11. The Functional Discourse Grammar approach to syntax

  • J. Lachlan Mackenzie
  • May 2019, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/9783110540253-011

How to analyse the structure of sentences in Functional Discourse Grammar

Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

What is it about?

Many people study the structure of sentences without considering the meaning of those sentences or how they might be used in conversation or in a text. This article explains how sentence structure is approached in a linguistic framework that has been developed in recent years by Kees Hengeveld, myself and many others. Our approach emphasizes that language use is a form of action (and interaction) and shows how several -- but not all! -- aspects of sentence structure follow from that. The article ends by analysing the sentence "After Mary introduced herself to the audience, she turned to a man she had met before", which was devised by the editors of the book as a challenge to the authors of all the chapters. By looking at the other chapters in the book, you can compare how I do it with various other people's suggestions.

Why is it important?

Many people are interested in working with Functional Discourse Grammar, but are not sure exactly how to implement it. This article explains how it can be used as a comprehensive tool.


Professor Lachlan Mackenzie
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Originally, the article was much longer, and I also wanted to go into how the theory could show in what ways languages can differ and in what ways they are the same. Readers may find it an interesting challenge to figure out how the theory could be applied to an equivalent sentence in their own language, like French "Après que Mary se soit/s’est présentée au public, elle s'est tournée vers un homme qu'elle avait rencontré auparavant."

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Lachlan Mackenzie