation between potential ~nd instance is very crucial to our interpretation of register. Among other things, it is the foundation for the
systemic interpretation of frequencies of text instances (used by Ghadessy
and by Gunnarsson, this volume) as instantiations of probabilities in the
potential. And this begins to suggest both how the system can vary and how
it may change.
The two main ways of instantiating the potential are clearly generation'
and understanding.

270

'[','

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

role grammatical metaphor has played both ideationally in building up


scientific information and textually in organizing scientific text.
One interesting question concerning the nature of registerial
phylogenesis is whether register systems and general linguistic systems
change in the same way or not. Halliday has suggested that it is possible
that while phylogenetic change in general is evolutionary, registers have
growth cycles - they come into being, flourish, become rigid and
ritualistic, and die. This is again an area where further descriptive work
is needed.

6. Register and potentiality


We have considered register variation in relation to two central dimensions
defining the semiotic space we call language in context. Stratification defines
the symbolic domain of register variation - it is variation within the linguistic
system in correlation with contextual diversification; and the centre of the
perturbation is the semantic system since it is the interface between context
and language. Semohistory locates register variation in time and we can ask
how registers change - how they evolve, develop and are instantiated over
time. This last temporal dimension, or set of temporal dimensions, takes us
to another dimension, potentiality, since registers only change in the
exchange between potential and instance through instantiation.
I noted in Section 2.1.3 above that all three phases of potentiality - the
potential, instantiation, and the instance - have to be kept in view; they
are all part of language. It follows that all three phases also have to be in
view in an account of registers. Importantly, processes of instantiation are
part of the responsibility of register analysis. It seems quite clear that
registers differ not only in their potentials but also in their modes of instantiation. For instance, in spoken registers we tend to see online editing
whereas in written registers, editing is a more separate process; at any
rate, it is not part of the final product (cf. Halliday 1985b). Makkai (1988)
provides an account of the cycles of instantiation in writing a poem - and
he illustrates how one may access the potential in different ways; e.g., to
achieve rhymes one might use a reverse dictionary. This is clearly an area
where we need many more ,register studies.
In recent 'post-structuralist' work on text and register, there has been
a tendency to foreground instantiation and the instance - text as process
or product - and to neglect the potential. This is one way of using
intertextuality and of talking about discourses negotiating with one
another. However, an .
without the potential seems to me to
be impossible to sustain in
at explicit modelling. The potential
is what grounds metaphors
engaging in dialogue: the
information being exchanged
has to be recorded somewhere
and the record is precisely
the potential. This does
mean that
the record is fixed or
is merely a generalization across
has pointed out that the difference
generalizations. Halliday

not

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

271

between the potential and the instance is one of time-depth and observer
view-point:
I have suggested that the context for the meaning potential - for
language as a system - is the context of culture . . . . The context for
the particular instances - for language as processes of text - is the
context of situation. And just as a piece of text is an instance of
language, so a situation is an instance of culture. So there is a proportion here. The context for an instance of language (text) is an instance
of culture (situation). And the context for the system that lies behind
each text (language) is the system which lies behind each situation namely, the culture . . . .
We can perhaps use an analogy from the physical world: the difference
between 'culture' and 'situation' is rather like that between the 'climate'
and the 'weather'. Climate and weather are not two different things;
they are the same thing, which we call weather when we are looking at
if close up, and climate, when we are looking at it from a distance. The
weather goes on around us all the time; it is the actual instances of
temperature and precipitation and air movement that you can see and
hear and feel. The climate is the potential that lies behind all these
things; it is the weather seen from a distance, by an observer standing
some way off in time. So of course there is a continuum from one to
the other; there is no, way of deciding when a 'long-term weather
pattern' becomes a 'temporary condition of the climate', or when
'climatic variation' becomes merely 'changes in the weather'. And
likewise with 'culture' and 'situation' ... (Halliday 1991b: 7-87).
The relation between the two, potentiality or istantiation, is thus a
continuum and we can identify potentials relative to instances at different
time-depths. Now if we consider the endpoirtts of this continuum, the most
general potential and the instance, we can locate both register and context of
situation along this dimension. Halliday (1991 b) shows this diagrammatically
in his Figure 1. I have represented ~the relationship in terms of the type of
diagram used throughout this chapter: see Figure 11.24. Looked at from the
point of view of the instantial, a register is thus a generalization about recurrent patterns across instances; and looked at from the point of view of the
general potential, it is variation within this potential. Figure 11. 25 represents
the intersection of the dimensions of potentiality and register variation.
The relation between potential ~nd instance is very crucial to our interpretation of register. Among other things, it is the foundation for the
systemic interpretation of frequencies of text instances (used by Ghadessy
and by Gunnarsson, this volume) as instantiations of probabilities in the
potential. And this begins to suggest both how the system can vary and how
it may change.
The two main ways of instantiating the potential are clearly generation'
and understanding.

272

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

273

the potential

potentiality

11

register variation

,,'

I
I
I

,
,, ,
,
"
, "

":
I

,
,,

,'~',/

,','
,',',
,"
, t ', I , , I
I

I,'

,,'

'

"

,1'

' "','" " ,


Q
w.
, I'

I'

"

" ,,'
,,' 1
,','
I
"
,", 1
1"1
' ,"

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"
GG.
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" "
I,'

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"

,','
"
"

"
I

;,'
,I

,',' :
I
I
I

,','

I,'

"

"

Context of culture and context of situation along dimension of


longterm potentiality

There are also additional types that draw on these, e.g. revlsmg,
abstracting, and translating. In addition, we can also consider processing
of the potential that is specifically part of the account of register. In Section
3.2.2 (ii) I talked about 'lifting out' registerial views from the general
assembly system and in Section 4.2 I talked about 'compiling out'
registerial semantic systems. Such processing is aimed at 'customizing' the
potential for particular tasks. For instance, if we are faced with a particular
context of situation, it will not be necessary to use the whole potential and
it makes sense to operate with a more restricted register potential. The
possibility of processing the general resources in this way to derive some
view that is optimal for a given task is actually already familiar from other
areas. For instance, compiling a dictionary can be interpreted as the
process of collecting lexical information that can be derived fro~ lexical

Figure 11.25

~,

,,'

m
:'

I/~
~

:
I

'

I,'

"

V :::
~

Figure 11.24

I'

If

"

/\

.: ;--::'/

/':
"

I
I

'It,, ..

I
I
I

~\

...... oft
I

~ ..
..........

~\f,

.:

~~

1,

.!\

\.S:Jj~1~
: ',:
(3.~:~:

",

\.

WGg

The intersection of potentiality and register variation

items in an account of lexis such as the one given by Cross (this volume)
- see further Nesbitt (in prep.) on the dictionary as a perspective. And,
in a similar way, different perspectives on the grammar are built up in
tables to make accessing the grammar as easy as possible in parsing. In
an analogous way, a register is a variety of the linguistic system accessed
from a particular context of situation and it may make sense to compile
it out from the general system for certain tasks.

272

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

273

the potential

potentiality

11

register variation

,,'

I
I
I

,
,, ,
,
"
, "

":
I

,
,,

,'~',/

,','
,',',
,"
, t ', I , , I
I

I,'

,,'

'

"

,1'

' "','" " ,


Q
w.
, I'

I'

"

" ,,'
,,' 1
,','
I
"
,", 1
1"1
' ,"

,',

"
GG.
h
" "
I,'

"

"

,','
"
"

"
I

;,'
,I

,',' :
I
I
I

,','

I,'

"

"

Context of culture and context of situation along dimension of


longterm potentiality

There are also additional types that draw on these, e.g. revlsmg,
abstracting, and translating. In addition, we can also consider processing
of the potential that is specifically part of the account of register. In Section
3.2.2 (ii) I talked about 'lifting out' registerial views from the general
assembly system and in Section 4.2 I talked about 'compiling out'
registerial semantic systems. Such processing is aimed at 'customizing' the
potential for particular tasks. For instance, if we are faced with a particular
context of situation, it will not be necessary to use the whole potential and
it makes sense to operate with a more restricted register potential. The
possibility of processing the general resources in this way to derive some
view that is optimal for a given task is actually already familiar from other
areas. For instance, compiling a dictionary can be interpreted as the
process of collecting lexical information that can be derived fro~ lexical

Figure 11.25

~,

,,'

m
:'

I/~
~

:
I

'

I,'

"

V :::
~

Figure 11.24

I'

If

"

/\

.: ;--::'/

/':
"

I
I

'It,, ..

I
I
I

~\

...... oft
I

~ ..
..........

