Motivated selection in verbal art, 'verbal science', and psychotherapy: when many methods are at one



Publication Details

Butt, D., Henderson-Brooks, C., Moore, A., Meares, R., Haliburn, J., Korner, A. and Eyal, R. (2014). Motivated selection in verbal art, 'verbal science', and psychotherapy: when many methods are at one. In F. Yan and J. Webster (Eds.), Developing Systemic Functional Linguistics: Theory and Application (pp. 298-322). United Kingdom: Equinox.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781845539955


The choices a speaker makes in grammar and in lexis accumulate in ways that are not clear or accessible to the speakers in a sustained interaction, for example, in an hour of interaction between a psychotherapist and a patient. This consistency, that is regularity beyond the typical threshold of human powers for tracking, is familiar to us from the discussion of verbal art: it is part of debate around Jakobson's claims for 'subliminal' patterns (e.g. 1987); and it underlies the cognate theories of organization in verbal art enunciated by Mukal'ovsky (1964, 1977) and Hasan (e.g. 1975, 1985a). So too, in Halliday's concepts of 'prominence' and 'deautomatization' in relation to verbal art (e.g. 1971 ), such accumulating patterns are a recruitment of the habitual resources in existing forms of language to a non-habitual degree of consistency in their semantic consequences. It is only in this orienting of the choices to a thematic consistency that one can then go on to account for innovation of forms, or novelty. Verbal art rarely involves 'poetic licence'; rather it is a 'consistency offoregrounding' within conventions which needs to be illuminated. Such 'consistency of foregrounding' is a strategy of higher order 'symbolic articulation' for Hasan- evidence that the category 'literature' is not only 'in the eye of the beholder', and not merely in the 'response' of the reader. The 'art' of verbal art, in such an approach, relies on the methods by which the established categories of community practice can be functionally oriented to create that strangeness (the 'making strange') of individuated experience.

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