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Review of  The Functional Analysis of English, Second edition

Reviewer: Ali Reza Khormaee
Book Title: The Functional Analysis of English, Second edition
Book Author: Thomas Bloor Meriel Bloor
Publisher: Hodder Education
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
History of Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.2182

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Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 02:15:12 -0700 (PDT)
From: Alireza Khormaee
Subject: The Functional Analysis of English: A Hallidayan Approach, 2nd ed.

AUTHOR: Bloor, Thomas; Bloor, Meriel
TITLE: The Functional Analysis of English, 2nd ed.
SUBTITLE: A Hallidayan Approach
YEAR: 2004

Ali Reza Khormaee, Department of English Literature & Linguistics,
Kordestan University


The book under review is intended as an introduction to Systemic
Functional Grammar (SFG) based on the functional analysis of English. The
theoretical model taken is that of Halliday (1994) and Halliday and
Matthiesen (2004). The audience is considered to be the students new to
English as well as specialists in other fields, such as discourse
analysis, media students and gender studies. The book is organized into
twelve chapters. Chapter 1 and 2 introduce some theoretical principles and
basic terminology. Chapters 3 through 10 illustrate different aspects of
SFG, chapter 11 shows the applications of SFG, and finally chapter 12
gives us a historical overview of certain approaches - past and present.
All the twelve chapters contain a section named "Further Study" which
suggests some related books and papers. Chapters 3 to 10 also include
exercises that get the reader practically engaged in the terms, notions
and concepts introduced.


Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to some theoretical and practical
principles basic to the type of the analysis put forward in the book .
They are as following:

1. Language is a system of meanings .That is, through our language acts,
we produce meaning by means of lexical choices, grammatical resources, and
linguistic forms.
2. Our linguistic choices are mainly unconscious. They are, of course,
heavily dependant on the context.
3. The complex aspects of the situation in which language is used dictate
our way of using language. Different situations necessitate different
4. The unit of study is attested texts- the text being any stretch of
language, spoken or written, for the purpose of real people's
communication in actual circumstances .
5. The main unit of structure and, of course, the major unit of
grammatical analysis is the clause which is itself part of a rank starting
with clause, going through group and word, and ending with morpheme.
6. The term function, which plays a central role in SFG, is generally
divided into three categories: grammatical function, communicative
function, and metafunction. Metafunction is, in turn, classified into
three subcategories, namely ideational (experiential and logical),
interpersonal, and textual metafunctions.

Chapter 2 is also an introductory one. It starts with the parable of a
lunatic dictator banning the technical terms. The parable is used to show
the necessity of terminology in any science, including linguistics. The
authors go on to brief the reader with the nine word classes accepted in
English within SFG. They are noun, pronoun, adjective, numeral,
determiner, verb, preposition, and conjunction. Part of the chapter is
dedicated to defining subject as a context-dependant concept and the tests
used in English for detecting it. A section deals with the notion of group
and introduces nominal group, verbal group, adverbial group, conjunction
group, and prepositional group. The chapter ends with a brief description
of three approaches toward clause, namely "clause as exchange", "clause as
message", and "clause as representation" which are respectively discussed
with more details in chapters 3, 4, and 6.

Chapter 3 deals with the internal structure of the clause. It starts with
a revisiting of subject which includes apposition, tests for detecting
subject in a clause (subject-finite agreement test, question tag test, yes-
no question test), subjects in passive clauses, and dummy subjects. One
section brings us a discussion of the division of the verbal group into
Finite and Predicator and their respective role in turning sentences into
negative and interrogative, dividing clause into Mood (subject + finite)
and Residue (Predicator, Complement, Adjunct), and finally the link
between the system of Mood (indicative vs. imperative) and the system of
Polarity (positive vs. negative) within a clause. In the next section, the
authors, following Berry (1975), treat the concept of Complement as an
element within the clause which fills who or what slot after the verb.
Complements are classified into direct object, indirect object, and
intensive Complements. The pre-final section includes a discussion of
Adjunct as a grammatically optional element in a clause and its
classifications: circumstantial, conjunctive, and modal. The final section
provides the reader with the analysis of a sample text as far as the
internal elements of the clause are concerned. In short, chapter 3 covers
the internal components of the clause: Subject, verbal group, Complement,
and Adjunct. It elaborates on the idea of "clause as exchange".

Chapter 4 brings the information structure and thematic structure of the
clause into focus. First, it discusses the information structure (how the
clause serves as a means of information packaging) and consequently the
context-dependant dichotomy of given/new information in written and spoken
English. A section is dedicated to the thematic structure which introduces
the twin notions of theme and rheme. This section goes on to show that, in
English, subject, Predicator, Complements, and circumstantial Adjunct can
function as theme. It also treats unmarked themes in declaratives,
interrogatives, wh-interrogatives, imperatives, and exclamatives. Marked
theme in declarative clauses is another item covered. This section ends
with some points about simple themes versus multiple themes. The last
section shows the interaction of the thematic and information structure
and the relevant linguistic opportunities and choices this interaction
makes available to speakers/writers. This chapter discusses the notion
of "clause as message".

