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Topic:  Research Seminar "Grammatical and Textual Perspectives on “Meaningful Relations at the Level of Consciousness”: From Identifying Clauses to “Cohesive Harmony”"
posted itemPosted - 24/11/2009 :  18:18:56

Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics and The Halliday Centre for Intelligent Applications of Language Studies

Research Seminar

Grammatical and Textual Perspectives on “Meaningful Relations at the Level of Consciousness”: From Identifying Clauses to “Cohesive Harmony”

Presented by

Dr. David G. Butt

Director, Centre for Language in Social Life, Macquarie University

Date: 1 December 2009 (Tuesday)
Time: 2:30 - 4:00pm
B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU


In their final reflections on “the exhaustiveness of the scientific pursuit” in relation to consciousness and the material order, Edelman and Tononi (2000:222) argue that not “all meaningful relations at the level of consciousness” are appropriate scientific subjects (even though they may be “scientifically founded objects”). The instances offered as cases in point include “meaningful sentences in ordinary language” and “even better…poetic exchanges” (ibid). In this paper I set out from the reasons the authors offer for what they see as a “fascinating point”. I then offer analyses of grammatical and textual phenomena using specific tools of systemic functional theory – first of all, Halliday’s account of identifying clauses in English; and then Hasan’s development (from the 1960s) of “cohesive harmony”. My aim in these examples is to demonstrate, in each case, the direct bearing the enquiry has on debates concerning higher order consciousness. The two debates which I offer here as test cases pertain to:

1) the crucial notion of the “duplex self” (William James 1842-1910): myself as observed object (“Me”),     and as participatory subject (“I”). 2) the controversy surrounding “dissociative” states, first systematically characterised as a     ‘disaggregation’ or as a ‘fragmentation’ of consciousness, by Janet (1859-1947) and by     Hughlings-Jackson (1835-1947).

The emergent purposes of the discussion are, then:

a) to argue against any claim that we must relinquish a science of “meaningful relations” (in the terms     cited above); b) to demonstrate the realizational relationship between all levels of organization of human consciousness     (from molecules to meanings in neuroscience viz. Kandel ); and c) to bring out the implication of (b), namely, that language does not reflect the individual mind –     it is the mind at a level which is realized, collectively, in the lattice of     our specific, intersubjective relationships. References Edelman, G.M. & Tononi, G. (2000). A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York, Basic Books. Halliday, M.A.K. and Matthiessen C.M.I.M. (2004) An Introduction to Functional Grammar 3rd Ed. Great Britain: Arnold. Hasan, R. (1984). Coherence and Cohesive Harmony. In J. Flood (Ed.), Understanding Reading Comprehension: Cognition, Language, and the Structure of Prose (pp. 181-219). Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association. Meares, R. (1999). The contribution of Hughlings Jackson to an understanding of dissociation. American Journal of Psychiatry; 156:1850–1855. Meares, R. (2005). The Metaphor of Play: Origin and Breakdown of Personal Being. 3rd and revised edition. London: Routledge.


Associate Professor David G. Butt, Director of the Centre for Language in Social Life at Macquarie University, works across projects from stylistics to health sciences and the traditional subdisciplines of linguistics viz. grammar, semantics, and rhetoric. He is particularly concerned with the modeling of the level of context for pragmatic outcomes in research at hospitals, and other complex sites.

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