Résumé (Lexico-Grammatical Analysis of Three Excerpts Selected from Toni Morrison’s Paradise: Focus on Experiential Meaning)

Didier Kombieni,§

Nassourou Imorou


Amadou Salami

Abstract: Drawing on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL), this study scrutinizes the grammar of experiential meaning, one of the three metafunctions which contribute to the functions of the clause. It aims at explaining how processes are used to make meaning in the novel under investigation. Using sampling method, three extracts have been selected from Toni Morrison’s Paradise. The findings show that material process has the highest frequency of occurrence in the novel. This implies that the participants have performed physical, real and tangible actions. The findings also reveal how Toni Morrison makes her message more impressive to the readers on the one hand, and how the context can greatly influence the process types and the interpretation of the literary discourse on the other.

Keywords: Functional Structuralism, Experiential Meaning, Transitivity, Process

Résumé : Se basant sur la linguistique systémique fonctionnelle de Halliday, cette étude examine la grammaire du sens expérientiel, l’une des trois métafonctions qui contribuent aux fonctions de la phrase (proposition). Elle vise à examiner comment les procès sont utilisés pour donner du sens dans le roman faisant l’objet de la présente étude. Utilisant la méthode d’échantillonnage, trois extraits ont été sélectionnés de Paradise de Toni Morrison. Les résultats révèlent que le procès matériel est le plus prépondérant dans le roman. Cela implique que les participants ont accompli des actions physiques, réelles et tangibles. Les résultats révèlent également comment Toni Morrison rend son message plus impressionnant pour les lecteurs d’une part, et comment le contexte peut, de façon notoire, influencer l’identification des types de procès et l’interprétation du discours littéraire d’autre part.

Mots-clés : structuralisme fonctionnel, sens expérientiel, transitivité, procès


In ordinary daily life, people constantly use language to express activities, identities, and values. Language is represented in the form of text. The term “text” refers to oral or written form of language that is delivered in any medium and which makes sense to someone who recognizes the language (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014).

Bloor and Bloor (2) states “when people use language, their language acts produce – construct meaning”. We need to understand the meaning of language by construing the meaning system. Only for rare moments, perhaps when totally absorbed in a physical activity, does language drop out of our minds. In contemporary life, people are constantly required to react and produce bits of language that make sense.

This study focuses on experiential meaning analysis of three extracts selected from Toni Morrison’s Paradise so as to carry out an analysis on the novel. The experiential meaning is a meaning about experiences of reality or phenomena. In other words, it refers to the topic and action which language is used to express. Experiential is concerned with making sense of the world with contrasting reality of people places and things (Salami 2019).

From this perspective, the main objective of this study is to investigate how Toni Morrison uses language in Paradise to build the experience of the world around and inside her. To achieve this objective, this study is streamlined into the following questions:

  • How does language function in the fictional book by Toni Morrison?
  • What contributions can transitivity patterns make in the understanding of the novel?
  • What is Toni Morrison denouncing in her novel?

These questions are answered through the analysis of extracts selected from the novel on the one hand, and through the discussions of the findings, on the other. As a matter of fact, when people speak or write, they produce text in what speakers and listeners are engaged in and can be interpreted (Halliday and Matthiessen) cited by Salami (6). In the same vein, being able to analyze grammar in a functional framework needs a good understanding of the relationship between function and structure. On the one hand, function is related to what language is doing for the speaker or writer. On the other hand, structure is the form or shape of language. Finally, meaning is the combination of function and structure. Its purpose is to help us to understand language and express what we want to say (Fontaine) cited by Salami (6). Therefore, when people speak or write, they always use lexis (vocabulary) and grammar (structure) naturally to convey their message.  Then, the organization and structure of the text, be it fictional or non-fictional, is the understanding of the language use.

The methodology drawn in this study is that of sampling. More specifically, three excerpts are purposefully selected from Paradise and are submitted to a systemic functional linguistic analysis of the experiential meaning. The analysis carried out has allowed to collect data from Toni Morrison’s fictional artifact. These data have then linguistically been examined to bring out the novel’s experiential meaning.

1. Literature Review

In this section, some related studies which support the present study have been mentioned. The studies generally contribute towards an understanding of how linguistic analysis of text works to get the truth and the meaning in the literary text.

In Koussouhon (2009), the analysis of process types and ideational meaning in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born has amounted to revealing that methodical linguistic analysis helps to reach objective interpretations. Thence, has stated the following: “Pure literary appreciation is not really scientific but rather impressionistic” (Koussouhon 138). This entails that if they are actually willing to discard any merely subjective and fantasy-geared interpretation of literary productions, literary critics need to be endowed with some reasonable background knowledge of clues inherent in Systemic Functional Linguistics.

In addition, through his “Male-Discourses Language Patterns and Assertive Female idiolects in Anglophone African Discourses”, factual analysis has led Koussouhon (2009)  to contend once again, and more openly, that current linguistic trends view language in terms of its nature and functions. Thence, by focusing on sample texts from three outstanding East-African writers, namely Gatheru, Odinga, and Ngugi, he has described them by means of linguistic tools so as to assess thereby manifestations of political correctness. As a result, from a statistical analysis of the occurrence frequency of the pronoun “he” alluding to male-dominating social features, the scholar has concluded over the precedence of non-inclusive language in Anglophone African literary discourse.        

