Finding out personal viewpoint
by means of grammatical features
Cinthia E. Scholles
Universidad Nacional del Litoral – UNaM
When expressing ideas a speaker or writer has to make the very personal decision to state his/her point of view subjectively or objectively, denying responsibility for what is being expressed. The purpose of this paper is to identify and analyze the grammatical features used in a written text to express writer’s personal point of view about what is said. It does so from a Systemic Functional Linguistic standpoint. More specifically the author looks merely at the interpersonal and textual metafunctions. The text selected for this analysis is The Human Mind versus the Compute. The author, TOM HYLAND, grammaticalises his opinion at different levels of commitment according to the previously mentioned Systematic Functional Linguistic perspective.
According to Thompson (1996) “the main purpose of communicating is to interact with other people: to maintain appropriate social links with them” (p. 38). This idea of communication is closely related to our ability of choosing among the wider range of possibilities, as Halliday calls them the series of system networks, our mind displays in the precise moment of speaking or writing. Along with this concept, a crucial factor that can be considered as the key point here is the context of interaction, that is, the environment of a social man from which we can explore the functional view of language. These are some of the principles underlying Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) that are to be taken into account for the analysis of the text selected since our aim is not only to identify but also to analyze the grammatical features chosen to support the linguistic function required at a particular time, in a specific context and with a clear purpose. Following the SFL approach, this paper goes into the interpersonal and textual metafunctions to discover the grammatical features used in the elected text to express a personal perspective through the texture presented. So by means of a systemic functional analysis we hope to be able to uncover or decode the writer’s point of view in relation to the topic dealt.
After having read the text, it can be seen that the text genre corresponds to a kind of journalistic article in which the author expresses a subjective viewpoint regarding the relationship between technology and human beings in our days. He states from the very beginning the main aspects he considers fundamental of the human being rising at the same time, an awareness of the distinction between humans and computers. The author chooses to open the article with an if-clause followed by two rhetorical questions realized by interrogative clauses so as to persuade the reader to revise his/her previous knowledge and personal view with reference to the characteristics of human beings and computers which will be the main topic of the article. Throughout the development of the text we can see how topicality is maintained via cohesive resources such as reference and ellipsis. Eg: If you had to pick one particular aspect, quality, or trait that was the major difference between the two, what would it be? Apart from these general features about the text, our concern here is the grammatical components used in the text to construe the author’s standpoint concerning the relationship between technology and human beings. If we examine the text from a mood analysis perspective we would see that in some cases the author selects the finite so as to affirm the validity of the propositions presented. This could be exemplified in the first sentence of the second paragraph: Eg: Without the brain, the human body could not function. It would not have the mobility to even locate another of its species of the opposite sex, let alone recognize this necessary partner, and know what to do with her (him) afterwards...