Macquarie University
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Investigating casual conversation: a systemic functional linguistic and social network model of analysing social reality

posted on 2022-03-29, 02:11 authored by Paula McAndrew
This research is concerned with the study of language and the social order. Working within the systemic functional theory of language, and utilising the concept of a social network to model the social order, the primary aim is to put on display the relationship between the linguistic system and social order, between language and culture. Systemic functional grammar (Halliday, 1995; Halliday and Hasasn, 1985/9; Halliday and Matthiesen, 1997; Eggins and Slade 1997), with its emphasis on language as a social semiotic, is used to analyse the language used by a group of four women engaged in casual conversation in a small Australian island community. Here the analysis reveals how the women negotiate their social reality when speaking to each other. It shows how their social relations are shaped within a text (Hasan, 1996), and explores the notion that, despite the seemingly trivial, unconscious nature of casual interactions, power and solidarity are continually being negotiated by the participants (Halliday, 1994; Eggins and Slade, 1997). More specifically, this research examines the notion that through lexico-grammatical and semantic selections participants are able to negotiate dominant positions in interaction. Social Network analysis has been used to examine the relationship between the individual and the group. It offers a quantifiable analytical tool for describing the character of an individual's everyday social relationships (Milroy, 1987). A social network analysis is used in the present study to map the social relationships in the tight-knit network, or speech fellowship, of these women (creating a map of the context of situation in SFL terminology). Change in the social relationships and language choices is modeled by revisiting the participants 15 months later in a contextually similar environment and re-analysing the network and linguistic options. Systemic functional linguistics is then used to highlight the interdependency of language and social order. Through systematic accounts of language and the context in which it is embedded this reciprocal nature is displayed and language and social order can be seen, not as two distinct entities, but rather as one phenomena seen from two different perspectives (Halliday, 1978; Mathiessen, 1993).


Alternative Title

Systemic functional linguistic and social network model of analysing social reality

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Language from a systemic functional perspective -- Social networks: a review of literature relevant to the Scotland Island study -- Methodology -- Analysing relational ties: a social network perspective -- A systemic functional approach to analysing social reality -- Discussion and conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 285-291 "November 2001".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Linguistics and Psychology, Dept. of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David Butt


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Paula McAndrew 2002.




v, 291 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:6264 1346550