~\f,

.:

~~

1,

.!\

\.S:Jj~1~
: ',:
(3.~:~:

",

\.

WGg

The intersection of potentiality and register variation

items in an account of lexis such as the one given by Cross (this volume)
- see further Nesbitt (in prep.) on the dictionary as a perspective. And,
in a similar way, different perspectives on the grammar are built up in
tables to make accessing the grammar as easy as possible in parsing. In
an analogous way, a register is a variety of the linguistic system accessed
from a particular context of situation and it may make sense to compile
it out from the general system for certain tasks.

274

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

7. Register description - within registers and across registers


I have reviewed various issues relating to register analysis as a theoretical
activity - the basic questions have been what the theoretical interpretation
of register is and what its implications are. Register analysis is also a descrip-.
tive activity: once we have the theoretical potential, we can instantiate it in
descriptions of registers, which is an important aspect of the development of
register theory. It is not possible here to review what we know about the
registers of English and other languages descriptively although it may be
useful to list the range of descriptions in this volume, its companion,
Ghadessy (1988), and some other related work. Characterized in fairly nontechnical terms, the range of registers explored in descriptions include:
language of narrative - Toolan (1988a); development, Martin and
Rothery (1980), realization, Hasan (1984b); Fries (1985); Rothery
(1990); Thibault (1991).
language of exposition - Martin (1985b); Martin and Peters (1985).
language of history - different registers: narrative, report, and argument; Eggins et al. (this volume).
language of geography - Wignell et al. (1987).
language of physical science - Halliday (1988) - scientific English in
general: Huddleston et al. (1968); Halliday and Martin (in press).
language of religion - Houghton (1988); Webster (1988); Harvey (1989).
language of news reporting - Carter (1988); Nanri (1991; in prep.).
language of service encounters - Mitchell (1957); Hasan (1978); Ventola
(1987).
language of business communication - Ghadessy and Webster (1988);
Ghadessy (this volume).
language of advertising - Leech (1966); Toolan (1988b); Vestergaard
and Schroder (1985).
language of class room interaction - Barnes et al (1969); Flanders (1970);
Sinclair and Coulthard (1975); Christie (1990); Hunt (1991);
Yamagata (1992).
language of court room - Harris (1988); Gibbons (in press).
language of casual dinner table conversation - Eggins (1991).
language of gossip - Slade (1990; in prep.).
language of caller - operator in information-seeking phone dialogues Eggins et al. (1991).
It would be an important contribution to describe the overall semiotic
space in which these 'registers' are located relative to one another - to
provide a general account of field, tenor and mode and to specify the
values for each variety listed above. This would introduce greater precision
in register analysis and might very well invite us to re-interpret some of
the varieties that have been identified in the past. As already noted, there
is a certain danger that we simply take over categories based on folk
genres. Jean Ure's (forthcoming) work is a very important contribution to

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

275

the exploration of the overall semiotic space defined by field, tenor and
mode.
In what follows, I will only make a few observations about the standpoint selected in describing registers (Section 7.1) and possible computational tools at our disposal (Section 7.2).

7.1 Standpoint
As I noted in the introduction, I think one of our most pressing tasks in
register analysis is description. Descriptions of various registers are intrinsically valuable, they are needed in education (cf. Ghadessy and Webster
1988), they are needed in computational linguistics (cf. Patten 1988;
Bateman and Paris 1991), and they are needed for further theoretical interpretation as I have indicated at various points in the discussion. Registers
can be described in the same way as languages. A comprehensive account
is one that takes the various dimensions discussed above into account. The
principle is that a register is a variety of the linguistic system that is located
along the dimension of register variation but which is not restricted along
any other dimension - it is not only a matter of lexis, or specific rhetorical
strategies, and so on.
Now, unless the register to be described is quite constrained, a
comprehensive account is very time-consuming so we need (i) to be able
to make principled selections and (ii) to be able to use such a selection as
a way into a comprehensive account. In a sense, it is a matter of getting
as much interpretive mileage out of as little analytical energy spent as
possible. The principled selection follows, it seems to me, from the theory
as discussed above; we can take a section or 'slice' out of the total system
(just as we can view the brain based on a particular section) in the followmg ways.

(i) stratal slicing: While recognizing that a register is centrally a variety


of the semantic system implicated in a particular context of situation, we
can take not only a semantic slice out of a register for description but also
a lexicogrammatical one. This makes theoretical sense because both semantics and lexicogrammar are content systems and are related in a natural
rather than conventional way. It also makes practical sense because we
have descriptions of the lexicogrammatical system that far exceed anything
we have for the semantics in comprehensiveness. 2o Further, automating
lexicogrammatical analysis using large-scale parsers is starting to become a
possibility, but comprehensive semantic analysis is much further away (cf.
Section 7.2). A lexicogrammatical analysis can be used as a way into a
register. In Section 4.2, I showed how the semantic system of a register
is projected onto lexicogrammar through preselection so given a lexicogrammatical analysis we can begin to infer the semantic system realized
through those preselections. For instance, in current research at Sydney
University aimed at generating very short literary biographies in Chinese,

274

CHRISTIAN MA TTHIESSEN

7. Register description - within registers and across registers


I have reviewed various issues relating to register analysis as a theoretical
activity - the basic questions have been what the theoretical interpretation
of register is and what its implications are. Register analysis is also a descrip-.
tive activity: once we have the theoretical potential, we can instantiate it in
descriptions of registers, which is an important aspect of the development of
register theory. It is not possible here to review what we know about the
registers of English and other languages descriptively although it may be
useful to list the range of descriptions in this volume, its companion,
Ghadessy (1988), and some other related work. Characterized in fairly nontechnical terms, the range of registers explored in descriptions include:
language of narrative - Toolan (1988a); development, Martin and
Rothery (1980), realization, Hasan (1984b); Fries (1985); Rothery
(1990); Thibault (1991).
language of exposition - Martin (1985b); Martin and Peters (1985).
language of history - different registers: narrative, report, and argument; Eggins et al. (this volume).
language of geography - Wignell et al. (1987).
language of physical science - Halliday (1988) - scientific English in
general: Huddleston et al. (1968); Halliday and Martin (in press).
language of religion - Houghton (1988); Webster (1988); Harvey (1989).
language of news reporting - Carter (1988); Nanri (1991; in prep.).
language of service encounters - Mitchell (1957); Hasan (1978); Ventola
(1987).
language of business communication - Ghadessy and Webster (1988);
Ghadessy (this volume).
language of advertising - Leech (1966); Toolan (1988b); Vestergaard
and Schroder (1985).
language of class room interaction - Barnes et al (1969); Flanders (1970);
Sinclair and Coulthard (1975); Christie (1990); Hunt (1991);
Yamagata (1992).
language of court room - Harris (1988); Gibbons (in press).
language of casual dinner table conversation - Eggins (1991).
language of gossip - Slade (1990; in prep.).
language of caller - operator in information-seeking phone dialogues Eggins et al. (1991).
It would be an important contribution to describe the overall semiotic
space in which these 'registers' are located relative to one another - to
provide a general account of field, tenor and mode and to specify the
values for each variety listed above. This would introduce greater precision
in register analysis and might very well invite us to re-interpret some of
the varieties that have been identified in the past. As already noted, there
is a certain danger that we simply take over categories based on folk
genres. Jean Ure's (forthcoming) work is a very important contribution to

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

275

the exploration of the overall semiotic space defined by field, tenor and
mode.
In what follows, I will only make a few observations about the standpoint selected in describing registers (Section 7.1) and possible computational tools at our disposal (Section 7.2).

7.1 Standpoint
As I noted in the introduction, I think one of our most pressing tasks in
register analysis is description. Descriptions of various registers are intrinsically valuable, they are needed in education (cf. Ghadessy and Webster
1988), they are needed in computational linguistics (cf. Patten 1988;
Bateman and Paris 1991), and they are needed for further theoretical interpretation as I have indicated at various points in the discussion. Registers
can be described in the same way as languages. A comprehensive account
is one that takes the various dimensions discussed above into account. The
principle is that a register is a variety of the linguistic system that is located
along the dimension of register variation but which is not restricted along
any other dimension - it is not only a matter of lexis, or specific rhetorical
strategies, and so on.
Now, unless the register to be described is quite constrained, a
comprehensive account is very time-consuming so we need (i) to be able
to make principled selections and (ii) to be able to use such a selection as
a way into a comprehensive account. In a sense, it is a matter of getting
as much interpretive mileage out of as little analytical energy spent as
possible. The principled selection follows, it seems to me, from the theory
as discussed above; we can take a section or 'slice' out of the total system
(just as we can view the brain based on a particular section) in the followmg ways.

