Extending the description of process type within the system of transitivity in delicacy based on Levinian verb classes

Martin Christian Matthias I Matthiessen

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9 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, I report on a long-term research project concerned with the elaboration of the description of the system of PROCESS TYPE (within the overall system of TRANSITIVITY), extending this description in delicacy, or degree of detail. I discuss the background to the research and different approaches that have been taken to the development of more delicate descriptions of PROCESS TYPE. Then I introduce the approach that I have taken - to classify Levin's (1993) verb classes in terms of the systemic functional description of the system of PROCESS TYPE (Halliday 1967/8, 1985). Having outlined the approach, I summarize the outcome of the classificatory project, and go on to identify all the instances where it was necessary to split verb classes and all the cases where it was necessary to add verb classes. I characterize the classification in terms of the cline of delicacy (the continuum between grammar and lexis); in fact, the result of the classificatory project provides strong evidence in favour of Halliday's (1961) hypothesis that lexis can be described as delicate grammar - what he called 'the grammarian's dream'. In addition, I indicate how the result of the classification can be used as a resource in the development of more delicate systemic descriptions of the type pioneered by Hasan (1987) in her pursuit of the grammarian's dream.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-175
Number of pages37
JournalFunctions of Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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