SFL and CDA: Contributions of the Analysis of the Transitivity System in the Study of the Discursive Construction of National Identity (Case Study: Gibraltar)

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December 2008. Volume 3 Issue 3
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Title
SFL and CDA: Contributions of the Analysis of the Transitivity System in the Study of the Discursive
Construction of National Identity (Case study: Gibraltar)

Author
Ángela Alameda-Hernández
University of Granada, Spain.

Bio-Data
Ángela Alameda Hernández is currently Assistant Lecturer at the English Department, University of Granada, Spain, where she teaches English Grammar, Phonetics and English for Specific Purposes. She was a Research Fellow at the same University for four years. She also carried out research at Lancaster University (UK) under the supervision of Prof. Ruth Wodak. She got her PhD (Linguistics) with a thesis on the discursive construction of identity in the community of Gibraltar. Her research interests are sociolinguistics, media discourse, critical discourse analysis and national identities.

Abstract

This article analyses the contribution of systemic-functional linguistics (SFL) to discourse studies. It adheres to the scholarly paradigm known as critical discourse analysis (CDA) which is based on the view that language, as social practice, is a central element in social life and, hence, analyses discourse in relation to the wide social and historical context in which it occurs. This paper explores this SFL-CDA connection and focuses on the representation of the discursive construction of the Gibraltarian identity as drawn from the linguistic analysis of the transitivity system in a body of texts taken from the printed media. Gibraltar is a community in which political conflicts are common but has quite frequently been ignored in the academic world, despite its great interest and uniqueness. The analysis focuses on the period surrounding the holding of the last referendum in Gibraltar (November 2002), when the governments of Britain and Spain discussed the future of this British colony. Hence, the application of SFL categories in this critical discursive analysis has helped to discover that Gibraltar was mainly represented as a passive entity, affected by the actions and decisions of other. Its identity was generally built on this community’s inner-self because of the relevance given to Gibraltar in mental processes as a senser participant. Gibraltar’s agency was mainly limited to the expression of its wishes and opinions. Thus, the discursive representation of Gibraltar was that of a community with little power to exert and influence on its present situation or to manage its future.

Key words: discourse, CDA, functional linguistics, transitivity system, national identity, Gibraltar.

Introduction
Research in recent decades has illustrated the breadth of utility of applying the categories of systemic-functional linguistics in a broad range of areas. In this line, the present paper explores the contribution of SFL to discourse studies, specifically to the paradigm known as CDA. There has been a long tradition linking SFL and CDA from its early stages because both fields share the view that language, as social practice, is a central element in social life and, consequently, language is studied in relation to the social context in which it occurs. This paper explores this SFL-CDA connection and the particular contributions of the analysis of the transitivity system to the study of one of the topics traditionally addressed by critical discourse analysts, the discursive representation of national identity.

In order to do this, this paper focuses on the representation of the discursive construction of the Gibraltarian identity as drawn from the linguistic analysis of the transitivity system in a body of texts taken from the printed media. Gibraltar is a community in which political conflicts are common but has quite frequently been ignored in the academic world, despite its great interest and uniqueness. The analysis focuses on the period surrounding the holding of the last referendum in Gibraltar which took place in November 2002, when the governments of Britain and Spain discussed the future of this British colony. Hence, the application of SFL categories in this critical discursive analysis has helped reveal how Gibraltarian identity was discursively constructed in the press. Analysis of the types of processes that Gibraltar was most frequently involved in and the kind of participant roles that it was assigned has shown that Gibraltar was discursively represented as a passive entity, affected by the actions and decisions of others. Its identity was generally built on this community’s inner-self because of the relevance given to Gibraltar in mental processes as a senser participant. Gibraltar’s agency was mainly limited to the expression of its wishes and opinions. Thus, the discursive representation of Gibraltar that the printed media spread was that of a community with little power to exert and influence on its present situation or to manage its future.

