How speakers take a position: Exploring interpersonal meanings further.

In this chapter we explore the two main resources through which speakers take a position in their messages:

  • Adjustment of the Mood Block (the nub of the message available for argument or discussion)
  • Positive or negative appraisal of experiental meanings.

Speakers can position themselves in an argument or discussion by taking a definite stand or by adjusting their stand to a position between a definite yes and an equally definite no.

The main topics for fiscussion in this chapter are the speaker’s resources for definiteness and adjusment (although we also explore meanings that are not available for argument or discussion)


Exchange of information

Taking a definite stand

Whenever speakers assert their propositions they put them up for agreement or disagreement by their hearers. When are speakers are definite about their propositions, the Finite encodes information about whether an Event has occurred, is presently occuring, or is yet to occur. If we want to disagree with speaker’s positive proposition, we simply add a negative such as not or n’t into the Mood Block afther Finite for the clause negative and changing the polarity of the message to positive if the original proposition was negative.

The analysis of the first exchange id:

Tom                 was (positive polarity)                beaten

Tom                 was not (negative polarity)         beaten

Subject Finite (past) Predicator
Mood Block Residue


Meanings that are not available for argument or discussion

If clause does not have a Mood Block, there is nothing on which to base an argument.

Example of non-finite clauses

Shaken             at last               out of his complacency

Predicator Adjunct Adjunct

Eating               an apple

Predicator Complement


An infinitive verb is the most basic form of the verb which signifies the event without specifying a Subject and without indicating ani time or duration of the event. Without a Finite, a clause has no clear-cut place in the arguability of things. It is difficult to argue with Going upstair, or to err or to forgive, or even with having been sacked. Each has an Event but not a real Finite or Subject and it is the Subject/Finite relation, the Mood, which allows discussion.


Adjusting one’s stand: probability, usuality, obligation, inclination, typicality and obaousness.

Sometimes speakers want to signal that they are not definite about their messages, that is, they are looking for a position between a definite yes and no. they do this by changing the configuration of the Mood Block in some way. And this is known as MODALITY and it has its own metalangua.

There are three ways of doing this:

  • By a Modal Finite
  • By an adverbial group or prepositional phrese here known as Mood Adjunct.
  • With an interpersonal grammatical metaphor.

Interpersonal grammatical metaphor

Sometimes we use a whole clause in a text to express our opinion of the proposition in a neighbouring clause. We are using the grammar metaphorically when we say, for example, I think when we mean probably; or, I believe when we mean almost certainly; or don’t you think? When we mean definitely.

Just as an ideational grammatical metaphor uses the experiental resources of the grammar to shift meaning, so interpersonal grammatical metaphors shift meaning from a separate mental process clause to an expression of modality in the projected clause.

Take for example the following sentence:

I think he’s coming to the party.

We would of course analyse this as a projecting clause (I think) followed by a projected clause (he’s coming to the party)


Exchange of goods and services

Demands realised in declaratives with modals of obligation

In chapter 4 we noticed that the imperative mood is the most staightforward and easily recognised way of demanding goods and services and that imperatives may be positive or negative. In most positive imperatives there is ni Subject and no Finite in the clause. In spite of this absence we still describe the verb in imperatives as a finite verb because we can recover the Subject and Finite in a Mood tag. What is interesting is that the Finite in the Mood tag always expresses modality rather than time:

Open                the door                        will                   you?

Can’t                you?

Can                  you?

  Predicator Complement Finite (modal) Subject
Mood Block Residue Mood tag


Offers realised in declaratives and interrogatives with modals of inclination.

What is at stake here is whether the offer will be accepted or rejected and this may explain why there is no special from for giving goods and services as there is with demanding goods and sevices or giving or demanding information. However, there are two pointers to the fact that they are offers – one in the making of the offer and the other in its reception; that is, the Finite in this type of exchange is usually a modal and, rather than simple yes or no, the sesponse is usually yes, please, if the offer is accepted, and no, thank you, if the offer is rejected.

Mulai dari sini aku ketik semua


Modality in context

The following three text have different purposes. Text 2 (Cherie’s text) is written by a primary school child afther a session on how to write an exposition. She has been taught that this text type should include a point of view. Text 3 is from the conclusian of an investigative report. The writer knows that, after being objective about his purpose, methods and result in the body of the report, it is now appropriate to make recommendations. Text 4 from a courtroom cross-examination in which the scond speakers is trying to avoid giving definite answers.

In each text we recognise that the speakers and writers are including their own opinions. This is a very useful device because it sometimes allow a speakers to stand apart from the action as if to say, ‘Well, it’s only my opinion. You don’t have to agree with me. I could be persuaded otherwise’. In other situations, it allows a speakers to apprear openly persuasive, or even downright bossy, about how the world could, or should, or ought to be arranged.  We can see from Text 3 how useful modality is at the end of a discussion text because it allows the writer to conclude with an opinion or recimmendation.




The resource of APPRAISAL is one of the ways speakers position their audience. In other words, their choice of lexocogrammatical patterns influences the audience’s personal reaction to the meaning in a text. We have only to think of the positive or negative spin put on the ‘same information’ by opposing sides of a debate to see how this positioning works. However, if the colour of flavour of the text is very strong, the audience may interpret the text as being very emotional, judgemental or critical, so lexicogrammatical resources for creating and interpreting appraisal and attitude are important tools in our exploration of text.

Much recent work, notably by J R Martin (Christle and Martin 1997) and Peter White (www,, has focused on the different lexical and grammatical systems available to speakers and writers for including their emotions (affect), judgements of people’s behaviour, and their appreciation of phenomena in the world. In spoken texts, speakers can also position themselves by using such phonological systems as voice quality.

This recent work is a vast cintribution to the way we understand texts,  although its details are beyond the scope of this book. However, even though we are wartering them down, they are worth mentoning because of the exciting way different appraisal motifs build up patterns across a whole text. These patterns align speakers with listeners around a set of values to produce a sense of belonging and community. In other words, effective speakers and writers are able to spread appraisal meanings across a whole text so that the audience is drawn to a particular point of view or interpretation if the content which seems natural. Effective listeners and readers need to realise that they are being positioned by these patterns of meaning so that they can choose whether or not they wish to align themselves with them.

Perhaps the most accessible appraisal motifs are lexical systems of GRADUATION (amplification), where the volume of a lexical item is turned up or down in positive or negative apprasial. We can think of  graduation as options of FORCE and FOCUS – force adjusts the volume of gradable meaning while focus grades ungradeble experiental meanings. As an example of force, we could change the verb walk, enriching it positively by choosing instead the verb scroll or saunter, or by adding a Circumstance: manner: quality such as walk gracefully, or we could enrich it negatively by choosing shuffled or like a hippopotamus.

As another option, if we were to take the adjective beautiful, already an enriches word, we could amplify its intensity by repeating it, as in:

The painting was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

Or we could expand it with syninyms as in:

The painting was beautiful, inspired, magnificent

Or we could premodify the adjective in some way as in:

It was vety beautiful


It was bloody beautiful

Focus, on the other hand, is concerned with blurring or sharpening. Example are expresions like kind of wooozy, a true friend, effectively signed his death warrant and pure folly.

Some words, such as clean and dirty, have an experiental meaning as well as an interpersonal, attitudinal one and properly belong in our experiential analysis as well. But other words, such as splendid, lousy, fabulous and gross, are more often used simply to convey a positive or negative attitude. These Epithets, which map the subjective and interpersonal on to our modelling of experience, are examples of appraisal. In any analysis it is worth keeping traxk of who does the appraising, whether it is positive or negative, and what items are appraised.

In the area of  ATTITUDE appraisal resources include lexical items for judging people’s behaviour in terms of social esteem and social sanction. Under the heading of social esteem, Martin includes lexical items for assessing normality and luck, capacity and dependability. Under the heading of social sanction are assessments of honesty and integrity or propriety.

Another of Martin’s network collect together the gramatical resources speakers use to position themselves in relation to experiential meanings. This ENGAGEMENT system brings together items that we have met elsewhere in the grammar. For instance, Circumstances of angle (for example according to John) and Circumstances of abstract location (for example In Freud’s psychoanalytical theory) allow writers to disclaim or distance themselves from the views expressed in the experiential meanings.

One resource for appraisal particular to the interpersonal metafunction is the COMMENT ADJUNCT, which allows speakers to comment on experiential meanings. Because Comment Adjuncts represent the intrusion of a speaker into a clause, they are important enough to be included in the Mood Block even though they do not modify the argument in any way. The Comment Adjuncts in the first and third of the following examles express Attitude while that in the second expresses Engagement:

Unfortunately                we                    can’t                 come                to the party

Comment Adjunct Subject Finite – (modal) Predicator Adjunct
Mood Block Residue

The committee              is          apparently                     working            all weekend

Subject Finite + (present) Comment Adjunct Predicator Adjunct
Mood Block Residue

Hopefully                      the missing puppy          will       be found

Comment Adjunct Subject Finite Predicator
Mood Block Residue


More about Adjunct

In the metalanguage for interpersonal meanings, all adverbial groups and prepositional phrases that are not embedded are known as Adjunct. In fact there are four different types of Adjunct:

Adjunct: those prepositional phrases, adverbial group and even nominal groups that realise Circumstance and those prepositional phrases that realise Participant in experiential meaning are known simply as Adjunct and form part of the Residue for the interpesonal analysis.

Mood Adjunct those which are not relevant to the experiential analysis but modify the argument of a clause are known as Mood Adjunct and are included in the Mood Block.

Comment Adjunct: those which comment on the experiential analysis but do not form part of it are known as Comment Adjunct and are included in the Mood Block.

Conjunctive Adjunct: those which from a connection or bridge to a previous clause are known as Conjunctive Adjuncts and are excluded from the experiential analysis and are labelles in the interpersonal analysis but excluded from the Mood Block and Residue.

Appendix C contains a prepositional phrase and adverbial group help list.


Mapping experiential and interpersonal meanings on the same clause.

Farlier chapter of this book have indicated that different metafunctions map different meanings on to a clause, so it is not surprising that we use different metalanguage in analysing and describing the metafunctions. The metalanguage for the description of the experiential function focuses on the various possible combinations of Processes, Participation and Circumstances, while the metalanguage for the description of interpersonal meanings focuses on the Subject/Finite relationship, Mood and Comment Adjuncts in the Mood Block and the Predicator, Complement and ordinary Adjuncts that make up the Residue. Not every word in a clause will be relevant to the dectiption of each function.

In the following analysis we have also labelled the class of the basic clause constituents.

And       apart from that                         hopofully           we        might    make it.

Conj Prep phrase Adv g Ng Vg ng
Actor Process: material Range




Conjunctive Adjunct Comment Adjunct Subject Finite (modal) Pred Comp
  Mood Block Residue




To sump up

In chapter 4 and 5 we have explored how interpersonal meanings express interaction and positioning. In Appendix E you will find charts for summarising your interpersonal analysis, which you will need to expand or contract for different types of text. If you are analysing dialogue, for example, you will want to include a column to identify each speakers and you may even want separete charts for different speakers. If you have studied conversation analysis, you may choose a more delicate way of charting interaction, cuch as whether the speaker initiates, continues or concludes a topic, whether a clause is a demand or a response, and whether the response is the one the demander wanted. It’s entirely up to you. We simply offer you some basic templates as tools to summarise the interpersonal meanings uncovered by your analysis.



Implications for language teaching

This chapter sketches in an outline of the rich and complex language resources English speakers have for putting themselves into their language and adjusting the worldview, that is, the experiential meaning, they are making. These resources include:

  • Varying how definite the speakers is about experiential meanings through:

–          The tense and polarity of the Finite

–          Making the meanings unavailable for argument in non-Finite clauses

–          Finding ground between positive and negative with modality

  • Appraising experiential meanings.

How is knowledge of the interpersonal grammar for taking a stand useful to teacher and learners?

Speakers of all language want to be able to put themselves into the meanings they make with language. When we learn a new variety of our own language, for example when we first learn to write our own language, or when we learn a new language, we feel frustated because it is so difficult to express exactly how we view things. We don’t know how to make a meaning unavailable for argument, to hedge our bets when we want to, to turn the volume of what we are saying up or down or to reveal just a little bit of our point of view at a time.

Student are usually given support with expressing experiential meaning and with some of the meanings of exchange. They have traditionally been taught how to add a negative to the Mood Block, but have rarely been shown, explicitly and dystematically, how to express and finetune their own points of view, positions and opinions. In language teaching this has traditionally been an under-described area of the grammar and teachers have not had the resources to address it fully.

If we want to infuse, temper, negotiate, constrain or challenge the experiential meanings in a message with our own point of vier, it is the Mood Block which is in focus. Speakers of English use the Finite in the Mood Block to reveal:

  • Either – the time of the event from their point of view

–     Whether they are positive or negative about the information in the clause

  • Or – the degree to which they are definite about the information in the clause

In English tense gives the timing of an event in a clause from the point of view of the speaker. Tense in English is relative not absolute. The interplay of tense and aspect, which generates so many verb forms in English and which can be so confusing to language learners, is used to update and refine this timing as a text unfolds, often from one clause to the next. Armed with this information the language learner may still find the English tense system complex, but perhaps more meaningful and therefore more understandable – and ultimately, more manageable and useable. In Chapter 9 we will explore a whole text approach to thinking about tense.

In the Mood element a Finite with tense can be replaced by a MODAL FINITE if the speaker want to adjust their perspective on the meanings in the clause to fall somewhere between absolute yes and absolute no. many otherwise quite fluent speakers of English as a second of foreign language never quite master this area of English grammar and are thus denied the rich potential that Modal Finites have tempering and finetuning exchanges. If they are not using Modal Finites affectively, speakers can seem either overemphatic or imprecise, even if that is not how they wish to be perceived. The information in this chapter makes it possible for teachers to map this ground for students, showing them how modality works when exchanging information (modalisation) and when exchanging goods and sevices (modulation).

Putting meaning into NON-FINITE clauses is a way of making meanings unavailable for argument or discussion. This resource is especially useful for students learning to write English for academic purposes. The grammar of non-Finite clauses, however, can be always have to be combined with a main clause and, if the writer is not careful, this can lead to some infelicitous meaning combinations, for example:

Having been damaged in the rear, the driver eased his car gently off the road.

Another common error that language learners make is to write non-Finite sentence fragments. If language learners know the functions of non-Finite clauses, they are more likely to manage their use effectively.

MOOD ADJUNCTS are also introduced in this chapter as an important aspect of modality in English. Student rarely find these words difficult to learn and often favour them over Modal Finites. It is important that students come to use these two aspects of the Mood element in a balance way.

This chapter also illustrates how modal meanings are often made in English by using grammatical metaphor. It is important that language learners understand this metaphorical shift if they are not to misinterpret or ignore it, and thus fail to recognise that a meaning has been tempered or constrained.

Interpersonal meaning may converage on the Mood Block, but student need to know that it also spreads out across other parts of the clause. As we make experiential meaning about the world, we are also appraising them. English has an array of resources with make it possible to appraise experiential meanings anywhere in the clause.

This chapter show how English speakers drop COMMENT ADJUNCT into any part of the clause to show their attitude to experience. In addition, it shows how speakers and writers often incorporate attitude and point of view into words used to represent experience. It is important that an exploration of these more scattered, but nevertheless systematic, interpersonal resources are included in a language education program.

The expression of interpersonal meaning in English is a very complex area of grammar, and very hard to pin down. This compexity may be seen as a functional characteistic because, afther all, the negosiation of our relationships with others and the expression of our points of view are fluid and everchanging areas of our lives. We need a language resource which can refine and rework our interpersonal meanings to a very high degree of delicacy and with a great deal of flexbility.


How can knowledge of the interpersonal grammar for taking a position enhance teaching programs?

Most English speakers are unconscious of the nature of the interpersonal grammar for taking a position, even though they use this reource with such finesse everyday of their lives. It is, therefore, one of the most difficult areas of English to teach others. Exploring the interpersonal meaning of English clause in terms of function will give student a feel for the way these resources are used across different contexts. In this way learners are more likely to build a viable repertoire of workable language resources for making interpersonal meaning even while they are gaining control of the whole system.

We saw how experiential meanings in the clause can be explores in terms of structure and how students can explore the different ‘slots’ of the clause in terms of their meaning potential, using WH – questions to probe for these meanings. In contrast, interpersonal meanings are often more usefully explored in term of their spread across the clauses of text. Coloured highlighters can be a very useful resource for revealing the stand a speaker or writer is taking towards the experiental meaning in a text. For example, student might use different colour to bring out the use of polarity, the two types of modality and different types of appraisal across the clause of a text.

Modals have always been given a great deal of attention in traditional language classroom, but the functional description in this chapter provides the teacher with a comprehensive framework that captures all the grammatical expression if modality in terms of the way it is used rather than in terms of the word class (for example verb or adverb) which expresses it. For instance student can explore the different ways English has of expressing modality (for example, must, should, probably, the posibility, I think) in order to increase their repertoire byond the overused and iflexible maybe/

Student can also explore the elements of experiential grammar that can be used to express point of view. These include:

  • Metal processes (for example I think,I want)
  • Material and verbal processes (for example slammed instead of put, shricked instead of said)
  • Mental and verbal processes which attribute and report point of view (for example They believed….)
  • Attitudinal Epithet (realised as adjectives like ugly, wonderful, courageous), Numerative (more than a million) and Thing (realised as nouns like saint, idiot) within a Participant or Circumstance.

There are also experiential meanings that will have a predictable impact on particular audiences. For example, in the following clause:

She rescued the child from the fire

Most people will think that the rescuer is courageous, even though this word is never used (or some people may think she was foolhardly).

Student can highligh words in a text using shades of different colour, or different font styles, to reveal how interpersonal meaning for taking a position are graded from:

  • Positive to negative (happy →sad; honest → dishonest; good → bad)
  • Strong to weak (certainly → perhaps; absolutely → mildly anxious; abhor → hate → dislike)
  • The subjective to the objective (I think → the significance of)
  • The explicit to the implicit (she was courageous → she rescued the child from the fire)

When teaching wocabulary, teachers usually present words to student in sets organised according to field. In other words, vocabulary is presented to help learners make experiential meanings. Student also need vocabulary for making interpersonal adjustments to their experiential meanings. New research by Martin and by White (cited in this chapter) provide teachers with ideas for organising vocabulary lists that help learners include and adjust point of view in their texts. For example, teachers migh organise vocabulary in the following sets:

  • Lexical items for expresing attitude

–          Lexical items for responding emotionally (happy/sad; safe/dangerous)

–          Lexical items for judging people’s behaviour in terms of its normality (unluckym eccentric, unfasionable) dependability (brave, reliable, flighty, lazy), capacity (talented, strong, stupid), honesty (genuine, deceitful) or integrity (saintly, unethical)

–          Lexical items for appreciating the awsthetics and value of phenomena (stunning, harmonious, insignificant)

  • Lexical items for grading point of view (slightly, a bit, somewhat, quire, very, a true friend)

It is very important for student to experiment in the relative safety of the classroom with different ways of adjusting the position they are taking in their language. People outside the classroom are likely to be much more aware and understanding of the errors learners make with experiential meaning than they are of the errors learners make as they adjust that meaning interpersonally.

What  other features of interpersonal grammar for taking a stand are useful in the classroom?

Taking a position and text stucture

The way speakers and writers adjust their point of view is spread across a text. This spread is aligned to the purpose and structue of the text. A speaker or writer can spread interpersonal meanding across a text to give it a particular colour, flavour or perspective. If the colour of flavour of a text is very strong, the audeience may interpret the text as being very emotional, judgemental or critical. For example we often interpret certain types of journalism as ‘sensational’ and in this case what we are responding to is the way the journalist has adjusted the experiential meaning in order to spread a certain kind of interpersonal meaning across the text.

Effective speakers and writers are able to spread explicit and implicit interpersonal meanings across texts so that the audience is drawn towards a particular point of view or interpretation of the content. This position may be interpreted as’natural’. This is particulary true of stories and of text which are structured to persuade. As the text unfolds, the impact of these meanings accumulates from stage to stage, until the desired ‘volume’ is reached. The accumulated meaning can be capitalised on by the speakers or writer in the final stage of their text to enhance the achievement of the rext’s purpose.


Taking a stand and tenor

We have already seen that expressions of  tenor in grammar revcal the relative power and status of the people taking part and the level of their personal involvement. This is also true of the interpersonal meanings used to adjust experiential meanings n texts. At first these adjustments can be invisible to language learners and if they are not made explicit, learners are denied the language tesources which make it possible to build solidarity, persuade or challenge in relationships which are important to them in the community, at work or in education.

If language learners have the opportunity to explore the language resources used to make these adjustments, these resources become visible and petentially useable. Control of these resources can greatly ease a learner’s entry into different communities of English speakers.


Using an understanding of how speakers and writers take a stand to build a critical response to text.

Effective listeners and readers recognise that they are being positioned by the patterns of diffused interpersonal meanings layered over a text and they can choose whether they wish to align themselves with the speaker’s or write’s position or not. Language learners can be helped to develop this awaeness by being shown how to look for expressions of point if view in the texts they are working with. They can note how these expressions of point of view adjust experiential meaning and how these meanings are spread over the stucture of the text.


Further reading



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