Using Appraisal Resources

In my new role at QUT I am teaching preservice teachers how to use Appraisal resources in the teaching of English.  This is a new theoretical framework for me…is there anyone out there, in Queensland, Australia or otherwise, using the tools of Appraisal as a way into unpacking how texts work?

Here are a few excerpts from the teaching materials I am using:

Resources of Appraisal

  • Attitude (including affect, judgement and appreciation)
    • Affect (registering positive or negative feelings)
    • Judgement (implicit or explicit judgements of the behaviour of people rating it positively or negatively0
    • Appreciation (expressing positive or negative appreciations of the beauty or worth of people, relationships, artefacts, nature etc.)
  • Graduation (gradability; using language to scale the force of meaning up and down)
  • Engagement (using rhetorical devices to adopt a stance toward or commitment to the subject matter)

Questions to probe Appraisal

  • What kinds of feelings or emotions are evident in the text?
  • What judgements are made about human behaviour?
  • What appreciations are made about appearances, relationships, places and things?
  • How is language used to alter meaning; intensify or diminish (force), sharpen or soften (focus)?
  • How are rhetorical techniques being used to position an audience?

(from McGuire, Ray ‘Language matters: Language, Literature and Literacy’ ETAQ Presentation)

It looks like a very exciting framework for drawing together the operational, cultural and critical elements of literacy around the unifying goal of ‘appraising’ the emotional response that a text provokes in an audience.  I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

  1. #1 by Alison Robertson on September 9, 2010 - 5:28 pm

    I haven’t heard of it before, but I like the sound of the framework – nice idea. It sounds a little bit related to the workshop Bronwyn Custance did for us at our recent SAETA conference on teaching students the language of affect, appreciation and judgement…

  2. #2 by Garry Collins on September 9, 2010 - 8:25 pm

    While perhaps not quite the best thing since sliced bread, Appraisal theory (along with a host of other ideas derived from systemic functional linguistics) is indeed very useful.

    If you wanted to learn more about it, Alison, you might consider attending the 2-day pre-conference institute to be conducted by Peter White at the University of Adelaide on 27 & 28 September. The outline of the 2-day program is shown below and the ASFLA (Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association) conference website can be found at

    Garry Collins
    self-confessed SFL small time pusher & user

    “The Appraisal framework provides an account of how evaluative language is used to convey positive and negative viewpoints and to adjust the expression of these viewpoints according to the anticipated responses of those being addressed. It enables systematic analyses of such questions as how writers/speakers can sound “objective” or “subjective”, can use language to present a particular personality or persona, can construct for their texts a particular “intended” audience, and can enter into different interpersonal relations with this “intended” audience. It provides the means for describing and understanding the interpersonal arrangements which typically apply across the different genres (e.g. recount, narrative, information report, explanation and exposition) and the typical stylistic properties of, for example, the discourses of science, history, art and literary criticism, public persuasion and journalism.

    This series of workshops will begin by providing a basic introduction to Appraisal, outlining the three systems of Attitude, Graduation and Engagement. Participants will be introduced to the key descriptive categories of the framework and to methods for identifying these categories in texts.

    Later sessions will explore the application of the framework to various text analytical tasks. Some sessions will be devoted to how Appraisal can be useful to teachers of student writing, exploring how the framework can assist teachers in selecting appropriate model texts, in guiding joint construction activities, in providing feedback to students and in evaluating student-writing development in a systematic and transparent way. It is also anticipated that some time will be devoted to the application of Appraisal in the context of more general stylistic analyses – for example in the analysis of the rhetorical and ideological workings of political and journalistic language.”

  3. #3 by kmcg2375 on September 10, 2010 - 3:31 pm

    ooh, thanks for that Gary – I hoped you would have something exactly like this!

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