Stance-taking and the construal of textual persona in written contexts

Social Contact revisited


  • Alexanne Don UNSW, Sydney



performed identity, stance-taking, tenor, interpersonal semantics


This paper proposes that two ‘sub-dimensions' of contact - labelled affiliation and alignment - be theoretically distinguished as part of tenor. Under systemic functional linguistics, tenor has been discussed as having two primary dimensions, status and contact. While status is conceived of as related to ‘vertical' relations of roles and socially recognized hierarchies of authority, contact is theorized as a matter of ‘horizontal' relations, pertaining more particularly to shared knowledge and experiences. The paper argues that by taking note of how interactants position themselves in relation to socially-recognized stances related to dimensions of status and contact, it enables further insight into reader-writer relations, and hence a more fine-grained means of tracking the construal of textual persona(e).

Author Biography

Alexanne Don, UNSW, Sydney

Dr. Alexanne Don is an independent researcher whose interests include applications of Systemic Functional Linguistics - especially the use of the Appraisal framework in the investigation of social media, identity, and argument structure. Her previous employment includes 11 years as an English instructor at schools and universities in Fukuoka-ken, Japan, and she has taught in Birmingham (UK), and in Adelaide and Sydney, Australia. Her first degree in fine art and art education now leads her to continue research in social semiotics, growing plants in a dry climate, and driving a Canon 7D.


Bakhtin, M. M. (1978). The forms of time and the chronotopos in the novel: From the Greek novel to modern fiction, (published under M. M. Baxtin) in Poetics and the Theory of Literature. Vol.3.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (trans. McGee). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Bernstein, B. (1996). Class, Symbolic Control, and Identity. London: Taylor & Francis.

Bernstein, B. (1999). Vertical and horizontal discourse: An essay. British Journal of Sociology of Education 20 (2): 157–173.

Bhatia, V. K. (2004). Worlds of Written Discourse: A Genre-based View. London and New York: Continuum.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (trans. Richard Nice). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brown, P. and Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies. 7 (4–5): 585–614.

Caffi, C. and Janney, R. W. (1994). Toward a pragmatics of emotive communication. Journal of Pragmatics 22: 325–373.

Cherry, R. D. (1998). Ethos versus persona: Self representation in written discourse. Written Communication. 15 (3): 384–410.

Crammond, J. G. (1998). The uses and complexity of argument structures in expert and student persuasive writing. Written Communication 15 (2): 230–268.

Djenar, D. N., Mahboob, A. and Cruikshank, K. (Eds) (2015). Language and Identity across Modes of Communication. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Don, A. (2007a). A Framework for the investigation of interactive norms and the construction of textual identity in written discourse communities: The case of an email discussion list. Unpublished PhD thesis. Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Don, A. (2007b). An approach to the analysis of textual identity through profiles of evaluative disposition. ASFLA 2007 proceedings. [available:]

Don, A. (2009). Legitimating tenor relationships: Affiliation and alignment in written interaction. Linguistics and the Human Sciences 5 (3): 1–23.

Du Bois, J. W. (2007). The Stance Triangle. In R. Englebretson (Ed.) Stancetaking in Discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins B. V.

Eelen, G. (2001). A Critique of Politeness Theories. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.

Gee, J. P. (2000). Identity as an analytic lens for research. Education Review of Research in Education 25 (2000–2001: 99–125.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Semiotic social spaces and affinity spaces. In D. Barton and K. Tusting (Eds) Beyond Communities of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gregory, M. (1985). Towards communication linguistics: A framework. In J. Benson and W. Greaves (Eds) Systemic Perspectives on Discourse, Vol.1: Selected Papers from the 9th International Systemics Workshop. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd ed). London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M. A. K. (2002 [1981]). Text semantics and clause grammar: How is a text like a clause? In J. J. Webster (Ed), On Grammar, Volume 1 in The Collected Works of M. A. K. Halliday. London and New York: Continuum.

Halliday, M. A. K. and Hasan, R. (1985) Language, Context and Text: Aspects of Language in a Social Semiotic Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Halliday, M. A. K. and Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (1999). Construing Experience Through Meaning: A Language-based Approach to Cognition. London: Cassell.

Harré, R. and van Langenhove, L. (Eds) (1998). Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Oxford and Maldon: Blackwell.

Hasan, R. (1995) The conception of context in text. In P. H. Fries and M. Gregory (Eds) Discourse in Society: Systemic Functional Perspectives. Vol. L in the series Advances in Discourse Processes. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Hasan, R. (1999). Speaking with reference to context. In M. Ghadessy (Ed.) Text and Context in Functional Linguistics. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Hasan, R. (2014). Towards a paradigmatic description of context: systems, metafunctions, and semantics. Functional Linguistics. 1: 9. Springer Open Journal.

Hood, S. (2006). The persuasive power of prosodies: Radiating values in academic writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 5 (1): 37–49.