SFL and CDA: Ideation and national identity
CDA is a young but well-established linguistic paradigm based on the notion that language plays a central role in social life. What distinguishes CDA from mainstream discourse analysis is the critical analyst’s special concern with the disclosing and expression of certain social situations: those which are characterised by inequalities, crisis, power abuse or discrimination. What concerns the critical discourse analyst is how these situations are reproduced, legitimated or enacted through discourse and, hence, they analyse discourse in relation to the wide social and historical context in which it occurs. Or, put the other way round, CDA analyses social life in its discursive aspects, aimed at providing social criticism based on linguistic evidence. Because of its own nature and evolution, CDA is, according to its own practitioners, not a homogeneous approach. At present, its work comprises a wide range of methods and theoretical frameworks depending on the analyst’s own interests and tendencies (Wodak et al. 1999, p. 7; Meyer 2001, p. 30). They are, thus, a heterogeneous group who nonetheless share some analytical principles and a concern with certain issues manifested through discourse (Blommaert, 2005, p. 21). In fact, although SFL can be said to be the main contributor of analytical tools for the kind of analysis carried out by CDA, there are many other grammatical aspects upon which critical analysts can and do rely. Indeed, Van Dijk (2001) himself has emphasised the need for CDA to be diverse, broad and multidisciplinary in order to properly fulfil its goals.

Nevertheless, as has already been pointed out, among all this variety and heterogeneity of methods, SFL has traditionally provided the analytical tools for a large extent of critical discourse analysis since it was first developed in the decade of the 70’s. The main reason is that Halliday and functional linguistics in general regard language as a societal phenomenon and thus study it in relation to its use in society (Halliday, 1994). As such, it establishes the relationship between grammatical structures of language and their context of use. Thus, with such a conception of language, SFL provides the appropriate grounds for the kind of linguistic analysis the critical discourse analyst intends to carry out. Systemic functional categories have been present in the analysis of CDA since its early stages in works such as Fowler, Kress, Hodge and Trew (1979), Fairclough (1989), and Fowler (1996). More recently, authors such as Martin (2000) and Young and Harrison (2004) have offered a review of works that both analytically and theoretically illustrate this CDA-SFL connection. Furthermore, as Renkema (2004) has suggested, a Hallidayan approach to CDA is an attempt to carry it out in a more systematic way, so as to counter the criticism of vagueness and lack of objectivity that this discipline usually encounters (2004,p. 284). Hence, one of the strengths of applying a SFL analysis to CDA is that its detailed and rigorous analysis of texts helps to preserve the interpretation from ideological bias.

Within the tradition of CDA, the present paper analyses the discursive construction of national identity. Wodak and the Vienna School of Discourse Analysis have extensively researched this topic, and the result is the development of what is known as the discourse-historical approach (Wodak, de Cillia, Reisigl and Liebhart 1999, Wodak 2001). This approach has investigated the strategies that help to construct, justify, change or dismantle national identities in discourse. Although this model does not strictly follow a SFL analysis, Wodak considers that the systemic functional view of language is valuable when carrying out a critical discourse analysis. In this line, the present paper intends to show the effectiveness of applying analytical tools of SFL to the critical discursive analysis of the construction of national identity. Other works have also attempted the analysis of issues of social or national identity from a systemic functional view (Faiz S. Abdullah 2004, Stamou 2001, Chng Huang Hoon 2004), however the present research contributes to this topic through a focus on the ideational function of discourse in the representation of national identities. In the SFL tradition, the ideational is one of the three main functions that language is used for in society (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004, p. 31). Briefly put, it refers to the use of language for the expression of experiential meaning, in other words, the representation of experience, the expression of content. Then, we assume it necessarily reflects how the experience of national identities is represented and constructed in discourse. This function of language is grammatically achieved in discourse through the transitivity system, which refers to the types of processes, participant roles and circumstances represented. Processes are the activities or “going-ons” that unfold through time and are always grammatically represented by verbs; the participants are those involved in the process and are typically realized by nominal groups; and finally, circumstances are not directly involved in the process but give additional information of various types, such as time, space, cause, manner, etc. and are usually realized by prepositional phrases, nominal groups or adverbial groups (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004, p. 177). These are the grammatical categories the present research has analysed and applied to the investigation of the discursive construction of national identity in the Gibraltarian context.

However, it has to be highlighted that a functional analysis is not simply a question of labelling (i.e. identifying the types of processes, participants or circumstances). It rather implies an act of reasoning and interpretation (Ravelli, 2000,p. 37) which obviously paves the way for the critical endeavour. Transitivity analysis makes it possible to relate the structural organisations at the clausal level with the ideologies embedded within the texts analysed. All this becomes particularly relevant for our study in the light of Halliday and Matthiessen’s words: “Clauses of different process types thus make distinctive contributions to the construal of experience in text” (2004, p. 174). Hence, in the present investigation, the identification and analysis of the types of processes in which Gibraltar as a participant is involved, as well as the circumstances associated with them, help us understand how the image of Gibraltar is construed in the press.