Similarly, Amoussou (2014) builds on exploring characterization, focalization, and thematization processes in Ngugi’s fiction to unpack a good heap of sociolinguistic stakes. Eventually, he reaches a host of fascinating conclusions. One of them falling in connection to Ngugi’s feminism is that: “Ngugi’s female characters deserve more praise than their male counterparts. For the first to the fourth novel studied, the female characters are at the forefront of the battle against alienation and oppression and they appear to be the moving power behind the stories” (Amoussou 412). As regards the relation of context to language functioning, he concludes what follows: “characters do not act in a vacuum; their actions, utterances, feelings, intentions and ideologies derive from the social, cultural, historical, and ,ideological context in which they are set and, therefore, are reflexive of the interests and activities of their respective classes” (Amoussou 417).

As for Koutchadé & M’po Kouyinampou (2017), they have studied the transitivity patterns in some selected extracts from Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon and in Dapo Adeleke’s Thrills and Trials. Through their analysis of the experiential meaning, they have come across almost all the processes namely: material, mental, behavioral, verbal, existential and relational in the two novels. For them, material processes come first, even though some of them do not encode concrete actions. Their findings show that through experiential meaning, Darko and Adeleke explain the experience of the participants of their novels. They have also emphasized on the context of situation which has a great impact on explaining the differences between the characters of the novels. They conclude that the two authors are dealing with serious social problems of their societies. Darko shows that women are still suffering in our societies due to the burden of traditions. Adeleke, on his part, has focused on the plight of young people in our societies.

Koussouhon, Akogbéto, Koutchadé & Allagbé (2015) have carried out a linguistic research on a Contemporary Ghanaian Prove Work by using the systemic functional approach. Their aim is to decode the context of ideology in Darko’s The Housemaid, to disclose the linguistic structures in this novel. They have gone through the register variables, the grammar of experiential meaning in the two selected extracts. The practical analysis reveals that Darko draws on material processes much more than any other types. Darko encodes of course on concrete, real and tangible actions in her novel. She focuses on cultural and traditional issues such as male-female dominance, patriarchy or institutionalized sexism, etc. In the first extract for example, Darko focuses on issues like child dumping, parental neglect, while in the second extract she raises the issues like causes of rural exodus, sex, etc.

Furthermore, Koussouhon & Dossoumou (2014) have applied the lexico-grammatical features to one of the new millennium novels, Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow (2006) in order to gain a full insight into how the writer encodes her experience or fictional reality via the medium of language on one hand, and how she organizes her language to achieve this, on the other hand. Focusing on the grammar of experiential meaning and the grammar of textual meaning, they explore the different process types, the Theme and Rheme. Their study has contributed to shaping the readers’ ability to produce some position papers such as literary criticism, review and write-up on the new millennium writers whose ambition is to address the contemporary and topical scourges undermining and hampering the development of their nation in order to end up irrelevant issues with regard to their readership. Furthermore, the study clarifies that between the major female interactant and the major male interactant, there is a love relationship. But the latter, according to his study, would not be considered as a reliable co-operator, as regards the ambition of those women. The current Mood and Modality analysis discloses that there is a power and hierarchy relation among the active interactants. In this study’s framework, they increasingly reveal that an interpersonal meaning description and critical discussion can be made. The scholars have founded their investigation on the description and interpretation of Mood and Modality features, which have been of an utmost importance highlighting the interpersonal meaning and social relationship in the studied fiction. Drawing on the findings, the scholars claim that “the hidden authorial ideology behind Kaine Agary’s fictional text is geared towards a pro-woman social change for a more balanced African society”, as a conclusion.

As far as Salami (2019) is concerned, he has analyzed lexico-grammatical properties in Chukwuemeka’s The Naked Gods, Sunset at Dawn and The Chicken Chasers. His dissertation aims first at seeking how Chukwuemeka has made use of Mood, Transitivity and Theme patterns to build interpersonal meaning, experiential meaning and textual meaning in his fictional arts. Second, it analyses the Mood, Transitivity and Theme patterns Chukwuemeka has used to really reveal-power relations, establish contact, create affective involvement, unveil his own world view in his novels and, finally, shows how Mood, Transitivity and Theme patterns have contributed to the better understanding of the writer’s fiction. According to him, people speak or write in order to be understood. And they can be understood only if their listeners or readers take into account the text produced and the context in which the language is produced. His dissertation has applied Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), which has been described as a functional-semantic approach to language and has explored both how people use language in different contexts, and how the language is structured for use as a semiotic system (Eggins, 2004). The findings reveal that the extracts concerning the grammar of interpersonal meaning display various mood-types, mainly declarative and interrogative mood, as well as features of modality, including modulation and modalization, which are combined with adjuncts features to contribute to the realization of interpersonal function and to decode the tenor of discourse in the novels.

2. Theoretical Framework

This section deals with the key-terms and expressions used throughout the study.

2.1 Systemic Functional Linguistics

Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), also known as Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG), is a theory introduced by Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday and his followers since 1960s. Systemic in SFL refers to a conception of language as a group of systems and also refers to the view of interrelated sets of selections for making meaning. Functional refers to a concern for what language does and how it does, in contrast to structural approaches. According to Butt et al. (7), Systemic Functional Grammar is a way of describing lexical and grammatical choices from the systems of wordings so that we are always aware of how language is being used to realize meaning”. According to them, grammar is functional in three distinct although closely related senses: in its interpretation (1) of texts, (2) of the system, and (3) of the elements of linguistic structures” (Halliday, 1985). In terms of the text, functional grammar is a ‘natural’ grammar, in the sense that everything in it can be explained by how language is used. In terms of the system, all languages have organized components that consists of main kinds of meaning namely the ‘ideational’ or reflective, the ‘interpersonal’ or active, and the ‘textual’ or relevance between the other two. In terms of the structures, functional grammar sees all the units of language –clauses, phrases, and so on- as a natural formation of functions.