Hood, S. (2010). Appraising Research: Evaluation in Academic Writing. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hyland, K. (2004). Disciplinary Discourses. Social Interactions in Academic Writing. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Hyland, K. and Guinda, C. S. (Eds) (2012). Stance and Voice in Written Academic Genres. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ivanic, R. (1998). Writing and Identity: The Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Ivanic, R. and Camps, D. (2001). I am how I sound. Voice as self-representation in L2 writing. Journal of Second Language Writing 10: 3–33.

Knight, N. K. (2010a). ‘Laughing our bonds off’; Conversational humour in relation to affiliation. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney.

Knight, N. K. (2010b). Wrinkling complexity: Concepts of identity and affiliation in Humour. In M. Bednarek and J. R. Martin (Eds), New Discourse on Language. 35–58. London and New York: Continuum.

Lewin, B. A., Fine, J. and Young, L. (2001). Expository Discourse: A Genre-based Approach to Social Research Text. London: Continuum.

Locher, M. A. (2004). Power and Politeness in Action: Disagreements in Oral Communication. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Martin, J. R. (1992). English Text: System and Structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Martin, J. R. (2004). Mourning: How we get aligned. Discourse and Society 15 (2–3): 321–344.

Martin, J. R. (2010). Semantic variation – Modelling realisation, instantiation and individuation in social semiosis. In M. Bednarekand J. R. Martin (Eds) New Discourse on Language: Functional Perspectives on Multimodality, Identity and Affiliation. London: Continuum.

Martin, J. R. and Rose, D. (2008). Genre Relations: Mapping Culture. London and Oakland: Equinox.

Martin, J. R. and White, P. R. R. (2005). The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. London: Palgrave.

Maton, K. (2014). Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a Realist Sociology of Education. London: Routledge.

Maton, K., Hood, S., and Suellen, S. (Eds) (2016). Knowledge Building: Educational Studies in Legitimation Code Theory. London: Routledge.

Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2007). The ‘architecture’ of language according to systemic functional theory: developments since the 1970s. In R. Hasan, C. Matthiessen, and J. Webster (Eds). Continuing Discourse on Language: A Functional Perspective. Volume 2. London: Equinox.

Poynton, C. (1984). Names as vocatives: Forms and functions. Nottingham Linguistic Circular 13 (Special Issue on Systemic Linguistics). 1–34.

Poynton, C. (1985). Language and Gender: Making the Difference. Geelong, Vic.: Deakin University Press [republished London: Oxford University Press. 1989].

Poynton, C. (1993). Grammar, language and the social: Poststructuralism and systemic functional linguistics. Social Semiotics 3 (1): 1–22.

Ravelli, L. J. and Ellis, R. A. (Eds) (2004). Analysing Academic Writing: Contextualised Frameworks. London: Continuum.

Stenglin, M. (2012). Transformation & Transcendence: Bonding through ritual. Paper presented at the International Systemic Functional Linguistcs Conference, 16–20th July 2012, University of Technology, Sydney.

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tang, R. and Suganthi J. (1999). The I in identity: Exploting writer identity in student academic writing through the first person pronoun. English for Specific Purposes, 18: 23–39.

Tann, K. (2010a). Imagining communities: A multifunctional approach to identity management in texts. In M. Bednarek and J. R. Martin (Eds) New Discourse on Language: Functional Perspectives on Multimodality, Identity and Affiliation. London: Continuum.

Tann, K. (2010b). Semogenesis of a Nation. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Sydney, Australia.

Thompson, G. (1999). Acting the part: lexico-grammatical choices and contextual factors. In M. Ghadessy (Ed.) Text and Context in Functional Linguistics, 103–126. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Thompson, Geoff and Jianglin Z. (2000). Evaluation and organization in text: The structuring role of evaluative disjuncts. In S. Hunston and G. Thompson (Eds) Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wigboldus, D., Spears, R., and Semin, G. (1999). Categorization, content and the context of communicative behaviour. In N. Ellemers, R. Spears, and B. Doosje (Eds) Social Identity. Oxford and Malden: Blackwell.

White, P. R. R. (2003). Beyond modality and hedging: A dialogic view of the language of intersubjective stance. Text – Special Edition on Appraisal 23 (3): 259–284.

White, P. R. R. and Motoki, S. (2006). Dialogistic positions and anticipated audiences – a framework for stylistic comparisons. In K. Aijmer and A.-M. Simon-Vandenbergen (Eds) Pragmatic Markers in Contrast, 189–214. Frankfurt: Elsevier.

White, P. R. R. (2008). Praising and blaming, applauding and disparaging – solidarity, audience positioning, and the linguistics of evaluative disposition. In G. Antos and E. Ventola (Eds) Handbook of Interpersonal Communication, 542–567. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Zappavigna, M. (2014a). Coffee Tweets: Bonding around the bean on Twitter. In C. Tagg and P. Seargeant (Eds) The Language of Social Media: Identity and Community on the Inetrnet. London: Sage.

Zappavigna, M. (2014b). Enjoy your snags Australia … oh and the voting thing too #ausvotes #auspol: Iconisation and affiliation in electoral microblogging. Global Media Journal (Australia) 9 (2).



How to Cite

Don, A. (2019). Stance-taking and the construal of textual persona in written contexts: Social Contact revisited. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 13(1-2), 70–95.