Volume 11, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


This paper reports on patterns of verb choice in identifying relational clauses (e.g. ‘X is Y, Y is X’) in English technical manuals. While it is obvious that specific lexical verbs will feature in identifying clauses of different functions, e.g. (defining), (naming), (exemplifying), less transparent is the distribution of these more specific verbs and the general or neutral verb . The findings suggest that verb choice in (technical) identifying clauses is strongly associated with the degree of equivalence constructed between the two central nominal groups in the clause (the Token and Value). Equivalence relations are one-to-one (rather than one-to-many) and exhaustive (rather than semantically open). Major grammatical influences on equivalence include nominal group structure, ergativity of the clause, and the inclusion of features (e.g. interpersonal, logical or textual) that undermine the privileging of an experientially homogeneous world-view. The results challenge the notions that and specific verbs are interchangeable and that is an unmarked choice. On the contrary, the data reveal that under certain conditions is the more marked choice. The results have practical implications for teachers and students of English (in particular, students of English for Academic and/or Specific Purposes) as well as translators.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Davidse, K
    (1991) Categories of experiential grammar. Ph.D. thesis, University of Leuven.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. (1992a) A semiotic approach to relational clauses. Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics6: 99-131.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. (1992b) Transitivity/ergativity: The janus-headed grammar of actions and events. In M. Davies & L. Ravelli (eds.), Advances in systemic linguistics: Recent theory and practice. London: Pinter, pp. 103-135.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. (1996) Turning grammar on itself: Identifying clauses in linguistic discourse. In M. Berry , C. Butler , R. Fawcett & G. Huang (eds.), Meaning and form:Systemic functional interpretations (Meaning and choice in language: Studies for Michael Halliday). Ablex: Norwood, New Jersey, pp. 367-393.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Flowerdew, J
    (1991) Pragmatic modifications on the ‘representative’ speech act of defining. Journal of Pragmatics15: 253-264. doi: 10.1016/0378‑2166(91)90013‑N
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(91)90013-N [Google Scholar]
  6. Fries, P
    (1994) On theme, rheme and discourse goals. In M. Coulthard (ed.), Advances in written text analysis. London: Routledge, pp. 229-249.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Givón, T
    (1995) Functionalism and grammar. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/z.74
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.74 [Google Scholar]
  8. Halliday, M.A.K
    (1967) Notes on transitivity and theme in English (Parts 1 and 2). Journal of Linguistics3.1: 37-81 & 3.2: 199-244. doi: 10.1017/S0022226700012949
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700012949 [Google Scholar]
  9. (1968) Notes on transitivity and theme in English (Part 3). Journal of Linguistics4.2: 179- 215. doi: 10.1017/S0022226700001882
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700001882 [Google Scholar]
  10. (1978) Language as social semiotic. London: Edward Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. (1982) The de-automatization of grammar: From Priestly’s ‘An Inspector Calls’. In J. Anderson (ed.), Language form and linguistic variation: Papers dedicated to Angus McIntosh. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 129-59. doi: 10.1075/cilt.15.09hal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.15.09hal [Google Scholar]
  12. (1988) On the ineffability of grammatical categories. In J. Benson , M. Cummings & W. Greaves (eds.), Linguistics in a systemic perspective. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 27-51. doi: 10.1075/cilt.39.03hal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.39.03hal [Google Scholar]
  13. (1991a) Corpus studies and probabilistic grammar. In K. Aijer & B. Altenberg (eds.), English corpus linguistics: Studies in honour of Jan Svartvik. London & New York: Longman, pp. 30-43.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. (1991b) Towards probabilistic interpretations. In E. Ventola (ed.)Functional and systemic linguistics: Approaches and uses. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 39-61.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. (1994) Introduction to functional grammar. (2nd Ed.) London: Edward Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Halliday, M.A.K. & R. Hasan
