EL5221 Discussion: Session 6

On Transitivity

Discussion date: 19th September 2006

Some of you may also be interested to visit the following pages (and the links therein) from John Bateman et al.'s Generalised Upper model Web site, in addition to the relevant lecture notes indicated below:

If the above are not accessible, you may want to look at the pdf document that discusses The Generalized Upper Model 2.0: look at chapter 3 of the document.

Relevant lecture notes: nos. 9 and 10.


You have to do an online quiz on transitivity before attending the tutorial. The quiz is based on an extract from Alice in Wonderland. You should take no more than twenty minutes to do the quiz. There is, in fact, a timer at the end of the extract. The extract will disappear from the quiz page once your twenty minutes are over. If you are ready, you can go to the quiz page right now, and return to the present page by clicking on the Go back to the previous page button on the quiz page. 

After your return to the present page, you should do a stylistic interpretation of the transitivity features of the extract. For your convenience, the extract is given below (the disappearance of the extract from the quiz page if you took more than twenty minutes to do it was mainly to indicate to you that your time was up; it doesn't mean that the text has disappeared from the rest of your life!).

After you have done a stylistics analysis of the Alice in Wonderland passage, you should go on to do a stylistic analysis of the transitivity features of the next two passages, a short poem by Emily Dickinson, and an extract from the beginning of Jack London's The Star Rover. Remember, in your analysis of transitivity, these are the features to note, in order of importance:

  1. the processes
  2. the participants
  3. the circumstantial adjuncts


Extract from Alice in Wonderland

(Alice is carrying what she thinks is a baby)

... 'If you're going to turn into a pig, my dear,' said Alice, seriously, 'I'll have nothing more to do with you. Mind now!' The poor little thing sobbed again (or grunted, it was impossible to say which), and they went on for some while in silence.
    Alice was just beginning to think to herself, 'Now, what am I to do with this creature when I get it home?' when it grunted again, so violently, that she looked down into its face in some alarm. This time there could be no mistake about it: it was neither more nor less than a pig, and she felt that it would be quite absurd for her to carry it further.
    So she set the little creature down, and felt quite relieved to see it trot away quietly into the wood. 'If it had grown up,' she said to herself, 'it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.' And she began thinking over other children she knew, who might do very well as pigs, and was just saying to herself, 'if one only knew the right way to change them' when she was a little startled by seeing the Cheshire Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.  

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A poem by Emily Dickinson

YOU left me, sweet, two legacies,
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content,
Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

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Extract from Jack London's The Star Rover

ALL my life I have had an awareness of other times and places. I have been aware of other persons in me. Oh, and trust me, so have you, my reader that is to be. Read back into your childhood, and this sense of awareness I speak of will be remembered as an experience of your childhood. You were then not fixed, not crystallized. You were plastic, a soul in flux, a consciousness and an identity in the process of forming—ay, of forming and forgetting.
    You have forgotten much, my reader, and yet, as you read these lines, you remember dimly the hazy vistas of other times and places into which your child eyes peered. They seem dreams to you today. Yet, if they were dreams, dreamed then, whence the substance of them? Our dreams are grotesquely compounded of the things we know. The stuff of our sheerest dreams is the stuff of our experiences. As a child, a wee child, you dreamed you fell great heights; you dreamed you flew through the air as things of the air fly; you were vexed by crawling spiders and many-legged creatures of the slime; you heard other voices, saw other faces nightmarishly familiar, and gazed upon sunrises and sunsets other than you know now, looking back, you ever looked upon.
    Very well. These child glimpses are of other-worldness, of other-lifeness, of things that you had never seen in this particular world of your particular life. Then whence? Other lives? Other worlds? Perhaps, when you have read all that I shall write, you will have received answers to the perplexities I have propounded to you, and that you yourself, ere you came to read me, propounded to yourself.

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Last revised: 10 August 2006.