The transitivity system in the discursive construction of Gibraltarian identity
As has elsewhere been pointed out, the question of identity has become a vital one for the Gibraltarian community (Finlayson 2002, p. 23). Indeed, Gibraltar is the rich result of a peculiar and interesting historical evolution, and has been exposed to particularly strong challenges in its most recent decades. With an area of 6.5 square kilometres and a population of 27,000, the Rock of Gibraltar is a narrow peninsula strategically located at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Throughout history, Gibraltar has been witness to the comings and goings of a great variety of peoples. However, the best known historical event and the one with greatest consequences for the present, is the British invasion in 1704. Spanish forces, however, never renounced to their claim over the Rock and attempts to recover it –sometimes violent, more recently through diplomacy- have not ceased: since the so-called Great Siege (1779-1783), through the closing of the border from 1969-1985, to the recent negotiations between the Foreign Affairs Minister of Britain and Spain. In 1969, Gibraltar was granted a constitution and a referendum was held that showed that Gibraltarians wanted to continue under British rule. Since then, Britain and Spain have periodically dealt with the question of Gibraltar urged by the United Nations which regards the situation of Gibraltar as contrary to the UN Charter. In this line, several rounds of talks have taken place with the objective of reaching a definite solution, that is, one that would involve a new situation for Gibraltar that could put an end to its colonial status as well as to Spanish historic claims over the territory. The last round of talks was initiated in July 2001. England and Spain committed themselves to reaching an agreement before the summer 2002. Gibraltarians, on their part, watched these talks with suspicion, since the idea of British-Spanish co-sovereignty of Gibraltar was suggested as a solution. Thus, in order to show their opposition to a solution of that kind, a referendum was held on 7 November 2002 when 99 % of Gibraltarians voted against the principle of Joint Sovereignty. The press and other media described the event as probably one of the most important days in their history, because this referendum was seen as a new claim for the recognition of the Gibraltarian identity.

The present research focuses on the crucial moment surrounding the holding of the 2002 referendum and how Gibraltarian identity was constructed and represented in the press. Because of the special role of the media as powerful means in ideological construction and maintenance in contemporary society, media discourse becomes particularly useful in the study of the representation of issues of national identity, with its influential role in the formation of public opinion. The texts analysed are editorial articles dealing with the Gibraltar issue from Gibraltarian, Spanish and British newspapers dating from July 2001 to November 2002. The newspapers selected are The Gibraltar Chronicle (GC) and Panorama (PN) from Gibraltar, ABC, El Mundo (EM), El País (EP), La Vanguardia (LV) from Spain, and The Guardian (GD), The Independent (IN), The Telegraph (TG) and The Times (TM) from Britain. On the whole, 167 editorials have been analysed (Table 1). Hence, this vast corpus of texts allows us to show how this identity is constructed and articulated in discourse both for those who identify with it (Gibraltarians themselves) and for those who view it from outside (Spain and Britain). Thus, the analysis of the transitivity system allows us to explore and critically interpret how the Gibraltarian community was represented in the media and the implications it had for society and the future of the community itself.

Newspapers

Number of editorial articles

Total

GIBRALTAR

GibraltarChronicle

61

76

Panorama

15

SPAIN

ABC

20

56

El Mundo

8

El País

18

La Vanguardia

10

BRITAIN

The Guardian

6

35

The Independent

7

Telegraph

16

The Times

6

TOTAL

10

167

Table 1: Number of editorial articles on the Gibraltar issue in the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British press.

