In the light of development, digitization has become an inevitable phenomenon in human social affairs. As one feels its preoccupation in the physical and social sciences; digitization has also dynamically glided into the humanities, especially, the literary world. As a result, scholars have resolved to employ technological and scientific devices to explore literary items to benefit readers (Burrows 2004; Craig 2004). For instance, Robinson and Saklofske (2017) interconnect computer software, mobile applications, etc. with narratives. The utilization of mobile apps, computer software, as modular systems, assists in synchronizing networks on the perception of narratives. Such effort encourages distance readings and algorithmic appreciations. It is on that critical plane that this study suggests the application of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) as a reliable tool that can facilitate the meaning potential of literary texts. This is because SFL possesses capabilities to provide a type of analysis that can be utilized for close structural readings with semantic implications. The digitization of literature attracts theoretical terms as Warwick (2016) particularly emphasizes. The deployment of conceptual terminologies to promote digital humanities (DH) situates SFL very viably in this arena. Consequently, the appropriate applications of theoretical techniques, as interpretive strategies, forge lucid and direct partnerships, and cement strong relationships between research components and meanings derived from the materials (Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth 2004, xxv). The abilities of the theory to process texts into linguistic devices makes scientific instruments like tables and graphs effective in accounting for grammatical and semantic frequencies in the form of Jockers and Underwood’s (2016) quantitative methods. Also, SFL works well, by supporting the computation of clause elements in their complex forms within the framework and methodology as discussed by Bradley (2004), and Drucker (2016).

As stated earlier, the need for a critical inquiry (Warwick 2016) stimulates the introduction of SFL as a reliable lens to manifest the nitty-gritty of a literary item (e.g. poem). This grammatics (Halliday 2013, 29) addresses this operation by characterizing the clauses of a specific poem into both structural labels and contextual situations. Apart from that, SFL considers language in the form of structures within the purview of socio-cultural manifestations (Kress 2010; Bartlett 2013; Dalamu 2017e, 2017h). This could be a reason for drawing a text into two separate planes. In Halliday and Hasan’s (1985, 5) sense, “there is text and there is other text that accompanies it: text thus is with, namely the con-text.” This notion of elements, associated with the text, pinpoints the production environment of the text. The socio-cultural norms, as Halliday and Hasan (1985) underscore, offer the text much meaningful detail. This is on the grounds that the context meshes with the text and its immediate indices as the unified element of communication.

In every language production, Halliday and Hasan assert, there are two texts. The first text is the internal chains that bind the product of a text together as an indivisible entity of meaning (1985, 24–26). The menus of the structural elements are connected through cohesive ties (Eggins 2004; Dalamu 2018). The second, as characterized, is the context of the language of interaction (Halliday and Hasan, 1985). This is the totality of the elements in the setting in which the language is applied. One can argue that there is nothing fascinating in analyzing a text for the purpose of its structural components. It is rather captivating when an analyst considers the constituents of a text within the profile of its socio-cultural plane (Ravelli 2000, 29). That suggestion is a probable projector of the text in the domains of cohesion and coherence. Cohesion describes the structure of the text while coherence realizes its context (Thompson 2004). Figure 1, below, adds flavor to the text and context abstractions of a piece of language in use.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Text and context expressed through coherence and cohesion.

The convention of coherence and cohesion, “merry-go-rounding” the text, ends up at the table of three metafunctions as shown in Figure 1, above. This explains the idea that the three metafunctions dominate and remain the focus of SFL. Both the meeting and melting point of coherence and cohesion are the three metafunctions (Halliday 1985; Matthiessen 1993). Through that synthesis, meaning is generated in text. Having said that, there are numerous conceptual frameworks in the theory that can assist in explaining texts. These are very possible without recourse to the celebrated three metafunctions. For instance, part of the grammatical metaphor has capabilities to explore a text independently (Thompson 2004, 220–224). Furthermore, within the domains of SFL, analysts can consider a text from the spheres of contextual, socio-semiotic, and multimodal perspectives (Hodge and Kress 1988; O’Toole 1994; Kress and Van Leeuwen 2003; Kress 2010; Dalamu 2017g). These are some of the incentives that propel the writer to suggest that SFL contains reliable resources useful in DH.

One can feel the waves of DH in Riguet and Mpouli’s (2017) characterization of dialogism of French discourse on literary criticism. As a result, Riguet and Mpouli discuss how scientific terminologies are “loaned” and adopted, giving those terms new but literary meanings. While Muzny, Algee-Hewitt, and Jurafsky (2017) throw some light on the dialogue, in terms of conversation, as the basis for communicative interactions; Binotti and Azcorra (2017) explain DH values from their great influence on the general public, describing the effectiveness of Entiéndelo (a textual explication tool) for all humanity. The authors depict the benefits of Entiéndelo as augmenting people’s quality of life. As modern literary communications cannot be totally jettisoned or retired from ancient events, Bogna (2017) and Ciula (2017) elucidate some old and new disciplines in both multi- and interdisciplinary manners (also in Erlin 2016). The correlations draw readers’ attentions to their great significance as well as their interrelationships. Other scholars model language from the perspective of discourse studies in relation to DH (Rodilla and Gonzalez-Perez 2017); expound the concept of “big data” (Castro 2017); reveal unusual non-count nominals in Modern English (Svensson 1998); and elucidate historical discourses of race in literary elements (Lee et al 2018). Of importance is Kreniske and Kipp’s (2014) insight on the influence of DH on the documentation of social values of South African San nationality.

