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Systemic functional linguistics

A series of major research projects are bringing together LCT with SFL in innovative and fruitful ways to explore a wide variety of issues.  These studies are at the cutting-edge of theoretical development in both sociology and linguistics and are leading to the emergence of exciting new ideas that span disciplines and to a new generation of 'blilingual' scholars increasingly fluent in both theories.

Two major, nationally-funded studies exemplify the intimate and intense kinds of inter-disciplinary collaboration characterising this inter-disciplinary dialogue: DISKS project and PEAK project. See 'Cumulative knowledge-building', below.

Topics here:

  • relations between LCT and SFL
  • cumulative knowledge-building
  • school English
  • academic literacies
  • internationalisation of higher education
  • second language learning
  • the law
  • music
  • 'critical thinking'
  • media discourses
  • papers on other topics
  • papers in Chinese


On how LCT and SFL can work together, see:

Maton, K. & Doran, Y.J. (2017) SFL and code theory, in Bartlett, T. & O’Grady, G. (eds) The Routledge Systemic Functional Linguistic Handbook. London, Routledge.

Martin, J.R. & Maton, K. (2017) Systemic functional linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory on education: Rethinking field and knowledge structure, Onomázein, March: 12-45.

Onomázein (2017) Special edition on SFL, March: 1-242. [whole edition]

Maton, K., Martin, J. R. & Matruglio, E. (2016) LCT and systemic functional linguistics: Enacting complementary theories for explanatory power, in K. Maton, S. Hood & S. Shay (eds) Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory, London: Routledge.

Martin, J. R. (2011) Bridging troubled waters: Interdisciplinarity and what makes it stick. in Christie, F. & Maton, K. (eds.) Disciplinarity: Functional linguistic and sociological perspectives.  London, Continuum, 35-61.

Karl Maton explores relations between LCT and SFL using 'insights' from the 4-K model of Specialisation in this keynote address at ISFC39 (download is audio + slides):

Maton, K. (2012) The next generation: Inter-disciplinary research into strange new worlds,39th International Systemic Functional Congress, University of Technology, Sydney, July.

J. R. Martin considers how the LCT concept of 'semantic gravity' impacts on thinking in SFL:

Martin, J.R. & Matruglio, E. (2013) Revisiting mode: Context in/dependency in Ancient History classroom discourse, in Huang Guowen, Zhang Delu & Yang Xinzhang (eds) Studies in Functional Linguistics and Discourse Analysis, Volume 5. Beijing: Higher Education Press, 72–95.

Martin, J. R. & Matruglio, E. (2014) Retorno al modo: in/dependencia contextual en el discurso de las clases de historia antigua, Onomázein 29: 186–213

J. R. Martin considers how the LCT concept of 'semantic density' impacts on thinking in SFL:

Martin, J.R. (2014) KEYNOTE: Revisiting field: ‘semantic density’ in Ancient History & Biology discourse, 41st International Systemic Functional Congress and X Latin-American Systemic Functional Congress, Mendoza, Argentina, April.

In December 2014 a week-long conference included a series of papers on SFL and LCT:

Dec 2014: International Conference on Appliable Linguistics and Academic Discourse, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China, December, talks using LCT by J. R. Martin (3), Karl Maton (5), David Rose (4), Sue Hood (3), and Yaegan Doran (2).


Two major projects are at the centre of a growing number of studies that bring together LCT and SFL to explore the same data and answer the same questions, combining their analyses to generate greater explanatory power.

DISKS Project

J.R. Martin and Karl Maton explored the basis of cumulative knowledge-building in classroom discourse, focusing on secondary schooling. This gave rise to numerous innovations, such as 'semantic waves', and other studies.  (ARC Discovery Project grant, 2009–11, Freebody, Martin & Maton, Disciplinarity, Knowledge and Schooling)

PEAK Project

Karl Maton, J.R. Martin, Len Unsworth and Sarah Howard. This study is exploring cumulative-knowledge building in school classrooms in greater detail, and including multimodal communication and educational technology. (ARC Discovery Project grant, 2013–16, Maton, Martin, Unsworth & Howard, Pedagogies for knowledge-building).

These studies are generating numerous developments, some of which are discussed in:

Martin, J.R. (2014) KEYNOTEExploring content: Building knowledge in school discourse, Free Linguistics Conference 2014, Shanghai, Sept.

