Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

21st European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference and Workshop

Locating Systemic Functional Linguistics in functional-cognitive space

Plenary Lecture to be given at 21st European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference, Cardiff, 2009

Chris Butler


In recent years there has been considerable interest in the relationships between functional linguistics and other theoretical approaches to language. In particular, there have been attempts to map out the points of similarity and difference between functional and cognitive and/or constructionist approaches (Nuyts 2005, 2007; Butler and Gonzálvez-García 2005, Gonzálvez-García and Butler 2006). The result has been a proposal by Gonzálvez-García and Butler that these relationships are best seen in terms of a multi-dimensional ‘functional-cognitive space’ defined by the stance taken by a range of theories in relation to a number of key issues in the formulation of linguistic theories. The present lecture takes this work as a backdrop for a discussion of the place of Systemic Functional Linguistics within this multi-dimensional space. In particular, SFL, in  its two ‘dialects’ (Sydney and Cardiff) will be compared with the following:

  • two ‘structural-functional’ theories: Functional Discourse Grammar (Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2008) and Role and Reference Grammar (Van Valin 2005);
  • three ‘usage-based’ theories: the Emergent/Interactional Grammar of Hopper, Thompson, Bybee and others (see e.g. Hopper 1998, Barlow and Kemmer 2000, Bybee 2006, Fox and Thompson 2007, also the papers in Bybee and Hopper 2001),  the Cognitive Grammar of Langacker (1987, 1991a, 1991b, 1999) and the Cognitive Construction Grammar of Goldberg (1995, 2006).

One of the topics to be addressed will be the importance of the concept of choice in SFL, which is the theme of the 2009 conference.


Barlow, Michael and Suzanne Kemmer (eds.) (2000). Usage-Based Models of Language. Stanford: CSLI Publications.
Butler, Christopher S (2003) Structure and Function: A Guide to Three Major Structural-Functional Theories. Part 1: Approaches to the Simplex Clause. Part 2: From Clause to Discourse and Beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Butler, Christopher S. and Gonzálvez-García, Francisco (2005). Situating FDG in functional-cognitive space: An initial study. In J. Lachlan Mackenzie and María de los Ángeles Gómez-González (eds.), Studies in Functional Discourse Grammar (Linguistic Insights, 26.) Bern: Peter Lang,109-158.
Bybee, Joan (2006) From usage to grammar: the mind’s response to repetition. Language 82(4): 711-733.
Bybee, Joan and Paul J. Hopper (eds.). (2001). Frequency and the Emergence of Linguistic Structure (Typological Studies in Language, 45.) Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Fox, Barbara A. and Sandra A. Thompson (2007) Relative clauses in English
conversation: relativizers, frequency, and the notion of construction.
Studies in Language 31, 293-326.
Goldberg, Adele E. (1995). Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.
Goldberg, Adele E. (2006) Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gonzálvez-García, Francisco and Christopher S. Butler (2006) Mapping functional-cognitive space. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 4: 39-96.
Hengeveld, Kees and J. Lachlan Mackenzie (2008) Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically-Based Theory of Language Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hopper, Paul J. (1998) Emergent Grammar. In Michael Tomasello (ed.), The New Psychology of Language, Vol. 1 (Cognitive and Functional Approaches to Language Structure.) Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum,155-175.
Langacker, Ronald W. (1987) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Vol. 1: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, Ronald W. (1991a) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Vol. 2: Descriptive Application. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, Ronald W. (1991b) Concept, Image, and Symbol. The Cognitive Basis of Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Langacker, Ronald W. (1999) Grammar and Conceptualization. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Nuyts, Jan (2005) Brothers in arms? On the relations between cognitive and functional linguistics. In Francisco J. Ruiz de Mendoza and Sandra Peña (eds.) Cognitive Linguistics: Internal Dynamics and Interdisciplinary Interaction. (Cognitive linguistics research.) Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 69-100.
Nuyts, Jan (2007) Cognitive linguistics and functional linguistics. In Dirk Geeraerts and Hubert Cuyckens (eds.) 2007. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 543-565.
Van Valin, Robert D., Jr. (2005) Exploring the Syntax-Semantics Interface. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

<-Back to Conference Home Page

General Conference Information

Related Resources

Cardiff University Links