This study, as a contribution to earlier analyses, explicates the application of technology that relies on the result of the application of SFL concepts to the text. As a practice, the analyst has applied SFL to Adesanmi’s “Area Boy” (Adesanmi 2010, 308). This exercise displays the influence that SFL can have on a text in terms of the writer’s style and corpus development. In other words, the paper discusses how technology has assisted the analyst to do a reading of a specific poem (“Area Boy”) within a framework of functional grammar. It is the hope of the author that this will trigger further research efforts, channeled in a similar direction of this course. As a fundamental textually-focused theory, SFL exercises its vitality on the grammar of a language, considering the clause, as the center of analysis. Grammar refers to the structural system of wordings of a language (Yule 1985, 69; Dalamu 2017a, 268) that can be viewed from below, from around, and from above. The functions and analysis of such a language are also carried out in the way that a language communicates (Burke 1969; Quirk and Greenbaum 1973; McGregor 1992; Halliday and Matthiessen 2004).

It is pertinent to argue that the analysis of a quantum of grammatical elements cannot be done haphazardly because grammar itself is an organized event. By implication, a consideration for making meaning from the grammar of a language must not be operationalized chaotically. Rather, its organization must be in sequences. Thus, it is also demanded that the theoretical application on grammatical structures must begin from somewhere, that is, its constituted ordering. The concern drives SFL to start the analysis of text from the clause, its nerve, as applied later. This shows that the examination of every grammatical unit and function(s) has a connection with the clause. Thus, it is obligatory for every user of SFL to get acquainted with the clause and varieties of building blocks attached to it in either simple or complex forms. In corollary, Ravelli (2000, 29) points out that the key to beginning a systemic analysis is to identify a clause, which is the hub of grammar. Following Ravelli (2000), the clause is similar in concept to a sentence, except that a sentence pertains to written language, whereas a clause applies also to spoken language. In a specific sense, a clause represents a state of affairs.

X-raying systemic functional linguistics

Unlike so many ideas within schools of linguistics, SFL comes along with many linguistic tickets, as means of constructing and illuminating the thoughts of the exponents. The major exponential ancestors are fundamentally Saussure on Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic (De Beaugrande 1991), Bühler on the three functional models of language (Innis 1987), and Malinowski on Context of Situation (Malinowski 1935; Bailey 1985). The link of Hejelmslev to the theory is on Theme that taps its currency from the Prague School (Halliday 1994). Firth is always remembered for the concept of System – a system of systems or being polysystemic (Firth 1957; Butler 1985), while Hasan is notably the propagator of Context of Culture (Halliday and Hasan 1985), and Halliday on the Three Metafunctions (Halliday 1973). However, the configuration, harmonization, and development (to an extent) of the contributions of the intellectual progenitors of SFL’s identities rest on Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday.

Actually, Halliday conceives the bright idea of SFL from the confluence of the thoughts of earlier scholars (e.g. Firth). The convergence occurs through the scrutiny and careful selection of useful materials as platforms for constructing SFL. That insight elevates Halliday’s pedigree as synonymous with SFL (Dalamu 2017c). This is because Halliday does not only make choices from scholarly resourceful materials; the sage also champions the compatibility of the raw materials; and moreover, injects invaluable terms to the subjects that SFL accommodates. This study, in that regard, considers Halliday as the architect as well as the mason of the theory.

The centrality of the clause to grammar, as mentioned earlier, cannot be undermined. The fragmentation of the clause produces phrases and words; the elaboration leads to the formation of clause complexes. The writer points out that every statement deployed by an interactant either in the form of the spoken or written language has its origin negotiated in the clause. Such place of occupancy encourages systemicists to make the clause kernel in analyses rather than the sentence. The significance of the veins of the clause operations on the text can be demonstrated, as in Table 1, below.

Table 1

Domains of the clause in SFL.

Numbers Systemic Terms Grammatical Elements Examples
I Below the clause Words, phrases Search, a system code
Ii Around the clause Cohesion, texture, discourse Engineered differently
Iii Above the clause Clause complexes I sing yet dance in church
Iv Beyond the clause Metaphorical interactions Statistical comparisons elevate research
V Clause as exchange Mood system As in Figure 8, below
Vi Clause as message Thematic system As in Figure 9, below
Vii Clause as representation Transitivity system As in Figure 10, below

In one way or another, SFL is functionally-cyclical, most especially, in the dominance of the clause in all operations. Besides, point (v), (vi), and (vii), in Table 1, link the clause again to the three metafunctions. Beginning the construction of meaning of a text (e.g. poem) from below the clause (e.g. word) to a full-fledged clause and ending the exercise around the clause (e.g. discourse) is, perhaps, a sign of building up meaning from the scratch to a broad meaning derivative. It is on that ground that SFL serves as an interface between a poem (e.g. “Area Boy”) and technological devices (e.g. graphs) in order to position “Area Boy”, as an entity of DH.

Digital Humanities: Historical developments

In the historical development of DH, the name of Roberto Busa is estimable. Roberto Busa was a Jesuit priest who picked interest in building a concordance for the works of Thomas Aquinas in 1949. That assiduous effort charted a pioneering course for what is known as DH today (Ess 2004, 133). Though, a very tedious journey, the objective was to realize the word of Aquinas’ writings in what Busa referred to as index verborum (Busa 1980). The effect of that singular act seems referential up to this period. In Crane’s observation, Busa’s attempts transcended any other struggles in the hemisphere of lexemic accountability (Crane 2004, 47). The difficulty experienced, doing manual operations influenced Busa to seek help from IBM to accelerate the counting and ensure accuracy (Burton 1981a, 1981b).