Gibraltarian identity in the Gibraltarian press
Analysis of the types of processes in the Gibraltarian press has shown that the kind of actions that Gibraltar is most frequently involved in are material and verbal, that is, actions of doing or happening and, in a lower proportion, actions implying verbal production. However, there is a highly significant proportion of processes that do not belong to the realm of actions but to that of the inner-consciousness. These are mental processes and are the second in occurrence in this corpus. Similarly, relational processes that ascribe qualities to Gibraltar are next in frequency (See table 2). Going a step further, the analysis of the participant roles assigned to Gibraltar in the Gibraltarian newspapers in relation to these processes has shown that the most relevant participant roles that Gibraltar is assigned are actor, senser and carrier (See table 3). A closer analysis of the material processes in which Gibraltar is actor shows that these are for the most part non-transactive actions, that is, those actions in which there is no goal. Semantically, it implies that these actions do not have an effect on other things; they do not bring about changes in the world (Van Leeuwen 1995, p. 89). Some illustrative examples include the processes “go”, “move”, “enter”, “win”, “sit” and “live”, as in: “Gibraltar moves in the direction of dialogue” (GC 06.09.01) and “Where we go next” (GC 16.05.02). This means that the Gibraltar press constructs a mainly passive Gibraltar, since in the cline of dynamism (Hassan 1989) these are not dynamic or active roles, but rather tend towards the passive end. Moreover, there is a considerable number of conditional clauses which means that the processes in which Gibraltar is involved are very frequently actions or reactions that do not belong to the realm of the real, but to the possible or desirable as they are limited by restrictions introduced by conditional clauses, as in “Gibraltar can only take steps forward if Spain leads the dance” (GC 05.07.01).

PROCESS TYPE

OCCURRENCES

Gibraltarian press

Spanish press

British press

Material

232 (41.7 %)

80 (49.4 %)

61 (38.8 %)

Mental

150 (27 %)

42 (26 %)

43 (27.4 %)

Relational

113 (20.3 %)

30 (18.5 %)

28 (17.8 %)

Verbal

59 (10.6 %)

10 (6.1 %)

25 (16 %)

Behavioural

2 (0.4 %)

0

0

TOTAL

556

162

157

Table 2: Process types in which Gibraltar is a participant in the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British press.

PARTICIPANT ROLE

OCCURRENCES

Gibraltarian press

Spanish press

British press

Actor

149

39

19

Goal

69

18

30

Beneficiary

14

23

12

Senser

138

42

42

Phenomenon

12

0

1

Carrier

92

20

26

Attribute

2

0

0

Token

18

6

2

Value

1

4

0

Sayer

37

8

10

Receiver

19

2

5

Target

3

0

10

Behaver

2

0

0

Table 3: Participant roles assigned to Gibraltar in the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British corpus

The second most frequent type of processes in the Gibraltar corpus is mental. Gibraltar is the senser in 92 % of the instances and phenomenon in the rest 8 %. In addition, for the most part these are senser-oriented processes in that Gibraltar as a senser is given prominence as thematised in the clause. In addition, as table 4 illustrates, analysis of the sub-types of senser participant (Fawcett and Neale 2005) has showed that Gibraltar is most frequently involved in cognitive processes that include deciding, thinking, choosing and reflecting, as in the following examples: “Gibraltar will ultimately choose from the destinies offered to it” (GC 08.11.01), “Gibraltar knows how to listen and knows […]” (GC 27.03.02), and “Gibraltar may be learning its lesson at a supersonic speed” (PN 31.03.02). In an also quite significant proportion (26.8 %), Gibraltar is represented in the expression of its needs and desires, as in: “Gibraltar wants solutions but not imposed deals” (GC 03.05.02) and “Gibraltar does not need more rhetoric” (PN 31.03.02). It is also relevant to notice that more than half (56.5 %) of the mental processes are associated to the pronoun “we” representing the people of the community of Gibraltar. As regards relational processes, the participant role of carrier is the most commonly one assigned to Gibraltar (81.4 %), through which qualities are attributed to it. The following examples illustrate this point: “Gibraltar is simply too small” (GC 24.08.01) (intensive) and “Gibraltar is mature enough to listen and to take a view without strife” (GC 30.04.02) (intensive). Most of the relational processes belong to the intensive type (65.4 %). Possessive relational processes account for 31 % of the relational processes, and they do not refer in a narrow sense to physical possession, but mainly to abstractions, qualities or mental attributes that serve to characterise the Gibraltarian community. Some of these possessive relational clauses have a quality of sensing “Gibraltar had no option but to […]” (PN 31.03.02), “Gibraltar has never had any intention of interfering with Britain’s internal politics” (GC 28.05.02) or “The passion we have for democracy” (GC 05.10.01) , which at a semantic level are connected to mental processes like “choose”, “intend” or “feel”. These, together with the relevance of mental processes imply a discursive construction of Gibraltar’s identity connected to the realm of the inner-self and consciousness and consequently away from positions of power.

