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Review of  Structure and Function – A Guide to Three Major Structural-Functional Theories

Reviewer: Claudia Sassen
Book Title: Structure and Function – A Guide to Three Major Structural-Functional Theories
Book Author: Christopher S. Butler
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 14.3054

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Butler, Christopher S. (2003) Structure and Function: A Guide to Three
Major Structural-Functional Theories, Part 2: From Clause to Discourse
and Beyond, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Studies in Language
Companion Series 64.

Announced at

Claudia Sassen, Institut fuer Deutsche Sprache und Literatur,
Universitaet Dortmund, Germany

For everybody interested in linguistic theories about structure and
function Butler's book will make a good read. In particular it
addresses those who want to know more about illocutions and
information structure in Functional Grammar (FG), Role Reference
Grammar (RRG) and Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) from a
cross-theoretical perspective. This review treats the second of the
two volumes of which the book consists. The volume splits up into six
chapters which will be discussed in the following. It furthermore
contains two indices, one on the languages which are treated in the
form of corpus-derived examples in the text and one that holds a
wealth of keywords. There is also a rich bibliography and a list of
the corpora which were consulted for research.

Before I will proceed to a detailed account of each chapter, I will
sketch the main aspects of Volume 2: in the preface, Butler briefly
recapitulates the central aspects of Volume 1 and then continues with
the main goals of Volume 2 outlining its structure. In Chapter 1, he
discusses how illocutions and related phenomena are handled in FG, RRG
and SFG. In Chapter 2, he reviews how the three grammars treat the
ways in which the informational status of particular parts of messages
can be signalled, while in Chapter 3 he discusses the phenomena
traditionally known as coordination, clause embedding and
subordination, moving beyond the simplex clause to the complex
clause. In Chapter 4, Butler covers further aspects of discourse with
regard to FG, RRG and SFG. In Chapter 5, he looks at
structural-functionalist accounts of language acquisition and at the
work which has been supplied by systemic linguistics on language in
education. In Chapter 6, Butler offers a final assessment of the three

Thus one could describe the overall structure of the chapters in the
following way: while the first three chapters deal with the subjects
of illocution, information structuring including topic and focus,
theme and rheme, given and new information, and clause combining
within complex sentences, Chapter 4 considers approaches to discourse,
text and context across the three theories. Chapter 5 extends to
language acquisition and language education as well as to
structural-functional views of computational linguistics, stylistics,
translation, contrastive studies and language pathology. The closing
chapter examines the extent to which each theory attains the goals it
sets for itself. It then sketches a programme for the development of
an integrated approach responding to a range of criteria of
descriptive and explanatory adequacy.

Here are the details of the chapters: Chapter 1 centers on the
treatment of illocution in FG, RRG and SFG. This involves the extent
to which illocution is dealt with as part of the grammar and how
aspects which are not considered as part of the grammar can be
handled. It furthermore elaborates on the relationship between
illocution and categories such as declarative, interrogative,
imperative and exclamative, and the relationship between illocution
and intonation. For his cross-theoretical comparison, Butler presents
Dik's view of illocution in FG, which operates upon an illocutionary
variable and which Butler juxtaposes with critiques of Dik's position
and alternative proposals. These in turn make a discussion about the
relationship of grammar and pragmatics within the area of illocution

Butler moves on to illocution in RRG, which has not been treated in
detail in the literature. Language as a means of communication has to
have means of conveying the basic communication functions, of which
there are three according to RRG: making statements, asking questions
and issuing commands. In this respect, the terminology of RRG should
be noted: its labels such as declarative and interrogative are used to
refer to different illocutionary forces and not to the grammatical
constructions by which they are realised (cp. Lascarides & Asher
(2003), Sassen (2003):56 for more detail on this). Illocutionary
forces may be realised by a wealth of types which are however not
considered as universal. For SFG, Butler summarises the account of
illocutionary and related phenomena presented by Halliday and others
within the Sydney grammar and then continues with the treatment put
forward by the Cardiff grammar. Note that Halliday does not use the
term ''illocution'' in his approach, presumably because his proposal
is more sociologically-based, rather than
philosophically-oriented. Butler adds Matthiessen's approach which to
some part amplifies Halliday's account. With regard to problems and
defenses, Huddleston questioning Halliday's claim that a single
meaning can be recognised for the Subject function is presented,
furthermore Matthiessen & Martin's reaction to Huddleston about the
Subject and finally objections by Hasan & Fries are discussed. Then
there is also a brief discussion of mood and speech function in
languages other than English, such as French and Japanese. Butler
closes Chapter 1 by reflections upon illocution and mood in the
Cardiff grammar and other systemically-oriented approaches and in the
end, he compares FG, RRG and SFG with regard to illocutions.

Chapter 2 covers the treatment of information structuring in the three
grammars which involves the areas of topic, focus, given and new
information as well as the topics of theme and rheme adapted by SFG
from Prague School linguistics. What is more, Butler also discusses
matters concerned with voice on the grounds that voice alternations
can be seen as different ways of presenting the information content of
the clause.