Hockey’s perspectives on DH history

Hockey’s approach to the history of DH from the effort of Father Busa serves as the point of departure (2004, 4). In this classification, 1949 to early 1970s mark the beginnings where index verborum and cum hypertextibus are reiterated. The years of consolidation fall within 1970 to the middle of 1980s, witnessing the journal Computers and the Humanities, conferences, the writing of computer programs, along with the establishment of computer centers. Personal computers that foster innovation, as Hockey (2004) reports, become necessary for scholarship to snowball the development of DH in 1980s and early 1990s. Of significance in the era is the long-standing impact that reminds the writer of the publication of the Human Computing Yearbook for the storage or archiving and campaign of scholarly projects, software, and publications (ibid.). The herald of the World Wide Web (WWW), as the “culmination” in 1990s, becomes the irresistible boost that welcomes researchers to first-class information, perhaps, in any subject. Moreover, WWW gives license to anyone to publish. This promotes scholarly works as much as the elimination of the constraint of printing pages of books. There is no page limitation, and every publication can be reviewed from time to time. Another great merit of the WWW/URL is that any publication can be accessed from any part of the globe as long as it is not passworded. Hockey (2004, 17) submits that, “now that the Internet is such a dominant feature of everyday life, the opportunity exists for humanities computing to reach out further than has hitherto been possible” (also in Svensson 2010; Jørgensen 2016).

Digital Humanities: Definitions and domains

Perhaps, scholars have been wisely and systematically softening academic pedals from defining the term, Digital Humanities (e.g. Burdick et al 2012). This is because DH is a probable subject to expand beyond human imaginations among the sub-contending disciplines (Kirschenbaum 2010, 58). The discipline also addresses many of the research challenges on methodological paradigms (Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth 2004, xxx). However, attempts have been made to describe the contents of the fast growing and developing DH. Thus, Busa (2004) claims that DH

is precisely the automation of every possible analysis of human expression (therefore, it is exquisitely a “humanistic” activity), in the widest sense of the word, from music to the theater, from design and painting to phonetics, but whose nucleus remains the discourse of written texts (Busa 2004, xvi).

This perspective is very broad. It is coherent, Busa explains, to all possible human social endeavors. The pointer in the description is the text. Again, at this point, the relevance of SFL to text can be referred. As the nucleus of DH is the text, the same text is the hub of SFL as well as the wheel of language. SFL seems the chair of DH and language because of its theoretical underpinning in both the textual claims and social connections (Wodak and Meyer 2001, 3–9). As such, domains of SFL are contextually-expressed, as publicized earlier in Figure 1, in the terminology of cohesion and coherence. The study sees a joint venture between DH and SFL.

DH seems to embrace two customary but academic lifestyles by creating a robust and intertwining relationship between the digits (1, 2, 3, etc.) and the alphabet (a, b, c, etc.). The partnership extends to signs and figures of various pluralistic annotations such as scientific representations of symbols in different forms, capacities, and functions. This is where SFL can create an interconnection between the two entities by positioning every element of a clause in the appropriate place. This advances the examination of the events of the “humanities” to produce meanings. This opportunity can be a compelling reason for Busa (2004, xxx) to elucidate the evolving but permanent association of humanities and the computer utilization as signaling “The finger of God.” Burdick et al (2012, vii) recognize the communicative divine signature by validating that unlike in the past, researchers in the humanities today live and function in “rare moments of opportunity” with the potential to play a vastly expanded creative role in public life. Computerization influences seem to have aided such transformation.

The testimony of Burdick et al. (2012) places a wide gulf between the knowledge of precursors of humanities and the present humanists. The current information age (or golden age) negotiates workable and lasting relationships between human expressions/lifestyles and computer applications unlike past generations. However, as the arts construct enduring relationships with computerization, the disciplines are not in any way retreating from the long-standing tenets of founding fathers. DH is a foremost development of “the purview of the humanities, precisely because it brings the values, representational and interpretive practices, meaning-making strategies, complexities, and ambiguities of being human into every realm of experience and knowledge of the world” (ibid.). This suggests that a major contribution of DH is the creation of additional values into the arts through the applications of computerized interpretative equipment. As such, technological tools are capable of advancing and enhancing the meaning-making of human activities where SFL serves an intermediary function.

Furthermore, the Digital Humanities Manifesto articulates DH as having observed in the discipline an array of convergent practices in two senses. One, it explains that the “print is no longer the exclusive or the normative medium in which knowledge is produced and/or disseminated; instead, print finds itself absorbed into new, multimedia configurations” (Digital Humanities Manifesto n.d.). The usual manner of exercises in the print has changed to an advanced level. Two, “digital tools, techniques, and the media have altered the production and dissemination of the knowledge of arts, human, and social sciences” (ibid.). It is not contentious that DH has taken the arts from their deep-seated artistry to a sustainable “scientific” level of functionality. Perhaps, sooner or later, all disciplines in the Ivory Towers rather than awarding B.A. degree titles in the humanities, will transit to awarding a B.Sc. to every bachelor of a university. This projection depends on applications of computational infrastructures to the humanities, which have the capacity to realize the dream proposed (Edmond 2016; Montfort 2016; O’Donnell, Walter, Gil, and Fraistat 2016). Responsibilities of DH dominate all fields, where human beings operate (Butler-Kisber 2013). This is because the applications of computer facilities are limitless most especially when one correlates every action with the renowned slogans of IBM, Everything you need to build anything you want and THINK (IBM 2017; Creative Block Inc. 2017). This is made possible and effective because writers of computer programs receive instructions that assist them to produce a program that is parallel to a particular operational need and demand (Peirson, Damerow, and Laubichler 2016). The more the scope of human beings widens the better the areas of DH’s occupancy. Among others, DH is applied to linguistics, literary studies, music, graphic arts, and archaeology. (Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth 2004).

