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Evaluation, Appraisal and Identity

The appraisal model (Martin and White 2005) was originally expounded in the context of newspaper articles to illustrate the various ways in which the writers evaluated the people or events described. This model is therefore relevant for exploring both the identity—because evaluations are ways of positioning the self or others as represented in a narrative—and the expression, and therefore implicit positioning, of the speaker.

In terms of the SFL model of language described in the introduction and illustrated in Fig. 1.3, appraisal is a resource designed for the analysis of language at the stratum of discourse semantics, the level between lexico- grammar and register. As such, appraisal (see Fig 2.3) is a relevant extension of the narrative discourse moves considered above.

Appraisal and Engagement

Appraisal describes three main resources that may be operating simultaneously at any point in a text: engagement, attitude, and graduation. Engagement is concerned with the engagement (heterogloss) or otherwise (monogloss) with alternative perspectives—that is to say, how far a text engages with, or opens the possibility to consider, alternative interpretations or evaluations of the ideational meanings (situation and actions) being represented. The degree of heteroglossic engagement may increase (dialogic expansion) or decrease (dialogic contraction). Strategies for dialogic expansion may include the use of hedges (‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’, ‘it seemed that’) or the explicit voicing of alternative readings (signalled by phrases such as ‘another possibility is that ...’). Dialogic contraction, on the other hand, is likely to be marked by the avoidance of such features and by a ‘black and white’ account that positions the reader as someone

The appraisal model (Adapted from Martin and White 2005, p. 85)

Fig. 2.3 The appraisal model (Adapted from Martin and White 2005, p. 85)

to be informed. Dialogic contraction may involve recognition of competing perspectives and the dismissal of them as potential positions but ultimately consists of the expression of a single dogmatic perspective. In news media of the kind used in the exposition of the model by Martin and White (2005), engagement is principally concerned with perspectives on some reported event. However, when considering texts that are concerned with identity, heteroglossia admits of multiple views of an individual or ‘multiple identities. It is therefore an important resource to examine in the case of ‘contested identities’, by which I mean identities where there is a disagreement about how an individual is evaluated. Moreover, the tendency to draw on a broad (or narrower) range of perspectives may also be a personal characteristic in itself.

Returning to the interview described in Cavendish’s autobiography (2010b, pp. 63—66), the strategy of interpolating the reported interview with unspoken thoughts in itself could well be seen as a move towards dialogic expansion. However, it is also possible to consider the specific expressions used and thereby provide a more detailed picture of his strategy in terms of the resource of engagement. As can be seen from Table 2.3, though he does include a range of moves consistent with a strategy of dialogic expansion (‘admittedly, ‘we assumed’, ‘I know everyone watching will think’, and so on ...), he also uses monoglossic expressions to close down the meaning. The use of ‘admittedly’ opens up the potential for a caveat, in this case reminding himself that two of the ‘missed opportunities’ were not really opportunities. In contrast, ‘trust me when I say ...’ closes out other opinions. Indeed, there is a series of propositions that are questioned and then replaced with alternatives. Looking closer still, it turns out that the propositions addressed deal with both his misreading of the anticipated race narrative and expectations about the race as a whole, and the false expectations the journalist has about what he should expect from his interviewee. This also involves the use of other resources, such as his understated, ‘Trust me when I say that giving a television interview is a fair way down my list of priorities.’ This use of understatement potentially softens his point, as compared with if he had said, ‘is the last thing I wanted to do’. The problem is that this understatement is deliberately ironic and thus through emphasis effectively reinforces the monoglossic move. In any case, this emphasis, needs to be considered separately as part of the resources of graduation.

 
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