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Book: System and Corpus

Chapter: Frequency profiles of some basic grammatical systems: an interim report

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.19145


In this paper, I will give an interim report on a long-term project to establish the probability profiles of the key systems of the lexicogrammar of English (see Matthiessen 1995a) – systems such as taxis, logicosemantic type (clause complexes), theme, voice, mood, polarity and transitivity (clause). These profiles are based on the manual analysis of a reasonably extensive archive of texts (cf. Matthiessen 1999; Matthiessen 2002). This manual analysis and the profiles are developed by means of a workbench for doing systemic functional research developed by us in Sydney, with Wu Canzhong as the chief developer (cf. Wu 2000). At this stage, the analysis still has to be manual – the automatic analysis of large volumes of text from a varied range of registers is beyond the current reach of the systems (cf. O’Donnell 1994; Matthiessen, O’Donnell and Zeng 1991). However, certain specific aspects of certain systems can be investigated by means of automatable pattern searches in corpora. I will begin by addressing central theoretical and methodological issues (Section 2). I will then explore the quantitative patterns of the intersections of a number of systems of the clause complex and clause (Section 3), and finally I will investigate the relationship between quantitative patterns and qualitative ones (Section 4). In discussing these issues, I will also take the opportunity to illustrate some of the varied range of formats in which the data can be presented.

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