Remarkable suggestion of John Unsworth

Father Busa, perhaps the most distinguished pioneer of the well-known DH echelons (Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth 2004, ix), did not label the subject as DH. Before 2001/2002, Busa and his contemporaneous scholars had been tagging the remarkable activities on the new idea of textual accountability as Index Thomisticus, Lessico Tomistico Biculturale, concordance, humanities computing, etc. The construction of a universally-acceptable title given to what Busa started in 1949 rests on John Unsworth (Unsworth 2002), the same way that the construct of Discourse Analysis resides in Zellig Harris, and Context of Situation rests on Bronislaw Malinowski (Malmkjaer 2004). The big idea, according to Unsworth, came to him while negotiating the title of the book, A Companion to Digital Humanities, with the representative of Blackwell publishing company (Unsworth 2010; also in Kirschenbaum 2010, 56–57). Although, the labeling rests on Unsworth, DH is a child of circumstance borne per chance.

However, it is pertinent to think back to Busa’s assertion on “Digitus Dei est hic! i.e. The finger of God is here!” Busa perceives the phenomenon as an outstanding activity involving human beings, yet, charged and influenced by God. That is the rationale for Busa to add that “it is just like a satellite map of the points to which the wind of the ingenuity of the sons of God moves and develops the contents of computational linguistics, i.e., the computer in the humanities” (Busa 2004, xvi). Very salient in the Unsworth’s (2010) construct is the adjective “digital.” The coinage, in Unsworth’s standpoint, appears in order to move away from simple digitization of lexemes. “Digital” as a modifier signals a form of “sporadic” shift from the counting of words into all manifestations of humanistic operations. The “randomization” of the affiliation of computer technological applications to various humanistic domains is a probable factor that has prevented the discipline of DH from one-face value on definition.

SFL: The interface between “Area Boy” and technology

Although, the three metafunctions of SFL – interpersonal, textual, and experiential – are the theoretical concepts of the study; it is significant to demonstrate the function of SFL in the study as manifested in Figure 2, below.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Relationship between SFL and technology.

The portion in the blue color (identified as A) is the poem, “Area Boy”, while the portion in the green color (identified as C) is the technology. On the one hand, “Area Boy” is a piece of literature that contains textual elements with embedded meaning potential. On the other hand, the green color is the facility useful for calibration. Because, it is seemingly difficult for the technological device to approach “Area Boy” in order to generate systemic meaning, SFL (identified as B) bridges the lacuna. Its application processes “Area Boy” structures into countable values that the technology can accommodate. The systemic operations permit the technological facility to act on “Area Boy.” In a simple term, the outcomes of the application turn the whole exercises on “Area Boy” to semiotic slots of SFL, and SFL to computerization devices in order to operate as DH. The theoretical application of SFL is the wheel that turns “Area Boy” into an entity of DH. Besides the current application, as mentioned earlier, SFL with the use of any of its concepts (substitution, ellipsis, grammatical metaphor, coherence, context of situation, etc.) can be applied to texts for meaning-making.

Theoretical breadth

Significantly, a demonstration of SFL as a very resourceful tool of DH inspires the author to adopt the three metafunctions as the relevant conceptual entities. That being said, the three metafunctions, as mentioned earlier, are the core concept of SFL. The applications of the triadic terms to a text provide the target audience structural, paradigmatic, and contextual meanings (Eggins 2004). Table 2, below, shows the operational slots of the three metafunctions.

Table 2

Three Metafunctions’ operational slots.

Terminology Grammatical Sphere Paradigmatic Context
Interpersonal Metafunction Mood System Network Tenor of Discourse
Textual Metafunction Theme System Network Mode of Discourse
Experiential Metafunction Transitivity System Network Field of Discourse

The grammatical spheres of the metafunctions shown in the analyses of Figures 9, 10, and 11, below, make it very possible to earmark semantic slots to the structural organs of the clauses of “Area Boy.” The system networks in Figures 3, 4, and 5, below, are indicators of the metafunctions, operating from below, from around, and from above. However, some of these functions are basically-intrinsic. Besides, the system network represents the choice that a language user makes out of numerous ones available to the individual. Contextual implications of interpersonal, textual, and experiential metafunctions are accommodated discursively.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Mood System Network (Thompson 2014).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Thematic system network (Halliday and Matthiessen 2014).

Figure 5
Figure 5

Transitivity system network (Dalamu, 2017i).

Mood system

Thompson (2004) probes the interpersonal metafunction as a device that fulfils the “performative” roles of every addresser to the addressee. The concept reveals either constitutive functions or ancillary functions. The speech roles, Thompson (2004, 46–47) emphasizes, permit questions (interrogatives), commands (imperatives), statements (declaratives), and offers (modulated interrogatives) to be realizable in discussions (also in Dalamu, 2017b, 190–193). However, Halliday and Matthiessen (2004, 111–132) characterize the main structural organs as the mood disposed in Subject and Finite respectively. Predicator, Complement, and Adjunct, in Bloor and Bloor’s (2013) conceptualization, are components of the residue. Figure 3, below, explains further the system network of the mood choices.

Apart from exclamation marks and “sets” in English, the choices of the indicative and imperative are clearly open in communicative activities.

