Kalantzis and Cope on the Grammar of Written Language



What do the meanings refer to?

  • Something particular?e.g. words like ‘David’, ‘is walking’—proper nouns, nouns referring to specific things and verbs that refer to specific actions. Includes:
    • A person, who? e.g. words like ‘her’, ‘David’, ‘the doctor’.
    • A place, where? e.g. words like ‘New York’, ‘the city’.
    • A time, when? e.g. words like ‘Monday’, ‘this evening’—connected with the tenses of verbs.
    • An object of interest, what? e.g. words like ‘David’s exercise class’, ‘fitness’.
  • Something general? e.g. words like ‘people’, ‘to walk’—common nouns, verbs that refer to kinds of action.
  • A characteristic? e.g. words like ‘tall’, ‘fast’, ‘many’; singular or plural; ‘the’ or ‘a’, comparatives—adjectives to describe nouns and adverbs to describe verbs.
  • A relation? e.g. words that connect meanings to each other like ‘is a kind of’, ‘is a part of’, ‘between’, ‘because’—prepositions in phrases or clauses; markers of possession.



How do the meanings connect the people in the action and the people who are communicating?

  • How are the actors connected through the action described in the text? e.g. words expressing active/passive voice; asking/suggesting/instructing; kinds of possibility such as indicating definite/maybe/maybe if.
  • What are the effects of the action? e.g. who is the subject or object, direct or indirect objects.
  • What is the writer’s stance? e.g. the formality or informality of the tone of a text; author commitment or affinity to the proposition; voice/mood.
  • What is the position of the reader? e.g. direct ‘you’ instructions, ‘it’ or ‘she’ in third party recount, more or less space for multiple interpretations; direct representation/ metaphor/allusion; framing of writer/reader interactivity.



How does the overall meaning hold together?

  • Word choice and positioning? e.g. how a word fits with the surrounding text, repetition/non-repetition; emphasis/consistency of reference/variety for style or deepening meaning.
  • Within-text pointers?and their clarity/explicitness? e.g. thing-pointer words such as ‘this’, ‘that’ or ‘it’, time-pointer words such as ‘now’ or ‘then’, place-pointer words such has ‘here’ or ‘there’, and person-pointer words such as ‘he’ or ‘she’.
  • Clause and sentence flow? e.g. narrative flow, logical connectives and argumentative clarity using subordinate clauses, conjunctions, subject/predicate, given/new.
  • Sectioning? e.g. commas, colons, semi-colons, long dashes and brackets for sections within sentences, punctuation for sentences, paragraphing, sections and section heads, lists, tables, the text title.
  • Chaining? e.g. the flow of sections.
  • Media? e.g. handwriting, typography.



How are the meanings shaped by where they are situated?

  • Outside-text pointers? e.g. shared assumptions/explicitness about the social and physical setting.
  • Comparison? e.g. analogy, metaphor, simile.
  • References to other texts? e.g. allusion/explicit mention, quoting, informal/formal citation.
  • Inclusions/exclusions? e.g. things deliberately or unconsciously not mentioned.
  • Genre or resemblance to other texts? e.g. close adherence to genre/hybrid recombination of genres/departure from genre.



Whose interests do these meanings serve?

  • What is the stance of the author? e.g. directly/subtly, emotive/objective, explicit/ implicit agendas.
  • How does the author engage or attempt to get the attention of the reader? e.g. narrative interest, rhetorical effect.
  • What are the interests of the writer that the text communicates? e.g. expressions of worldview/ ideology/ identity, visible/ hidden biases.
  • What roles does the reader have? e.g. directive/open navigation paths, such as a novel compared to a wiki.
  • What reader interests does the text assume? e.g. interpretations it anticipates/fails to anticipate.


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