Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sentence Analysis through Systemic Functional Grammar

Systemic Functional Grammar is based on Michal Halliday's Systemic Functional Linguistics. It addresses lots of basic issues regarding grammar and sentence analysis which cannot be tackled by traditional grammar. It has a very systematic way to analyse sentences and understand their constituents.
  • At clause level it has simple structures of α and β.
  • At group level it provides constituents of Subject, Predicate, Complement, and Adjunct (which is the default category for any non-sense word or group)
  • At word level it has structures like modifier, head, qualifier; before verb, auxiliary, verb, extension; preposition and completive.
  • While at morpheme level it provides various labels to address the issues related to word construction: infix, suffix, prefix, ending, base, addition.

We are having a course titled Advance English Grammars in which we are studying Systemic Functional Grammar as a component. We are being taught the model of Margret Berry. Using the model I have tried to analyse a sentence from a Pakistani news paper (The News). Below is the image having the tree diagram.
From My Thoughts in Remote Language

I have spent 3 hours to create this diagram. :-) It doesn't mean I do not know the grammar but it indicates the limitation of computer based tools. It was not of more than 15 minutes by hand but by doing it with Draw application, it took me 3 hours to complete it.And still it may not look very smooth. Anyhow, that was not the point to post this diagram here. The aim was to highlight the deficiencies in systemic grammar. This model is very well organised and have a clear cut straight forward style to analyse sentences. But as the sentence is complexified, this model goes on failing to address the issues. And it becomes really difficult to handle larger chunks having complex relations with each other.

In this sentence I had to add two qualifiers after the head noun because I did not know where to put the extra relative clause. The extra long prepositional phrase the crucial issue of immediate hosing down of the crime scene of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination made me think and think again: from where should I dissect it so to put which led to the destruction of all critical evidence (the relative clause) in a parallel alpha-alpha construction. It was really difficult to decide because the apparent function of this clause is a sentence (or at least a phrase level) modifier. But in Systemic we have no such mechanism so I have to put it down as a qualifier.

Systemic does not ends here. The same sentence can be analysed in a different way. Would you like to add something?