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Review of  Language of Evaluation

Reviewer: Sayaka Abe
Book Title: Language of Evaluation
Book Author: James R. Martin Peter R. R. White
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Linguistic Theories
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Issue Number: 19.2818

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AUTHORS: Martin, James; White, Peter R. R.
TITLE: The Language of Evaluation
SUBTITLE: Appraisal in English
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2007

Sayaka Abe, Department of Chinese and Japanese, Vassar College

This book offers a qualitative methodology for analyzing the subjective presence
of communicative participants (i.e. speakers and writers) manifested in various
types of English texts. It focuses on 'appraisal', which is considered as ''an
interpersonal system at the level of discourse semantics'' (p. 33). The
'interpersonal' here refers to one of the three 'metafunctions' (the other two
being the 'ideational', concerned with construing experience, and the 'textual',
concerned with information flow), originally dealt with in Systemic Functional
Linguistics (Halliday 2004/1994). 'Appraisal' is a subsystem within the
interpersonal system (along with two other subsystems 'negotiation' and
'involvement'), which deals not only with speaker/writers' attitudes, certainty,
commitment and knowledge, but also manners in which such subjective concepts are
overtly encoded or indirectly activated. The present framework deals extensively
with the nature of intersubjectivity in that it pays close attention to the
solidarity, or the sense of community, between writers and (targeted) readers
and to the way the textual voice positions itself in relation to other viewpoints.

Chapter 1 presents an overview of the book incorporating a brief illustration of
text examples and provides the basics of Systemic Functional Linguistics in
order to elucidate the notion of 'appraisal'. 'Appraisal' consists of three
domains: 'attitude', concerned with feelings, including emotional reactions,
judgments of behavior and evaluation of things; 'engagement', dealing with the
sourcing of attitudes and other potential 'voices'; and 'graduation', concerned
with the degree to which, or the way various notions including 'attitude' and
'engagement' are amplified or are salient. The rest of the book is concerned
with these three subsystems and their application to actual texts.

Chapter 2 provides a detailed picture of how different types of 'attitude', or
ways of feeling can be construed in texts. It is also concerned with registering
whether or not such feelings are positive or negative. The system of attitude
consists of three semantic subcategories: 'affect' (emotion), concerned with
feelings or emotional reactions; 'judgment' (ethics), concerned with behavior
according to various normative principles; and 'appreciation' ('aesthetics'),
concerned with the value of things. The authors characterize 'judgment' and
'appreciation' as ''institutionalized feelings'' (p. 45), which are in some sense
rooted in the more fundamental attitudinal component, 'affect'.

Chapter 3 provides a step-by-step taxonomic classification of 'engagement' and
'graduation'. The chapter begins with an introduction of the 'dialogistic
perspective', the view that ''all verbal communication, whether written or
spoken, is 'dialogic' in that to speak or write is always to reveal the
influence of, refer to, or to take up in some way, what has been said/written
before, and simultaneously to anticipate the responses of actual, potential or
imagined readers/listeners'' (p. 92). Speakers/writers' sensitivity toward
communicative situations as indicated by this view is essential for
understanding the system of 'engagement', which is subcategorized according to
whether other voices or alternative viewpoints are construed ('heteroglossic')
or not ('monoglossic') and further subcategorized according to the nature of
speakers/writers' commitment to ideas presented (together with their sensitivity
toward the addressees/readers). The system of 'graduation' is concerned with
up-scaling and down-scaling, and it can interact with 'attitude' and
'engagement' by establishing the intensity of attitudinal meanings in terms of
how positive (or negative), or by specifying the engagement values in terms of
''the degree of their investment in the utterance'' (p. 136). Having characterized
all three domains of appraisal, the chapter ends with a brief illustration of
how they interact with each other in a single text, and in some cases, in a
single linguistic item.