Maton, K. (2014) KEYNOTE: Close encounters of the third kind: Using Legitimation Code Theory and systemic functional linguistics together to explore education, 41st International Systemic Functional Congress and X Latin-American Systemic Functional Congress, Mendoza, Argentina, April.

Gill, T., Maton, K., Martin, J.R., Unsworth, L. & Howard, S.K. (2013) Riding the next wave: Facing challenges for linguists posed by knowledge-building, ASFLA Annual Conference, Melbourne, October.

Huang, L. & Chen, L. (2017) From LCT to Power Trio - The Cooperation between SFL and Sociology, International Journal of Linguistics and Education, 2(3): 51-55.

Martin, J.R. & Maton, K. (2013) (eds) Cumulative Knowledge-Building in Secondary Schooling, Linguistics and Education, 24(1): 1-74. (= the 'semantic wave' special issue in one download)

Martin, J.R. & Maton, K. (2013) Cumulative knowledge-building in secondary schooling: Guest editors’ prefaceLinguistics and Education.

Maton, K. (2013) Making semantic waves: A key to cumulative knowledge-buildingLinguistics and Education, 24(1): 8-22.

Martin, J.R. (2013) Embedded literacy: Knowledge as meaning, Linguistics and Education, 24(1): 23-37.

Matruglio, E., Maton, K. & Martin, J.R. (2013) Time travel: The role of temporality in enabling semantic waves in secondary school teachingLinguistics and Education, 24(1): 38-49.

Macnaught, L., Maton, K., Martin, J.R. & Matruglio, E. (2013) Jointly constructing semantic waves: Implications for teacher training, Linguistics and Education, 24(1): 50-63.

Martin, J.R. (2013) KEYNOTE: Exploring content: Building knowledge in school discourse, Teacher Learning for European Literacy Education, Madrid, October. WATCH TALK VIA LINK

Humphrey, S. & Robinson, S. (2012) Riding the semantic wave to whole school literacy development, Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, University of Sydney, Dec.

Martin, J., Maton, K. & Matruglio, E. (2010) Historical cosmologies: Epistemology and axiology in Australian secondary school history, Revista Signos 43(74): 433-463.

Matruglio, E. (PhD, 2014) Humanities’ Humanity: Construing the social in HSC Modern and Ancient History, Society and Culture, and Community and Family Studies, University of Technology Sydney, Australia


Christie, F. (2016) Secondary school English literary studies: Cultivating a knower code, in K. Maton, S. Hood and S. Shay (eds) Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory, London: Routledge.

Li, Yiu (PhD) Commitment Resources as Scaffolding Strategies For Teaching English Reading and Writing, Zhongshan University, China

Zhao, Q. (PhD, 2012) Knowledge Building in Physics Textbooks in Primary and Secondary Schools, Xiamen University, China.

Morgan, M (2011) A Corpus Based Investigation into the Relationship between Propositional Content and Metadiscourse in Student Essay Writing, Unpublished MA thesis, University of Nottingham, Ningbo-China campus.


Humphrey, S. (2016) EAP in school settings, in Hyland, K. & Shaw, P. (eds) The Routledge Handbook of English for Academic Purposes, London: Routledge.

Hood, S. (2016) Ethnographies on the move, stories on the rise: Methods in the humanities, in K. Maton, S. Hood & S. Shay (eds) Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory. London, Routledge.

Hood, S. & Lander, J. (2016) Technologies, modes and pedagogic potential in live versus online lectures, International Journal of Language Studies, 10(3): 23–42.

Hood, S. (2014) KEYNOTE: The lecturing body and learning to mean in the uncommon-sense ways of different disciplines, 41st International Systemic Functional Congress and X Latin-American Systemic Functional Congress, Mendoza, Argentina, April.

Hood, S. (2012) Voice and stance as appraisal: Persuading and positioning in research writing across intellectual fields, in K. Hyland & C. Sancho Guinda (eds) Stance and Voice in Written Academic Genres, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Coffin, C. & Donohue, J.P. (2012) Academic literacies and systemic functional linguistics: How do they relate?, Journal of English for Academic Purposes 11: 64–75.

Hood, S. (2011) KEYNOTE: Travelling into interdisciplinary space: Making sense of worlds of difference, International Systemic Functional Congress, Lisbon, July. SLIDES AVAILABLE HERE

Hood, S. (2011) Writing discipline: Comparing inscriptions of knowledge and knowers in academic writing, in Christie, F. & Maton, K. (eds.) Disciplinarity: Functional linguistic and sociological perspectives. London, Continuum.

