Analysis Of The Theory Of Clause English Language Essay

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This paper will analyze the theory of Clause as Representation including discussion of types of process, participant and circumstance and their realizations, and suggest ways in which this aspect of grammar might influence English Language Teaching (ELT) course design.

The Nature of the Clause

In grammar, a clause is a pair or group of words that consists of a subject and a predicate (Halliday & Mattiessen, 1999). A clause is different from a phrase. Clause could be dependent or independent. Dependent or relative clause is derived from a "basic structure" (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p.571). Usually, relative clause cannot stand alone as a sentence. In contrast to dependent clause, independent or main clause is a clause that can stand alone. Main clause is synonymous to a simple sentence. In essence, clause is the basic unit of meaning in the English language (Stuart-Smith, 2003). Either dependent or independent, a clause conveys a message. This paper, on the other hand, examines the relative clause as a basic unit of a language in relation to functional grammar, especially in the ideational metafunction level. Here, the use of the word clause will refer to dependent clause.

Examples of a Clause

The usage of a clause in the different world languages differs greatly. There are three identified dimensions of these differences: (1) position of the clause with respect to the head noun or the noun being modified; (2) how a clause is marked; (3) the absence or presence of a pronominal reflex (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p.573). In the English language, a clause follows the head noun. For instance, in the sentence, "San Antonio is a city that has experienced very rapid growth," the head-noun San Antonio precedes the italicized clause. To place the clause before the head noun in a sentence sounds, if not ungrammatical, awkward. Farsi and Arabic languages share similar syntactic pattern in the clause usage compared to most European languages. However, Japanese and Korean languages do not adhere to the first dimension of the above-mentioned clause usage (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p.573).

In the second dimension, the English language employs a relative pronoun (e.g., who) or demonstrative pronoun (e.g., that) to mark that what follows is a clause (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p.573). For example, "I read the journal that you recommended." Or, "I love the girl who appreciates poetry." The lines before the demonstrative and relative pronouns are independent clauses that can stand as a sentence. The application of the pronouns that and who merely modify the head nouns. Besides English, Persian and Chinese languages use other forms of markers placed between the head noun and the clause. The presence or absence of the pronominal reflex is the third dimension along which languages differ in the clause usage (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p.573). In the sentence, "Art called out to the girl that he knew," the "that" replaces "the girl" in the embedded sentence, "he knew the girl."

Ideational Metafunction

Ideational metafunction is one of the three fundamental functional components of a language. Ideational metafunction is primarily concerned with the function that "language has of being about something" (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). In the past,

a theory of the fundamental functions of language have been developed, in which lexicogrammar can be subdivided into 3 broad metafunctions, namely: interpersonal, ideational and textual. Each of these 3 deals with a different aspect of the world, and they are concerned with various modes of clause meanings. "The ideational metafunction is about the natural world in the broadest sense, including our own consciousness, and is concerned with clauses as representations. The interpersonal metafunction is about the social world, especially the relationship between speaker and hearer, and is concerned with clauses as exchanges. The textual metafunction is about the verbal world, especially the flow of information in a text, and is concerned with clauses as messages." (Thompson, G. 2004)

Ideational metafunction is twofold: experiential and logical metafunctions. The experiential metafunction meaningfully arranges one's experience and understanding of the world. It refers to the "representation of experience" (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Also, experiential metafunction is the potential of the language to construe and differentiate figures or images with elements into processes, participants, and circumstances. Processes are expressions of happening, being, thinking, and the like. Participants are people, locations, or objects that are involved in the process stratum. And circumstances point to, obviously, the circumstances in which the processes occur (Stuart-Smith, 2003). The logical metafunction, on the other hand, organizes one's reasoning derived from one's experience. From the word itself, it is an abstract logical relation. Basically, ideational metafunction is associated to the text's "field." The field refers to the subject matter in the text or the context of use. It answers the question: What is happening? Linguistic form, after all, is a semiotic of "attitudinal positioning" (Belz, 2003).

Ideation tends to focus on discourse content and on the types of activity that are undertaken. Ideation also focusses on the manner in which participants in learning activities are described, the composition, and classification. Thus it can be said that ideation deals with the issue of the way in which experience of reality, symbolism and material are construed in discourse.

Ways in which this aspect of grammar might influence our view of ELT course design

Different courses have their own unique designs that would cater to the specific needs of the learners. In particular, the ELT course design should be evaluated thoroughly by the teachers and learners, in order to determine if the course design is appropriate and within the grasp of the learners. Although the terms "course" and "syllabus" are usually considered distinct from each other, this paper will tackle the design of the syllabus since the syllabus is just the abstract part of the course (the real lessons that happen within the classroom).

Among the factors that will influence the design of the syllabus are political and economic factors (Willis & Garton). For example, a certain country has been colonized by another nation that is more inclined to international politics and economy. The colonized country that originally deals only in local politics and economics matter should embrace to the attitude of the colonizer; thus a new syllabus will be designed in resemblance to the syllabus of the colonizer.

The advent of technology also shapes the design of a syllabus or course. In the ancient times, lessons are delivered only through verbal communication, tape recorders, written papers, and writing in blackboard. Recently, with the aid of technology, courses and syllabus designs integrate the usage of computer database, audio analyzer, etc.

On the other hand, "beliefs about the language learning process" affects the course design (Willis & Garton). In the old times, students were taught foreign language such as English, starting on elementary or high school level only. But with the psychological study that it is best to learn a certain language starting on a very young age, governments are lowering the age requirements to start studying foreign language.

Experiential grammar is quite vital to critical text response. in the design of ELT courses, chosen words and structures show how world events are experienced. Exploring experiential grammar may also reveal a lot about the worldview expressed in a text, and it must be noted that textual meaning is interpreted in relation to various sets of intertext.


The use of clauses is vital to the study of English language, and has a big effect on ELT course designing. The ideational metafunction is also vital to the designing of ELT courses. Studying foreign languages paves the way for perfect communication, which further enhances international trade and world peace.

It is common to perceive syllabuses and courses as different things. This is partly as a result of the fact that it must be admitted simply by customary collocation, given that the two terms are not always used indistinguishably. ELT courses may also be taken to mean a real series of lessons, although a "syllabus" may represent something rather more abstract, with less details of how individual lessons are conducted.