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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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An appliable linguistics indeed: SFL and the structural potential of ancient letters (Claire Urbach / Christopher Land)


Claire Urbach, Christopher Land Western Sydney University / McMaster Divinity College /

An appliable linguistics indeed: SFL and the structural potential of ancient letters

Abstract: Here, a Biblical Studies question (structure in the apostle Paul’s extant epistles) is explored by applying SFL methods and tools (generic structure potential and the multidimensional approach to text in context). 1 Corinthians is analysed as a pilot study, with a view to providing a rigorous, multi-stratal account of how Paul means in his letters.

1 Introduction

The use of detailed textual analyses to describe texts and text-types has long been part of the discipline of biblical studies, which is an inherently text-oriented discipline. Most importantly for our focus here, there is a well-established tradition of reading the Apostle Paul’s writings specifically as letters. Ancient epistolographists discussed the art of writing letters, even composing handbooks for the training of professional letter-writers. Today, modern scholars continue to delineate ancient conventions surrounding the composition of letters, employing a wide range of approaches and making reference to various relevant phenomena, including epistolary situations, epistolary functions, structural divisions, and formal linguistic characteristics. Although the existing biblical studies literature in this area is theoretically and methodologically diverse, it discusses matters of longstanding interest to systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Also, a few biblical scholars have drawn upon SFL in order to develop linguistically-informed analyses of both ancient letters in general and New Testament letters in particular (see below).

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