Thematic system

Theme and rheme fall into the organizational ideas of a text. A user of a language determines the componential arrangements of the communication as desired (Halliday 1994, 34–67). Apart from that, the function that the language is deployed to achieve has a great implication on the background details of a discourse. Rashidi (1992, 192) illuminates the theme as the starting point of the message. That is, the constituent that begins moving the encoder towards the essence of the communication. There is the essential ideational jumping-off point directing the decoder’s attention to the ultimate goal of the communication. The theme, in Rashidi’s approach, begins a clause irrespective of the linguistic device experienced at the start up. In other words, it gives a track to text productions. It is that operational condition that further influences Rashidi (1992, 197) to describe the rheme as the nub of the message of a clause despite the obligatory appearance of the theme in any construct (e.g. NG, Prep G, VG, Adj G or Adv G). This manifests the essential position of the theme in structures except in a situation of elliptical lexical amenities. Themes of the text operate in different ways. Unmarked theme occurs when the topical theme functions as a subject of the clause. Marked theme occurs when the theme of the clause is not the subject. Topical theme operates whenever participant, process, and circumstance realize the theme. Thematic theme arises before the topical theme. Exclusive discussions of the theme are in Halliday and Matthiessen (2004, 64–87), where the point of departure, orientation, and location connecting the social reality realize the theme (Ellis 1987, 113–121; Dalamu 2017f). Figure 4, below, reveals the system network of the thematic system of the clause, exhibiting textual, interpersonal, and experiential/ideational elements as the configuration of the multiple themes.

The system in Figure 4, above, shows the theme and rheme as two separate tools of interpretations.

Transitivity system

Bloor and Bloor (2004) argue that the experiential metafunction encodes the speaker’s experience by allowing language to play a critical role that accommodates the goings-on and the participants involved in the activities. In consonance with that perspective, Halliday and Matthiessen (2004, 168–259) describe the content and participants, sometimes encompassed with circumstantials, as crucial in disseminating information through the experiential (McGregor 1997). Valuable materials are in (Martin 1992; Halliday and Matthiessen 2014). Figure 5, below, elucidates the experiential metafunction, showing the processes and participants.

Figure 5, above, reveals six processes functioning in the English language. Material processes, mental processes, and relational processes are major while behavioral, verbal, and existential processes are minor. These systemic facilities are minor because behavioral, verbal, and existential occur at the peripheries of the major processes (Halliday and Matthiessen 2014; Dalamu, 2017d). The occurrence of the processes in a disc-like format is another operational figure that throws more lights on the cyclical nature of SFL (Halliday 1994, 108). The linear sequence of Figure 5, above, informs the introduction of the second material label as being a caricature.

Figure 6, below, illustrates the compatibility of the interpersonal metafunction, textual metafunction, and experiential metafunction on a clause, indicating their unbroken relationships. The partnership pinpoints the way that meaning potential of a text is realizable in three different systemic forms in order to generate meanings (Bloor and Bloor 2013; Fontaine 2013; Dalamu 2017c).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Three metafunctions composite system network (Dalamu 2017i).

This study demonstrates the treaty in the three metafunctions in Figure 6, above, in order to serve a good purpose of understanding their usefulness in DH through technological appreciations.


The author has chosen the poem of “Area Boy” written by Pius Adesanmi out of the 231 poems in Lagos of the Poet, which addresses concerned issues of Lagos State, Nigeria (Adesanmi 2010). Consequently, the book has huge implications concerning Lagos and the Nigerian society at large. It is also a means of creating a global awareness of the meaning of “Area Boy” in this part of the world. Above all that, the choice of the poem allows the study to exhibit resultant effects of SFL on a literary text.


“Area Boy” has been divided into clauses with the systemic traditional style of the slash demarcations, that is, “///” and “//”. “///” signifies the beginning and the end of a stanza while “//” serves as a simple clause separator. These are the reasons for observing slashes in the data presentation, below. The analysis of the “Area Boy” has undergone three different spheres of the mood, thematic, and transitivity systems in order to reveal the application of each of the three metafunctional instruments in clear functional terms. In the mood system analysis, S = Subject, F = Finite, P = Predicator, C = Complement, A = Adjunct, and Mod Adj = Modal Adjunct. The study also uses Circ as Circumstance, Pro as Process, Loc as Location, and Ident as Identifying.


After the systemic analysis, the researcher exploited AntConc, a text-computing technology (Laurence Anthony’s Software), to account for the processes in “Area Boy.” The first step was to identify and write down the processes in a piece of paper after which the entire “Area Boy” file was inputted into AntConc by selecting the “Open Files” icon in the “Navigation Menu” and the “Concordance” in the “Tool Tabs”. As the “Area Boy” file has appeared in the “Corpus File” window, each process term (e.g. remember) was later entered into the AntConc window’s dialogue box in the left-hand side of the “Control Panel.” The AntConc displayed the frequency in two forms after clicking “Start”. The computing instrument showed the word recurrence in the ‘KWIC Results Window’ and the digit in “Concordance Hits” as shown in Figure 7, below.

Figure 7
Figure 7

A sample screen of AntConc.

Details about AntConc are in Anthony (2018). That exercise was conducted to ensure the recurrence accuracy of the texts. Besides, AntConc supported the investigation by harvesting the frequency of other linguistic elements such as at times, you, your, and nobody.

Thereafter, the researcher utilized the Microsoft Excel Worksheet (e.g. Figure 8, as publicized latter) to further support SFL to process the clauses in “Area Boy.” The use of the Excel Worksheet became a fundamental tool in order to achieve accurate classifications of the structures that the metafunctional components have realized. As AntConc does not have the capacity for systemic appreciations, manual counting of the grammatical constituents in the semiotic slots has become inevitable. To this end, quantitative operations, following Jockers and Underwood (2016), Drucker (2016), and Dalamu (2017i), allow tables to compute the grammatical elements in the semiotic slots into appropriate values. Each table further schematizes into a simple graph for prompt examination of the operational facilities of the systemic elements. The scientific interpretation can assist the reader for easy accessibility of the functional domains of the poem. The graphs of the mood, thematic, and transitivity systems expressed in Figure 14, later below, are cumulated into a single piece to reveal the relationships of the three metafunctions.