Sub-type of senser

OCURRENCES

Gibraltarian press

Spanish press

British press

Cognizant

65 (47.2 %) 

29 (69.1 %) 

27 (64.2 %) 

Desirer

37 (26.8 %) 

13 (30.9 %) 

9 (21.4 %) 

Emoter

12 (8.7 %) 

0

4 (9.5 %) 

Perceiver

24 (17.3 %) 

0

2 (4.7 %) 

Table 4: Sub-division of the senser participant role in the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British corpus

Finally, as far as verbal processes are concerned, Gibraltar is most frequently assigned the participant role of sayer, which is an extension of the verbal expression of their wishes, thoughts and desires (in this way, an extension of mental processes). It is usually the Gibraltarian authorities, as representing Gibraltar, that are assigned this role (54 %). Some illustrative examples in which Gibraltar is involved in verbal processes are: “What we are saying is […]” (GC 11.10.01) (sayer), “The Government says it will campaign for a NO vote” (PN 05.09.02) (sayer), and “The two big powers are telling us” (GC 25.10.01) (receiver). While for the expression of its feelings and desires, Gibraltar is represented by the inclusive pronoun “we” representing the community, for the verbal expression of its desires and thoughts, Gibraltar most frequently speaks through its authorities. This means that the Gibraltar press resorts to the representation of Gibraltar’s authorities for the verbal expression of their demands which endows them with greater power than if they were just expressed by the common people. In the Gibraltarian press, Gibraltar is also represented as a circumstance in 56 processes. The circumstantial information supplied (either spatial location (48.2 %), matter, angle or extend) tend to represent a passivated or affected Gibraltar. The following examples serve that purpose well: “[Britain] impose its will on Gibraltar” (GC 13.07.02) (location), “A resolution was passed about Gibraltar” (PN 04.10.02) (matter), and “The very country that is putting the squeeze on us” (GC 05.06.02) (location).

Gibraltarian identity in the Spanish press
In the Spanish newspapers analysed, Gibraltar as a participant mainly appears in material and mental processes, followed in frequency by relational and verbal ones (See table 2). The most frequent participant role that Gibraltar is assigned in the Spanish press is that of senser (26 %). It is followed by the two affected roles in material process, that is, goal and beneficiary, which together account for 25.3 % of the participant roles assigned to Gibraltar, quite balanced with the 24 % of actor. As a senser, Gibraltar is involved in mental processes that do not construe emotions, but are rather related to cognition for the most part. There are a few instances of clauses of perception, but where it is understood as cognitive perception, as they shade into that type of sensing, and have thus been considered as examples where Gibraltar is cognizant (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004, p. 210) (Table 3). The following example illustrates it: “Los Gibraltareños acaben viendo más ventajas que inconvenientes” (That Gibraltarians finally see more advantages than disadvantages) (EP 26.07.02). This implies that the Spanish press discursively represents Gibraltar in relation to the expression of these people’s consciousness and it is less concerned with the community’s feelings or desires.

The Spanish press does not appeal to Gibraltarians’ emotions, but to their intelligence (participant role of cognizant) in order for them to understand and accept the Spanish position. So that, from the Spanish side, the situation is discursively represented not as a matter of “wanting” the solution modelled by this power, but rather of simply “understanding”, and hence accepting it. In addition, it is interesting to point out that where Gibraltar is cognizant there is a considerable proportion of processes (34.5 %) that do not represent the factual consciousness, but that are rather related to the unreal or to what should be in the consciousness of the Gibraltarian community, through the use of the subjunctive mood and other modal verbs, as in: “Eso no implicaba que la administración gibraltareña aceptase el acuerdo” (That did not imply that the Gibraltarian administration would accept the agreement) (ABC 28.07.02), “Para que el Peñón se avenga a negociar bajo la fórmula de dos banderas, tres voces” (so that the Rock would agree/dare to negotiate under the two flags-three voices formula) (LV 05.02.02), and “Los gibraltareños deben comprender que es imposible mantener su actual situación” (Gibraltarians ought to understand that it is impossible to keep their present situation) (EP 21.11.01). The modal verbs belong to the type that shares the meaning of obligation, and the subjunctive mood similarly indicates the introduction of a demand or recommendation. It implies that the Spanish press appeals to a change in Gibraltar’s understanding of the situation towards the Spanish point of view.

