This book has been written primarily for undergraduate and graduate students of English as a foreign or second language. It is also addressed to tutors and others interested in applying a broadly functional approach to language teaching in higher education. It assumes an intermediate standard of knowledge and practical handling of the language and, from this point of departure, seeks to fulfil the following aims:
- to further students’ knowledge of English through exploration and analysis;
- to help students acquire a global vision of English, rather than concentrate on unrelated areas;
- to see a grammar as providing a means of understanding the relation of form to meaning, and meaning to function, in context;
- to provide a basic terminology which, within this framework, will enable students to make these relationships explicit.
While not pretending to be exhaustive, which would be impossible, its wide coverage and functional approach have been found appropriate not only in first-degree courses but also in postgraduate courses and as a background resource for courses, publications and work on translation, stylistics, reading projects and discourse studies.
A FUNCTIONAL APPROACH TO GRAMMAR
We distinguish several ways in which grammar is functional. In the first place, adopting a broadly systemic-functional view, we base our approach on the assumption that all languages fulfil two higher-level or meta-functions in our lives. One is to express our interpretation of the world as we experience it (sometimes called the ‘ideational’ or the ‘representational’ function); the other is to interact with others in order to bring about changes in the environment (the ‘interpersonal’ function). The organisation of the message in such a way as to enable representation and interaction to cohere represents a third (the ‘textual’ meta-function), and this, too, is given its place in a functional grammar.
In the second place, the regular patterns of different kinds that can be distinguished reflect the uses which a language serves. For instance, the structural patterns known as ‘declarative’, ‘interrogative’ and ‘imperative’ serve the purposes of expressing a multitude of types of social behaviour. In this area we draw on the pragmatic concepts of speech act, politeness, relevance and inference to explain how speakers use and interpret linguistic forms and sequences in English within cultural settings.
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