Cline of instantiation

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The “cline of instantiation” is a linguistic term within the systemic functional linguistics theory.

According to Michael Halliday, instantiation is “the relation between an instance and the system that lies behind it”. It is a “based on memory and is a feature of all systemic behaviour.[1]

The cline of instantiation has two poles. At one end is “instance”; at the other end is the “system”, the whole potential to which the instance relates. In the study of language and other phenomena, including other semiotic phenomena, what one can observe is an instance of an underlying potential.

Halliday borrows the distinction between “weather” and “climate” to explain this relation. We can observe the weather on a day by day basis. Over time we build up a picture of a climate. Weather and climate are not distinct phenomena, but different perspectives on the same phenomena.[2]

The notion of “cline of instantiation” reconciles the distinction between “langue” and “parole” separated by Ferdinand de Saussure, a separation maintained by Noam Chomsky, although renamed “competence” and “performance”. Halliday argues this dichotomy has done considerable harm to linguistics as a discipline [3]

Halliday follows Hjelmslev in seeing linguistics at the study of both instances of language and the linguistic system. He argues that linguists must take both into account: “For a linguist, to describe language without accounting for text is sterile; to describe text without relating it to the system is vacuous” [4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Halliday, M.A.K. 2003. On the "architecture" of human language. In "On Language and Linguistics". Volume 3 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London and New York: Equinox. p. 27.
  2. ^ Halliday, M.A.K. 2003. On the "architecture" of human language. In "On Language and Linguistics". Volume 3 in the Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London and New York: Equinox. p. 27.
  3. ^ Halliday Linguistics as Metaphor p. 259.
  4. ^ Halliday, M.A.K. 1985. Systemic Background. In "Systemic Perspectives on Discourse, Vol. 1: Selected Theoretical Papers" from the Ninth International Systemic Workshop, James D. Benson and William S. Greaves (eds). Ablex. Reprinted in full in Volume 3 in The Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday. London: Continuum. p. 196.