Legitimating Tenor Relationships

Affiliation and Alignment in Written Interaction


  • Alexanne Cecilie Don University of Sydney




affiliation, alignment, attitude, interpersonal positioning, legitimation, negotiation, tenor


This paper discusses the way that verbal behaviour may be responded to in ways that serve to position interactants along a number of interpersonal dimensions. These dimensions are collectively referred to as Tenor by Systemic Functional Linguistics: Contact (affiliation), Status (reciprocity), and Axiology (alignment). Through publicly signalling dis/alignment, responses can also act to ratify or legitimate the verbal behaviour and hence contribute to the negotiation over time of group practices or 'norms', as well as individual 'identities' within the group. Several excerpts from an electronically-mediated written conversation are discussed using a set of Tenor dimensions which reference positions either 'latent' and/or 'emerging' in the discourse community. Interpersonal positioning effected in the texts may be thereby tracked as unfolding logogenetically within each text, and as developing normed behaviour phylogenetically within the discourse community in the study – as well as in other contexts of interaction. The interpersonal (tenor) dimensions referred to here are partially activated through the use of the resources of Appraisal - Attitude and their targets in particular - and therefore the discussion highlights several evaluative elements in the texts.

Author Biography

Alexanne Cecilie Don, University of Sydney

Alexanne is an independent researcher in language and identity. She worked as an English instructor and lecturer in Japan for eleven years before moving to the UK to pursue research for her Phd. After returning to Australia she taught SFL and Media studies at the University of Adelaide and the University of NSW.


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How to Cite

Don, A. (2012). Legitimating Tenor Relationships: Affiliation and Alignment in Written Interaction. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 5(3), 303–327. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v5i3.303