As regards material processes, in a considerable proportion Gibraltar is the participant over which the doings of others unfold (participant roles of goal and beneficiary), so that Gibraltar is discursively represented as a passive social actor. For example, it is goal in “Gran Bretaña se quedó con el Peñón” (The United Kingdom kept Gibraltar) (EP 03.11.01), where Gibraltar is what the United Kingdom kept. As a benefited participant, processes are commonly related to the proposals and other actions taken by either Spain or Britain, or both, and which are presented to Gibraltar, as in: “A la que están ofreciendo salidas extraordinarias” (Gibraltar is being offered extraordinary measures) (ABC 27.06.02), “Piqué y Straw ofrecieron a Caruana estar presente en las conversaciones” (Piqué and Straw offered to let Caruana be present in the conversations) (ABC 08.11.02), and “Una amplísima autonomía para los habitantes del Peñón que les garantice un régimen de vida similar al que tienen” (A very ample autonomy for the inhabitants of the Rock that would guarantee them a similar way of life to the one they have) (EP 03.11.01). When Gibraltar is discursively represented as an actor, it is involved in the performance of evil doings, that is, it is responsible of actions with negative connotations.

These negative aspects are introduced either in the process itself, as in “to boycott” or “to cause difficulties/obstruct” (one word verb “dificultar” in Spanish), or through the verb complementation: “Gibraltar se había inventado un sistema discriminatorio” (Gibraltar had made up a discriminatory system) (EM 28.11.02), “Con unas cuentas públicas que esconden las autoridades del Peñón” (With public funds that Gibraltarian authorities hide) (EP 08.11.02), and “El referéndum ilegal que ayer celebraron los gibraltareños” (The illegal referendum that Gibraltarians held yesterday) (ABC 08.11.02).

A considerable proportion of the attributive relational clauses (31.5 %) present the quality attributed as evolving in time, that is, as some sort of result ascribed to Gibraltar. In these instances, the relational process is a qualitative process of the “turn” type where the meaning is that of “be + change of state”. The attribute in such clauses is usually related to being Spanish or a Spanish possession as in: “El Peñón volvería a la soberanía española” (The Rock would turn back into Spanish sovereignty/Spanish possession) (EP 08.11.02) and “La Roca vendría a ser así tan española como británica” (The Rock would come to be as Spanish as British) (ABC 25.04.02). These structures serve the discursive purpose of describing Gibraltar in a way that supports the Spanish position in the conflict as a discursive strategy to highlight the need of a change of status, thus supporting the Spanish policy in favour of a change of status for the colony. In relation to verbal processes, it is interesting to point out that the number of occurrences of Gibraltar as sayer and, particularly, receiver is significantly low, bearing in mind that the textual corpus selected covers a period dealing with the conversations about the future of Gibraltar (i.e. verbal action), and especially, when the content of such conversations was supposed to be put to Gibraltar.

This seems to mean that the Spanish side gives less relevance to the role of Gibraltar in the conversations regarding its future status. So that for Spain, the Gibraltar question is discursively represented as a matter to deal with Britain, but not with the Gibraltarian community. Finally, Gibraltar is also assigned the function of adding circumstantial information. Location is the most frequent type of circumstance expressed by Gibraltar, indicating the place towards which Spanish policy and decisions are directed. It is followed by the circumstance of angle or extent, which expresses the reach of the attribution, more precisely, how the decisions, measures or other processes of either Spain or the EU apply to Gibraltar, as in “El acuerdo se someterá a referéndum en Gibraltar” (The agreement will be subject to a referendum in Gibraltar) (EP 27.04.02), “La posibilidad de que […] la bandera española pueda ondear en Gibraltar” (The possibility that the Spanish flag be able to fly in Gibraltar) (ABC 31.10.01), and “Para que la cosoberanía o la integración en España resulte una perspectiva atractiva para los habitantes del Peñón” (So that co-sovereignty or integration with Spain would be an attractive proposal for the Gibraltarians/inhabitants of the Rock) (EP 08.11.02).

