Macquarie University
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Staging the reality principle: systemic-functional linguistics and the context of theatre

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posted on 2022-03-28, 12:45 authored by Catherine Alene Martin
The parallel between theatre and social reality, a familiar theme in dramatic texts and sociological theories, becomes increasingly interesting in view of theories that reality is socially constructed through language. The paradox created by this situation motivates the investigation in this project. A systemic-functional model for theatrical performance is developed as a strategy for studying the theatrical context more closely. This framework is closely based on Halliday's linguistic model. It incorporates a set of units for theatrical performance and displays some of the 'meaning potential' of the theatre in semantic networks. One theatrical unit in particular is the focus of the study. This is the unit of "Beat" . Beat is, in the first place, derived from the craft of theatre, but its definitions and applications are elaborated and clarified within this framework. The framework also draws closely on similar projects in the visual arts, such as O'Toole (1994) and Kress and van Leeuwen (1996) and on other semiotic theories of theatre (such as Melrose 1994). Halliday's metafunctional hypothesis is tested in relation to the theatrical context, and both similarities and points of difference between the semiotic contexts of language and theatre are discussed with reference to the metafunctions and units. Throughout the discussion it is suggested that the units and networks offer a valuable resource for a range of participants in the theatrical context as well as serving the purposes of the research. In the latter part of the thesis, the proposed units and semantic networks are used to carry outa detailed analysis of a particular theatrical performance, with the aims both of testing their value and of shedding light on the central problem. The analysis reveals intricate patterning in the theatrical performance that yields insight into the semiotic intensity of the theatrical context. The systemic-functional model that is developed for theatrical performance, together with the analysis of the performance, make it possible to offer suggestions as to why theatre is a unique context.



Typescript. Bibliography: p. 437-445 (v. 1)

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University

Department, Centre or School

School of English, Linguistics and Media

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David Butt


Copyright Catherine Alene Martin 1997. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (2 v., bound) ill

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