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English Tense and Aspect in Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar

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This book is aimed at fellow practitioners and researchers in functional linguistics. It offers a friendly but critical appraisal of a major component of the ‘standard’ version of SFL, i.e. the account given by Halliday and Matthiessen of tense and aspect in English. Supporting his criticisms with evidence from a project in corpus linguistics, Bache suggests that this account fails in several ways to satisfy accepted functionalist criteria, and hence needs revising and extending.

After surveying alternative functionalist approaches to modelling time and tense in English (including Fawcett’s Cardiff school approach and Harder’s instructional-semantic approach), and after presenting a number of principles of category description, Bache goes on to offer an alternative SFL account of this area of grammar.

In Bache’s model, the focus is on the speaker’s communicative motivation for choosing particular verb forms. The relevant choice relations are seen to draw on metafunctionally diverse resources, such as tense, action, aspect and other domains. The basically univariate, serial structure of the verbal group is accordingly enriched with certain characteristics associated with multivariate structures, and the idea of recursion is abandoned. Bache finally examines the descriptive potential of his model in connection with projection, conditions, and narration.

Published: Jan 1, 2009


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Carl Bache
Introduction Carl Bache
An introduction to the IFG model of tense Carl Bache
Problems with the IFG approach to tense Carl Bache
Towards an alternative Carl Bache
A new SFL description of tense and aspect Carl Bache
The narrative mode Carl Bache
Conclusion Carl Bache
End Matter
References Carl Bache
List of the sources of the examples Carl Bache
Appendix: Empirical investigation of the SFL tense system in BNC Carl Bache
Index Carl Bache

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Carl Bache's book is not simply another monograph on tense and aspect. It is concerned specifically with the treatment of tense within Halliday's systemic functional grammar of English, notably in Halliday's An Introduction to Functional Grammar, henceforth IFG. It offers, amongst other things, a substantial critical appraisal of the IFG account and a proposal for an alternative model, located equally within the theoretical framework of systemic functional grammar, rather than within a more general functionally oriented frame-work.
Gordon Tucker, Cardiff University, Functions of Language