Book: Hybridity in Systemic Functional Linguistics
Chapter: 15. In the nature of language: Reflections on permeability and hybridity
Ruqaiya Hasan’s chapter stands apart, as is fitting. It’s been dubbed a ‘Closing Statement’ as an intertextual bow to the weight of its Jakobsonian predecessor, and thus in tribute to Hasan, an SFL scholar whose work has been inspirational to many of the other contributors’ own. Hasan would show how permeability ‘…is a characteristic of certain categories recognized in language on the basis of principled descriptions’. The examples she presents are from both the grammatical and the lexical end of the spectrum but the concept is applicable not only to the stratum of lexicogrammar but also to those of semantics and of context. She firmly holds that ‘… permeability cannot be taken as a licence for crossing boundaries anywhere, anyhow’. Indeed she suggests that it is perhaps in the nature of language that to function as a communal meaning potential the sign relations will be subject to certain regularities, meaning that permeability has a systematic basis and also that it is grounded in the probabilistic nature of language itself, and perhaps is even, as Zadeh (1997) proposes, a quality of human thought as well. In concluding the chapter, she takes on the myriad issues raised by a juxtaposition of the terms ‘permeability’ and ‘hybridity’; here, as throughout her chapter and indeed as is her wont, posing essential questions and eschewing facile answers.