FW: Buying Slurpies a la Burke

Bob Ashley ax386 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sun Sep 2 09:21:39 EST 2001

From: Bob Ashley <ax386 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Date: Sat, 01 Sep 2001 02:51:47 -0400
To: < Edappel8 at cs.com>, < kb at purdue.edu>
Subject: Re: Buying Slurpies a la Burke

> From:  Edappel8 at cs.com
> Date:  Fri, 31 Aug 2001 15:40:17 EDT
> To:  kb at purdue.edu
> Subject: Buying Slurpies a la Burke
> Thanks to Bob for his critique.  I feel it's a good day's work anytime I
> smoke him out of his Canadian redoubt for a touch of Halliday or anythign
> else.  I'll be mulling over his contribution--again!
> My question after one reading of his post, which I printed out, would be:
> Ought we, from a Hallidayan perspective, get rid of the notion of content
> parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) and/or the notion of
> subject and predicate?  Should those traditional classifications be
> eliminated or merely modified?

The Hallidayan pespective does not eliminate the terms of traditional
grammar, but rather delimits their heuristic function to analysis of the
various constituents of clauses.  These grammatical bits are then examined
from his three metafunctional angles: experiential (ideation or 'field' of
discourse); interpersonal (speech functions or 'tenor' of discourse); and
textual (clausal organization or 'mode' of discourse). Every sentence in
English, claims Halliday, weaves together, simultaneously, field, tenor, and
mode. These schema then open up their own multivarietal 'terministic
screens' in order to reach finer levels of delicacy in the analysis of each

The Burkean schema, as Ed points out, consists of things like Actor, Action,
Purpose, Scene and so forth. Burke's pentad, roughly speaking is Halliday's
'experiential' metafunction. When Burke moves on to talk of things like
'conversion upward or downward' or eulogistic/dyslogistic coverings, this is
Halliday's 'interpersonal' metafunction. Burke's view of rhetorical tropes
and schemes is not unlike Halliday's view of 'mode' or the 'textual'

The complementarity of the two systems, I'll risk, arrives in Burke's much
more delicate discussions about finding motives and Halliday's much more
delicate analysis of the actual linguistic bits. They overlap when Burke
goes linguistic and Halliday gets philosophical. I find it uncanny, really,
for as far as I know, neither guy read the other.

So, to return to Ed's question, no, Halliday milks the traditional grammar
for all that is still useful in it. And that's a lot, I believe. I think we
are more aware of its limits, that's all. Not much has changed in
traditional grammar in the last five-hundred years. This stasis, I believe
points to its strengths (which are semantic) as well as its weaknesses (too
many exceptions to rules, too prescriptive).


Bob Ashley


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