Finally, it is relevant to highlight the elevated number of instances where Gibraltar is not a participant in the clause, but part of other structures, such as noun phrases or prepositional phrases. Their study is illuminating because they amount almost as much as the instances where Gibraltar is a proper participant in clauses (157 instances, against the 162 where Gibraltar is assigned a participant role). Its significance lies on the fact that these structures imply a backgrounded representation of Gibraltar, since this social actor is not given prominence as a participant at clausal level. The analysis of these structures shows that the most frequent roles that Gibraltar is assigned as part of noun phrases and prepositional phrases are those of possessor, matter and actor: “Los derechos de los Gibraltareños” (the rights of the Gibraltarians) (EM 27.05.02), “La cuestión de Gibraltar” (the question about Gibraltar) (LV 26.11.01), and “La infracción Gibraltareña” (the Gibraltarian infraction) (EM 28.11.02). However, for the most part, what Gibraltar is represented as having is related to mental attributes. These include: “actitud” (attitude), “asentimiento” (agreement), “voluntad” (will), “opinión” (opinion), “deseos” (wishes). Thus they are very much in line with the high frequency of mental processes and, especially, the role of senser that has already been mentioned above.

Gibraltarian identity in the British press
In the British press, material and mental are the most frequent process types in which Gibraltar is involved, though the proportion of relational and verbal processes is also considerable (See table 2). Going a step further, Gibraltar is most frequently represented in relation to the expression of its inner consciousness through the participant role of senser, which stand for 26.7 % of the total number of occurrences. It is followed by the role of goal (19.1 %). Moreover, the participant roles in relation to verbal processes are also more frequent and varied than in the other two corpora, with Gibraltar expressing the sayer and receiver, but also the target and verbiage (See table 3).

As far as material processes are concerned, Gibraltar is mostly represented as a passivated participant, because of the high proportion of instances in which it is goal and beneficiary (68.8 %), and also because of the type of material processes in which Gibraltar is assigned the participant role of actor. The representation of Gibraltar as goal and beneficiary is usually foregrounded in the receptive variants of the material processes (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004,p. 182), as in: “[Gibraltar] would have to be sacrificed by Britain”s agreeing to share sovereignty” (TG 11.07.02), and “Gibraltar is caught in the pincers of Spanish revanchism and Britain’s fear of being sidelined in Europe” (TG 27.07.02). In addition, Gibraltar is assigned the role of actor in relation to non-transactive verbs and other processes which discursively represent the action as something that just happens, what Van Leeuwen terms “eventuation” (1995, p. 96). The effect of such strategies is to background the agency and the potential effect of Gibraltar’s actions in the world, as the following examples illustrate: “Gibraltar stood in the way of this plan” (TG 11.07.02), and “The Rock slips once again from its grasp” (IN 17.07.02). Apart from these, Gibraltar is mainly activated in relation to the public expression of its wishes through the processes of voting and holding a referendum, as in: “The Rock voted overwhelmingly to remain with Britain” (TG 21.11.01) and “The Gibraltarians have held a referendum” (TG 09.11.02).

In mental processes, the British press mainly represents cognitive aspects of Gibraltar, while the representation of its desires, emotions or perceptions is considerably smaller (Table 4). Almost half of the mental processes belong to the semantic domain of acceptance/refusal (48 %), usually representing Gibraltar’s refusal of the proposals as a fact, and its acceptance, as belonging to the realm of the possible, introduced by conditional particles. The following examples serve that purpose well: “Gibraltar refuses to take part in the Brussels process” (TG 21.11.01), “If the people of Gibraltar approve it” (IN 13.07.02), and “Until the people of Gibraltar agree to it” (TG 19.03.02). Modalised demands in the domain of the mental are also frequent, as in: “Gibraltar’s Chief Minister should rethink his refusal to participate in the negotiations” (GD 05.05.02) and “Those who live on the Rock should not feel threatened by a further pooling of sovereignty” (IN 03.02.02).

In verbal processes, Gibraltar is both given voice (40 % sayer) and affected by the semiotic actions of others (60 % receiver and target). Some illustrative examples are: “Gibraltarians say they have known all along” (TM 21.05.02) (sayer), “They are being warned that Britain”s traditional lobby for their interests will […]” (IN 03.02.02) (target), and “Peter Hain, Minister for Europe, told the Gibraltarians that […]” (TG 12.11.01) (receiver). The proportion of verbal processes show a greater relevance given in the British side to the role of Gibraltar in the negotiations, though its role is predominantly passive. Moreover, most of the verbal processes (68 %) refer to Gibraltar as represented by its people, rather than the authorities or the political entity. Thus, it is the community who is given voice and towards which the conversations are directed.