Figure 8
Figure 8

“Area Boy” mood analysis.


The analytical as well as reading processes in Figures 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, as later illustrated below, inform the patterns of the discussion. However, the discussion gives preferences to the transitivity system because the grammatical term provides expressions for the contents of the clause. Besides, as the transitivity shows concern for the narrator’s experience (inner and outer), the terminology also communicates universal relations of subcomponents of logical items (Butler 1985; Olivares 2013).

Figure 9
Figure 9

“Area Boy” thematic analysis.

Figure 10
Figure 10

“Area Boy” transitivity analysis.

Figure 11
Figure 11

“Area Boy” mood system calibration.

Figure 12
Figure 12

“Area Boy” thematic system calibration.

Figure 13
Figure 13

“Area Boy” transitivity calibration.

Figure 14
Figure 14

“Area Boy” metafunctions’ relationship calibration.

Data presentation

The items, below, are the data of “Area Boy”, written in paragraphs and poetic lines.

Area Boy
///At times you still remember
Those agonizing years// you spent
As a cheap labourer in the General’s farm
Tilling, toiling and sweating in the sun
For the pittance//they flung at you once in a month//
Yet nobody said anything then.//
///At times you still remember
The painful years//you spent
As a reluctant houseboy in Ikoyi//
Oga’s callouseness still haunts your steps//
Madam’s overbearing attitude you cannot forget//
Yet nobody said anything then.///
///At times you still remember
The psychological oppression
Of watching their scions spray dollars in parties
Of their limousines splashing water on you in the streets
Of your wondering//where you went wrong//
//Yet nobody said anything then.//
Now that something in you has snapped//
Now that you can no longer stomach it//
Now that you’re fighting back in the streets//
//Lashing out at the system///
///Stinging the molochs//who operate it//
And cowards who tolerate it//
It is time for them to call you names:
Tout! Vagrant! Vandal! Area boy!///
///Brother, your being an Area Boy is now the issue//
Nobody will ever bother to excavate
The fossils of disenchantment
Buried deep down in your soul.//

Data analysis

Figures 8, 9, and 10, below, display the application of mood, thematic, and transitivity systems to the poem, “Area Boy.”

The investigation further exhibits the frequencies of the grammatical constituents of “Area Boy”, based on SFL’s applications in Figures 8, 9, and 10, above, in tables and graphs as expressed in the result section.


Mood system of the “Area Boy” analysis

Table 3, below, displays the values of the semiotic slots in the “Area Boy” mood analysis in Figure 8, above.

Table 3

“Area Boy” mood system recurring value.

Semiotic Slot Clause Total
CL1 CL2 CL3 CL4 CL5 CL6 CL7 CL8 CL9 CL10 CL11 CL12 CL13 CL14 CL15 CL16 CL17 CL18 CL19 CL20 CL21
S 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 19
F 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 19
P 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 19
C 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 16
A 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 0 1 5 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 27

Figure 11, above, indicates Adjunct as the priority because it is more functional in the “Area Boy” text. Subject, Finite, and Predicator are next with Complement being the less functional device. The figure shows that the text is constructed in declarative clauses, issuing statements to the target audience in order to show the feelings of the speaker.

Thematic system of the “Area Boy” analysis

Table 4, below, reveals the values of the semiotic slots in the “Area Boy” thematic analysis in Figure 9, as shown earlier, above.

Table 4

“Area Boy” thematic system recurring value.

Semiotic Slot Clause Total
CL1 CL2 CL3 CL4 CL5 CL6 CL7 CL8 CL9 CL10 CL11 CL12 CL13 CL14 CL15 CL16 CL17 CL18 CL19 CL20 CL21
Theme1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 19
Theme2 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 12
Theme3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4
Rheme 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 21

Figure 12, below, is the cumulative of the values specified in the thematic system in Table 4, above.

Rheme is the most prominent in Figure 12, above. This is the core of the message of the “Area Boy.” Besides, Theme 1 recurs in almost all the clauses. This signals that the organizations of the clauses are hardly elliptical. The structures are complete statements that sometimes have Theme 2 as a support for the clauses points of departure. Theme 3 is available only in clauses 12, 13, 14, and 18. That points out the rarity of Theme 3 in the textual operations.

Transitivity system of the “Area Boy” analysis

Table 5, below, shows the values of the semiotic slots in the “Area Boy” transitivity analysis in Figure 10, above.

Figure 11, below, is the cumulative of the values computed in the mood system in Table 3, above.

Figure 13, below, is the cumulative of the values manifested in the thematic system in Table 5, below.

Table 5

“Area Boy” transitivity system calibration.

Semiotic Slot Clause Total
CL1 CL2 CL3 CL4 CL5 CL6 CL7 CL8 CL9 CL10 CL11 CL12 CL13 CL14 CL15 CL16 CL17 CL18 CL19 CL20 CL21
Material 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 9
Mental 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
Relational 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2
Behavioral 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2
Verbal 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Existential 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Circumstance 2 2 1 0 2 2 0 0 0 5 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 20

Material processes record the highest value in Figure 13, above. This is in alignment with the claim of Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) that material processes are the most deployed in language usages. Apart from mental processes that operate at the frequency of five, other processes such as relational and behavioral operate at the minimal levels of two points each. It is surprising that verbal processes function in a relatively similar category with other processes with three points. This act seems to happen because the narrator makes a sort of reported speeches from time to time.

Three metafunctions of the “Area Boy” analysis

Figure 14, below, is the cumulative of the values, exhibited in the mood, thematic, and transitivity systems, as displayed earlier in Figures 8, 9, and 10, above.

Figure 14, above, demonstrates the Adjunct of the mood system, rheme of the thematic system, and material processes of the transitivity system as the highest in functional values, as followed by mental processes. By implication, SFL illustrates Adjunct, rheme, and material processes, as the strongest areas of domination of the “Area Boy” text. These are followed by Subject, Finite, and Predicator of the mood system, and Theme 1 of the thematic system. The computing outcomes of SFL of “Area Boy” indicate analytical skills that can augment cross-fertilization of ideas in disciplines. The graphical appearances of textual elements create a sort of communicative interaction for the audience in an easy way.


There are five stanzas in the poem of “Area Boy.” The segments explain the concern of the narrator about an “Area Boy” named George in the epigraph not actually integral to the stanzas. It is striking to read from the epitaph that the poem is for George, the “Area Boy”, who opened up a bitter heart to me at Ojuelegba, Lagos. This revelation specifies the source of the poet’s influence as well as the focus. Ojuelegba is an important part of Yaba, Lagos (not far away from the renowned University of Lagos), where influential and highly respected people live. As a heartbeat of Yaba, the mentioning of Ojuelegba anywhere in Nigeria signifies something remarkably-different. It is a signpost to a very small portion of land with a flyover. Underneath the flyover are motor parks, petty trading activities, and prostitutes. On top of these, Ojuelegba is a domain for miscreants for twenty-four hours a day. In all these, Ojuelegba points to a place where prostitutes transact businesses. However, the Governor of Lagos State between 2007–2015, Babatunde Raji Fashola, cleansed Ojuelegba of prostitutes and miscreants. Fashola positioned the place as a worthwhile environment during his reign and that drive has been sustained till today. Fashola is now the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing in the current Buhari’s Administration. Despite the thorough cleansing, the negative nuances attached to Ojuelegba have become very difficult to remove from the people’s mindsets. The displacement of the “Area Boy” from Ojuelegba might have given rise to the heart rendering poem of “Area Boy.”

The author approaches the discussion from the broad views of the systemic organization of the clauses in the stanzas, and semantic values attached to the clauses most especially from the goings-on. The poem opens up with a circumstantial element of place, At times, to indicate a consistent feeling of the “Area Boy” concerning the issues of life that he has undergone. This is expressed through a mental process, remember. Remember illustrates the trauma in the cognitive capacity of the “Area Boy.” The recurrence of you projects the poet as a voice for the “Area Boy” because the Actor, you, refers to what has happened to an individual, as the experience of the past that connects the “Area Boy’s” present condition. In every stanza, except in the fifth, you functions, at least, three times consecutively. The applications of Actor, you, present the poem more as containing declarative clauses. As statements, Subjects and Finites operate well in propagating the interactive nature on the clauses (Thompson 2004). All the clauses are declarative except CL15 and CL16 that are punctuated. Apart from CL1 that the Subject, You, takes the Finite, remember, in the present tense, the Subjects You, They, and nobody in CL2, CL3, and CL4 present their Subjects, spent, flung, and said in the past. Out of the past elements, spend, fling, and say are systemically-deduced as predicators. This operation reveals SFL as a viable tool of separating a fused verbal group structure into two systemic distinct forms that function in the domains of Finite and Predicator (Halliday and Matthiessen 2014; Dalamu 2017b).

For the Participant, Those agonizing years, analyzed earlier as Phenomenon, in Figure 10, CL1, is a painful expression that demonstrates how the “Area Boy” has been subjected to the modern day slavery in the General’s farm, where the individual works and receives a meager salary. The circumstantial communicative device, in the General’s farm, seems to refer to “an individual who was an Army General” and after the service years retired to establish a farm to generate money. In that course, the “Area Boy” becomes a useful-cum-precious tool in the farm. This is because an average Nigerian graduate detests tilling the land. Most elites are in search of and doing white-collar-jobs. Perhaps, that attitude has contributed to the importation of food from most parts of the world to the country. Even those that read Agricultural (related) Sciences in Universities may not be ready to practice farming either as relating to livestock or crop productions. It is in that light that the “Area Boy” becomes a resourceful personality for the General, as expressed in CL2. That exploitation encourages the speaker to conclude that Yet nobody said anything then. The clause with a verbal process indicts every onlooker at the manhandling of the “Area Boy.” The poet expects that all the concerned should have raised their voices concerning the abuse of the rights of the “Area Boy” in the General’s farm. Individuals have all been recalcitrant simply because the “Area Boy” is not a family member of successful persons. Such unwillingness reveals the nature of relationship between the rich and the poor. The people have forgotten that the “Area Boy” is a member of the Nigerian society who has the right equivalent to the General’s. The adjunct, then, serves a purpose of reminding the society of the situation of the “Area Boy” when he needs helps and nobody is observant of his plight. Then links the past agony of the “Area Boy” to his present status of being a vagabond. The structure below shows the thematic functions of the stanza one.

The point of departure of CL1 and CL4 is the same as having two themes; whereas CL2 and CL3 elements have one theme each.