Chapter 5 is on the textual metafunction. That is, how language users
apply the given-new structure, theme-rheme structure, and cohesive devices
to longer stretches of language in order to give them texture (the quality
of being text). The authors, using an example text, brief us on what the
thematic progression and cohesive devices are, and how they play their
role in "texturizing" any stretch of language. They introduce three common
patterns of thematic progression, namely the constant theme pattern, the
linear theme pattern, and the split rheme pattern. Bloor and Bloor also
discuss the pattern of derived themes. They dedicate the rest of the
chapter to the description of cohesive ties: reference, substitution,
ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion. Reference is limited to
endophoric reference (within the text) and two classification are
presented, cataphoric (forward- looking) and anaphoric (backward-
looking). Reference is also divided into personal, demonstrative, and
comparative. Substitution is defined as a mechanism through which we avoid
the repetition of lexical items, using grammatical resources. It is
subdivided into nominal, verbal, and clausal substitution. Ellipsis is the
omission of words, groups, and clauses with three classifications:
nominal, verbal, and clausal. Lexical cohesion is described as the
choosing of an item based on the previous choices. Reiteration, near-
synonyms, mutually exclusive categories, antonyms, collocations, and
general nouns come under the umbrella of lexical cohesion. We can conclude
that chapter 5 illustrates that how speakers/writers resort to the
linguistic resources (thematic structure, information structure, cohesive
ties) to realize the textual metafunction.

Chapter 6 tells how a clause realizes the ideational metafunction. It
treats the clause as a means of representing the world (clause as
representation). To do this, the authors introduce two crucial concepts,
Process and Participant. Process has two interrelated senses: (1) what is
going on in the clause as a whole; (2) that part of the clause that
encodes the Process, verbal group. Participants are the entities taking
part in the Process. Processes are classified into four major categories:
materia, mental, relational, verbal . Material Process (kill, eat) is an
action-type Process, which is classified into intransitive (involving only
an Actor-Participant), transitive (containing a Goal-Participant in
addition to an Actor), and ditransitive (having a Beneficiary-Participant
in addition to Actor and Goal). Mental Process (see, know) expresses a
psychological event. The related Participants are Senser (the entity
experiencing the Process) and Phenomenon (that which is experienced).
Relational Process is typically encoded by copular verbs, and is divided
into attributive Process in which an Attribute (hungry) is attributed to a
Carrier (John) and identifying Process which involves an Identifier-
Participant and an Identified-Participant (John is his name). Verbal
process includes a Sayer and a Quoted in case of direct speech or a
Reported when dealing with indirect speech. This chapter also provides us
with a discussion of grammatical metaphor in the sense that a congruent
form is substituted by a non-congruent form. There are three types of
grammatical metaphors : experiential in which a process is turned into a
noun ( nominalization ), logical where, for example, two processes of the
type X because Y is rendered into the type X is Y, and interpersonal in
which modal verbs are expressed by adverbs, adjectives, or nouns. A final
short section is on the concept of Circumstance as an element which is
neither a Process nor a Participant and which deals with temporal and
physical settings and the manner in which the Process is realized. This
chapter demonstrates how Process, Participant, and Circumstance within the
clause help language users represent the world, real or imaginary.

Chapter 7 tells us about the structure of the nominal group (head,
modifier: pre-modifier and post-modifier).We are told that modifiers can
be approached from two points of view. Either we can consider them as
elements realizing logical metafunction within the nominal group because
they stand in dependency relation to a head, or we can take them as
constituents materializing experiential metafunction since they tell us
things about the world around us concerning a head. The latter is taken by
the authors for their practical purpose, while not denying the former.
Modifiers as having experiential function are classified into five groups:
deictics (these stations) numeratives (two stations), classifiers (bus
station), epithets (noisy station), and qualifiers (a station over the
corner). The first four ones are all pre-modifiers and the last one is
conflated with post-modifiers. Within the nominal group, the head has the
experiential function of thing, with the thing being general enough to
include anything that can serve as a head, and at the same time
representing a class (station, girl, box, resistance). One section is
dedicated to the difference between prepositional phrases as qualifiers
and prepositional phrases as Adjuncts, and another to the embedding of
prepositional phrases within prepositional phrases when acting as
qualifiers. Two final sections are respectively on the nominal group
complexes and other complexes. In summary, this chapter gives us a general
view of the nominal group structure.