Chapter 4 is concerned with characterizing different discourse styles using
appraisal resources. It first introduces the 'cline' of 'evaluation', which
ranges across five levels of 'instantiation': 'appraisal' (system), 'key'
(register), 'stance' (text-type), 'evaluation' (instance) and 'reaction'
(reading). Having previously introduced 'appraisal', the chapter mainly deals
with 'key' and to some extent, 'stance' (= 'sub-keys'), 'evaluation' and
'reaction'. As for 'key', the occurrence of appraisal resources is characterized
in two types of texts, journalistic discourse and secondary school history
discourse. It is shown that different 'key' types can be distinguished according
to the distributional patterns of these appraisal resources. For example, three
types of 'journalistic keys', 'reporter voice', 'correspondent voice', and
'commentator voice', can be distinguished according to the degree to which the
expression of authorial affect and unmediated inscribed judgment/appreciation
are limited (from the most restricted to least restricted, respectively).

Chapter 5 illustrates the interactions of the appraisal resources (i.e. of
'attitude', 'engagement' and 'graduation') with respect to the social context
variable (called 'tenor') in different types of texts. The authors focus on
commentary pieces from a tabloid newspaper and an editorial from a magazine and
characterize them by breaking them up into short sections. It is shown that a
certain tenor configuration is associated with how certain types of appraisal
resources are manipulated to position the author in relation to the readers and
how they are sequenced for certain rhetorical effects in discourse.

This book provides rich sources of ideas for characterizing subjective elements
including those that are often understood by the terms 'affect', 'modality' and
'evidentiality'. The book draws attention to factors beyond propositional (or
ideational) levels that are sensitive to stylistic differences of texts and to
social settings involving factors on both sides of communication (i.e. authors
and readers).

While the framework has great potential for expanding its range of application
to various genres and cultures, there are some issues to be noted. The first
issue is a terminological and rhetorical one. There are some basic terms and
ideas for which clearer definitions toward the beginning of the book would be
helpful. For example, terms like 'subjective', 'intersubjective', 'aligning',
'register', 'style', and 'voice' are often merely assumed or conceptualized
differently by different scholars. (Having a glossary would also be very
effective.) For example, it is left ambiguous whether or not 'intersubjective'
('interpersonal') is concerned only with the interaction between communicative
participants (i.e. speaker/writer and hearer/reader), or if it can also include
non-speaker/writer participants in the expressed content (i.e. 'characters'
including 3rd person). The beginning of the book seems to suggest the former,
but Chapter 3 seems to imply that the latter interpretation can be possible.
This ambiguity may have to do with the 'dialogistic perspective' the framework
is based on (as mentioned in the summary of Chapter 3 above) and to some extent
may be the reviewer's subjective one. However, since many studies dealing with
similar phenomena only consider the former as 'intersubjective' or are very
explicit about factors concerning the 'source' and the 'goal' of evaluation (or
'appraiser' and 'appraised') (Cf. Traugott and Dasher 2002, Zubin and Hewitt
1995), it would be helpful for readers, especially those who are not familiar
with the type of text analysis presented here, to be able to see a clarification
in this respect. Another organizational modification that would be helpful is to
have a clearer picture earlier in the book of how 'attitude', 'engagement' and
'graduation' can interact in text since it is not obvious until the end of
Chapter 3 that more than one of the resources can coexist in one token.

The next set of issues concerns the nature of distinctions made within the
appraisal system and within its subsystems. Despite the elaborateness of the
classifications made, the advantage of the particular way of subcategorizing
appraisal resources is not explicitly justified. For example, while the division
of the appraisal system into 'attitude', 'engagement' and 'graduation' is fully
comprehensible and interesting, it is not clear from the text what the advantage
is of ''adopt[ing] separating approaching to hedging, setting degree of
commitment apart from 'fuzzification''' or taking ''attitude as in some sense
focal and distinguish[ing] engagement and graduation as distinct resources'' (or
''keeping attitude from sourcing and intensification'') (pp. 38-40). Similarly,
while the authors indicate that their notion of 'affect' is part of 'attitude'
(along with 'judgment' and 'appreciation) and that their treatment of 'attitude'
is more comprehensive than others, their approach's advantage needs more
justification, considering that the authors compare previous conceptions of
'evaluation' by different scholars that distinguish 'entity focused' and
'proposition focused' types. It would be better to be able to clearly see the
status of their own classification with respect to this type of 'scope'
difference, which seems important in dealing with subjective concepts. With
respect to both points above, readers may want to have a more intuitive
understanding as to how a system established this way can optimally characterize
different rhetorical strategies and style/genre differences. Having gone through
the book, it may seem as if the interpretation of the explanatory significance
of the way appraisal resources are distinguished is left to the readers to
infer, to some extent, from bottom-up descriptions of text examples without
enough intuitive generalizations. (Nonetheless, the second half of Chapter 5
seems to demonstrate many interesting points, for example, that the use of
'judgment' over 'affect' correlates with a 'distancing effect' between the
writer and the expressed negative content and that the occurrence of intensified
'affect' (i.e. 'affect' with 'graduation') plays a role in establishing
writer-reader alignment.)

