6 Summary of the types of meaning
In the last three sections of this course you have had an opportunity to consider the three different overarching types of meaning – or metafunctions – in turn. However, it is important to realise that these strands are always operating together in any text. For example, the scientific text you have just looked at is ‘packaged’ densely with information, and this is an aspect of the textual metafunction. At the same time, this sort of academic text, in which the focus is on relationships between phenomena, causes and effects and on evidence and logical arguments, also reflects a way of viewing the world in a scientific manner and so reflects typical ideational meanings of scientific texts. It also comes across as relatively impersonal, with only minimal use of personal pronouns, for example, and when they are used (‘we’, ‘us’); they have a rather generalised meaning. This is an aspect of the interpersonal metafunction. For definitions of these terms, see Box 1 in Section 2 ‘What do we mean by “meaning”?’
In the next section of the course, you’ll look more closely at this type of scientific text in the context of education, with a focus on the grammar of textual meaning.