(i) stratal slicing: While recognizing that a register is centrally a variety


of the semantic system implicated in a particular context of situation, we
can take not only a semantic slice out of a register for description but also
a lexicogrammatical one. This makes theoretical sense because both semantics and lexicogrammar are content systems and are related in a natural
rather than conventional way. It also makes practical sense because we
have descriptions of the lexicogrammatical system that far exceed anything
we have for the semantics in comprehensiveness. 2o Further, automating
lexicogrammatical analysis using large-scale parsers is starting to become a
possibility, but comprehensive semantic analysis is much further away (cf.
Section 7.2). A lexicogrammatical analysis can be used as a way into a
register. In Section 4.2, I showed how the semantic system of a register
is projected onto lexicogrammar through preselection so given a lexicogrammatical analysis we can begin to infer the semantic system realized
through those preselections. For instance, in current research at Sydney
University aimed at generating very short literary biographies in Chinese,

276

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

English, and Japanese, we are using ideational lexicogrammar to analyse


a small corpus as the first step towards building up the semantic base
(,knowledge base') from which such texts can be generated (what is usually
called domain modelling in computational linguistics).

information as possible about the system from relative frequencies, collocational patterns, etc - see e.g. Ghadessy (1988).

(ii) metafunctional slicing: A stratal slice through the system has the
advantage that it is multifunctional; it covers ideational, interpersonal, and.
textual considerations. However, it will not, of course, provide a
multistratal picture with attention to inter-stratal relations. So an alternative way of managing the descriptive task is to take a metafunctional
slice through the system, with multistratal coverage. For instance, in a
study of information-seeking phone dialogues at Sydney University, we
were interested in getting a sense of the overall stratal profile of the
register, including full inter-stratal connectivity, so we decided on an
interpersonal slice through the system (e.g., Eggins et al. 1991; O'Donnell,
Matthiessen and Sefton 1991) to allow us to go from phonology (intonation: TONE) to context of situation (tenor). Such a metafunctional slice can
then serve as a point of departure for further description aimed at
comprehensive metafunctional coverage. It is also, of course, possible to
intersect stratification and metafunctional diversification in the determination of the slice and to focus on e.g. ideational lexicogrammar, which is
a good way in if one is interested in building up the 'knowledge' base of
some register.

(iii) delicacy slicing: It has been recognized since Halliday (1961) that any
description can be variable in delicacy. In principle, delicacy gives us two
perspective - from low to increasing delicacy and from high to decreasing
delicacy. (1) If we proceed from the more general end of the system, say
from grammar or from grammatical semantics, we can choose a cut-off
point in delicacy in our account of a register. If we choose the cut-off point
at a very low degree of delicacy, we may also have cut off what is specific
about the register, e.g. including mostly core lexis but leaving out more
delicate lexical distinctions indicative of the register (cf. Section 3.2.2 (ii)
above). The cut-off point in delicacy may thus determine whether we are
describing features that are characteristic of the common core or features
that are more specific to the register and it will also determine how delicate
our registerial focus is. We may zoom in on a single register or we may
pull back and describe a family of related registers. It is important to keep
this in mind as there is sometimes some confusion about whether two
registers are the same or not. The answer is typically yes and no; that is
to say, indelicately they are the same, more delicately they differ (cf. the
situation with dialectal variation). (2) If we proceed from the most delicate
end of the system, say from lexis, we typically do not yet have the general
descriptions that will allow us to move up to a certain point in indelicacy.
So it is likely that the point of departure will be lexical items rather than
lexical systems forming a delicate part of the lexicogrammatical system
network (cf. axial slicing below) and we have to derive as much

277

(iv) axial slicing: Analysis has to proceed from syntagmatic organization;


for instance, lexicogrammatical analysis has to proceed from wordings grammatical structures, grammatical items and lexical items. So in a sense,
this is a syntagmatic 'slice' rather than a paradigmatic one: this is the
immediate result of an IFG analysis (Halliday 1985a; Webster, this
volume) and it is what we can get at directly through various computational tools based on lexical and grammatical items. However, on the one
hand, syntagmatic analysis is paradigmatically guided and, on the other
hand, to be able to describe a register we have to be able to specify it as
a systemic variety, i.e. in paradigmatic terms. We can also take a
paradigmatic slice - either in probabilistic terms or by lifting out only a
register-specifie partition from the general system.
(v) potentiality slicing: The initial slice through the system has to be a
corpus of instances - very likely a selection of texts that are judged to serve
in the same context of situation. However, no description can proceed
without the potential: a central aspect of analysis is to assign instances to
the categories in the potential they instantiate. Moreover, the goal of
register analysis is not the instance (that is a matter for explication de texte
or even applications of discourse analysis) but the potential - the system
that summarizes past texts in the register and predicts future ones. One
important part of the move from instance to potential is the move from
text frequency - the frequency of instances (tokens) of various categories
in the potential - to systemic probabilities in the potential. The character
of a register may be captured in these probabilistic terms - cf. Section
3.2.2 (i) above.
(vi) semohistoric slicing: We can focus within a register and try to
produce a comprehensive description (at some cut in delicacy) or a description of some subsystem keeping time still; or we can let time vary (cf.
Section 5 above). For instance, Huddleston et al. (1968) is a fairly wideranging study of grammatical features of current scientific English, whereas
Halliday (1988) is a study of the development of a cluster of grammatical
features of scientific English over the last 500 years or so.
So given these different possible stand points, how can we arrive at an
initial profile or characterology of a register that can guide further description? As always, the answer will depend on what the purpose is, but the
following strategy is one useful way to proceed. It is based on the need to
achieve a balance between detail and reliability that can support statistical
specifications (possibly arrived at computationally) and generality and
prediction that can guide further system description. This suggests a
two-pronged approach (see Figure 11.26) combining (1) a lexicogrammatical slice through the system (possibly accompanied by semantic

276

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

English, and Japanese, we are using ideational lexicogrammar to analyse


a small corpus as the first step towards building up the semantic base
(,knowledge base') from which such texts can be generated (what is usually
called domain modelling in computational linguistics).

information as possible about the system from relative frequencies, collocational patterns, etc - see e.g. Ghadessy (1988).

(ii) metafunctional slicing: A stratal slice through the system has the
advantage that it is multifunctional; it covers ideational, interpersonal, and.
textual considerations. However, it will not, of course, provide a
multistratal picture with attention to inter-stratal relations. So an alternative way of managing the descriptive task is to take a metafunctional
slice through the system, with multistratal coverage. For instance, in a
study of information-seeking phone dialogues at Sydney University, we
were interested in getting a sense of the overall stratal profile of the
register, including full inter-stratal connectivity, so we decided on an
interpersonal slice through the system (e.g., Eggins et al. 1991; O'Donnell,
Matthiessen and Sefton 1991) to allow us to go from phonology (intonation: TONE) to context of situation (tenor). Such a metafunctional slice can
then serve as a point of departure for further description aimed at
comprehensive metafunctional coverage. It is also, of course, possible to
intersect stratification and metafunctional diversification in the determination of the slice and to focus on e.g. ideational lexicogrammar, which is
a good way in if one is interested in building up the 'knowledge' base of
some register.