Eggins (3) states that “Systemic Functional Linguistics is an approach of language which focuses on how people use language with each other in everyday social life”. She also mentioned that there are four principal theoretical claims about language in the Systemic Functional Linguistics view, namely:

a. language use is functional;

b. its function is to make meanings;

c. these meanings are influenced by social and cultural context in which they are exchanged;

d. the process of using language is a semiotic process, a process of making.

2.1.1 Experiential Meaning: Transitivity

Experiential meaning is largely concerned with the contents and ideas. The contents and ideas of the language are used in the context that is in the text. Text does not derive from the reading passage. Halliday and Matthiessen (14) propose that when people speak or write, they produce text that refers to any instance of language, in any medium, that makes sense to someone who knows the language. In Systemic Functional Linguistic, language has been viewed in the metafunctions of language. One of the language metafuctions is ideational meaning that consists of experiential meaning and logical meaning. The pattern of experiential meaning is realized by the transitivity system. Eggins (206) views that the forming elements of transitivity system are the participant, process and circumstance configuration which represent the real life experiences: who is doing what, to whom, when, where, why and how. Halliday and Matthiessen (181), Eggins (214), Gerrot and Wignell (52-54) have similar views toward the three functional components of experiential meaning in transitivity system.

2.1.2 Process Types and their Attendant Participants

The process types system is highly relevant when we look at a clause as an exchange. The different kinds of processes constitute the major system which expresses the meaning of any clause and which determines the role of the associated participants occurring in different configurations. That is why they are always realized by a verbal group in order to specify the actions, the events or the relationships between implicated participants. Material processes: They are processes of doing, somehow tangible actions or happenings in the physical world. The inherent participants in a material process are Actor (the doer of the action) and Goal (the affected person or entity, if any), respectively like « The butcher » and « the bone » in « The butcher took the bone ». The reader may need to be familiar with such other terms as « Range, transitive material process, intransitive material process, Beneficiary, Receiver, Client, Action process versus Event process, Intention process versus Supervention process… » Mental processes: They are processes of minding, feeling, or sensing. In fact, there are three subcategories of them: processes related to Cognition, those related to Affection, and those related to Perception. Whatever the subcategory, the two inherent participants are Senser (the participant engaged in minding, feeling or sensing), and Phenomenon (what is mentally processed). For example, in « The dog had not seen the bone », « The dog » is Senser, « had not seen » is the process (Mental), and « the bone » is Phenomenon. Behavioral processes: They are verbs of physiological or psychological acts. The Participant involved in committing such acts of behaving is known as Behaver. When the act is directed to another Participant, the latter is called Phenomenon, or Behavior if it is like Range (a restatement of the process). For instance, in « The girls laughed at him », « The girls » is Behaver, « him » is Phenomenon. Sometimes, behavioral processes and mental processes are very alike, and one needs to be extremely careful to tell them apart. Eggins (233) explains that “behavioral processes act semantically as a ‘half-way house’ between mental and material processes”. They are in part about action, but it is action that has to be experienced by a conscious being. Some examples of verbs indicating this process are breathe, cough, dream, frown, gawk, grimace, grin, laugh, look over, scowl, smile, sniff, snuffle, stare, taste, think on, watch. Verbal processes: They are processes of verbal action, generally involving three Participants: Sayer (the ‘doer’ of the verbal action), Verbiage (what is said), and Receiver (the one to whom saying is directed). For example, in « The policeman asked the driver a few questions », « The policeman » is Sayer, « asked » is the process (Verbal), »the driver » is Receiver, and « a few questions » is Verbiage. Existential processes: They encode meanings about states of being, as entities of any kind are stated to exist. The structure of existential process clauses involves the use of the structural « there ». The entity that is stated to exist is referred to as the existent, like « anyone » in « Is there anyone in the bathroom? » Relational processes: They are processes meant to relate an entity to some attribute or identity. According to Halliday (215), the English system operates with three main types of relation: intensive, possessive and circumstantial; and each of these comes in two distinct modes of being attributive and identifying. In fact, the elements that are related to each other may be Carrier and Attribute, as is the case of « The task » and « hard », respectively, in « The task was hard »; Token and Value, as is the case of « Linguistics » and « the hardest subject » respectively, in « Linguistics is the hardest subject ». Eggins (239). Circumstances

They are meanings realized by adverbial groups or prepositional phrases to notify when, where, how and/or why (i.e. under what circumstances) the process takes place. There are seven (07) types of circumstances, respectively used to show Extent (duration or distance), Cause (reason, purpose or behalf), Location (time or place), Matter, Manner (means, quality, and comparison), Role and Accompaniment. Eggins (1994) has devised a system of circumstance including all the types of Circumstance that I have just listed; see the system on the left side below. However, considering the relevance of Koussouhon’s (2012) examination of editing errors (editing matters…), a careful and critical reader may recognize that there is a slight careless mistake (surely an editing matter) somewhere in that drawn system. In fact, reason, purpose and behalf are not expressions of Accompaniment as shown on that system; they are rather expressions of cause as specified by the linguist herself (Eggins 1994: 238 / 2004:222)

According to Halliday (1994/2004), the system of transitivity can be summarized into six categories:

Table 1: Summary of the Process Types

Process typeCategory of meaningParticipants directly involvedParticipants obliquely  involved
Material (action, event)Doing, happeningActor, goal, rangeRecipient, client
Mental (perception, affection, cognition)Sensing, feeling, thinkingSenser, phenomenon///////////////////
Relational (attribution, identification)Attributing identifying  Token, carrierValue, attribute

The functional grammatical description of the theory of transitivity enables me to explore all the constituents of a given clause and to conclude that the cornerstone of a clause is its “process type ». This functional description also provides me with adequate tools (miscellaneous process types implicating associated participant roles and configurations) to successfully analyze the transitivity patterns of a literary work like that of Toni Morrison.