The final set of issues to be addressed is about the mechanism of the model. It
should be noted first that the way the system is established in the present
framework is reasonable, considering that it is rooted in a ''social
constructionist... rather than universalist'' view (p. 40; i.e. that they do not
posit cross-linguistically/culturally common components, or 'primitives' by
Wierzbicka (1986)). Having said this, there is one potential drawback which
concerns the descriptive power of the model. Since the system itself is
configured in a society/culture/context-specific manner (e.g. certain affective
concepts are considered 'negative', while they may be 'positive' in other
cultures; linguistic elements that seem to be 'ideational' in traditional
accounts are considered as having an intersubjective significance in a given
linguistic or socio-cultural context, etc.), some degree of ''idiosyncratic''
top-down knowledge seems to be required for identifying certain linguistic items
in text as having specific appraisal values. That is, some degree of
''assumptions'' are involved by the interpreter about what the writer ''must have''
intended. Thus, in order to work out this ''idiosyncrasy'', the parameters of the
classification must be reasonably consistent and motivated (perhaps cognitively
or psychologically) so that the interpretation of appraisal resources can be
supported by some sort of empirical evidence (judgment tests, etc.), especially
if in the future, this framework incorporates some systematic quantitative
studies. In addition, though this is a minor point, a section on how the
framework may be applied for practical purposes would be very interesting and
would reinforce the significance of the framework.

Finally, I would like to add that, since the book limits its scope to
characterizations of a few types of texts, it would be interesting to see
systematically how certain rhetorical strategies that are characterized in terms
of appraisal resources (as in the ''Mourning'' examples in Chapter 5, for example)
are applicable to other examples of the same genre or across genres (or common
within/across linguistic communities). Aside from the issue of
'text-to-appraisal value' correspondence, addressed in the previous paragraph,
the book triggers many interesting issues about 'appraisal
pattern-to-style/genre' correspondence. For example, describing different
'keys' in terms of the constraints on 'authorial affect' (as illustrated with
examples of journalistic discourse in Chapter 4 in the book) or the manipulation
of 'taken-for-granted'-ness seem very effective for characterizing different
narrative styles and perspectives of the narrator. Thus, the book contains
various types of practical tools, possibly for teaching literature appreciation
(e.g. different narrative techniques such as 'first person' vs. 'third person'
narratives) or foreign language education (e.g. teaching formality differences
manifested in the occurrence of intersubjective elements and expressions of
sensitivity to addressees/readers, etc.).

Halliday, M. A. K. 2004/1994 _An introduction to Functional Grammar_. London:
Edward Arnold.

Traugott, Elizabeth, and Richard B. Dasher. 2002. _Regularity in Semantic
Change: Cambridge Studies in Linguistics_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 1986. Human Emotions: Universal or culture-specific? _American
Anthropologist_ 88.3. 584-94.

Zubin,David and Lynne E. Hewitt. 1995. The Deictic Center: A theory of deixis in
narrative. _Deixis in narrative_, ed. by Gail A. Bruder Judith Duchan, and Lynn
E. Hewitt. Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum.

Sayaka Abe is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Japanese language and
linguistics at Vassar College. She received her doctorate from SUNY at Buffalo
in 2007. Partly as a continuation of her dissertation topic, her current
research interests include subjectivity, intersubjectivity, emotive meanings and
grammaticalization from cognitive semantic and historical pragmatic points of
view as well as the application of these areas to Japanese pedagogy.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 140390409X
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 296
Prices: U.K. £ 55.00