Macquarie University
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The systemic functional grammar of Chinese nominal groups: a text-based approach

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:32 authored by Jing Fang
For the past two decades, great efforts have been made in the systemic functional description of English and many other languages including Chinese at the clause level. However, very few descriptive work has been done at the group/phrase level. As an attempt to fill in the gap, this thesis extends the lexicogrammatical study to the level of nominal groups, focusing on Mandarin Chinese in particular. Drawing upon a corpus of 180 quality texts of different text types, the investigation is heavily text-based: the nominal groups are observed in the environment of clauses, sentences, paragraphs and texts in contexts. The description of Chinese nominal groups is unfolded on the basis of Halliday’s metafunctional model, exploring the metafunctional resources that Chinese nominal groups provide in realising the three strands of meaning: ideational (including logical and experiential), interpersonal and textual meanings. Through the investigation of each metafunction, some important systems within the nominal group are presented, which provide selections in realising the metafunctional meanings. In terms of logical metafunction, the system of MODIFICATION is presented. In terms of experiential metafunction, the systems presented include THING TYPE, CLASSIFICATION, EPITHESIS, QUALIFICATION, and MEASURE. In terms of interpersonal metafunction, the system of PERSON is introduced. And finally, in terms of textual metafunction, the exploration includes the system of NAMING, the system of IDENTIFICATION, and the system of NUMERATION. Major selections on each of these systems are discussed in detail, with examples demonstrating the potential lexicogrammatical choices. Apart from the exploration of the systems, another focus of the study is on the potential application of the findings to other areas. For this purpose, at the end of each metafunctional exploration, a case study involving different types of texts is presented, demonstrating the significance of nominal groups in their contributions to the metafunctional meanings. The case studies are designed to explore different issues in relation to the use of nominal groups, including the modification structure of the nominal groups and its relation with text types (in the logical exploration), the experiential environment of Thing type choices in different types of texts (in the experiential exploration), the choice of nominal groups in enacting different attitudes (in the interpersonal exploration), and challenges of cohesion and coherence in machine translation presented by nominal groups (in the textual exploration). Through in-depth metafunctional exploration of the nominal gorups, as well as illustrative case studies, this research is expected to contribute to the development of language typology in Systemic Functional Linguistics, as well as other areas including delicate discourse analysis, the study of Chinese language, and machine translation research.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Methodology -- Chapter 3. Logical resources of Chinese nominal groups -- Chapter 4. Experiential resources of Chinese nominal groups -- Chapter 5. Interpersonal resources of Chinese nominal groups -- Chapter 6. Textual resources of Chinese nominal groups -- Chapter 7. Summary and conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: leaves 249-253

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Canzhong Wu

Additional Supervisor 1

Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen


Copyright Jing Fang 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xvi, 271 leaves) map, diagrams, tables

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