3. Practical Analysis of Transitivity Patterns of the Selected Extracts          

The table below summarizes the statistical results of the analysis carried out in the selected excerpts.

Table 2: Statistical Recapitulation of Process Types in the selected Excerpts

Process TypesExcerpt 1Excerpt 2Excerpt 3
Materials Processes5758.763143.053240
Mental Processes1111.341520.832430
Behavioral Processes00000608.330405
Verbal Processes055.150608.330101.25
Existential Processes000000000101.25
  Relational ProcessesIdentifying033.090405.550607.50

In the light of the table above, it is noticeable that material processes are the most predominant process types among the remain process types in all the extracts. Not only do material processes present the most frequent occurrence but there are also mental, relational attributive processes and verbal processes. It is also noticeable that the least frequent processes in all the extracts are existential, Behavioural, Possessive and both relational Identifying and circumstantial. 

As a matter of fact, material processes occur 57 times with a representing percentage of 58.76% in excerpt 1, 31 (43.05%) in excerpt 2 and show with 32 (40%) in the third excerpt. This firstly means that participants are involved in either tangible or concrete actions. Therefore, the selected texts in the novel are about events and tangible actions.

Concerning mental processes, it is clearly shown that there are 11(11.34%) in extract 1, 15(20.83%) in extract 2 and 24(30%) in extract 3. This suggests that the excerpts are concerned with matter related to feeling, thinking and conscious cognition. Regarding relational attributive processes, it is obvious that they occur 15 (15.46%) in extract 1, 10 (13.88%) in extract 2 and 10 (12.50%) in extract 3. This implies that the excerpts deal with descriptive narration or event. Indeed, characters as well as things have been described and granted qualities. Verbal processes rank third with 05 (5.15%) in extract 1, 06 (08.33%) in the second extract and 01(01.25) in the third one. This means that the excerpt involves doing as well as saying and that some discourses have been spoken in it. From this perspective, one can infer that a large variety of participants are involved in the processes aforementioned. Most of them are encoded in nominal groups that are human being or inanimate things.  Some are encoded in pronouns which are referent to human beings or inanimate things.

As for the circumstances, it is noted that except for the cause circumstances, all the other types of circumstances are registered throughout the three excerpts, though both location and manner circumstances prevail over the others. In fact, the dominance of these two circumstances is justified by the fact that the actions performed by the participants take place in specified places and in some given ways. A well-made analysis of the transitivity patterns in the extracts from the novel under study helps discover that the transitivity description carried out in the present chapter actually meets all the overall aspects of the transitivity theory displayed in the theoretical framework. It can then be stated with conviction that the selected excerpts from Toni Morrison’s Paradise are very conducive to the work at hand. This point of view is going to be more highlighted in the next coming up sub part that deals with the discussion and interpretation of the findings. 

4. Discussion of the Findings

The transitivity analysis reveals that the same types of processes are used in the extracts. These are material, mental, attributive and verbal. In this section, we then discuss the linguistic features identified in extracts drawn from Paradise. As a matter of fact, in Paradise, it is noticed that some material processes are either transitive or intransitive and almost all the participants are human beings. This implies that Toni Morrison has written about real and concrete issues in her novel.  

In the first extract, the youngest of the men, who happen to be Ruby’s boy and at same time the nephew of the twin brothers made use of both material process intransitive and transitive material process to illustrate the atmosphere that prevails on the debate about the name to be given to the town of Haven. For instance some material processes illustrate it as “to call”, “had traveled” in “about what to call this place she had traveled to with her brothers and her little boy.” This means that women’s opinion did not really count in the debate till the death of the boy’s mother.

The transitivity analysis, in the second extracts, shows clearly that the characters are mostly involved in material processes with Marvis, the initiator of the actions. Through those processes, Marvis takes control of the situation at hand.

Throughout the third extract, material processes encoded tangible actions mostly played by human being.  This implies that the content of the novels have been achievable through concrete actions.

As for mental processes, the three categories of their class are found in the excerpts. The most predominate class is that of feeling encoded by verbs such as “pleased” “want”. This suggests that Toni Morrison, through her narratives in Paradise, has dealt with current emotional situation experienced by human being in his community or which he had witnessed. Moreover, the analysis of the cognition processes that rank second out of the three categories of mental processes and are encoded in “know” and “think” mostly with different characters playing the senser roles, has made it possible to discover that Toni Morrison was acutely aware of the problems undermining the dark skinned communities even within the town they have founded. Likely, with perception processes in the three excerpts altogether mostly encoded in such verbs as “see”, the author displays the frame of problems he had eye-witnessed.