(iii) delicacy slicing: It has been recognized since Halliday (1961) that any
description can be variable in delicacy. In principle, delicacy gives us two
perspective - from low to increasing delicacy and from high to decreasing
delicacy. (1) If we proceed from the more general end of the system, say
from grammar or from grammatical semantics, we can choose a cut-off
point in delicacy in our account of a register. If we choose the cut-off point
at a very low degree of delicacy, we may also have cut off what is specific
about the register, e.g. including mostly core lexis but leaving out more
delicate lexical distinctions indicative of the register (cf. Section 3.2.2 (ii)
above). The cut-off point in delicacy may thus determine whether we are
describing features that are characteristic of the common core or features
that are more specific to the register and it will also determine how delicate
our registerial focus is. We may zoom in on a single register or we may
pull back and describe a family of related registers. It is important to keep
this in mind as there is sometimes some confusion about whether two
registers are the same or not. The answer is typically yes and no; that is
to say, indelicately they are the same, more delicately they differ (cf. the
situation with dialectal variation). (2) If we proceed from the most delicate
end of the system, say from lexis, we typically do not yet have the general
descriptions that will allow us to move up to a certain point in indelicacy.
So it is likely that the point of departure will be lexical items rather than
lexical systems forming a delicate part of the lexicogrammatical system
network (cf. axial slicing below) and we have to derive as much

277

(iv) axial slicing: Analysis has to proceed from syntagmatic organization;


for instance, lexicogrammatical analysis has to proceed from wordings grammatical structures, grammatical items and lexical items. So in a sense,
this is a syntagmatic 'slice' rather than a paradigmatic one: this is the
immediate result of an IFG analysis (Halliday 1985a; Webster, this
volume) and it is what we can get at directly through various computational tools based on lexical and grammatical items. However, on the one
hand, syntagmatic analysis is paradigmatically guided and, on the other
hand, to be able to describe a register we have to be able to specify it as
a systemic variety, i.e. in paradigmatic terms. We can also take a
paradigmatic slice - either in probabilistic terms or by lifting out only a
register-specifie partition from the general system.
(v) potentiality slicing: The initial slice through the system has to be a
corpus of instances - very likely a selection of texts that are judged to serve
in the same context of situation. However, no description can proceed
without the potential: a central aspect of analysis is to assign instances to
the categories in the potential they instantiate. Moreover, the goal of
register analysis is not the instance (that is a matter for explication de texte
or even applications of discourse analysis) but the potential - the system
that summarizes past texts in the register and predicts future ones. One
important part of the move from instance to potential is the move from
text frequency - the frequency of instances (tokens) of various categories
in the potential - to systemic probabilities in the potential. The character
of a register may be captured in these probabilistic terms - cf. Section
3.2.2 (i) above.
(vi) semohistoric slicing: We can focus within a register and try to
produce a comprehensive description (at some cut in delicacy) or a description of some subsystem keeping time still; or we can let time vary (cf.
Section 5 above). For instance, Huddleston et al. (1968) is a fairly wideranging study of grammatical features of current scientific English, whereas
Halliday (1988) is a study of the development of a cluster of grammatical
features of scientific English over the last 500 years or so.
So given these different possible stand points, how can we arrive at an
initial profile or characterology of a register that can guide further description? As always, the answer will depend on what the purpose is, but the
following strategy is one useful way to proceed. It is based on the need to
achieve a balance between detail and reliability that can support statistical
specifications (possibly arrived at computationally) and generality and
prediction that can guide further system description. This suggests a
two-pronged approach (see Figure 11.26) combining (1) a lexicogrammatical slice through the system (possibly accompanied by semantic

278

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN
potential

lex. gram.

279

If a register is studied against the background of information available


about that register, similar registers or a less delicate specification of the
register, then it may make sense to select certain discourse-semantic
features for analysis. Martin (in press) gives many examples of the kind of
rich analysis that is then available.
We have already seen how it is possible to focus on registers in different
ways according to (i) through (vi) above. We can also vary the description
according to the dimension of register variation itself. In the discussion
above, I assumed we were concerned with a single slice through that
dimension - with a single register. We can also look across registers and
adopt a comparative method. Comparison across registers presupposes
some way of typologizing the register - which is what the contextual
parameters of field, tenor, and mode support. That is, in a fundamental
sense, register analysis is inherently comparative since it is concerned with
varieties and with their relative contextual significance. But we can take as
our point of departure not a particular register but some linguistic feature
or system such as the primary TENSE system or metaphor and compare it
across registers. Goatly (this volume) provides such a study of metaphor in
conversation, news reporting, popular science, advertising and poetry and
reports considerable difference in number and range of metaphors. One of
the favourite variables in comparative studies is mode - specifically,
spoken/written.

7.2 Computational resources

Figure 11.26

Two-pronged approach to the description of a register

annotations and excursions into discourse semantics through the resources of


cohesions (see Halliday and Hasan 1976; Martin, in press), cut off at some
point in delicacy but with full metafunctional and axial coverage, (2) with an
instantial slice providing as full an account as possible of one or a few text
instances (or, if the register produces long texts, text passages) that are
judged to be representative. The first component probably does not need any
further comment; some version of it would be part of most studies. The
reason for choosing a lexicogrammatical slice is on the one hand that that is
the system which has been most comprehensively described and on the other
hand that it is the system where semi-automatic analysis is most accessible
currently. The second component emphasizes the case study as a guide to
further work on the potential of the register. It is a way of generating questions and hypotheses and of interpreting masses of data from a more narrow
selection in (1). It can even serve as a pilot study before one has committed
to all the settings of (1). Note for instance the value of the worked-out case
studies in Eggins et al. (this volume).

The demands on the descriptions will naturally vary with the purposes they
are intended for; but it is very clear that we need extensive descriptions
that are comprehensive both in breadth and delicacy. Such descriptions are
very hard to carry out completely manually and in a sense they have had
to wait for computational tools to develop to the point where they are
helpful. However, there are now some interesting options and an indication of important developments in the next few years.
. It makes sense to distinguish three types of computational resources and
tools at present, although a given computational system may cover more
than one type of functionality. I will mention examples that are or,iented
towards systemic-functional and related lexical research (in addition, we
thus have general-purpose statistical packages, concordance programs,
various parsers, etc.):
(i)

Reference resources - e.g., The user functions in the Penman system;


Chris Nesbitt's HyperGrammar.
(ii) Recording and processing of analyses - e.g., Webster's (this volume)
Functional Grammar Processor; and, taking one step further, Michael
O'Donnell's Coder and Chris Nesbitt's HyperCoder.
(iii) Doing analysis - lexical analysis: COBUILD battery, CLOC (Reed,
1984); grammatical analysis: grammatical parsers are being developed

278

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN
potential

lex. gram.

279

If a register is studied against the background of information available


about that register, similar registers or a less delicate specification of the
register, then it may make sense to select certain discourse-semantic
features for analysis. Martin (in press) gives many examples of the kind of
rich analysis that is then available.
We have already seen how it is possible to focus on registers in different
ways according to (i) through (vi) above. We can also vary the description
according to the dimension of register variation itself. In the discussion
above, I assumed we were concerned with a single slice through that
dimension - with a single register. We can also look across registers and
adopt a comparative method. Comparison across registers presupposes
some way of typologizing the register - which is what the contextual
parameters of field, tenor, and mode support. That is, in a fundamental
sense, register analysis is inherently comparative since it is concerned with
varieties and with their relative contextual significance. But we can take as
our point of departure not a particular register but some linguistic feature
or system such as the primary TENSE system or metaphor and compare it
across registers. Goatly (this volume) provides such a study of metaphor in
conversation, news reporting, popular science, advertising and poetry and
reports considerable difference in number and range of metaphors. One of
the favourite variables in comparative studies is mode - specifically,
spoken/written.

7.2 Computational resources

Figure 11.26

Two-pronged approach to the description of a register

annotations and excursions into discourse semantics through the resources of


cohesions (see Halliday and Hasan 1976; Martin, in press), cut off at some
point in delicacy but with full metafunctional and axial coverage, (2) with an
instantial slice providing as full an account as possible of one or a few text
instances (or, if the register produces long texts, text passages) that are
judged to be representative. The first component probably does not need any
further comment; some version of it would be part of most studies. The
reason for choosing a lexicogrammatical slice is on the one hand that that is
the system which has been most comprehensively described and on the other
hand that it is the system where semi-automatic analysis is most accessible
currently. The second component emphasizes the case study as a guide to
further work on the potential of the register. It is a way of generating questions and hypotheses and of interpreting masses of data from a more narrow
selection in (1). It can even serve as a pilot study before one has committed
to all the settings of (1). Note for instance the value of the worked-out case
studies in Eggins et al. (this volume).

The demands on the descriptions will naturally vary with the purposes they
are intended for; but it is very clear that we need extensive descriptions
that are comprehensive both in breadth and delicacy. Such descriptions are
very hard to carry out completely manually and in a sense they have had
to wait for computational tools to develop to the point where they are
helpful. However, there are now some interesting options and an indication of important developments in the next few years.
. It makes sense to distinguish three types of computational resources and
tools at present, although a given computational system may cover more
than one type of functionality. I will mention examples that are or,iented
towards systemic-functional and related lexical research (in addition, we
thus have general-purpose statistical packages, concordance programs,
various parsers, etc.):
(i)

Reference resources - e.g., The user functions in the Penman system;


Chris Nesbitt's HyperGrammar.
(ii) Recording and processing of analyses - e.g., Webster's (this volume)
Functional Grammar Processor; and, taking one step further, Michael
O'Donnell's Coder and Chris Nesbitt's HyperCoder.
(iii) Doing analysis - lexical analysis: COBUILD battery, CLOC (Reed,
1984); grammatical analysis: grammatical parsers are being developed

280

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN
but they are still not at the stage where they can perform large-scale
discourse analysis - Kasper (1989); O'Donnell (in prep.); the work on
parsing with COMMUNAL.