Hood, S. (2010) Appraising Research: Evaluation in Academic Writing. London, Palgrave (chapter 6).

Hood, S. (2010) Language and legitimation: Disciplinary differences in constructing space for new knowledge, The Halliday Centre for Intelligent Applications of Language Studies Pearling Appliable Linguistics Seminar Series, City University of Hong Kong, Oct.

Hood, S. (2007) Arguing in and across disciplinary boundaries: Legitimising stategies in applied linguistics and cultural studies, in McCabe, A., O’Donnell, M., & Whittaker, R. (Eds) Advances in Language and Education. London: Continuum.


Doherty, C. (2010) Doing business: knowledges in the internationalised business lectureHigher Education Research & Development, 29(3): 245-258.

Doherty, C. (2008) Student subsidy of the internationalized curriculum: Knowing, voicing and producing the OtherPedagogy, Culture and Society 16(3), 269-288.

Doherty, C. (2007) The Production of Cultural Difference and Cultural Sameness in Online Internationalised Education, unpublished PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.


Meidell Sigsgaard, A-V. (PhD, 2013) Who Knows What?: The Teaching of knowledge and knowers in a fifth grade Danish as a Second Language classroom, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark

Meidell Sigsgaard, A.V. (2013). ”Hvad skal jeg skrive nu? ‐ Det må du selv vide…” – udvekslingsstrukturanalyse af samtaler mellem lærere og elever i undervisningen af dansk som andetsprog og historie. Nordand, 8(1).

Meidell Sigsgaard, A-V. (2012) Who has the knowledge if not the primary knower? Using exchange structure analysis to cast light on particular pedagogic practices in teaching Danish as a Second Language and History, in Knox, J. (ed.) To Boldly Proceed: Papers from the 39th International Systemic Functional Congress, Sydney: ISFC.

Yi, L. (2011) Bernsteinian perspectives on the Reading to Learn program, Annual Review of Functional Linguistics in China, 3: 109-123.

Liu Yi (PhD, current) Reinstantiation of Meanings in Scaffolding ESL Academic Literacy: Reading to Learn Program Adapted in a Tertiary Setting, Zhongshan University, China.


Martin, J.R., Zappavigna, M. & Dwyer, P. (2014) Beyond redemption: Choice and consequence in Youth Justice Conferencing, in F. Yan & J. J. Webster (eds) Developing Systemic Functional Linguistics: Theory and application, London: Equinox.

Zappavigna, M. & Martin, J.R. (2014) Mater Dolorosa: Negotiating support in NSW Youth justice Conferencing, International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 27: 263–75.

Martin, J.R., Zappavigna, M., Cleirigh, C. & Dwyer, P. (2013) Users in uses of language: Embodied identity in Youth Justice Conferencing, Text and Talk, 33(4–5): 467–496.

Martin, J.R., Zappavigna, M. & Dwyer, P. (2011) Angry boys: Casting identity in NSW Youth Justice Conferencing, Language and the Law: Special event of ALAA, ALANZ & ALS conferences, Canberra, Dec.

Martin, J.R. & Zappavigna, M. (2010) Beyond redemption: Choice and consequence in Youth Justice Conferencing, in F. Yan (ed) Proceedings of the 36th International Systemic Functional Linguistics Association Conference. Beijing, Higher Education Press.

Martin, J.R. (2009) Realisation, instantiation and individuation: Some thoughts on identity in youth justice conferencing. DELTA - Documentação de Estudos em Linguistica Teorica e Aplicada 25. 2009. 549-583. (Also Keynote paper, 36th International Systemic Functional Congress, Tsinghua University, China, July 2009).


Roach, Gina (PhD, ongoing) Critical Thinking in Knowledge Production: Realisations in Masters' students research essays, University of Nottingham China Campus, Ningbo, China.

