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Title: Text analysis with a systemic functional approach: Analyzing US presidential inaugural address
Authors: Huen, Kam Lun Benjamin (禤錦麟)
Department: Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Issue Date: 2011
Course: CTL4235 Project
Programme: Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Linguistics and Language Technology
Instructor: Dr. Lun, Suen Caesar
Subjects: Discourse analysis.
Systemic grammar.
Presidents -- United States -- Inaugural addresses.
Citation: Huen, K. L. B. (2011). Text analysis with a systemic functional approach: Analyzing US presidential inaugural address (Outstanding Academic Papers by Students (OAPS)). Retrieved from City University of Hong Kong, CityU Institutional Repository.
Abstract: Systemic functional linguistics, according to Halliday, considers language as a system for expressing meaning in context. Most generally it is applied to understand the quality of texts, the most authentic products of human social interaction: why a text means what it does, and why it is valued as it is. Viewing language as a strategic, meaning-making resource, systemic functional linguistics develops a theory about language as social process as well as an analytical methodology which permits the detailed and systematic description of language patterns. In this project, there is an introduction of systemicists’ view on language and grammar. And besides concepts and theories are being discussed, practical techniques of the theoretical approach on how to observe system of lexicogrammar will be exemplified. In order to understand and explore systemic functional linguistics more thoroughly, two American presidential inaugural addresses, Obama’s and Bush’s, are the texts being studied with the aid of the expounded concepts and methods. Obama’s is analyzed in detail with a systemic functional approach and Bush’s as reference to compare with. These two texts of political speeches with similar purposes and contexts are examined by being parsed into clauses, having their transitivity structure, thematic progression, clause-complex logical relations and the organization of functionally-significant text spans studied etc. The findings are illustrated at two levels: within the clause and beyond the clause. It is found that in Obama’s speech, the writer tends to employ one to two types of transitivity structure with stable processes type plus participants. The choice of theme also shows the topical focus of the text, as it is found that there is a small number of themes being used with one thematic structure spotted throughout the text. The analysis across clause shows that similar structured clauses are often put together as span and contribute to the texts in parallel. The rhetorical structure of the whole speech also shows how text spans are organized seemingly according to the way that the writer may intend to express with purpose. Comparing to Bush’s speech, it is found that they show both similarities and differences on lexicogrammatical choices. From this analysis of the lexicogrammar, it is shown that to a certain extent it is possible to understand and even anticipate how one is managing his/her language use in order to make sense in the process of communication and indicate his/her emphasis and purpose. Moreover, the findings of the analysis may suggest that text is never an individual text, as they show strata and functional patterns in achieving communicative and non-communicative purpose. Thus comprehensible text is always interrelated to context, culture and perhaps also genre.
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