School of Humanities and
(Formal & Functional Grammar)
Dr Dariush Izadi
Acknowledgement of the Country
Western Sydney University acknowledges the peoples
of the Darug, Tharawal, Eora and Wiradjuri nations. We
acknowledge that the teaching, learning and research
undertaken across our campuses continues the
teaching, learning and research that has occurred on
these lands for tens of thousands of years.
Coffin, C., Donohue, Jim, North, Sarah, &
Taylor & Francis. (2009). Exploring English
grammar: From formal to functional. London;
New York: Routledge.
In weeks 1 & 2 we explore:
1) word classes
2) rank and constituency
Weeks 1 &2: Chapter 1 of
Coffin, C., Donohue, Jim, North, Sarah, & Taylor & Francis.
(2009). Exploring English grammar: From formal to
functional. London; New York: Routledge.
Weeks 1 & 2
The focus of Halliday’s linguistic description (Functional
Grammar) is to answer the following question:
How does language work?
For Halliday (1978):
o language is a meaning-making resource
o Language as a meaning potential (e.g., there’s a police
officer near here)
o linguistics is the study of meaning in society
Halliday’s Functional Grammar
o On the other hand, formal grammar
focuses on the structure of language.
o Formal grammar is more concerned
with the correctness of language and
the way in which it conforms to
o E.g., There *is* a lot of people in this
What is grammar?
•‘Bad’ grammar vs ‘good’ grammar?
•Can start with word classes
•Can pull sentences apart – parsing
•Rules – determining and abiding by
A robust account of language needs descriptions of both form and function.
Let’s take one clause, from the then US president George W. Bush after 9/11
Enemies of freedom attacked our country.
Enemies of freedom
Actor (nominal group)
Process (verbal group)
Goal (nominal group)
Subject (noun phrases)
Object (noun phrase)
ii. Communicative, and
iii. Systemic functional.
Coffin et. al (2009, p. 8)
Perspectives on grammar
They focus on grammatical forms
but explore what these forms are
It reconsiders grammatical forms in terms of
which forms we use, in which contexts, for
Language as social semiotic
a) What is a semiotic system?
A system of signs that make meaning, e.g., language, art,
dance, music, dress etc.
b) What does ‘social semiotic’ mean?
oSocial here is synonymous with the “culture”.
oThe relationships between language and social structure
TASK 1: What’s going on here?
(Adapted from Jaworski & Coupland, 2014)
Read the following conversation between an 8-year-old daughter and her mother and
explain how it exemplifies the concept of language as social semiotic.
(NB: The interaction is talking place at the door and Mrs Thomson is the cleaner).
Task 2: Discussion question
1) In your group, decide how many word classes
there are in English, provide names and examples
2) Develop an explanation of what a word class is,
outlining why the term is/is not useful?
Each ‘part of speech’ is a word-class – a term that can be used
for classifying words as ‘nouns’, ‘verbs’, ‘adjectives’…
a) Nouns (emotion, loudness)
b) Adjectives (loud, emotional)
c) Adverbs (loudly, clearly, emotionally)
d) Verbs (run, walk, listen)
e) Conjunctions (and, or…)
f) Pronouns (him, her, his)
g) Interjections (yay, oh expressing emotions)
h) Prepositions (in, on, at…)
i) Determines (specifying things such as “the”, “his” and “one”
1) Develop an explanation of what a word class is, outlining why the terms is/is
o Identifying the word-class of words is a beginning, but its real value depends
on what the labelling is used for.
o The boundaries between word classes are not always clear-cut. Some words,
such as “partly,” can function as both adverbs and prepositions, and some
linguists argue that certain words, such as “if” and “that,” do not fit neatly into
any one category.
Task 3: Discussion question
Using the list, definitions, and examples you have
developed, identify the word classes of the words in the
following texts (next slide).
Please note that a copy of the text for analysis entitled
“Word classes” is also available on the vWSU site (Under
the Weeks 1-2 tab).
Task 4: Analysis task
Our English -teaching qualifications, professional development materials, and teaching resources are based
on in-depth research. With our unrivalled depth of experience in national education systems, international
education and English language learning, we are trusted by governments, schools and teachers around the
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We help teachers prepare for a lifetime of success in the classroom. Driven by our belief that better
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and prove their skills to the world.
Task 4: Analysis task
Noun (n) Adjective (adj) Preposition (prep) Determiner (det)
Verb (v) Adverb (adv) Conjunction (conj) Pronouns (pron)
Our (det) English (n) teaching (n/v+ing) qualifications (n), professional (adj) development (n) materials (n),
and (conj) teaching (n/v) resources (n) are (v) based (adj) on (prep) in-depth (adj) research(n). With (prep)
our (det) unrivalled (adj) depth (n) of (prep) experience (n) in (prep) national (adj) education (n) systems (n),
international (adj) education (n) and (conj) English (n) language(n) learning(v), we (pron) are trusted (v) by
(prep) governments(n), schools (n) and (conj) teachers (n) around (prep) the (det) world (n) to (prep)
improve (v) learning (n) outcomes (n) for (prep) students(n).
We (pron) help (v) teachers (n) prepare (v) for (prep) a (det) lifetime (n) of (prep) success (n) in(prep)
the(det) classroom(n). Driven(v) by (prep) our (det) belief (n) that (det) better(adj) teaching (n) leads (v) to
(prep) better (adj) outcomes (n) for (prep) learners(n), we (pron) work (v) closely (adv) with (prep) teachers
(n) to (prep) help (v) people(n) learn (v) English (n) and (conj) prove (v) their(det) skills(n) to (prep) the (det)
Sentence parsing refers to dividing a sentence into
grammatical parts and identifying the parts and their relations
to each other.
Note: While word classes only apply to individual words (e.g.,
horse, big, the), the terms subject, verb, and object can apply to
groups of words as well.
The horse is jumping the fence.
Sentence parsing: groups
o In modern grammar, even in sentences where
each element is only one word, words are
seen as parts of groups.
When there is more than one word in a group, a
particular word is treated as the main word, and the
group is named after that word.
The big horse is jumping the fence.
Sentence parsing: groups (cont.)
Let’s parse the same text and its sentences.
Sentence parsing: groups (cont.)
Step 1- Identify the Subject–verb–object
Step 2 – Identify the nominal group
Step 3- Label each of the words using the word-class abbreviations
Our English -teaching
development materials, and
on in-depth research
Our English -teaching qualifications, professional development
materials, and teaching resources are based on in-depth research.