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Challenging Boundaries in Linguistics

Systemic Functional Perspectives


Edited By Stella Neumann, Rebekah Wegener, Jennifer Fest, Paula Niemietz and Nicole Hützen

Linguistics, like any discipline, is full of boundaries. However, in nature, as Ruqaiya Hasan points out, there are no clear cut boundaries. The participants of the 42nd International Systemic Functional Congress held at RWTH Aachen University addressed and challenged the notion of boundaries in linguistics in many creative ways. Twenty-one of the papers presented at the congress are collated in this volume. The six sections cover topics that challenge theoretical notions and stances, and explore historical, interpersonal and lexicogrammatical boundaries as well as those between languages and in language development. The volume presents a state of the art overview of systemic functional linguistic theorising with extensions into other theoretical frameworks.

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Fluid boundaries and the categorization of nominal expressions (Lise Fontaine)


Lise Fontaine Cardiff

Fluid boundaries and the categorization of nominal expressions

There will always be more than one way to skin a category.

(Halliday, 1997/2003, 266)

Abstract: This chapter critically evaluates the category boundaries related to nominal expressions. The indeterminacy and fluidity of these boundaries is examined in three main ways. The chapter argues that finer grained distinctions are needed to differentiate between nominalizations which involve grammatical metaphor and those that do not.

1 Introduction

The theme of this volume, “Challenging Boundaries”, is wonderfully ambiguous. Is this a clause where the process of challenging has an agent who is acting on the participant boundaries? Or is this a nominal group where the modifier challenging is telling us something about boundaries? When it comes to how language works, boundaries are certainly challenging and within systemic functional linguistics (SFL), as with all theories, we should be challenging these boundaries.

There are many areas of the grammar which have boundaries, but these boundaries are to some extent artificial even though there are normally good reasons for where and how a boundary is established. As Halliday (2000/2002, 378) states, “it is absurd to draw boundaries around phenomena under study and then use these boundaries to justify one’s intellectual stance. (…) It is these arbitrary features of segmentation and of categorization, imposing syntagmatic and paradigmatic boundaries on our construction of experience, that lead to many of what Lamb calls the...

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