The chapter starts off with Dik's account of pragmatic functions with
regard to topicality and focality, topic and focus. Since Dik's
account has given rise to considerable criticism within the FG
community, other approaches to pragmatic functions in FG are presented
in the ensuing section. The criticism ranges from the definition and
identification of pragmatic functions, problems and extensions on
topic, focus and extraclausal pragmatic functions to pragmatic
functions in relation to standards of adequacy. Then Butler treats
information structure in the simplex clause in RRG which he introduces
by means of the nature of informativity. When commenting on focus as
represented by Van Valin & LaPolla, he stresses its coding and
discusses it together with the scope of negation, quantification and
pronominalisation. In addition he extends his reviews to focus
structure and linking. Problems and extensions are considered in the
concluding section, viz. the critical points made by Gomez-Gonzalez
and Han. With information structure in SFG, there is a detailed
account of theme and rheme as proposed by Halliday. Expansions on
Halliday's system networks by Matthiessen follow as well as thoughts
on voice in SFG. In addition, modifications, alternatives and
extensions to Halliday's account are treated to a large extent,
notably Huddleston's critical account. A discussion of information
structure in the Cardiff grammar follows, which emphasises theme and
voice and processing chunks of information. Chapter 2 ends in a
comparison of approaches where topicality, or more precisely types of
clausal topic and their realisation are emphasised. With regard to the
related topic of focality, Butler concentrates on prosodic prominence,
ways of realising focus and grammatical constructions. An alternative
perspective is offered with respect to the importance of position in
the clause as an indicator of informational status. The chapter
concludes with a comparison of how voice is treated in the three
grammatical approaches.

In Chapter 3, Butler moves beyond the simplex clause to discuss the
three approaches of FG, RRG and SFG to the structure and meaning of
complex sentences, still within the scope of grammar
itself. Therefore, he discusses the phenomena traditionally known as
coordination, clause embedding and subordination. In order to discuss
complex sentences in FG, the semantic basis of complex sentence
formation is introduced which covers aspects such as coordination and
embedding. Complex sentences in RRG are introduced by notions of
nexus, juncture and their relationships, including clause-linkage
markers and the Interclausal Relations Hierarchy. On top, focus
structure in complex sentences and clausal postmodification in noun
phrases play a role. The Sydney grammar account is featured for the
approach in SFG including the concepts of clause complex and sequence,
types of relationship between clauses, parataxis and hypotaxis and
logico-semantic relations. The treatment of the Sydney grammar is
terminated by the relationship between lexicogrammar and semantics in
the area of the clause complex. Butler then touches upon complex
sentences in the Cardiff grammar. In the concluding comparison of the
grammatical approaches, complex sentences are treated under three main
headings: units involved in complexing in relation to the layered
structure of clauses, the nature of the relationships between the
units and the relationships between semantics and syntax in this
area. Matters concerned with language typology are discussed on the
way. The chapter finishes with a description of four example sentences
in terms of each approach.

Chapter 4 integrates additional aspects of discourse and text. With
regard to FG, Butler discerns several strands to issues relating to
texts and their underlying discourses. He concentrates on those
aspects which have not been dealt with in detail in earlier chapters:
a classification of approaches, modelling discourse by analogy with
grammar, modular approaches, reconciling the upward layering and
modular approaches and models oriented towards processing. Butler's
review of RRG sets out to present the approach of Van Valin &
LaPolla. Although no model of discourse or of text structure has been
developed within RRG, they assign a key role in the theory to
discourse pragmatics. Within the field of SFG, Butler concentrates on
further aspects of discourse and text, grammar and meaning in Sydney
SFG. He makes some brief general comments about important work on
cohesion by Halliday & Hasan and then looks at SFG work on discourse
and text under two broad headings: on the one hand, discourse and text
in relation to metafunction which includes experiential and logical
components of the ideational function. On the other hand, Butler
refers to relationships between discourse, text and context. They are
followed by a summary of work on discourse and text in the Cardiff
version of SFG and another comparison of the grammatical approaches.

Chapter 5 obtains a special status in that Butler discusses
applications of the grammars in two further areas: the position taken
by FG, RRG and SFG on first or second language learning, by the child
acquiring a native language and by learners of varying age as a second
or a foreign language. Further how the grammars can be put to use in
various applications such as computational linguistics, stylistics,
translation or clinical linguistics. The areas dealt with in this
chapter are nevertheless less central to the main concerns of the book
than those in previous chapters.

Chapter 6 offers a final critical look at the theories under
discussion. The focus is on the extent to which they achieve the
various goals to which a structural-functional grammar might
aspire. Butler reviews each theory with regard to the following two
aspects: the criteria of adequacy which are considered as important by
proponents of the theory themselves and whether even a good
approximation to adequacy in a limited number of areas prioritised by
a particular theory is satisfactory. Since Butler finds a negative
answer to the latter, he proposes an alternative composite set of
criteria at which he believes a truly functional theory should aim. He
then discusses the implications of these criteria for the shape of a
new integrated model, reviewing the potential of the various
structural-functional grammars as contributors to such a model. As in
the foregoing chapter, frequent reference is made to the discussion in
earlier chapters and in Volume 1. In this way, the current chapter
acts as a summary of many of the central points raised throughout
Butler's book.

With his impressive book, Butler cements his great expertise in the
area of structure and function. Also those who are not familiar with
FG, RRG and SFG can gain a deeper insight into these theories. Notably
the discussions of controversial views and the frequent use of
diagrams and authentic examples along with a comparison of the
approaches under discussion aid the reader in getting an all-embracing
grasp of the area. Butler's book has a clear structure and is written
in a straight-forward language. Butler's frequent recursions to Volume
1 are helpful for an overall orientation and so are his references
back to previously analysed ideas at the beginning of each major


Lascarides, Alex and Asher, Nicholas (2003). Imperatives in
dialogue. In: Kuehnlein et al. (2003).

Kuehnlein, Peter, Rieser, Hannes and Zeevat, Henk (2003).
Perspectives on Dialogue in the New Millennium. Amsterdam, etc.: John

Sassen, Claudia (2003). An HPSG-based representation model for
illocutionary acts in crisis talk. In: Kuehnlein et al. (2003).
Claudia Sassen is a researcher at the Universitaet Dortmund, Germany. She holds a doctorate in computational linguistics. Her main research topics are corpus linguistics, particularly thematic relations in different kinds of dialogue.