Chapter 8 is on the embedding of clauses. It starts with a discussion of a
clause embedded within a nominal group, and thereby introducing the
notions embedded or rankshifted clause and superordinate clause. The
chapter goes on to provide us with some points on the types of the
embedded clauses within nominal groups (defining or restrictive relative
clauses and non-defining or non-restrictive relative clauses), contact
clauses in which the relative pronoun is omitted and the related stylistic
options, rankshifted clauses in which the relative pronoun is the
complement of a preposition and the relevant stylistic issues, and non-
finite (reduced) relative clauses. A section discusses multiple embedding.
Toward the end of the chapter, a discussion is presented concerning
embedded clauses, whether finite or non-finite, functioning as subject or
Complement, and postposed (extra posed) clauses. This chapter provides, in
each section, a functional analysis of the internal structure of the
clause based on the terms and notions introduced in chapter 3 (subject,
Predicator, Finite, Complement, Adjunct). It gives us a functional view of
the embedding of clauses in English within SFG.

Chapter 9 studies the expansion of a clause by means of producing clause
complexes. These complexes are a combination of two or more clauses
through linking equal clauses called parataxis, or binding one clause to
another in a dependency relationship referred to as hypo- taxis. Linking
equal clauses is carried out using linking conjunctions or linkers (and,
or, so, but) traditionally termed as coordinate conjunctions. In binding
one clause to another, we have one dominant and one dependent clause. The
binding is realized through binding conjunctions or binders traditionally
known as subordinate conjunctions. Three subsections are respectively
about the sequence of clauses when dealing with hypotaxis and parataxis,
non-finite dependent clauses, and the differences between defining
relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses, the most important of
which is considering defining ones as instances of parataxis and non-
defining ones as tokens of hypotaxis. A final section presents us some
examples of more complicated clause complexes, showing instances of
multiple hypotaxis and parataxis.

Chapter 10 looks at clause complexes from a logical point of view. That
is, how a clause projects another (projection vs. expansion). Projection
is of two types. One is paratactic and the other hypotactic. Paratactic
projection involves direct speech or thought where a main clause stands in
parataxis to a clause expressing direct speech or thought ( He said "I saw
it on TV- I thought "This is the end of road for me).Hypotactic projection
includes cases in which a main clause projects another clause representing
an indirect speech or thought (Nick said there were fifty of you - He
thought that the origin had one grave defect). This chapter also briefs on
cases of non-finite projection where we have one clause projecting a non-
finite clause (He told me to do it). There exists a section on grammatical
metaphor (nominalization). This is a process through which a projecting
verb turns into a projecting noun:

He argued that she was wrong.
His argument that she was wrong ...

The difference lies in the fact that, in the former, we have a dependent
clause and in the latter an embedded one. The two final sections provide
us respectively with examples of more complicated clause complexes and
ambiguous clause complexes.

Chapter 11 is designed to show the applications of SFG because the
authors, following Halliday (1994) believe that theories are "means of
action" and must have applications. This is realized by showing the uses
of the functional analysis of English in analyzing scientific texts and
valued texts, and by illustrating how SFG in English can put forward
guidelines and helps in areas such as language development and teaching,
language and power, language and literature, not to mention other areas.
In short, this chapter establishes the point that theories in general and
linguistic theories in particular are not for mere theorizing, hence
denying the idea of theory for the sake of theory . Therefore, reading
through the chapter, we are brought to the conclusion that the functional
analysis of language in general and of English in particular is helpful
because it goes beyond sheer theorizing.

Chapter 12 gives us a historical overview which encompasses the ideas and
theories of the beginning of the twentieth century modern linguistics (de
Saussure), American linguistics(Sapir, Whorf, Bloomfield, Chomsky), the
Prague School (Trubetskoy, Jacobson, Mathesius, Firbas), and founders of
functional linguistics (Malinowski, Firth). It also introduces some
alternative functional approaches, like those of Givon, Dik, and Fawcett.
This chapter tries to demonstrate some affinities and contrasts concerning
SFG as formulated by Halliday.


The Bloor and Bloor's book has an accessible style. Reading the book, the
reader feels safe and home with the basics of SFG analytic framework and
can approach other more detailed introductions and more technical books
and papers. The followings are among its merits:
1. Real authentic examples;
2. Clear definitions, descriptions, and classifications;
3. Exercises and the answer key;
4. The "Further Study" section; and
5. The glossary.


Berry, M. (1975) Introduction to Systemic Linguistics: 1. Structures and
Systems. London:Batsford.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994) Introduction to Functional Grammar. London:
Edward Arnold.

Halliday M. A. K. & C. M. I. M. Matthiesen (2004) An Introduction to
Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.


I have a Ph. D. in linguistics from Tehran University. My area of interest
is syntax-information structure interface. The title of my Ph. D.
dissertation is "Noun Phrase Topicalization in Persian: A
Syntactodiscoursal Approach" in which I studied noun phrase topicalization
based on two approaches, namely Government & Binding and information
structure, and arguing for the merits of the information structure
approach over Government & Binding.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 034080680X
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 288pp
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