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Applying Halliday’s linguistic theory in qualitative data analysis

Vinh To (Faculty of Education, the University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia)
Quynh (Central of Rural Health, the University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia)
Thao (Faculty of Education, the University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 5 May 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the usefulness of Halliday’s linguistic theory known as Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) in analysing qualitative data. In order to do this, it initially presents an overview of SFL, and then explains how and why four linguistic features namely, nominalisation, grammatical metaphor, thematic structure and lexical density are useful in examining qualitative data. The paper also discusses three social metafunctions of language known as the ideational, the interpersonal and the textual metafunctions which are significant for understanding and interpreting texts.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper employs SFL as the main theoretical framework to discussing the usefulness of this linguistics theory in qualitative data analysis.

Findings

SFL can be seen as a paradigm shift in linguistic theory moving away from the traditional focus on syntax to the inclusion of the interface between language and pragmatics. The focus of SFL is language in use. It deals with texts in social contexts, which is the main focus in qualitative data analysis. Thus, SFL provides both research tools and theoretical insights for understanding and interpreting texts.

Originality/value

This paper provides significant insights into language which are crucial for understanding and interpreting texts in social contexts.

Keywords

Citation

To, V., Lê, Q. and Lê, T. (2015), "Applying Halliday’s linguistic theory in qualitative data analysis", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 135-146. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-11-2014-0059

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited