Teaching of Systemic Functional Linguistics: UK

Aston University, Birmingham

English Studies, School of Languages and Social Sciences

Professor Malcolm Coulthard

Details needed, but there is a degree of SFL influence in some of the courses taught here.

Out of date information: No SFL in undergraduate courses, but two SFL modules as part of the MSc in TESOL/TESP :

  • Grammar of Modern English (entirely SFG)
  • Text and Discourse Analysis (overwhelmingly SFL)
Distance learner courses also offered.

University of Birmingham

Department of English

Susan Hunston (s.e.hunston@bham.ac.uk, Head of Department)
Carmen-Rosa Caldas-Coulthard (c.r.caldas-coulthard@bham.ac.uk)
Michael Toolan (m.toolan@bham.ac.uk)
Murray Knowles
Charles Owen

MT: "Systemic linguistics is the descriptive and theoretical approach which predominates in a number of our undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and is also used by some of our doctoral students in their work.  At the u/g level it is prominent in our Literary Stylistics, Language & Ideology, and Advanced Grammar courses, among others.  We use various of the well-known introductions -- Eggins, Bloor and Bloor, Thompson, Butt et al, etc - as well as other coursebooks which use SFL, such as my own Language in Literature.  At the graduate level we naturally extend to the more specialized studies, including Kress and Van Leeuwen,  Martin, and so on.  IFG (94) itself is, of course, the point of departure, shall we say, for all these studies.

Staff who teach or apply SFL include:  Carmen-Rosa Caldas Coulthard, Charles Owen, Murray Knowles, and myself (Michael Toolan)."

Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard adds: "We teach a course called Describing Language - Introduction to Functional Grammar to our M.A students doing Translation Studies, Special Applications of Linguistics,  English for Special Purposes and Stylistics, which is essentially an introduction to SFG plus Critical Social Semiotics. The teachers are myself and Michael Toolan."

Peter White adds (2002): At the post-graduate level: The 'Text Analysis Research Group' at Birmingham provides a forum for post-graduates and staff to explore the application of SFL to various text/discourse analytical issues and problems. Ph.D and M.Phil students currently working specifically within SFL are researching topics such as email list interactions, academic English, the language of politics and various sub-types of journalistic discourse. A larger number of post-grads make some use of SFL in their research.

At the undergraduate level: Functional Linguistics now constitutes a substantial component of the curriculum of our specialist undergraduate English language strand. (Birmingham Single Honours undergraduates can now choose to do a degree which is half literature and half language/linguists, while our Joint Honours students can choose an English language-only option). Our undergraduate language specialists are introduced to SFL in their first year and it is taught as part of various second and third year courses. Our second year students are introduced to the Appraisal framework in their "Mass Media Rhetoric" course.


Department of English
University of Birmingham
Westmere, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
Phone: 44 (0) 121 414 7371/5696
Fax: 44 (0) 121 414 3238
Web Pages:
  • Guide to MA courses, most of which include at least one module of SFL.
  • Michael Toolan's Literary Linguistics MA
  • English Department home page with links to all post-grad courses, both literary and linguistics.
  • Centre for English Language Studies

    This centre, based within the Department of English, runs a variety of postgraduate courses of interest to Systemics. This includes both in-house and distance MAs in TEFL/TESL, Translation Studies and Applied Linguistics. In-house MAs coder linguistics and lexicography, corpus studies, and critical discourse. A Ph.D. programme is also offered.

    School of Education

    Sheena Gardner (s.f.gardner@bham.ac.uk)

    Sheena is available to supervise doctorates in the area of Educational Linguistics:  Current interests in the use of language in EAL/ESL/EFL classroom-based assessment across the curriculum, and across genres (by discipline or year) in higher education (including genre transfer).

    Cardiff University

    Centre for Language and Communication, in the School of English, Commmunication and Philosophy

    Dr. Lise Fontaine
    Dr. Tom Bartlett

    This was previously the department of Robin Fawcett and Gordon Tucker, although both have retired from teaching. Currently SFL teaching continues with Lise Fontaine and Tom Bartlett.

    SFL courses taught in the department include:

    • Describing Language - SE1375. Currently taught by Lise Fontaine. This module presents a functional model of linguistic description - Systemic Functional Linguistics. We explore the effects and consequences of particular lexical and grammatical choices on the creation of meaning in a wide range of spoken and written texts, with the aim of better understanding both the meaning potential available to speakers and how particular choices in meaning are associated with different texts. Currently offered in the second semester but this is subject to change.
    • Language Description - SET003. Currently taught by Tom Bartlett. This module introduces students to functional grammar, and in particular Systemic Functional Grammar. The course will provide an overview of the main grammatical systems of English, such as transitivity, mood and theme, together with a functional description of grammatical units such as the clause and the nominal group. The focus of the module will be on grammar as a resource for meaning and how a functional description can be used to analyse the meanings that English speakers make in texts. The use of electronic language corpora (databases) will also be introduced.
    • Computer-Mediated Communication - SE1342 Currently taught by Lise Fontaine. This module explores all forms of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) from the perspective of text analysis and multimodality. CMC refers to any human-to-human communication that is mediated by a computer. We will focus especially on Internet-based discourse, including e-mail messages, discussion lists, chat, Web pages, and virtual communities. We will investigate the nature of CMC as a Mode of Discourse, the way CMC uses a range of semiotic and linguistic resources, and the relation between text, meaning and technology in CMC. Currently offered in the second semester but this is subject to change.

    Ph.D. supervision

    • Lise Fontaine (from 2008): Topics: (systemic functional) grammar, referring expressions, personal reference, the role of choice in language production, keyboard/electronic language
    • Tom Bartlett: Topics: (systemic functional) grammar, modality, genre and register, social and psychological modelling of language systems, SFL and CDA


    Dr Lise Fontaine
    Centre for Language and Communication
    School of English Studies,Communication and Philosophy
    Cardiff University
    Email: fontainel@cf.ac.uk

    University of East Anglia, Norwich

    School of Language, Linguistics and Translation Studies

    William Downes

    Description: William Downes uses Halliday's functional grammar in an undergraduate unit, Modern English Language, and teaches his own notion of social semiotics in an interdisciplinary MA unit: `Linguistics and Culture and Communication'.

    For info contact, Barbara Betts, Admissions Office, b.betts@uea.ac.uk

    University of Kent at Canterbury

    Robert Veltman (R.Veltman@ukc.ac.uk)

     Description: SFG is rather important in the Linguistics & English Language courses at u/g & p/g levels.


    Department of Linguistics and English Language

    Norman Fairclough (Emeritus professor, retired)
    Ruth Wodak
    Paul Chilton

    A major centre for Critical Discourse Analysis.

    Leeds University

    Translation Studies

    Prof. Tony Hartley
    Dr. Serge Sharoff

    Little explicit teaching of SFL, but both Tony and Serge are available to supervise doctoral students in SFL applications to translation.
    Serge specialises in corpus analysis, translation, lexicography, computational linguistics.

    Department of Linguistics

    Bethan Davies

    Bethan is available for the supervision of doctoral students in areas of SFL.

    University of Liverpool

    School of English

    Prof Michael Hoey (hoeymp@liv.ac.uk)
    Dr Michaela Mahlberg (m.mahlberg@liv.ac.uk)
    Dr Mike Scott (m.r.scott@liv.ac.uk)
    Mr Geoff Thompson (geoff9@liv.ac.uk)

    SFL informs a great deal of our teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The most obvious examples are the Semester 1 (September – December) module on Functional Grammar on our MA in TESOL (http://www.liv.ac.uk/english/ma_courses/post_ma_tesol.htm) and MA in Applied Linguistics (http://www.liv.ac.uk/english/ma_courses/post_ma_appling.htm), and the Semester 2 (January – May) module Grammar in Discourse on our undergraduate programme; but many of our other modules dealing with text analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics draw on SFG.