(i) Reference resources are comparable to a dictionary, a thesaurus, a


reference grammar, but they are online, which means on the one hand that
search can be much faster and on the other hand there may be many more
ways of searching the information than by e.g. alphabetic look-up - they
can be 'read' as hyper-texts. The Penman system, which is a computational system for generating text and includes a large systemic-functional
grammar, comes with a number of user functions for looking up
lexicogrammatical information (see Penman documentation). Thus it is
possible to view systems with associated realization statements, to ask
which system a feature belongs to, to ask where a function gets inserted,
to .ask what features a particular lexical item realizes, and so on. It is also
possible to graph the system networks of the grammar on the screen and
to access grammatical information from the graph by clicking relevant
parts of it. Penman is written in LISP and grammatical information is
stored in LISP files. However, Chris Nesbitt has developed a Macintosh
HyperCard interface that can import and export these files, HyperGrammar. In HyperGrammar, it is possible to navigate around the grammar in
various ways to retrieve or add information; for instance, one can view a
card that displays a system. The Penman interface and HyperGrammar
are examples of a new direction for reference resources that are needed in
register analysis. It is possible, for instance, to explore the lexicogrammar
systematically to determine what the register profile is or even to edit the
general resource to arrive at a register-specific one - the reference
resources are open and dynamic in this way. Clearly, there is a good deal
more work to be done on developing a linguistic workbench for register
analysis and other types of analysis and it is important to recognize the
potential of such resources and identify demands to be placed on their
design.
(ii)While reference resources can guide register analysis, it is also important to have the tools for recording the results of analysis in such a way
that they can be searched in various ways, processed statistically, and so
on: the usefulness of a record is to a large extent a function of how it can
be used. Again, computational tools have an important role to play.
Webster (this volume) describes his Functional Grammar Processor, a
system running on MS-DOS machines for recording IFG style grammatical analyses. O'Donnell has developed an experimental Coder as an
extension to the Penman system, the EDA parser, and similar systemic
computational systems. This means that it is integrated with reference
resources - it is possible to look up information through the Coder while
doing the coding. It also means that the analysis is not only structural but
also systemic: features of clauses, nominal groups, and so on are selected
from the overall system network. This has made it possible to build in

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

281

some automatic analysis: the system provides the user with a number of
central options to choose from and once the user has made the choices, the
Coder infers less delicate features, drawing on the lexicogrammatical
system network of the resources. The results of analysis are stored as
record which can be edited. In addition, the coded features can be presented to a generator as preselections to test both the coding and the grammar itself.
(iii) Tools for recording analyses still 'require manual analysis (even if
inferences are drawn automatically, as in O'Donnell's Coder). The next
step up in functionality is automatic analysis. The general case of
comprehensive analysis is unsolved; a working system will clearly be a real
breakthrough in register analysis since it will make possible the kind of
bulk analysis that is hard to achieve manually but which is so important.
More limited analysis is possible. In particular, lexical analysis without any
grammatical analysis is fairly accessible. The COBUILD work in Birmingham led by John Sin clair has been very significant in this area. Benson
and Greaves (1992) describe what can be done with the CLOC programme (Reed, 1984), based on the work in Birmingham, and Benson and
Greaves (1989) show lexical analysis can be used to infer aspects of the
field.
There is ongoing research on the development of systemic-functional
parsers capable of producing IFG style analysis together with the relevant
systemic features. In the mid 1980s, Kasper (e.g., 1988) started work on
such a parser using Functional Unification Grammar and current work
also includes O'Donnell's (in prep.) work on a purely systemic-functional
parser in Sydney, research in Germany and work on a systemic parser
within the COMMUNAL project. As already noted, such parsers are not yet
capable of parsing text in general; but it seems productive to develop their
lexicogrammatical resources for large-scale parsing in particular registers.
In a project led by Guenter Plum, we are developing what has become
known as an Electronic Discourse Analyzer (EDA). According to the
design, the analyzer will parse a text systemic-functionally and do microsemantic interpretation (ideational, in particular). It will stop short of
macro-semantic or discourse semantic interpretation. However, the
lexicogrammatical and semantic results of analysis will themselves be
analyzed or examined for patterns that are critical to the functionality of
the text, 'critical language patterns' (CLPs; see Harvey, 1992). These
include certain transitivity patterns such as those of definition and
metadiscoursal description of the organization of the discourse and
thematic progression. The CLPs are a way of significantly increasing the
amount of information that can be drawn from discourse analysis even
though it does not involve the goal of full comprehension: for further
discussion and exemplification, see Matthiessen, O'Donnell and Zeng
(1991). CLPs are very likely to be indicative of particular registers and
different registers embody different sets of CLPs. The EDA could thus

280

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN
but they are still not at the stage where they can perform large-scale
discourse analysis - Kasper (1989); O'Donnell (in prep.); the work on
parsing with COMMUNAL.

(i) Reference resources are comparable to a dictionary, a thesaurus, a


reference grammar, but they are online, which means on the one hand that
search can be much faster and on the other hand there may be many more
ways of searching the information than by e.g. alphabetic look-up - they
can be 'read' as hyper-texts. The Penman system, which is a computational system for generating text and includes a large systemic-functional
grammar, comes with a number of user functions for looking up
lexicogrammatical information (see Penman documentation). Thus it is
possible to view systems with associated realization statements, to ask
which system a feature belongs to, to ask where a function gets inserted,
to .ask what features a particular lexical item realizes, and so on. It is also
possible to graph the system networks of the grammar on the screen and
to access grammatical information from the graph by clicking relevant
parts of it. Penman is written in LISP and grammatical information is
stored in LISP files. However, Chris Nesbitt has developed a Macintosh
HyperCard interface that can import and export these files, HyperGrammar. In HyperGrammar, it is possible to navigate around the grammar in
various ways to retrieve or add information; for instance, one can view a
card that displays a system. The Penman interface and HyperGrammar
are examples of a new direction for reference resources that are needed in
register analysis. It is possible, for instance, to explore the lexicogrammar
systematically to determine what the register profile is or even to edit the
general resource to arrive at a register-specific one - the reference
resources are open and dynamic in this way. Clearly, there is a good deal
more work to be done on developing a linguistic workbench for register
analysis and other types of analysis and it is important to recognize the
potential of such resources and identify demands to be placed on their
design.
(ii)While reference resources can guide register analysis, it is also important to have the tools for recording the results of analysis in such a way
that they can be searched in various ways, processed statistically, and so
on: the usefulness of a record is to a large extent a function of how it can
be used. Again, computational tools have an important role to play.
Webster (this volume) describes his Functional Grammar Processor, a
system running on MS-DOS machines for recording IFG style grammatical analyses. O'Donnell has developed an experimental Coder as an
extension to the Penman system, the EDA parser, and similar systemic
computational systems. This means that it is integrated with reference
resources - it is possible to look up information through the Coder while
doing the coding. It also means that the analysis is not only structural but
also systemic: features of clauses, nominal groups, and so on are selected
from the overall system network. This has made it possible to build in

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

281

some automatic analysis: the system provides the user with a number of
central options to choose from and once the user has made the choices, the
Coder infers less delicate features, drawing on the lexicogrammatical
system network of the resources. The results of analysis are stored as
record which can be edited. In addition, the coded features can be presented to a generator as preselections to test both the coding and the grammar itself.
(iii) Tools for recording analyses still 'require manual analysis (even if
inferences are drawn automatically, as in O'Donnell's Coder). The next
step up in functionality is automatic analysis. The general case of
comprehensive analysis is unsolved; a working system will clearly be a real
breakthrough in register analysis since it will make possible the kind of
bulk analysis that is hard to achieve manually but which is so important.
More limited analysis is possible. In particular, lexical analysis without any
grammatical analysis is fairly accessible. The COBUILD work in Birmingham led by John Sin clair has been very significant in this area. Benson
and Greaves (1992) describe what can be done with the CLOC programme (Reed, 1984), based on the work in Birmingham, and Benson and
Greaves (1989) show lexical analysis can be used to infer aspects of the
field.
There is ongoing research on the development of systemic-functional
parsers capable of producing IFG style analysis together with the relevant
systemic features. In the mid 1980s, Kasper (e.g., 1988) started work on
such a parser using Functional Unification Grammar and current work
also includes O'Donnell's (in prep.) work on a purely systemic-functional
parser in Sydney, research in Germany and work on a systemic parser
within the COMMUNAL project. As already noted, such parsers are not yet
capable of parsing text in general; but it seems productive to develop their
lexicogrammatical resources for large-scale parsing in particular registers.
In a project led by Guenter Plum, we are developing what has become
known as an Electronic Discourse Analyzer (EDA). According to the
design, the analyzer will parse a text systemic-functionally and do microsemantic interpretation (ideational, in particular). It will stop short of
macro-semantic or discourse semantic interpretation. However, the
lexicogrammatical and semantic results of analysis will themselves be
analyzed or examined for patterns that are critical to the functionality of
the text, 'critical language patterns' (CLPs; see Harvey, 1992). These
include certain transitivity patterns such as those of definition and
metadiscoursal description of the organization of the discourse and
thematic progression. The CLPs are a way of significantly increasing the
amount of information that can be drawn from discourse analysis even
though it does not involve the goal of full comprehension: for further
discussion and exemplification, see Matthiessen, O'Donnell and Zeng
(1991). CLPs are very likely to be indicative of particular registers and
different registers embody different sets of CLPs. The EDA could thus

282

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

become an important tool in register analysis.

