Professor Robin Fawcett MA (Oxon), PGCE (London), PhD (London)

Professor Robin Fawcett

MA (Oxon), PGCE (London), PhD (London)

Emeritus Professor, Centre for Language and Communication Research

School of English, Communication and Philosophy

John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU

The main focus of his research is the development of a version of Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) for the twenty-first century - i.e. as the major component of an explicit, cognitive-interactive model of a communicating mind. This

  • provides for the major processing differences between the production ( generation) and understanding of language texts;
  • draws extensively on corpus data;
  • incorporates probabilities on the features in system networks of choices between meanings (these being sensitive to their context, and so dynamic); and
  • incorporates higher components that model how we draw on our belief system as we develop a relatively basic logical form into a representation that is capable of predetermining most of choices involved in generating the full, multifunctional complexity of a language-text.

The products of this work are intended to contribute to general, descriptive and computational linguistics, and are of two main types. The first consists of:

  1. a fully integrated computer model of the generation of English syntax, lexis, intonation and punctuation, with the multifunctional semantics that they realize; and
  2. complementary models of the higher components of the natural language generation system that provide the inputs to the lexicogrammar.

The second product is the publication of very full descriptions of English, such that they can be applied in the detailed analysis of any English text, at the levels of both form and meaning.

It is pleasing to be able to record that, in his recent comprehensive survey of functional descriptions of language (2002a &b), Butler comments (2002b:471) that ‘Systemic Functional Grammar .... has achieved a much wider coverage of English than other approaches, this being especially true of the Cardiff Grammar.’

Focus of current work

Robin Fawcett is currently working intensively with Victor Castel on a new computer implementation of a probabilistic SFG of English GENESYS, the sentence-generating component of COMMUNAL (see below).

We expect that this will be ready for demonstrating by September 2004. He is also working on the ‘forthcoming’ publications listed below - especially on the two main handbooks, and travelling widely to conferences (especially ones near high mountains!).CLU and the COMMUNAL Project

Robin Fawcett is the director of COMMUNAL, the major research project in the Computational Linguistics Unit (CLU). It has attracted well over £500,000 of external support so far, and visiting academics from many countries.

GENESYS, which is the sentence-generating component in COMMUNAL, has been described by Halliday (1994:xii) as ‘among the largest grammars existing anywhere in computational form’, and by Butler (1993:4503) as ‘the largest computer-based systemic grammar in the world’. Working with visiting scholars and other CLU staff, he has developed smaller grammars of key portions of Chinese and Japanese.

Recent and current work in COMMUNAL includes:

  • the new computer implementation of the Cardiff Grammar mentioned above (almost completed);
  • expansion of many parts of the overall grammar to something approaching full coverage, with very large system networks for leanings realized in nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, together with their dependent syntax (with Gordon Tucker, Fiona Ball/Barker and Amy Neale; ongoing);
  • the integration with syntax of intonation and punctuation (with Paul Tench);
  • a new type of corpus-consulting probabilistic XML parser (with Mike Day); and
  • work on the algorithms that guide choices in the system networks (by Lise Fontaine and Jeremy Wilcock, supervised by Gordon Tucker).

Robin Fawcett is a frequent speaker and lecturer at overseas conferences and universities, having to date lectured in 21 different overseas counties (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Corsica, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Singapore and USA), supported by the British Academy, the British Council, the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, host universities and linguistics associations, etc.

In 1974 he founded the annual series of International Systemic Functional Congresses, and he was Chair of the organising committee 1975-88. He was also the Founding Editor of Network, a newsletter for systemic linguists, and he is on the Editorial Board of the journal Functions of Language. He has edited book series for Pinter, Cassell Academic and Continuum, and he currently edits for Equinox.