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Book: English Tense and Aspect in Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar

Chapter: Index

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.21302


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.

Chapter Contributors

  • Carl Bache ( - book-auth-364) 'University of Southern Denmark'