8. Conclusion
We can look at the relationship between register and language either from
the point of view of language or from the point of view of register. From
the point of view of language, register is a state of variation of the
linguistic system - it is a functional variety of language. From the point
of view of register, language is an assemblage of registers - the total
semiotic space created by all the different registers of English. These
perspectives are complementary; they simply reflect which we take as a
given to serve as a point of departure, language or register. I have tried
to bring out both in the discussion. The interpretation of register in terms
of an independent dimension of variation has been explored and the
possibility of register specific views (represented by means of partitions)
assembled into a general system was put forward.
From whichever angle we look at the phenomenon of register-language,
it is clear that a comprehensive account involves all the basic dimensions
of language in context - the dimensions that construe this semiotic space.
I have reviewed these discussing how they intersect with register variation.
Since the contextual significance bf register variation is located within
context of situation, that stratal subsystem which is the interface to context
of situation is implicated in register variation in the first instance. But
semantic constraints are projected down to the second content stratum,
lexicogrammar, through preselection and even, by a further step, to
phonology/graphology. Regi.ster variation applies throughout the content
strata - across metafunctions, down the rank scale, l;Uld from delicate to
most delicate. However, given the notion of a common core across register,
it can be expected that generalizations across registers tend to be less
delicate than specializations within registers.
The contributions to this book are descriptively different in that they
deal with different registers but they also show some theoretical variation.
I have not compared and contrasted the theoretical systems used, as whole
theories; instead, I have brought up a number of points in the context of
the different dimensions along which registers can be interpreted. The most
important general point seems to me to be this. If we explore the notion
that linguistics is a metalanguage.or 'talk about talk' in Firth's wording
systematically, we fmd that insights into register variation in language can
also be projected one order up in abstraction and be explored as principles
concerning register variation in metalanguage. This will invite us to ask,
among other things, whether the variations we find across different
accounts are essentially metadialectal - reflections of the linguists - or
metaregisterial - reflections of the 'task'.
The 'task' is a complex phenomenon; but it may be interpreted in ternis
context of situation - the field, tenor, and mode of doing linguistics. If we
consider the field, we can note that it includes the 'subject matter' - that

283

is, here it includes the register of language that is in focus. So we can


expect variation in register (within field) to correlate with variation in
metaregister (particularly within ideational metalinguistic resources). A
good example is the difference in the demands written and spoken registers
place on metalanguage - spoken registers require us to expand the metalinguistic resources to make possible dynamic interpretations and representations.
The field is more than 'subject matter'. It is very centrally what's going
on in the use of metalanguage - e.g., theory review and development,
description, educational application, [computational] modelling. These
fields make different demands on the metalinguistic resources; for instance,
educational application requires perspicuity and accessibility of accounts
whereas computational modelling demands complete explicitness to en!!ure
implementability. I have focussed on the first category, theory review and
development with some descriptive excursions as illustrations and a note on
descriptive strafegies and tools (Section 7). A number of the contributions
in this book are descriptive. Educational application has been a valuable
feature of the context of register analysis for a long time and many implications are both implicit and explicit in this book; it would take a whole
other chapter to review all the valuable work done in the educational
context. Computational modelling is of general value (cf. Fawcett 1980,
1989; Fawcett and Tucker 1989; Matthiessen and Bateman 1991) but has
only fairly recently begun to concern itself also with modelling register
v:ariation (in particular, in systemic-functional work, Bateman and Paris
1991; Cross 1991; Patten 1980 - cf. Matthiessen and Bateman 1991: Part
IV). This adds the option of 'register synthesis' as a complement to
'register analysis' in the study of register and is likely to become increasingly valuable. Cross (1991) is an extensive study of matter cycle texts,
combining theoretical and computational modelling to show how variant
texts may be generated.

Notes
1. This is also evident in the modelling of semantics: meanings are derived from
general grammatical ones and they are not related to contextual categories. Thus
the traditional approach identified formal categories such as number, case, tense
and aspect and asked what their signification was. For instance, traditional
speech functional categories reflect grammatical distinctions such as declarative
vs. interrogative; but they do not embody an interpretation of interaction in
context (cf. Halliday 1984).
2. Halliday's theory of the relation between system and text in terms of potentialinstantiation-instance draws on Hjelmslev's (1943) insight about system and
process, which was a significant step forward from Saussure's languelparole
distinction. It also differs from the Chomskyan distinction between competence
and performance (see Halliday 1977). The way we theorize the relationship
between the system and the text is critical for register theory and analysis since
it will determine the role of the text both as data and as a vehicle of change.

282

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

become an important tool in register analysis.

8. Conclusion
We can look at the relationship between register and language either from
the point of view of language or from the point of view of register. From
the point of view of language, register is a state of variation of the
linguistic system - it is a functional variety of language. From the point
of view of register, language is an assemblage of registers - the total
semiotic space created by all the different registers of English. These
perspectives are complementary; they simply reflect which we take as a
given to serve as a point of departure, language or register. I have tried
to bring out both in the discussion. The interpretation of register in terms
of an independent dimension of variation has been explored and the
possibility of register specific views (represented by means of partitions)
assembled into a general system was put forward.
From whichever angle we look at the phenomenon of register-language,
it is clear that a comprehensive account involves all the basic dimensions
of language in context - the dimensions that construe this semiotic space.
I have reviewed these discussing how they intersect with register variation.
Since the contextual significance bf register variation is located within
context of situation, that stratal subsystem which is the interface to context
of situation is implicated in register variation in the first instance. But
semantic constraints are projected down to the second content stratum,
lexicogrammar, through preselection and even, by a further step, to
phonology/graphology. Regi.ster variation applies throughout the content
strata - across metafunctions, down the rank scale, l;Uld from delicate to
most delicate. However, given the notion of a common core across register,
it can be expected that generalizations across registers tend to be less
delicate than specializations within registers.
The contributions to this book are descriptively different in that they
deal with different registers but they also show some theoretical variation.
I have not compared and contrasted the theoretical systems used, as whole
theories; instead, I have brought up a number of points in the context of
the different dimensions along which registers can be interpreted. The most
important general point seems to me to be this. If we explore the notion
that linguistics is a metalanguage.or 'talk about talk' in Firth's wording
systematically, we fmd that insights into register variation in language can
also be projected one order up in abstraction and be explored as principles
concerning register variation in metalanguage. This will invite us to ask,
among other things, whether the variations we find across different
accounts are essentially metadialectal - reflections of the linguists - or
metaregisterial - reflections of the 'task'.
The 'task' is a complex phenomenon; but it may be interpreted in ternis
context of situation - the field, tenor, and mode of doing linguistics. If we
consider the field, we can note that it includes the 'subject matter' - that

283

is, here it includes the register of language that is in focus. So we can


expect variation in register (within field) to correlate with variation in
metaregister (particularly within ideational metalinguistic resources). A
good example is the difference in the demands written and spoken registers
place on metalanguage - spoken registers require us to expand the metalinguistic resources to make possible dynamic interpretations and representations.
The field is more than 'subject matter'. It is very centrally what's going
on in the use of metalanguage - e.g., theory review and development,
description, educational application, [computational] modelling. These
fields make different demands on the metalinguistic resources; for instance,
educational application requires perspicuity and accessibility of accounts
whereas computational modelling demands complete explicitness to en!!ure
implementability. I have focussed on the first category, theory review and
development with some descriptive excursions as illustrations and a note on
descriptive strafegies and tools (Section 7). A number of the contributions
in this book are descriptive. Educational application has been a valuable
feature of the context of register analysis for a long time and many implications are both implicit and explicit in this book; it would take a whole
other chapter to review all the valuable work done in the educational
context. Computational modelling is of general value (cf. Fawcett 1980,
1989; Fawcett and Tucker 1989; Matthiessen and Bateman 1991) but has
only fairly recently begun to concern itself also with modelling register
v:ariation (in particular, in systemic-functional work, Bateman and Paris
1991; Cross 1991; Patten 1980 - cf. Matthiessen and Bateman 1991: Part
IV). This adds the option of 'register synthesis' as a complement to
'register analysis' in the study of register and is likely to become increasingly valuable. Cross (1991) is an extensive study of matter cycle texts,
combining theoretical and computational modelling to show how variant
texts may be generated.