The relational attributive processes, in all the three excerpts, are highly encoded in verbs such as “is”, “were” and “did”. The Carrier is mostly inanimate thing encoded in pronouns such as “This” and “That”. It suggests that the carrier function in these processes elucidates the implied meanings of things or situation which make Toni Morrison’s narration more understandable for the reader.

Besides verbal processes encoded in the three excerpts with verbs such as “speak”, “ordered”,  “asked” and “say”. This means that there is exchange between the participants, especially Mavis and the photographer. The latter is asking question and Mavis is replying or trying to explain why Jim Albright could not come out for the post. Either ‘The photographer’ or ‘Mavis’ is the Sayer in some given sentences. And in others, they play the ‘receiver’ role.

From what has been said above, we can say that Toni Morrison has used material, mental, relational attributive and verbal processes mainly to convey her message in order for readers to have a better understanding of her novel, Paradise. In general, in the three extracts of this novel, we have come across a high proportion of circumstances of location. This predominance of circumstances of location suggests that actions in the novel occur in some places and time. Nevertheless it is noted that the excerpts are devoid of the circumstantial and causatives processes. The absence of these processes suggests that the novel is more about actions. These actions take place at a given place to achieve a purpose in the novel. The participants exchange experiences about the “real world”.

In fact, Toni Morrison is using the experiential meaning to clarify the situation of black Americans who found a new community due to the exclusion they face from public life and job opportunities, both as black men and particularly as dark-skinned black men. Throughout the novel, the author portrays the unraveling community of this all-Black town, he shows that unity can never be achieved solely on the ground of opposition to an outside enemy, but has to be achieved from within, by building a place and caring for the individual and the community. The ideal community for Morrison is the one based on common understanding, balanced between individual respect for communal ties and communal respect for individuality.


This paper has investigated the relationship between linguistic structures and socially constructed meanings from Toni Morrison’s Paradise. Both quantitative and qualitative analysis has been used in the present work. It shows the exploration of the author’s language by counting the transitivity patterns in the selected extracts and also the implications of the transitivity features in the selected extracts.  The study has revealed that material is the most dominant process type in the novel. Material processes as the highest frequency of occurrence in the novel are used to show that the main characters physically do something which denote concrete and tangible actions that can be gathered in various categories: some of them specify movement whereas others denote determination, recklessness, and exploitation. The actor participants involved in these processes perform actions that are mostly extended to things external to them. The goal roles are played by either animate beings or inanimate things which the actors make use of. The actors also make use of part of their body from time to time.  Other processes such as mental and verbal processes, along with their participants and circumstances which are strongly foregrounded through the analyzed excerpts, have been closely looked at. Through these process-types, the meanings of Toni Morrison’s message in Paradise have come over more impressively.

Travaux cités

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Bloor, Thomas and Meriel Bloor. The Functional Analysis of English. London: Arnold. 2004.  

Butt, David et al. Using functional grammar: An explorer’s guide. Second Edition. Sydney: Macquarie University. 2000.

Eggins, Suzanne. An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Pinter Publishers. 1994. 

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Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood. Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. 1985a.

……… Introduction to Functional Grammar. 3rd edition. London: Holder Headline Group. 2004.

Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood and Christian Matthias Ingemar Martin Matthiessen. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. (3rd Edition). London: Holder Headline Group. 2004.

Koussouhon, A. Leonard. “Reassessing the Language of “Abiku” (John Pepper Clark; Wole Soyinka): A Systemic Functional Analysis”. Partip’Action.  Vol.  N°2.  (2009): 2-25.

………..“Lexico-pragmatic transfer in Anglophone African fiction: A comparative reappraisal”. Partip’Action. Vol. N°2. (2009a): 255-280.

……….“Male-dominating language patterns and assertive female idiolects in Anglophone African discourse. Langage & Devenir, Revue Semestrielle. p. 17-31.” 2009b.

Koussouhon, A. Leonard and Ashani M. Dossoumou. ‘’Lexico-Grammatical Analysis of Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary with a Focus on Experiential and Textual Meanings’’. Mediterranean Journal of Social Science. Vol5, N° 23, 2014,  2430-2438.

Koussouhon, A. Leonard  et al. “Decoding the Context of Ideology in Two Extracts from a Contemporary Ghanaian Prose work”. International Journal of Language and Linguistics. Vol.2, N°4. (2015): 129-139.

Koutchadé, Innocent Sourou and Beatrice M’po Kouyinampou. “Transitivity Patterns and Experiential Meaning in Dapo Adeleke’s Thrills and Trials and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon: A Systemic Functional Approach”, in Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research. Vol.4, N°2, 2017, p. 253-266.

Morrison, Toni. Paradise. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York: Torondo. 1998.

Salami, Amadou. Lexico-Grammatical Features in Chukwuemeka Ike’s The Naked   Gods, Sunset at Dawn and The Chicken Chasers: A Systemic Functional Perspective.   Unpublished PhD Dissertation. Université d’Abomey-Calavi. Benin. 2019.


P = process (in bold), Pm = material, Pme = mental, Pv = verbal, Pb = behavioural, Pe = existential, Pi = intensive, Pcc = circumstantial, Pp = possessive, Pc = causative, A = Actor, G = Goal, B = Beneficiary, R = Range, R =Recipient, Ct=Client, S=Senser, Ph = Phenomenon, Sy = Sayer, Rv = Receiver, Vb = Verbiage, Be = Behaver, Bh = Behaviour, X = Existent, T = Token, V = Value, Cr = Carrier, At = Attribute, Pr = possessor, Pd = possessed, C = Circumstance, Cl = location, Cx = extent, Cm = manner, Cc = cause, Ca = accompaniment, Cma = matter, Co = role, Ag = Agent.

