Pre-congress institute: workshops

University of New South Wales, Sydney, June 29-30, 2024

UNSW Flag Kensington

Analysing rhythm

Theo Van Leeuwen

The workshop will begin by introducing the differences between clock time and our body clocks and explaining the fundamental rhythmic structuring of everyday social interaction and time-based multimodal texts.

It will then introduce a method for analysing the rhythmic structure of multimodal texts and the role it plays in meaning-making.

This will be followed by a hands-on exercise in rhythm analysis, a discussion of the results of the analysis and a Q &A.  

A handout with an outline of the analytical procedure will be provided.


Hall E. (1983) The Dance of Life – The Other Dimension of Time.  New York: Anchor Books, pp. 162-183

Van Leeuwen, T. (2005) Introducing Social Semiotics. London: Routledge pp. 181-196

Operationalising SFT in the disciplinary literacies of school English, science and history

Pauline Jones (University of Wollongong), Erika Matruglio (University of Wollongong), Annette Turney (Australian Catholic University) & Beverly Derewianka (University of Wollongong)

This workshop has both practical and theoretical intentions. It begins with an introduction to some recent projects in which we have worked with teachers of upper primary and secondary years using systemic functional theory and pedagogy to enhance students’ learning and literacy outcomes. Approaching literacy from the perspective of both verbal and visual resources as they are deployed in distinctive and increasingly more specialised ways in the different subjects, we will exemplify the approach taken in each subject and demonstrate some of the outcomes from the projects.

Then, in hands-on activities, we offer exemplar texts, students’ work-samples and other artefacts from each subject for analysis and discussion. We pay particular attention to the ways in which systemic functional concepts or tools come into play as actual classroom activities and actions, asking what kinds of practices are most useful for supporting students’ development across the primary and secondary transition. Participants will be encouraged to contribute their own knowledge and experiences to this discussion.

One goal of the workshop is to deepen collective insights into the semiotic nature of subject-specific literacies and to articulate the unique contribution of systemic functional theory to disciplinary literacy studies.  We identify some of the ongoing issues surrounding the recontextualization of SFL theory for classroom practice and consider ways of addressing these on the basis of participants’ experiences in different pedagogic settings. Participants will also have access to curated resources and readings for use in their own contexts.

Synoptic Eyefuls: Analysing Aggregation in School Science Infographics

J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth

Infographics are image-language ensembles such as photographs, diagrams, graphs, maps, cartoons etc.  They include at least one image of various kinds, usually in combination with text captions, ‘callouts’, annotations and/or interpolated text blocks. Infographics have become increasingly prominent in communicating to the general public on websites and in the popular press, as well as in brochures and other publications by government and semi-government authorities and industry; they are also prominent in school learning materials and for this workshop we focus on infographics in school science.

It is widely acknowledged that students struggle to interpret infographics, especially when they become more technical and abstract as topics are pursued more deeply. By way of exploring what makes infographics more or less technical and abstract, we approach their analysis from the perspective of register and discourse semantics – addressing complexity and recognizability (Martin & Unsworth, 2024).

To open the workshop the adaptation of Martin’s (Martin, 2020; Martin & Matruglio, 2020) concepts of mass and presence to images is introduced. We deal first with mass (roughly 'semantic density'), and work through the options for depicting technicality (activity, composition, classification and property) and aggregation (ways in which activity, classification, composition and property are integrated as a visual whole).

Turning to presence (roughly recognizability) options are introduced for:

  • explicitness (the extent and clarity with which phenomena are portrayed),
  • congruence (the continuum along which phenomena are depicted – from approximating perceptual reality to representing conceptual relations), and
  • affiliation (visual design encouraging affinity and engagement with represented participants and providing infotainment and aesthetic appeal).

Finally, some of the pedagogic implications of this work are discussed in relation to the affordances of different infographics on the same topic for the same and for different education levels.


Martin, J. R., & Unsworth, L. (2024). Reading Images for Knowledge Building: Analyzing Infographics in School Science (1 ed.). Routledge.

Martin, J. R. (2020). Revisiting field: Specialized knowledge in secondary school science and humanities discourse. In J. R. Martin, K. Maton, & Y. J. Doran (Eds.), Accessing Academic Discourse: Systemic Functional Linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory (pp. 114-148). Routledge.