Notes
1. This is also evident in the modelling of semantics: meanings are derived from
general grammatical ones and they are not related to contextual categories. Thus
the traditional approach identified formal categories such as number, case, tense
and aspect and asked what their signification was. For instance, traditional
speech functional categories reflect grammatical distinctions such as declarative
vs. interrogative; but they do not embody an interpretation of interaction in
context (cf. Halliday 1984).
2. Halliday's theory of the relation between system and text in terms of potentialinstantiation-instance draws on Hjelmslev's (1943) insight about system and
process, which was a significant step forward from Saussure's languelparole
distinction. It also differs from the Chomskyan distinction between competence
and performance (see Halliday 1977). The way we theorize the relationship
between the system and the text is critical for register theory and analysis since
it will determine the role of the text both as data and as a vehicle of change.

284

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

3. Fawcett (1980) does not treat axis as fractal relative to semantics and syntax
- semantics is paradigmatic and syntax is syntagm,atic. In what follows, I will
rely fairly heavily on the manifestation of paradigmatic organization within
both semantics and lexicogrammar. This does not, of course, in any way
invalidate Fawcett's variety of systemic theory. It merely means that one has
to interpret the situation differently in his system.
4. Register variation is itself an atemporal dimension; but it intersects with potentiality and we can locate registers on the continuum between the general potential and the instance. I will return to this point below in Section 6.
5. In this work, Martin was influenced by Gregory's important work and genre
grew out of Gregory's notion of functional tenor, which he had abstracted out
of the field, mode and tenor parameters of context of situation (see e.g.
Gregory and Carroll 1978).
6. This is similar to the situation with speech function: this interpersonal resource
has been experientalized within verbal transitivity and projection, but we take
dialogic exchanges rather than the ideational grammar of verbal clauses as the
point of departure when we develop an account of speech function (contrast
speech act theory, which has relied heavily on the ideational grammar's theory
of the interpersonal: cf. Edmonson 1981).
7. This is the idealization noted above - setting up registers, dialects etc.
8. Contrast the limiting case of dialectal variation, ,which is a different language.
9. We should not, of course, take context of culture for granted: we can simply
ask how to relate 'context of situation' to other aspects of the social system we
need to identify in a social interpretation of language - social role systems,
hierarchic organization, type of 'world view', and so on.
10. However, it seems to me the situation is less problematic if on the one hand
one takes as one's social theory a theory such as Bernstein's which is designed
to integrate language into the account and on the other hand one is prepared
to shunt back and forth between the micro and the macro without treating
either as fixed.
11. An obvious example from lexis would be the conflict between 'folk taxonomy'
and 'scientific taxonomy': see e.g. Wignell et al. (1987).
12. Note that since the content system is stratified, what is lexicogrammatically
common may be semantically uncommon: the same lexicogrammatical
resources may be deployed in semantically different ways across registers. An
obvious example is the grammatical system of MOOD where the semantic
significance of choices may depend on the contextual variable tenor: the semantics of different registers (cf. position (iii) below) may deploy interpersonal
metaphor to varying degrees and in different ways to control the semiotic
distance between speaker and addressee within tenor.
13. In this particular example, the registerial specification is additive; but it is also
perfectly possible that it constitutes an 'abbreviation' of the general system as
the examples with PRIMARY TENSE under (i) above where the 0 probabilities
'turn off' particular systemic options - cf. further Section 4.2 below on
abbreviated lexicogrammatical systems.
14. Apart from any other considerations, this makes good systemic sense: more
delicate systems are more local relative to the system as a whole and delicate
variation across registers does thus not entail a global re-organization of the
system.
15. This would imply that registers are primary rather than register variation.
16. In fact, it is in any case not yet possible in practice to describe the semantic

system of English as a fully integrated system in the same way as we can


describe its grammar (Halliday 1985). However, for certain purposes and
limited regions of grammar, we can set up general semantic systems, such as
Halliday's (1984) speech functional system (see further Hasan, 1988) and
Martin's (in press) discourse semantic systems.
17. Although there- have been attempts outside systemic linguistics, e.g.
Longacre's, 1976, generalized grammatical rank scale that extends above
sentence to discourse. This is, however, probably more like the kind of internal
nesting we fmd with univariate complexes and with Rhetorical Structure
Theory (cf. Matthiessen and Thompson 1989) than multivariately organized
units on a rank scale.
18. But at the same time, there is a loss of ideational information: for example,
while textual information is gained with the opening up of nominal deicticity
(this departure - it ... ), ideational information is lost with the loss of verbal
deicticity - tense (thus De Klerk's departure is not located in time). Similarly,
participant roles may be harder to identify. Thus in De Klerk's move, is De
Klerk Medium or Agent? In general, there is a gain in textual information:
. process configurations metaphorically realized as nominal groups (as in De
Klerk's departure) can be given textual statuses within the clause and have
nominal deixis, so they can be established and tracked as discourse referents.
19. Interpersonal metaphor is not included in Goatly's study. Metaphors of
modality are quite common in the corpus, e.g . .I think, I believe, I suppose for
probability (cf. Halliday 1985a: Section 10.4).
20. Or rather grammatical systems - the general extension of grammar in delicacy
into lexis is still a long way off.

285

References
Bakhtin, M.M. (1986), 'The problem of speech genres', in Bakhtin Speech Genres
and other late Essays [translated by V. McGeel Austin: University of Texas Press.
pp. 60-102.
Bames, D., J. Britton and H. Rosen (1969), Language, the learner and the school,
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Bateman, J., C. Matthiessen, K. Nanri and L. Zeng (1991), Multilingual text
generation: an architecture based on functional typology. In the proceedings of
the Computational Linguistics Conference, Penang, Malaysia, June 91.
Bateman, J. and C. Paris (1991) 'Constraining the deployment of lexicogrammatical resources during text generation: towards a computational instantiation
of register theory', in Ventola (ed.).
Bazerman, C. (1988), Shaping written knowledge: the genre and activity of the experimental
article in science, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Benson, J. and W. Greaves (1989), Using narrow-span collocations in parsing
lexico-grammatical output of field in a natural language text. Paper presented at
International Systemic Congress, Helsinki, June 1989.
Benson, J. and W. Greaves (1992), 'Collocation and field of discourse', in Mann
and Thompson (eds), pp. 397-410.
Bernstein, B. (1971), Class, Codes, and Control 1: Theoretical studies towards a sociology
of language, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Bernstein, B. (ed.) (1973), Class, Codes and Control 2: applied studies towards a sociology
of language, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

