Book: Hybridity in Systemic Functional Linguistics
Chapter: 12. Genre and register hybridization in an historical text
Michael Cummings deals with a literary text as well, but a historical text which is a classic reading in introductory anthologies of Old English literature, called the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos quando Dani maxime persecuti sunt eos, that is ‘the sermon of the Wolf to the English at a time when the Danes were oppressing them severely’. His overall purpose is ‘the mutual illumination of this text and SFL register and genre theory’, especially aiming to show that SFL approaches and categories can also be highly appropriate to examining such a remote historical dialect/text; and then to demonstrate the extent to which Hasan’s thoughts on the ‘permeability’ of register/ genre categories (in (Halliday and Hasan 1989:107) are invaluable for the task as well. This he effectively does by dissecting this complex persuasive sermon into sequentially distinct sub-texts realising the structural elements and also subgenres which vary and even blend into one another, thus enabling some subtext to carry out multiple functions. Cummings notes how ‘the Sermo Lupi is often found to have a difficult and elusive structure’; although his analysis demonstrates the legitimacy of the opinion, it also reveals the intricacy of the text so that it can no longer be said to elude us.