Michael Halliday (1925-2018)
Members of PALA will be saddened to learn of the death, on Sunday 15th April in Sydney, of Michael Halliday. For at least a couple of generations of stylisticians, particularly those looking at texts and media that used English, his work on English lexicogrammar, on discourse and text, and on neglected topics like intonation was an essential foundation. And in the decades when much linguistics was abstract and generativist, with limited interest in text and social context, his conviction that language was a social semiotic and merited study on that basis was an inspiration. From his earliest articles on the scale and categories of grammar, to his landmark Cohesion in English (1976) written with Ruqaiya Hasan, and on to his magisterial Introduction to Functional Grammar (first edition 1985, later revise editions produced with Christian Matthiessen) his work proposed links between grammar, the systematicities of a language, and meaning. Language he contended is in all important respects functional: it is a meaning potential developed and used by people to advance their various communicative interests. As a result, real speakers and writers, addressees and hearers, were always kept in view, and this was hugely welcome to all in stylistics, seeking methods of putting literary text analysis on a robust linguistic basis, but needing a ‘usable’ linguistics for that purpose. There can be few stylisticians of English literature and media who have not drawn at one time or another on Michael Halliday’s insightful analyses of cohesion/anaphora, transitivity, modality and the interpersonal function, theme-rheme and the textual function—or many other topics too numerous to mention. In person he was always gracious, generous with his time and attention to students and colleagues, and was held in the greatest affection by a world-wide spread of admirers. He was one of the great linguists who very evidently loved language and enjoyed exploring the ingenuities of actual instances of speech and writing; this enthusiasm was infectious. Despite his final decades spent in Australia, I think he never ceased to be a Yorkshireman, proud of those roots. He will be sadly missed, but his work will endure, to our collective benefit.
University of Birmingham