Grammatical metaphor

Authored by: Miriam Taverniers

The Routledge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415748407
eBook ISBN: 9781315413891
Adobe ISBN: 9781315413884


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One possible way of defining grammatical metaphor that can usefully be taken as a starting point is the notion of ‘congruence’. In this perspective, expressions that are regarded as examples of grammatical metaphor are ‘incongruent’ in that they depart in one way or another (to be specified shortly) from the ‘default’ or ‘congruent’ way in which ‘the same meaning’ can be expressed. For instance, ideational meanings are typically realised in the clause by means of process configurations – that is, constellations of a process, participants and circumstances: in example (1a), you examine [a] model, you . . . conclude that [something is the case]. Clauses are congruently linked by means of conjunctions or other types of connective, for example if in example (1a). Example (1b) departs from this mode of expression: here, two configurations are realised as nominal groups – namely, an examination of any typical model and the conclusion that this is not possible – and the link between the two is realised as a modalised relational process, will lead to. Nominalisations and the realisation of a configuration link by means of a relational process are regarded as ideational grammatical metaphors in systemic functional linguistics (SFL) (Halliday 1985a).

(1a) If you examine any typical model, you will conclude that this (type of damage) is not possible.

(1b) one of the most common types of damage which the novice pilot is likely to inflict on his model is that caused by one of the main rotor blades coming into contact with the tailboom. An examination of any typical model will lead to the conclusion that this is not possible. 1

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