Szenes, E., Tilakaratna, N. & Maton, K. (2015) The knowledge practices of critical thinking, in Davies, M. & Barnett, R. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Maton, K. (2014) Building powerful knowledge: The significance of semantic waves, in Rata, E. & Barrett, B. (eds) Knowledge and the Future of the Curriculum: International studies in social realism, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Pedagogic Research Project:

Knowledge Practices of Critical Thinking in Applied Disciplines - Eszter Szenes, Namali Tilakaratna and Karl Maton, University of Sydney

Aims to explore the knowledge practices of critical thinking and reflection in applied disciplines, map organising principles of undergraduate student texts in social work and business, explore  linguistic resources through which skilful writers construe a sense of belonging in their professional communities of practice, and contribute to academic literacy support programs designed by the Learning Centre at the University of Sydney. Uses LCT to map the ‘semantic profiles’ of undergraduate student texts and SFL to reveal  the linguistic resources by which skilful writers achieve these knowledge practices. Results are informing:

  • an intervention and the development of learning and teaching resources and tutor training for the Bridging sociocultural Incongruity in the undergraduate Education Curriculum (BIEC), a funded Widening Participation project to embed Critical Thinking into a first-year core unit in Education (EDUF1019)
  • Central Program Workshop Development at the Learning Centre, University of Sydney: a new four-hour workshop for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students, 'Critical reflection in the Social and Health Sciences'


Martin, J. L. (2016) Musicality and musicianship: Specialisation in jazz studies, in K. Maton, S. Hood and S. Shay (eds) Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory, London: Routledge.

Martin, J.L. (2013) On Notes and Knowers: The representation, evaluation and legitimation of jazz, unpublished PhD thesis, Discipline of Linguistics, University of Adelaide.

Martin, J.L. (2012a) The Jazz is strong in this one: Presentation and positioning of knowers in performance student texts, in Knox, J. (ed.) To Boldly Proceed: Papers from the 39th International Systemic Functional Congress, Sydney: ISFC.

Martin, J.L. (2012b) Instantiation, realisation and multimodal musical semantic waves, in Knox, J. (ed.) To Boldly Proceed: Papers from the 39th International Systemic Functional Congress, Sydney: ISFC.

Weekes, T. (2014) From Dot Points to Disciplinarity: The theory and practice of disciplinary literacies in secondary schooling, unpublished PhD thesis, University of New England, Australia.


Chaowei, Pang (PhD) The Discursive Re-legitimation of the Iraq War in George W. Bush’s Speeches: A corpus-assisted critical discourse study, National University of Defence Technology, Changsha, China.

Wang, Chen (PhD) Media Cosmology: Analysis of negative attitude in media discourse, University of Sydney & Xiamen University, China.


National identity

Tann, K. (2013) The language of identity discourse: Introducing a systemic functional framework for iconography, Linguistics and the Human Sciences 8(3): 361–91.

Tann, K. (PhD, 2011) Semogenesis of a Nation: An iconography of Japanese identity, Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney, Australia

Popular education

Vidal Lizama, M. (PhD, 2014) Theorising Popular Education as a Knowledge Practice: The case of Chile, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS, Australia.

Vidal Lizama, M. (2017) Knowledge in your classroom: A model of analysis for specialisation codes in classroom discourse, Onomázein, March: 149-178.

Parliamentary politics

Siebörger, I. & Adendorff, R.D. (in press) Black-boxing and the politics of oversight in the South African parliament, in Mirjana Dedaic (ed.) Singing, Speaking and writing politics: South African political discourses, Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Siebörger, I. & Adendorff, R.D. (2015) Resemiotizing concerns from constituencies in the South African parliament, Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33(2): 171-197.

Siebörger, I. & Adendorff, R.D. (in press) “We’re talking about semantics here”: Axiological condensation in the South African parliament, Functions of Language.

Armed forces

Thomson, E. (2014) Battling with WordsA study of language, diversity and social inclusion in the Australian Department of Defence, Canberra: Australian Government, Department of Defence.

Thomson, E. (2014) Special Report: Towards inclusion: Language use in the Department of Defence, Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute.


Doran, Y. J. (PhD, 2016) Knowledge in Physics through Mathematics, Image and Language, Dept of Linguistics, University of Sydney, Australia.

Moncayo, V.A.L. (2014) A Sustainability Cosmology: An analysis of a “green” company’s sustainability report, unpublished PhD thesis, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil.


Tang, B. (2014) On the cooperation between Maton's Legitimation Code Theory and systemic functional linguistics, Modern Foreign Languages, Feb [in Chinese].

Tang, B. (2013) On the relationship between knowledge structures and nominalization, Foreign Language and Literature, 29(4): 86–90.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 June 2017 15:54