As a circumstance, Gibraltar for the most part indicates additional information regarding location (44.4 %) and matter (30.5 %). The former is illustrated in examples such as “This may play well on the Rock” (TM 13.07.02) and “Labour”s policy is equally unpopular in Britain, Spain and Gibraltar” (TG 21.05.02) where Gibraltar indicates the place over which there is debate and towards which British policy is directed. The circumstance of matter indicates the topic of semiotic actions. It is usually expressed by the prepositions “about” and “over”, as in: “Making a fuss about Gibraltar” (GD 11.10.02), and “Neither Tony Blair nor Jose María Aznar wanted to say much about Gibraltar” (TM 21.05.02). The high proportion of this type of circumstance in relation to Gibraltar becomes particularly relevant in the British corpus as it connects with the relevance of verbal processes which has already been highlighted. In fact, matter is at circumstantial level what the participant role of verbiage expresses in verbal processes (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 276). Thus, it reinforces the involvement of Gibraltar in verbal processes and particularly its passive role being assigned little voice in the conversations.

Finally, similarly to the Spanish press, in the British corpus there are a considerable number of instances in which Gibraltar appears not as a participant or circumstance of the clause, but in structures at phrasal level. These are very frequently nominalizations and the most salient roles that Gibraltar is assigned in these structures are those of goal, possessor and matter, as in: “The Government’s high-handed treatment of Gibraltar” (TG 10.11.02), “The rights of Gibraltarians” (IN 27.07.02), and “The long-running dispute with Spain over Gibraltar” (IN 27.07.02). The later type is particularly relevant because it reinforces the passivated representation of Gibraltar in relation to the conversations (mental processes). The reason is that Gibraltar is represented as the topic or matter to talk about, thus having little active role in the conversations.

Conclusion
The content of the articles that form the three corpora of the present investigation might be said to be similar, but a deeper analysis and interpretation showed that this only applied at a superficial level. Indeed, the three corpora from the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British press were concerned with the Gibraltar situation, but each of them approached it in different ways, as the examination of the patterns of processes, participants and circumstances have revealed. The analysis allowed us to draw some social and political conclusions on the discursive construction and representation of the Gibraltar issue. On the one hand, the analysis of the Gibraltarian newspapers allowed us to understand how Gibraltar presented itself to the world, the self-image it portrayed; while on the other hand, the analysis of the Spanish and British newspapers allowed us to understand how this issue and the community of Gibraltar were perceived and represented from the outside, that is, from the two relevant angles involved in the situation of this territory.

The analysis of the transitivity system has helped to divulge that Gibraltar was most frequently represented as a passive entity, affected by the actions and decisions of others. Gibraltar was most frequently activated in relation to the expression of its consciousness since the three corpora have in common the relevance given to Gibraltar in mental processes as senser. Its agency is mainly limited to the expression of its wishes and opinions, thus with little effect in the outside world. This way, Gibraltar’s situation and its future were discursively represented as not in the hands of these people. In the Spanish press, emphasis was put on the cognizant aspects of mental processes, thus appealing to Gibraltarians’ intelligence to understand and accept the outcome of the negotiations about the future of the colony rather than to wanting it. Analysis of verbal processes has also highlighted that it was the Spanish press who were the least concerned with the role of Gibraltar in the conversations. The number of instances in which Gibraltar was not a participant neither a circumstance in a process, but rather part of a noun phrase or prepositional phrase was proportionally higher in the Spanish and the British press than the Gibraltarian press, which reinforces the backgrounded representation that these two corpora gave to Gibraltar. Spain’s and Britain’s relation to Gibraltar was not discursively represented as an interaction with people, with the community. That is, what concerns these two countries is not the Gibraltarian community, but the Gibraltar issue as a kind of phenomenon. As the analysis has shown, the Gibraltar question was most frequently introduced as a semiotic action and Gibraltar as the topic specification of that semiotic action. In addition, there were constant references to the Gibraltarians’ interests, will and wishes, but these are abstractions, that is, they are never detailed or specified, and Gibraltarians are hardly ever given voice to express them, but are rather exhorted to change them. These abstractions have the effect of creating distance. Consequently, the discursive representation of Gibraltar is that of a community with little power to exert an influence on its future. Thus, the transitivity system has proved a helpful systemic-functional analytical tool to disclose the roles that Gibraltar is assigned in discourse and hence, how its national identity is discursively constructed. Since there is a dialectical relationship in which discourse is socially constituted and socially constitutive, discourses on national identities, especially the highly influential discourse of the media, influence the way society perceive those nationalities, and particularly, society’s perception of the Gibraltar issue.

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Category: 2008