Language in action
Sport, mode and the division of semiotic labour
This paper explores language in sport. It draws on systemic functional linguistics to map variations in language as coaches and players change situation, from setting up drills and giving feedback to calling for the ball during the intensity of play. In particular, it explores grammatical and phonological shifts as coaches and players move more toward the ‘language–in–action’ pole of mode. It shows that the more language is used in relation to intense action on the field, the less this meaning is given by the ‘higher levels’ of language (both its higher strata and higher ranks) and the more meaning that is given by the ‘lower levels’ (lower strata and lower ranks). In terms of strata this shifts meaning from the higher stratum of lexicogrammar to the lower stratum of phonology; in terms of rank, this breaks down clause structures to rely heavily on group/phrase and word choices and flattens phonological patterns of intonation, rhythm and syllable structures to rely more on voice quality and timing. This paper thus maps a rich space of registerial variation with significant deviations from typical English patterns.
Keywords: systemic functional linguistics (SFL), mode, register, sport, volleyball, Australian Rules Football, lexicogrammar, sound semiotics, phonology, intonation, rhythm, voice quality, discourse analysis
Published online: 15 October 2021
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