Publication Details

Drefus, S and Jones, P, Making sense of place: Further descriptions of Circumstance of location, Proceedings of ISFC 35: Voices Around the World, Macquarie University, Sydney, 29 July 2008.


In the year in which the new Australian government has officially apologized to the Stolen Generations for taking them away from their "place" of origin, that is to say, from their families, communities and lands, we think it appropriate to revisit the notion of place as it relates to voice, identity and culture. In systemic functional theory, notions of place are typically accounted for experientially through the subsystem of Circumstance (of spatial location or place) within the system of Transitivity. This paper concerns itself with further classification of the category of spatial location. The work reported on in this paper was driven from data collected on two projects (one a large ARC examining the development of writing during adolescence and one a PhD examining primary school literacy pedagogy), where the category of Circumstance of place was found to be not sufficient nor delicate enough to capture the semantics of what was being classified as a Circumstance of spatial location. We examine texts from the public arena and the classroom to consider the contribution of circumstantial information as cultural life unfolds through them. In the texts examined, the more delicate descriptions of locational circumstances reveal how 'place' may be concrete or abstract, and often imbued with psychological, social and cultural significance. This paper shows the tentative categories of Circumstance of spatial location, with a view to extending the metalinguistic tools available to teachers and learners for close encounters with texts and meanings. We suggest the extended categories make richer, more complex readings available to both analysts and learner reader-writers, readings which assist them to participate in changing civic life.

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International Systemic Functional Congress