Extract 1: PP 17-18

1. The nephew (S) always knew (Pme) 2.that his mother(A) had tried (Pm) as hard as (Cm) 3. She (A) could to hang on (Pm). 4. She(A) had managed (Pm) //to see (Pme) him// ride (Pm) the winning horse(G), 5.but beyond that she (Pr) had (Pp) no strength (Pd). 6. Not even enough (S) to get interested (Pme) in the debates (Ph) 7.about what (A) to call (Pm) this place (Cl) 8. she (A) had traveled (Pm)  to with her brothers and her little boy(Ca). 9. For three years(Cx) New Haven (T) had been(Pi) the name (V) //most agreed to (Pm), 10.although a few(Cr) were(Pi) loud in [suggesting (Pv) other names—names (At)] 11. That (Sy) did not speak (Pv), 12. they (Sy) said (Pv), of failure new or repeated(Vb). 13. Pacific veterans(S) liked (Pme) Guam, others Inchon (Ph). 14. Those who (A) fought (Pm) in Europe (Cl) 15. kept coming up (Pm) with names (Ca)// 16. only the children (S) enjoyed (Pme) pronouncing (Ph). 17. The women (Pr) had (Pp) no firm opinion (Pd) 18. until the nephew’s mother (A) died (Pm). 19. Her funeral—the town’s first (A)—stopped (Pm) the schedule of discussion and its necessity (G). 20. They(A) named (Pm) the town after one of their own(G)  21.and the men (Cr) did not gainsay (Pi) them (At). 22. All right. Well. Ruby. Young Ruby. (Vb) 23.It (S) pleased (Pme) his uncles (Ph)// who (Cr) could (Pi) then (Cx) 24. both mourn (Pm) the sister and honor the friend and brother-in-law(G)// who (A) didn’t make (Pm) it back(G). 25. But the nephew, winner of Ossie’s Purple Heart, heir to his father’s dog tags, witness to his mother’s name (A) painted (Pm) on signs (G) 26.and written (Pm) on envelopes for the rest of his life (Cx), [was displaced (Pm) by these sad markings(A)]. 27. The heart, the tags, the post office designation outsized him somehow. 28. The women who(S) had known (Pme) //and tended (Pm) // 29.his mother (A) spoiled (Pm) Ruby’s boy(G). 30. The men who (A) enlisted (Pm) with his father (Ca) [favored (Pi) Ruby’s husband’s boy (At).] 31. The uncles (A) took (Pm) him (Ag) for granted (G) 32.When the decision (A) was taken (Pm) at the Oven (Cl), 33.he(Cr) was(Pi) there(Cl). 34. But two hours ago, when (Cl) they (A)’d swallowed (Pm) the last piece of red meat (G), 35. an uncle (A) simply tapped (Pm) him on the shoulder(G)// and said (Pv), 36.“We (Pr) got (Pp) coffee (Pd) in the truck(Cl). 37. Go get (Pm) your rifle.(G)” 38.Which he(Cr) did (Pi), 39.but he(A) took (Pm) the palm cross too(G). 40. It (Cr) was (Pi) four in the morning (Cl) //when they(A) left (Pm); [going (Pm) on five (G) 41. when they (A) arrived (Pm)  42. because, not wanting (Pme) engine hum// or headlights(A) to ruin(Pm) their cover of darkness(G), 43.they (A) walked(Pm) the final miles(G). 44.They(A) parked (Pm) the trucks (G) in a copse of shin oak (Cl), 45. for light (Cr) could(Pi) signal(At) uninterrupted for mile upon mile (Cx) in this country (Cl). 46. When casing heads (Cr) for fifty miles (Cx) were (Pi) invisible(At), 47. a lit birthday cake(Cr) could be spotted (Pi) 48. as soon as (Cl)the match(Cr) was(Pi) struck(At). 49. Half a mile from their destination (Cx) fog(A) surrounded (Pm) them to their hips (G). 50. They(A) reached (Pm) the Convent(G) 51. just seconds before (Cl)   the sun(Cr) did(Pi) 52. and had (Pp) a moment (Pd) //to see (Pme) 53. and register for all time (Cx) how the mansion(A) oated (Pm), dark(G) 54. and malevolently (Cm) disconnected (Pm) from God’s earth (Cl). 55. In the schoolroom(Cl), which used to be (Pi) a dining room(At) 56. and now (Cl) has (Pp) no function except storage of desks (Pd) //pushed (Pm) to the wall(R), // 57. the view (Cr) is (Pi) clear (At). 58.The men of Ruby(A) bunch (Pm) at its windows (Cl). 59. Finding (Pm) nothing (G)// but confirming (Pv) evidence(Vb) elsewhere in the Convent(Cl), 60. They (A) gather (Pm) here (Cl). The New Fathers of Ruby, Oklahoma. (Vb) 61. The chill they (A) first encountered is gone (Pm); 62. So (Cr) is (Pi) the mist(At). 63. They (A) are animated(Pm) warm (G) with perspiration and the nocturnal odor of righteousness(Ca). 64. The view (Cr) is(Pi) clear(At). Track. 65. That(Cr) ’s(Pi) all(At) 66.the nephew(S) can think of(Pme).  67. Four-hundred-yard dashers or even the three-mile runners(Cx). 68. The heads of two of them(A) are thrown (Pm) back (Cl) 69. as far as(Cx) their necks (A) will allow (Pm); 70. fists tight as their arms pump (Cm) 71. and stretch(Pm) for distance(Cx). 72. One(Pr) has(Pp) her nappy(Pd) head down, butting air (Cm) 73. and time (A) wide (Cm) open (Pm), 74. one hand(A) reaching(Pm) for a winner’s wire(Co) nowhere in her future(Cl).  75. Their mouths(A) are open(Pm), //pulling in(Pm) breath(G),// giving up(Pm) none(G). 76.The legs of all (A) are off (Pm) the ground(G),77. split (Pm) wide (Cm)above the clover (Cl). 78.Bodacious black Eves(G) unredeemed(Pm) by Mary(A), 79. They(S) are like(Pme)// panicked does leaping(Pm) toward a sun(G) 80. that(A) has finished burning(Pm) off the mist(G) 81. and now(Cl) pours (Pm) its holy oil (G)over the hides of game(Cl). 82.God at their side(Cl), the men(A) take (Pm) aim(G). For Ruby (Co).

