APPRAISAL framework: Evaluations in language

APPRAISAL-theoryAPPRAISAL resources (Martin & White, 2005)

Dear All,
Today I would like to speak about the APPRAISAL framework (aka “APPRAISAL system”, “APPRAISAL theory”). Using the overarching framework of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), Martin and White (2005) developed an elaborate system allowing linguistic analysis of a text from the perspective of the evaluative properties of this text. The APPRAISAL theory is concerned with a) how text producers (writers or speakers) construe particular authorial identities for themselves, b) how authors align/disalign themselves with actual or potential respondents, and c) how writers or speakers construct an ideal audience for their texts (Martin & White, 2005; Pankovskyi, 2013). Martin and White (2005) explain that the APPRAISAL framework is based on the notion of stance: “appraisal is probably most closely related to the concept of stance” (p. 40), which depends heavily on the idea that “whenever speakers (or writers) say anything, they encode their point of view towards it” (p. 92).

The centrality of the concept of stance for the APPRAISAL framework is explained by the fact that the evaluative language used for the formation of a stance comes directly from the author’s own attitude which may be expressed either explicitly or implicitly. The APPRAISAL framework sees declarations of attitude as “dialogically directed towards aligning the addressee into a community of shared values and belief” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 95). Thus, declarations of attitude not only serve the purpose of stance taking by communicating the author‘s own attitude, but are also oriented towards aligning the listener/reader into an axiological community by offering to share the author’s attitude (Pankovskyi, 2013). In other words, the APPRAISAL framework analyzes how the writer’s/speaker’s attitude is expressed and how it is directed towards aligning the reader/listener into a community of shared values and belief. For example, often, the author does not state overtly his/her position, but the APPRAISAL framework allows an analyst still to discern it through the analysis of the author’s use of language of evaluation. The application of the APPRAISAL framework may yield rich results in the sphere of journalism since overt stance or judgement are often undesirable in this context. Nonetheless, the APPRAISAL framework may be useful in showing that despite the intention to be as unbiased as possible, discourse is never completely deprived of the author’s stance, even if this is not stated overtly.

The APPRAISAL framework has a ramified structure allowing it to recognize even slight expressions of attitude. Three main resources of the framework are: ENGAGEMENT, ATTITUDE, and GRADUATION.

1) ENGAGEMENT is “directed towards identifying the particular dialogic positioning associated with given meanings and towards describing what is at stake when one meaning rather than another is employed” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 97). It consists of two distinct resources:

a) monoglossia – no references to other viewpoints (e.g. the sky is blue, the Earth goes round the sun, etc.) and;
b) heteroglossia – references to other viewpoints (e.g. according to astronomers, the earth goes round the sun, Astronomers, “The Earth goes round the sun.; the astronomers are convinced that the earth goes round the sun; the astronomers confirm that the earth goes round the sun, etc.).

2) ATTITUDE is “concerned with our feelings, including emotional reactions, judgements of behaviour and evaluation of things” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 35). It consists, in turn, of three resources: AFFECT, JUDGEMENT, and APPRECIATION.

a) AFFECT – resources for expressing emotional states and responses (e.g. shining with joy, nasty, sad, positive (about a person), happy, etc.);
b) JUDGEMENT – resources for expressing norms (e.g. right, wrong, ethical, responsible, etc.) and;
c) APPRECIATION – resources for expressing tastes aesthetic likes/dislikes (e.g. beautiful, unattractive, yummy, simple, etc.).

3) GRADUATION deals with “grading phenomena whereby feelings are amplified and categories blurred” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 35). It is divided into two major resources: FORCE and FOCUS.

a) FORCE – resources used as “adjustments” of the degree of evaluations. It is subdivided into raise (e.g. better, best, yes-yes, yes!, YES, really big, etc.) and lower (e.g. a little, a bit, somewhat, least bit, etc.);
b) FOCUS – resources used in the non-gradable context, it “has the effect of adjusting the strength of boundaries between categories, constructing core and peripheral types of things” (Martin & White, 2005, p. 37). It is subdivided into sharpen (e.g. award-winning, all alone, etc.) and soften (e.g. sort of, kind of, somewhat like etc.).

In summary, the APPRAISAL framework is based on the concept of stance. The APPRAISAL framework is oriented towards uncovering the author’s attitude and the way in which texts align with a potential or real reader/listener. The framework has a ramified system of resources which is oriented towards lexico-grammatical means. The orientation of the original APPRAISAL framework (discussed in this post) towards lexico-grammar limits its possible applications since many modern texts consist not only of words, but also of such elements as images and sounds (e.g. Web texts). However, in more recent research into evaluative means in texts has extended the application of the framework to units of visual design (e.g. Economou, 2009) which makes the APPRAISAL framework one of the most sophisticated tools for the analysis of the expression of covert attitude through the use of evaluative language.

References
Economou, D. (2009). Photos in the news: Appraisal analysis of visual semiosis and verbal-visual intersemiosis. PhD dissertation, University of Sydney, Department of Linguistics, NSW, Australia.
Martin, J. R., & White, P. R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pankovskyi, I. (2013). Old communication – new means: Linguistic model for the analysis of Ukrainian Orthodox Church websites. Dialogue of languages – dialogue of cultures: Ukraine and the world. Materials of the 3rd  international Web-conference in Ukrainian studies, 429-446.

* Italics added; bold type removed.

Iaroslav

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6 Comments

  1. Faiqa

    Is any other theory of Apparaisal theory? Or it is only from Martin?

    • Dear Faiqa,
      Martin and White are considered to be the authors of the theory. However, I am sure one can find a lot of scholars and their work that build on Martin and White’s original framework taking this framework a step further. Economou, D; Djonov, E.; Knox, J.S.; Le. E., and Pankovskyi, I. are among these scholars.

  2. Marcela

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been writing a thesis about evaluation in the newspaper discourse (mainly based on Monika Bednarek) and I came across The Appraisal Theory by Martin and White. This summary helped me a lot (when comparing different approaches to evaluation). Thanks 🙂

    • Dear Marcela,
      I am happy this post was of help. Thank you for your comment. Good luck with your thesis!

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