    The research of a number of our current and former PhD students is SFL-inspired: Theme and the interpersonal metafunction have been particular areas of interest, together with information structure and cohesion, and with occasional forays into transitivity. Every year a good proportion of our MA students do their dissertations on Functional Grammar, usually oriented towards text analysis (including the transitivity of medical and political texts, the representation of women in different periods of the 20th century, interpersonal choices in tourist brochures, adverts, and bank leaflets, and appraisal in political speeches).

    Geoff Thompson (who teaches the Grammar modules mentioned above) is the only card-carrying SFLer amongst us; but the others listed above are at the least fellow-travellers and use - or react to - SFG in various ways. It was the commonality of interest across colleagues working in a range of different areas which enabled us to host both the 1998 Euro-International Systemic Functional Workshop and the 2002 International Systemic Functional Congress.


    School of English
    University of Liverpool
    Liverpool L69 7ZR

    tel +44 151 794 2771
    fax +44 151 794 2739

    University of Luton

    Jon Mills (jmills@castle.luton.ac.uk)

     Description: Systemic Functional Grammar is taught on the BA Linguistics and BA Modern English Studies courses. 025 Fax: +44 (0)1582 489014

    University of Nottingham

    Ron Carter (Head of Dept.)
    Mike McCarthy

     Some Systemic-Functional teaching still going on, although Margaret Berry has
    retired, Hillary Hillier has moved to the Open University.

    The Open University, Milton Keynes

    Staff who work with SFL (to a greater or lesser extent) are currently located in the Applied Languages and Literacies Group where further information can be obtained about the centres and the expertise of each staff member regarding postgraduate supervision. EdD and PhD supervision are both available. Click here for details.

    SFL informs some of the Open University's English Language distance teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The courses detailed below form part of OU undergraduate degrees in English Language and Literature and Modern Language Studies and MA Education (Applied Linguistics). However, they can also be taken as part of a diploma or as free standing modules. There is some freely accessible material available here.

    In the Open University system an undergraduate degree consists of 6 courses (or the equivalent of 360 credit points) and a postgraduate degree 3 courses (each worth 60 credit points). Therefore each 60 credit course is quite sizeable and equivalent to a year's part time study. All Open University courses are available for study in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and countries belonging to the European Union. The MA courses (with electronic tutoring) are available globally. Information regarding content and course dates are available by clicking on the links below. Courses:


    The Open University
    Walton Hall
    Milton Keynes
    +44(0)1908 653231

    Stirling University, Scotland

    Department of English Studies

    Bethan Benwell

    For details of course, please see: http://www.stir.ac.uk/english/undergradunits/language/units/.
    Postgraduate supervision of SFL-oriented theses is done.

    University of Warwick

    Centre for English Language Teacher Education

    NOTE: The following was true in 2004, may be out of date given that Meriel Bloor, Sheena Gardner and Hilary Nesi have moved elsewhere. However, Meriel says (Sept 2007) that "there is still linguistics (both grammar focused and text/discourse focused) on their course descriptions and this will be SFL oriented"

    At undergraduate level, there is a four year B.Ed. honours degree in TESOL. This includes four years of linguistic studies of which the final year is SFL

    The following post graduate degrees include a 30 contact hour module entitled Grammar of English (largely  SFL and its applications) and a 30 hour module in Text and Discourse Analysis (from an  SFL perspective). There is also a 30 contact hour Option called The Use of English: Current Research Issues, which incorporates Critical Linguistics and Corpus Linguistics and SFL.

    • MA in English as a Foreign Language (for teachers)
    • MA in English for Specific Purposes (for teachers)
    • MA in Teaching English to Young Learners
    • MA in English Language Studies
    Short courses and one term Certificate courses incorporating SFL are also available.