Issues in developing unified systems for contextual Field and Mode
‘Context of situation’ is a central concept in Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL) theory, and recently there has been a renewed interest in modelling context and developing a set of features for the contextual parameters Field, Tenor, and Mode. Much of this work has been inspired by Hasan’s and Butt’s development of ‘contextualisation system networks’ (Butt 2004; Hasan 1999, 2009). However, a single comprehensive descriptive framework has still not yet been agreed upon. The current Field and Mode networks include contextual features that are under some debate: ‘the role of language’, ‘ancillary’, ‘constitutive’, and ‘material action’. This paper reviews these features and presents a unified set of primary systems for Field and for Mode. Further, the paper proposes that the primary systems should reflect the core defining features of the contextual parameters, in this case, Field and Mode: the nature of the activity in terms of the kind of experience around which the situation revolves, and the nature of the activity in terms of the mode through which it is expressed respectively. Reference is made to key notions within SFL theory that need to be considered in modelling the contextual parameters as sets of choices in system networks: the relations of realisation and instantiation, inter- and intra-stratal interdependency, and the concept of ‘semiotic’. Where relevant, choices in the system networks are explained using illustrative examples.