    (1976) Cohesion in English. London & New York: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Halliday, M.A.K. & J. R. Martin
    (1993) Writing science: Literacy and discursive power. London: Falmer.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Halliday, M.A.K. & Z. James
    (1993) A quantitative study of polarity and primary tense in the English finite clause. In J. Sinclair , M. Hoey & G. Fox (eds.), Techniques of description: Spoken and written discourse. London: Routledge, pp. 32-66.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Harvey, A
    (1996) Equivalence and depersonalisation in definitions: An exploration of lexicogrammatical and rhetorical patterns in English technical discourse. Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. (1999) Definitions in English technical discourse: A study in metafunctional dominance and interaction. Functions of Language6.1: 53-94. doi: 10.1075/fol.6.1.03har
    https://doi.org/10.1075/fol.6.1.03har [Google Scholar]
  21. Jakobson, R
    (1932/1984) The structure of the Russian verb. In L. Waugh & M. Halle (eds.), Russian and Slavic grammar studies, 1931-1981. Berlin, New York & Amsterdam: Mouton, pp. 1-14.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Langacker, R
    (1987) Foundations of cognitive grammar. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Lemke, J
    (1990a) Talking science: Language, learning and values. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. (1990b) Technical discourse and technocratic ideology. In M.A.K. Halliday , J. Gibbons & H. Nicholas (eds.), Learning, keeping, and using language. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 435-460. doi: 10.1075/z.lkul2.31lem
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.lkul2.31lem [Google Scholar]
  25. Litowitz, B
    (1977) Learning to make definitions. Journal of Child Language4: 289-304. doi: 10.1017/S0305000900001665
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900001665 [Google Scholar]
  26. Martin, J.R
    (1992) English text: System and structure. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/z.59
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.59 [Google Scholar]
  27. Matthiessen, C
    (1995a) Lexicogrammatical cartography: English systems. Tokyo: International Language Sciences Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. (1995b) Theme as an enabling resource in ideational ‘knowledge’ construction. In M. Ghadessy (ed.), Thematic development in English texts. London: Pinter, pp. 20-55.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Mukarovsky, J
    (1977) Word and verbal art: Selected essays. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Nesbitt, C. & G. Plum
    (1988) Probabilities in a systemic grammar: The clause complex in English. In R. Fawcett & D. Young (eds.), New developments in systemic linguistics, Vol 2: Theory and application. London: Frances Pinter, pp. 6-38.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Newman, J
    . (in prep) (ed.) The linguistics of sitting, standing and lying.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Plum, G. and A. Cowling
    (1987) Social constraints on grammatical variables: Tense choice in English. In R. Steele & T. Threadgold (eds.), Language topics: Essays in honour of Michael Halliday. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 281-305. doi: 10.1075/z.lt2.66plu
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.lt2.66plu [Google Scholar]
  33. Plum, G. , C. Matthiessen , M. O’Donnell , L. Zeng , C. Nesbitt , A. Harvey , M.A.K. Halliday & J. Bateman
    (1992) EDA research and development: Final report. Internal Document, Fujitsu Australia Ltd.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Quirk, R. , S. Greenbaum , G. Leech & J. Svartvik
    (1985) A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Temmerman, M
    (1994) Definities in schooltaal: Communicatieve, cognitieve en tekstuele aspecten van definiëren in de derde graad van het basisonderwijs. (2 volumes). Ph.D. Thesis, Antwerpen: Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Van Oosten, J
    (1984) Sitting, standing and lying in Dutch: A cognitive approach to the distribution of the verbs zitten, staan, and liggen. In J. van Oosten & J. Snapper (eds.), Dutch linguistics in Berkeley. Berkeley: UCB, pp. 137-160.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Wignell, P. , J.R. Martin & S. Eggins
    (1993) The discourse of geography: Ordering and explaining the experiential world. In M.A.K. Halliday & J.R. Martin (eds.), Writing Science: Literacy and discursive power. London & Washington, DC: Falmer.
    [Google Scholar]
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error