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Analyzing and interpreting COVID-19-related texts in Chinese: A systemic functional perspective

COVID-19-related texts in Chinese

A systemic functional perspective

Victor Wong, Yuanyi Ma and Mark Nartey

Systemic Functional Linguistics as appliable linguistics

The second half of the 20th century saw the rapid development of theoretical linguistics, which focused on theoretical investigations rather than linguistic applications. Applied linguistics was thus introduced to underscore application in linguistics, largely centering on the domain of education. Given this dichotomy, theoretical linguistics and applied linguistics were treated as thesis and antithesis pairs, with scholars having to focus on either of the two. However, Halliday’s (e.g. 2007, 2008) proposal of appliable linguistics provided a possible synthesis of theoretical and applied linguistics.

Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), as one kind of appliable linguistics (e.g. Matthiessen 2014), is designed to provide theoretical resources to help researchers solve problems and subsequently improve the quality of human life. In this way, SFL not only provides a bridge between theory and application, but is also in dialogue with various other disciplines, such as education, sociology, anthropology, and computer science.

Scholars in the SFL community have applied SFL to various areas, such as translation studies, stylistics, healthcare communication, education, and register studies, among which discourse analysis has played a central part (see Wang and Ma (forthcoming) for applications of SFL to the analysis of Chinese discourse). This chapter analyzes and interprets various Chinese discourses/texts related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) pandemic, a global health threat that has seriously affected the lives of Chinese people. We will first locate the texts within the SFL architecture of language and illustrate how detailed lexicogrammatical analysis can be conducted. Then we will relate such texts to the description of the contextual parameters of field, classifying the texts and pointing out their pervasiveness.

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