There are various interrelated ways in which interpersonal meaning is construed through language in discourse and in this chapter we will consider:
• the speech roles (for example, teller, enquirer, commander) adopted by different speakers
• the degree of certainty and the evidential base speakers provide for their assertions
• the degree of possibility or necessity speakers assign to events • the different standards of evaluation speakers use when appraising people,
things and actions
As you will have noticed, these categories do touch on truth and falsehood, but they are concerned with the speakers’ own subjective assessments, the truth of which cannot be objectively verified. That is to say, if I declare “The moon is made of cheese”, you can prove or disprove this claim; but you cannot prove whether I believe it or not. And if I ask you if it is raining or tell you to buy me a pint, how can you test the truth of a question or a command? For this reason the speech philosophers began to talk of the felicity conditions of speech acts: that is, the conditions necessary for these acts to be effective rather than true. And this, you will remember, is the central theme of the book, as set out in the Positioning Star, only with a focus on whole texts rather than individual utterances. Halliday (1978:117) refers to interpersonal meaning as the intruder function of language, as it is here that speakers’ personal judgements are most explicitly allowed to intrude into the text. However, you should remember that any representation of an event is already a speaker’s personal construal, as discussed in the previous chapters, so that interpersonal meaning is by no means the only way in which a speaker can be said to intrude.