Extract 2: PP 21-22

1.The neighbors(S) seemed pleased (Pme) 2. when the babies (Be) smothered (Pb). 3.Probably (Cm) because the mint green Cadillac in which they(A) died (Pm) 4. had annoyed (Pme) them for some time (Cx). 5. They(A) did (Pm) all the right things(G), of course: 6.brought(Pm) food(G),// telephoned(Pm) their sorrow(G),// got up(Pm) a collection(G); 7. but the shine of excitement (Cr) in their eyes (Cl) was (Pi) clear(At). 8. When the journalist(A) came (Pm), 9. Mavis(A) sat (Pm) in the corner of the sofa(Cl), not sure(Pme) 10.whether to scrape(Pm) the potato chip crumbs(G) from the seams of the plastic cover(Cl)  11.or tuck(Pm) them (G) further in(Cx). 12. But the journalist(S) wanted((Pme) [the photo(A) taken (Pm) first, (Cm)](Ph) 13. so the photographer (Sy) ordered (Pv) [Mavis to the middle of the sofa (Cl)] (Vb), 14. with the surviving children (Ca) on either side of their distraught and grieving mother (Cl). 15. She (Sy) asked (Pv) for the father too, of course (Vb). 16. Jim? (Vb) 17. Is (Pi) it(T) Jim Albright(V)? 18. But Mavis (Sy) said (Pv) 19. He(S) wasn’t feeling (Pme) so good (Ph), 20. couldn’t come out (Pm), 21. They(A)’d have to go (Pm) ahead without him (Ca). 22. The journalist and the photographer(Be) exchanged(Pb) looks(Bh), 23. and Mavis(S) thought(Pme) //they(S) probably(Cm) knew(Pme) anyway(Ph) 24.that Frank—not Jim(A)—was sitting(Pm) on the edge of the bathtub(Cl)// drinking(Pm) Seagram’s(G) without a glass(Ca). 25. Mavis(A) moved (Pm) to the center of the sofa(Cl) 26. and cleaned(Pm) her fingernails of potato chip dust(G) 27. Until(Cl) the other children(A) joined(Pm) her(G). 28.The “other children” (Cr) is (Pi) [what they(Cr) would always be(Pi) now(Cl).] (At) 29. Sal(A) put (Pm) her arm (G) around her mother’s waist (Cl). 30. Frankie and Billy James(A) were squished(Pm) together(G) on her right(Cl). 31. Sal (A) pinched (Pm) her(G), hard(Cm). 32. Mavis(S) knew (Pme) instantly(Cm) 33.that her daughter(Cr) wasn’t(Pi) nervous(At) before the camera and all(Cl), 34. because the pinch(A) grew (Pm) long(Cx), pointed(Pm). 35. Sal’s fingernails(A) were diving (Pm) for blood(Cc). 36. “This (Cr) must be(Pi) terrible(At) for you(Cc).” 37. Her name, she(Sy) said(Pv), [was (Pi) June(V).](Vb) 38. “Yes, m’am.(Vb) 39. It(Cr) ’s(Pi) terrible(At) for all of us.(Cc)” 40. “Is(Pi) there(Cr) something(At)// you(Sy) want to say(Pv)? 41.Something you(S) want (Pme) [other mothers(S) to know(Pme)?” ](Ph) “M’am?”(Vb) 42. June (Be) crossed (Pb) her knees(Bh) 43.and Mavis(S) saw (Pme) [that this(T) was(Pi) the first time(V) ](Ph) 44.  She(A) had worn(Pm) the white high-heeled shoes(G). 45. The soles(Cr) were barely(Cm) smudged(Pi). 46.“You(S) know (Pme). 47. Something(Be)  to warn(Pb) them(Bh), caution(Pb) them(Bh), about negligence(Cma).” 48. “Well.” Mavis(A) took (Pm) a deep breath(G). 49.“I(S) can’t think of (Pme) any(Ph). 50. I(S) guess (Pme). I.” The photographer (A) squatted (Pm), cocking his head as he(S) examined (Pme)  the possibilities(Ph). 51. “So some good (A) can come out (Pm) of this awful tragedy(Cc)?” June’s smile(Cr) was(Pi) sad(At). 52. Mavis(A) straightened(Pm) against the success of Sal’s fingernails(G). 53.The camera(A) clicked(Pm). 54. June (A) moved (Pm) her felt-tipped pen(G) into place(Cl). 55. It (Cr) was (Pi) a fine thing(At). 56.Mavis(S) had never seen(Pi) anything(Ph)// like it(Cm)— 57.made (Pm) ink on the paper(Cl) but dry, not all blotty(G). 58.“I(Be) don’t have(Pb) nothing(Bh)// to say (Pv) to strangers (R) right now(Cl).”