Martin, J. R., & Matruglio, E. (2020). Revisiting mode: Context in/dependency in Ancient History classroom discourse. In J. R. Martin, K. Maton, & Y. J. Doran (Eds.), Accessing Academic Discourse: Systemic Functional Linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory (pp. 89-113). Routledge.

Martin, J. R. & Rose, D. (2020) Condensing meaning: Imagic aggregations in secondary school science. Linguistics and the Human Sciences 15(3), 369-410.

Describing interpersonal grammar systemic-functionally

Dongbing (Mus) Zhang,
University of International Business and Economics, China

This workshop is designed for people who do not have prior experience in describing languages from a systemic functional linguistic (SFL) perspective. It focuses, in particular, on describing the interpersonal grammar of a language by drawing on example descriptions of Mongolian, Chinese, and English. In doing so, the workshop aims to make explicit some of the general assumptions and methodological considerations in the extant SFL descriptions of interpersonal grammar.

The workshop comprises three parts. First, we will review the basic theoretical parameters of axis, rank, metafunction and stratification, and discuss how each is relevant to the description of interpersonal grammar. Second, by using examples of Mongolian, Chinese, and English, we will consider ways to identify agnate and enate structures in data that are relevant to interpersonal meanings, turn them into paradigms, and convert the paradigms into system networks. Third, we will closely examine some interpersonal motifs that have emerged in SFL descriptive works in terms of comparability.

Suggested readings

Martin, J.R., Beatriz Quiroz & Giacomo Figueredo (eds.). 2021. Interpersonal grammar: Systemic functional linguistic theory and description. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, J.R., Beatriz Quiroz & Pin Wang. 2023. Systemic functional grammar: A text-based description of English, Spanish and Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2004. Descriptive motifs and generalizations. In Alice Caffarel, J.R. Martin & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen (eds.), Language typology: A functional perspective, 537–673. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sound semiosis – listening and interpreting meaning in spoken language

Lilián I. Ariztimuño, Career Development Fellow in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Wollongong

This workshop explores the sounding meaning potential of the English language in a very practical, hands-on approach within a systemic functional perspective. The aim of the course is to combine theory and practice to ground our knowledge about the impact prosodic choices have in the meanings at risk in situated discourse. Workshop participants will be presented with different activities that will guide their listening to identify different prosodic choices in spoken discourse to then interpret the meanings projected by those choices in specific texts.

During the workshop we will be working with a selection of spoken texts to explore how different phonological choices contribute to meaning making in conjunction with wordings. The course will be an opportunity to work with peers and the course facilitator to improve our listening for and interpretating of meaning not only in well-established SFL phonological system networks such as intonation, including tonality, tonicity and tone but also in the theoretical concepts of key and termination developed within Discourse Intonation as well as more recent SFL work on systematising semogenic vocal features such as tempo, loudness, voice quality, among others.

Register: Resources for Understanding Context

Yaegan Doran,
Australian Catholic University

This course will focus on newly developed tools for analysing register in language and multimodal text. In particular, it will consider register in terms of resources for field, tenor and mode. It will consider field as a resource for construing phenomena in terms of the activities, taxonomies, properties and interdependencies text builds (drawing on Doran and Martin 2021).

It will consider tenor as a resource for enacting sociality, in terms of how we put forward and share our meanings, how we nuance them in their scope, stakes and spirit, and how we build rich and interconnected sets of values that underpin our lives (drawing on Doran, Martin and Zappavigna forthcoming). And finally, it will consider mode as a resource for composing text, in terms of how we demarcate text into distinct chunks of information, how we distribute this information across text, and how we foreground and background this information in relation to the needs of the situation. Through the course, we will consider how we can understand different components of register in a way that allows us to see the multifaceted meanings that occur in our social lives. Throughout, a focus will be on introducing tools for register analysis and getting stuck into (multimodal) texts.


Doran, Y.J. and Martin, J.R. 2021. Field relations: Understanding scientific explanations. In K. Maton, J.R. Martin and Y.J. Doran (eds) Teaching Science: Knowledge, Language, Pedagogy. London: Routledge.

Doran, Y.J., Martin, J.R. and Zappavigna, M. forthcoming. Negotiating Social Relations: Tenor Systems in English. London: Equinox.