Universidade de Vigo

Functional Discourse Grammar: An Introduction

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Lachlan Mackenzie, from the VU University Amsterdam, conducted a five-hour seminar in which he presented a functional-typological approach to language.

CV details

Lachlan Mackenzie was initially trained in his native Scotland but his career was centred in the Netherlands, where he retains the position of Honorary Professor of Functional Linguistics. He has worked as a Consultant in Languages and Linguistics, with an experience of over 30 years. His skills and expertise are primarily in European languages, with a specialization in English linguistics. Throughout his career, he has actively collaborated with universities and research centres across Europe. He is now based in Portugal, working as a researcher at the Institute for Theoretical and Computational Linguistics (ILTEC) in Lisbon. His current investigation there focuses on the relation between Functional Discourse Grammar and dialogue.

Lachlan Mackenzie combines his research at the ILTEC with the work derived from his position of Research Manager of the Santiago-based international research programme SCIMITAR, a programme investigating the grammar-discourse interface from the perspective of language typology, information processing and language acquisition; with the editorial work of the major journal of functional linguistics, Functions of Language; and with a range of undertakings in Functional Discourse Grammar.
Lachlan Mackenzie has published extensively. Three of the latest titles deserve special mention:

  • Gómez-González, M.A., J.L. Mackenzie & E. González-Álvarez (2008). Introduction. In Gómez-González, M.A., J.L. Mackenzie & E. González-Álvarez (eds.), Languages and Cultures in Contrast and Comparison. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. xv-xxii.
  • Gómez-González, M.A., J.L. Mackenzie & E. González-Álvarez (2008). Introduction. In Gómez-González, M.A., J.L. Mackenzie & E. González-Álvarez (eds.), Current Trends in Contrastive Linguistics: Functional and Cognitive Perspectives. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. xv-xxii.
  • Hengeveld, K. & J.L. Mackenzie (2008). Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically-based Theory of Language Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Abstract of the seminar

Functional Discourse Grammar is a functional-typological approach to language that views language as organised top-down. Four levels of organization are distinguished: interpersonal, representational, morphosyntactic and phonological. Each level is structured hierarchically into layers, taking the Discourse Act as the basic unit of analysis, which can be combined into higher-layer units and decomposed into smaller units. The four levels of analysis interact to render linguistic forms. These levels are linked to a conceptual, a contextual, and an output component. The theory tries to strike a balance between fuctionalism and formalism. This theory is contained in the 2008 book mentioned before, Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically-based Theory of Language Structure.