Extract 3: PP 272-273

1.At first she(S) thought (Pme) 2. Sargeant(S) must have known(Pme) all about it(Ph). 3.He(A) raised (Pm) corn(G) in those fields(Cl). 3.But there was (Pe) no mistaking the astonishment (X) on his face(Cl) 4. or on any of the others’ when they(S) heard(Pme). 5.The problem(Cr) was(Pi) [whether to notify(Pme) the law or not(Ph).](At) 6. Not, it(S) was decided(Pme). 7. Even to bury (Pm) them(G) //would be admitting(Pm) to something(R)// they(Pr) had(Pp) no hand in(Pd). 8. When some of the men(S) went to look (Pme), 9.much of their attention(Cr) was not(Pi) on the scene at hand(At)// but west on the Convent 10(Cl). that(A) loomed(Pm) in their sight line(G). 11. She(S) should have known(Pme) then(Cl). 12. Had she(A) been paying (Pm) attention, first to the buzzards, then to the minds of men(G), she (A) would not be using up (Pm) all her Wrigley’s (G)  13.and gasoline on a mission she(S) hoped (Pme) //would be(Pi) her last(At).  14.Eyesight too dim, joints too stiff this(Cr) was (Pi) no work for a gifted midwife(At). 15.But God(A) had given (Pm) her the task(G),// bless(Pb) His holy heart(Bh),16. and at thirty miles(Cx) an hour on a hot July night(Cl), she(S) knew(Pme)// she(A) was traveling(Pm) in His time(G), not outside it(Cl). 17.It (T) was (Pi) He(V)// who(A) placed (Pm) her(G) there(Cl); 18. encouraged (Pme) her(Ph) // to look (Pme) for the medicine (Ph) //best picked (Pm) dry at night(Cl). 19. The streambed (Cr) was (Pi) dry(At); 20.the coming rain(Cr) would remedy(Pi) that(At) 21. even as it (Cr) softened (Pi) the two-legged mandrake root(At). 22. She(S) had heard (Pme) light laughter (Ph) 23. and radio music (A) traveling (Pm) from the Oven (Cl). 24.Young couples(S) courting (Pme). 25.At least they(Cr) were(Pi) in the open(Cl), 26.she(S) thought(Pme), not scrambling up(Ph) into a hayloft or under a blanket in the back of a truck(Cl). 27.Then (Cl) the laughter and the music(A) stopped (Pm). 28.Deep male voices(A) gave (Pm) orders(G); 29. flashlights(A) cut (Pm) shafts on bodies, faces, hands(G) 30.and what they(A) carried (Pm). 31. Without a murmur (Ca), the couples(A) left (Pm), 32.but the men(Cr) didn’t (Pi). 33. Leaning against the Oven’s walls or squatting on their haunches (Cl), 34. They (A) clustered (Pm) in darkness(Cl). 35. Lone (A) shrouded (Pm) her own flashlight (G) with her apron(Ca) 36. and would have moved (Pm) invisibly (Cm) to the rear of Holy Redeemer(G), 37. where her car(A) was parked (Pm), had she(S) not remembered (Pme) the other events(Ph) 38. She(S) had ignored (Pme) //or misunderstood (Pme): the Lenten buzzards; Apollo’s new handgun (Ph). 40. She (A) clicked (Pm) herself back (G) into complete darkness (Cl) 41. and sat down(Pm) on the thirsty grass(Cl). 42. She (A) had to stop nursing (Pm) resentment (G) at the townspeople’s refusal of her services(Cl); 43. stop stealing(Pm) penny (G)// revenge(Pb)// by ignoring (Pme) 44.what (A) was going on(Pm)// and letting (Pi)// evil(Pr) have(Pp) its way(Pd). 45. Playing blind (Cr) was to avoid (Pi) the language (At)// God(Sy) spoke in (Pv).  46.He (Cr) did not(Pi) thunder instructions(At) or whisper(Pb) messages(Bh) into ears(Cl). 47. Oh, no. He (T) was (Pi) a liberating God(V). 48. A teacher who(A) taught (Pm) you(G)// how(Cm) to learn(Pm),// to see (Pme) for yourself(Ph). 49. His signs(T) were (Pi) clear(V), abundantly(Cm) so, 50. if you(A) stopped steeping (Pm) in vanity’s sour juice(Cl)// and paid (Pm) attention to His world(R). 51. He(S) wanted (Pme) her(Ph)// to hear (Pme)// the men(A) gathered (Pm) at the Oven(Cl) to decide (Pme) 52.and figure out(Pi)// how to run (Pm) the Convent women off(G), 53.and if He(S) wanted (Pme) her to witness(Pb) that(Ph), 54.He(S) must also want(Pme) her// to do (Pm) something about it(G).

Comment citer cet article :

MLA : Kombieni, Didier, Nassourou Imorou et Amadou Salami. « Lexico-Grammatical Analysis of Three Excerpts Selected from Toni Morrison’s Paradise: Focus on Experiential Meaning ». Uirtus 1.2. (décembre 2021): 281-301.

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