284

CHRISTIAN MATTHIESSEN

REGISTER IN THE ROUND

3. Fawcett (1980) does not treat axis as fractal relative to semantics and syntax
- semantics is paradigmatic and syntax is syntagm,atic. In what follows, I will
rely fairly heavily on the manifestation of paradigmatic organization within
both semantics and lexicogrammar. This does not, of course, in any way
invalidate Fawcett's variety of systemic theory. It merely means that one has
to interpret the situation differently in his system.
4. Register variation is itself an atemporal dimension; but it intersects with potentiality and we can locate registers on the continuum between the general potential and the instance. I will return to this point below in Section 6.
5. In this work, Martin was influenced by Gregory's important work and genre
grew out of Gregory's notion of functional tenor, which he had abstracted out
of the field, mode and tenor parameters of context of situation (see e.g.
Gregory and Carroll 1978).
6. This is similar to the situation with speech function: this interpersonal resource
has been experientalized within verbal transitivity and projection, but we take
dialogic exchanges rather than the ideational grammar of verbal clauses as the
point of departure when we develop an account of speech function (contrast
speech act theory, which has relied heavily on the ideational grammar's theory
of the interpersonal: cf. Edmonson 1981).
7. This is the idealization noted above - setting up registers, dialects etc.
8. Contrast the limiting case of dialectal variation, ,which is a different language.
9. We should not, of course, take context of culture for granted: we can simply
ask how to relate 'context of situation' to other aspects of the social system we
need to identify in a social interpretation of language - social role systems,
hierarchic organization, type of 'world view', and so on.
10. However, it seems to me the situation is less problematic if on the one hand
one takes as one's social theory a theory such as Bernstein's which is designed
to integrate language into the account and on the other hand one is prepared
to shunt back and forth between the micro and the macro without treating
either as fixed.
11. An obvious example from lexis would be the conflict between 'folk taxonomy'
and 'scientific taxonomy': see e.g. Wignell et al. (1987).
12. Note that since the content system is stratified, what is lexicogrammatically
common may be semantically uncommon: the same lexicogrammatical
resources may be deployed in semantically different ways across registers. An
obvious example is the grammatical system of MOOD where the semantic
significance of choices may depend on the contextual variable tenor: the semantics of different registers (cf. position (iii) below) may deploy interpersonal
metaphor to varying degrees and in different ways to control the semiotic
distance between speaker and addressee within tenor.
13. In this particular example, the registerial specification is additive; but it is also
perfectly possible that it constitutes an 'abbreviation' of the general system as
the examples with PRIMARY TENSE under (i) above where the 0 probabilities
'turn off' particular systemic options - cf. further Section 4.2 below on
abbreviated lexicogrammatical systems.
14. Apart from any other considerations, this makes good systemic sense: more
delicate systems are more local relative to the system as a whole and delicate
variation across registers does thus not entail a global re-organization of the
system.
15. This would imply that registers are primary rather than register variation.
16. In fact, it is in any case not yet possible in practice to describe the semantic

system of English as a fully integrated system in the same way as we can


describe its grammar (Halliday 1985). However, for certain purposes and
limited regions of grammar, we can set up general semantic systems, such as
Halliday's (1984) speech functional system (see further Hasan, 1988) and
Martin's (in press) discourse semantic systems.
17. Although there- have been attempts outside systemic linguistics, e.g.
Longacre's, 1976, generalized grammatical rank scale that extends above
sentence to discourse. This is, however, probably more like the kind of internal
nesting we fmd with univariate complexes and with Rhetorical Structure
Theory (cf. Matthiessen and Thompson 1989) than multivariately organized
units on a rank scale.
18. But at the same time, there is a loss of ideational information: for example,
while textual information is gained with the opening up of nominal deicticity
(this departure - it ... ), ideational information is lost with the loss of verbal
deicticity - tense (thus De Klerk's departure is not located in time). Similarly,
participant roles may be harder to identify. Thus in De Klerk's move, is De
Klerk Medium or Agent? In general, there is a gain in textual information:
. process configurations metaphorically realized as nominal groups (as in De
Klerk's departure) can be given textual statuses within the clause and have
nominal deixis, so they can be established and tracked as discourse referents.
19. Interpersonal metaphor is not included in Goatly's study. Metaphors of
modality are quite common in the corpus, e.g . .I think, I believe, I suppose for
probability (cf. Halliday 1985a: Section 10.4).
20. Or rather grammatical systems - the general extension of grammar in delicacy
into lexis is still a long way off.

285

References
Bakhtin, M.M. (1986), 'The problem of speech genres', in Bakhtin Speech Genres
and other late Essays [translated by V. McGeel Austin: University of Texas Press.
pp. 60-102.
Bames, D., J. Britton and H. Rosen (1969), Language, the learner and the school,
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Bateman, J., C. Matthiessen, K. Nanri and L. Zeng (1991), Multilingual text
generation: an architecture based on functional typology. In the proceedings of
the Computational Linguistics Conference, Penang, Malaysia, June 91.
Bateman, J. and C. Paris (1991) 'Constraining the deployment of lexicogrammatical resources during text generation: towards a computational instantiation
of register theory', in Ventola (ed.).
Bazerman, C. (1988), Shaping written knowledge: the genre and activity of the experimental
article in science, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Benson, J. and W. Greaves (1989), Using narrow-span collocations in parsing
lexico-grammatical output of field in a natural language text. Paper presented at
International Systemic Congress, Helsinki, June 1989.
Benson, J. and W. Greaves (1992), 'Collocation and field of discourse', in Mann
and Thompson (eds), pp. 397-410.
Bernstein, B. (1971), Class, Codes, and Control 1: Theoretical studies towards a sociology
of language, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Bernstein, B. (ed.) (1973), Class, Codes and Control 2: applied studies towards a sociology
of language, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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'
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Halliday, M.A.K. and J.R. Martin (in wess) , Writing science: literacy and discursive
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'
Hasan, R. (1977), 'Text in the systemic-functional model', in W. DressIer (ed.),
Current Trends in Textlinguistics, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 228-246.
Hasan, R. (1981), 'What's going on? a dynamic view of context', Seventh LACUS
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Hasan, R. (1984a), 'Coherence and cohesive harmony', in J. Flood (ed.),
Understanding Reading Comprehension: cognition, language and the structure of prose,
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Hasan, R. (1984b), 'The nursery tale as a genre', Nottingham Linguistic Circular 13
(Special Issue on Systemic Linguistics), 71-102.
Hasan, R. (1986), The ontogenesis of ideology: an interpretation of mother child
talk .. I~ T. Threadgold, E. Grosz, G. Kress & M.A.K. Halliday. Language,
SemIOtICS, Ideology. Sydney: Sydney Association for Studies in Society and
Culture (Sydney Studies in Society and Culture 3). 125-146.

Hasan, R. (1985/9), Part B, in Halliday and Hasan (1985/9).


Hasan, R. (1990), 'Semantic variation and sociolinguistics', Australian Journal of
Linguistics 9.2, 221-276.
Hasan, R. (in press), 'The conception of context in text', in P.H. Fries and M:
Gregory (eds), Discourse in Society: functional perspectives, N orwood, N.J.: Ablex
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in Garvin P. (ed.), 1964, A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and
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jazykovd kultura.
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Steele and Terry Threadgold (eds), Language topics. Essays in honour of Michael
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Discourse Processes 10), pp. 1-39.
Martin, J .R. (1985a), 'Process and text: two aspects of semiosis', in J .D. Benson
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Name index

Albee 2, 50
An Advancement

of Learning 140, 142-3

Anglia Building Society 137-8


Antony and Cleopatra 127

Austin 150, 173


Babel197
Bacon 143
Bakhtin 2, 35, 44-5, 225
Barcan 77, 79, 82, 84, 86, 89, 94, 97,
101, 106
Barnes 274
Barthalomae 71
Barthes 13
Bateman 200,203,229,246,261,275,
283
Bazerman 61, 66, 269
Beckett 2, 47
Benson 281
Benveniste 44
Berg 223
Berger 45, 251
Bernstein 9, 242, 253, 284
Betrayal 46, 51
Birch 2, 26, 35, 39, 44, 46, 241, 251
Black 164
Bloomfield 7, 11-12
Borland's Sprint 183
Borland's Turbo Lightning 186
Boyd 124
Brecht 55
Brook-Rose 116
Burton 152
Butler 71
Byrd 198
Caffarel 244, 249, 256
Calzorlari 201
Candide 133
Carl von Linne 269
Carroll 29, 31-2, 37, 234, 284

Carter 248, 274


Causley 126
Cerri 65
Chiu 30
Chomsky 12-14, 283
Christie 31, 35, 274
CLOC 279, 281
Clyne 172
COBUILD 279, 281
Cohen 127
Collins 66-7
COMMUNAL Project 196, 201, 280-1
Cooper 51-2
Coulthard 152, 231, 238, 256, 274
Crismore 71
Cross 5, 201, 203, 228, 230, 252, 261,
273, 283
Cumming 196
Dahlgren 201, 203
Dante 126
De Beaugrande 1-2, 6, 11-12, 15, 221,
223-4, 248, 268
Derrida 44
Doughty 12
DressIer 12, 16, 18
Dudley Evans 167
Edmondson 284
Eggins 3, 110, 203, 262, 264, 268, 274,
276, 278
Elam 43
Electronic Discourse Analyzer (EDA)
266, 280-1
Ellis 9, 28-9, 31-2, 223
Empson 118-9, 123
Endgame 47
Engelmore 188
Essex 27, 35
Fairclough 36, 57