The second stanza is comparatively-parallel to the first stanza because it begins with a flashback into the past, remembering the painful years … spent as a houseboy in Ikoyi. The “Area Boy” is connected to Ojuelegba, while the master lives in Ikoyi. The implication is that Ikoyi is in the Lagos Island, while Ojuelegba is in the mainland, representing two different worlds or perspectives. Foreigners and well-meaning Nigerians reside in Ikoyi. This can indicate that if the “Area Boy” will have an access at all to Ikoyi, it can only be made possible through rendering services to the master. The poet constructs one domain for the poor and the other for the affluent. The “Area Boy” is neither a foolish person nor a senseless individual. It is that he needs helps from the society and no one appreciates his humble cries to assist the helpless human being. Such supports, if rendered, could give the individual breakthroughs in order to showcase his talents and skills in resourceful ways. The mood system in stanza two is similar in structure to stanza one. The study locates the differences in CL7 and CL8 where the Subjects, Oga’s callousness and Madam’s overbearing attitude/you, attract different Finites. The two Finites, haunt and can no longer, operate in present forms. It is salient to have no longer in the verbal group. It is a negative polarity that compels the boy to continue to flashback to his experience with the wife of his master. That is, the Madam’s imperious characteristic.

The Participant, The painful year and circumstantial element, as a reluctant houseboy support the remark on Madam’s dictatorial capacity. The “Area Boy” understands that he passes through pains in the master’s house, nonetheless, because there is no one to help, the indigent resigns himself to fate. According to the narrator, the “Area Boy” discharges his responsibilities sluggishly. The houseboy’s experience sensitizes the readers in two forms. The master’s characteristic, expressed as Oga’s callousness, and the madam’s attitude describes, as Madam’s overbearing attitude. The Oga (i.e. master) is emotionally-hardened. That heartlessness has made the boss to be careless of the sufferings of the concerned, which has turned him to a restless individual. Perhaps, that has lead to the persistent complaints that the writer observes from the “poetic narrative.” The other approach is that the woman in the house does not help matters. Madam makes the situation possibly-worse. The madam’s domineering role overwhelms the “Area Boy” to be forcefully-dedicated to his responsibilities despite the initial reluctance. Indirectly, the destitute engages in a sort of forced labor in the house of the rich and, probably, in the presence of the children Yet nobody said anything then. It is painful that nobody comes to his aid, being a reason for the lamentation. The structure below illustrates the thematic organization of stanza two.

CL5, CL8, and CL9 portray similar thematic choices of dual theme operations; whereas CL6 and CL7 organize single theme each.

The third outpouring of a hurting heart shows in a psychological form in the third stanza. The poet calls that The psychological oppression, which is Phenomenon to the mental process, remember. The first concern positions the “Area Boy”, as a laborer in the farm. The second challenge is the nagging of the master and wife on the houseboy. The experience here plays out as a kind of feeling and not an exercise of personal strength in order to achieve a mission. One can argue that the concern of the “Area Boy”, this time, does not have a solid logical foundation. This is because the grievance is not objective. The circumstantial devices of Of washing their scions spray dollars in parties/Of that limousines splashing water on you … are pains that fall into the terrain of personal feelings, expressed in the form of envy. The sentiments of jealousy classified as oppression can lead to perpetration of evil. Moreover, the resentment is a thought that has the potency to persuade the “Area Boy” to look for money at all costs. In the same spirit of self-appraisal of sensationalism, the individual raises a complaint Of your wondering where you went wrong. Actually, it is a good thing to be comfortable in life. Nevertheless, developing a spirit of rivalry against someone’s neighbor is not acceptable in all ramifications of social norms. The “Area Boy” has forgotten that fingers are not equal and can never be equal. The throbbing heart needs to transcend the mundane activities that he witnesses and complains of in diverse forms in order to focus on how to survive socially economically.

To fully register the grievance, four circumstantial facilities with the markers of of (three times), and in are employed. These demonstrate the degree of the “Area Boy’s” annoyance against the family of his master. The longevity of the clause supports the claim above. As if that is not enough, the playing of a blame-game emanates to project the individual as someone, who has sometimes missed opportunities. Probably, that validation influences the speaker to begin to query where the “Area Boy” has gone wrong. In my argument, the “Area Boy” needs to dig deep in terms of his past, his parents, and perhaps personal disobedience to instructions from the guardian. The stubbornness, ignorance, and lackadaisical qualities of the complainant might have caused his present situation of indigence. The declarative, Yet nobody said anything, motivated with a verbal process, is striking. This is because the content recurs three times in stanzas, one, two, and three – CL4, CL9, and CL11. The implication of the repetitive statement is that it strongly expresses the wish of the “Area Boy.”

The verbs “to be” and “to have” as well as the auxiliary “can no longer” exhibited in negative polarity occupy the Finite positions of CL14, CL12, and CL13. The other ‘interacts’ of the mood are repetitions of the Subjects discussed earlier in stanzas one and two. CL15 does not have mood at all but residue. The “tormented Area Boy”, as a laborer, a houseboy, and a psychologically-oppressed individual, expects members of the Lagos community to provide him a succor from the anguish experienced. Before anyone casts blame on the Lagos society, it is important to point out that Lagos is a very busy city where the concept of individualism dominates virtually all activities (Gustavsson 2008). The blame must first go to the parents and second to the government. If the parents have failed in their responsibilities of properly raising the child, the government is supposed to bear the burden of caring for the citizens, including the less privileged ones. Overwhelming responsibilities of other parents may have prevented them from taking care of the “Area Boy” and others in a similar condition. So, the plight of the boy is a lesson to all parents; people must give birth to only the children that they can cater for because nobody will say anything while their untrained children roam. Parents must wonder while their disobedient children wander. The structure below demonstrates the point of departure of the clauses in stanza three.

The organization of the clauses in stanza three reveals different communicative background, when one makes a dialectical appreciation with earlier dissected stanzas one and two. Three organizational structures unfold here. CL10 and CL11 have two themes each. CL12, CL13, and CL14 operate with three themes each whereas CL15 has neither the thematic system nor the mood system. The poet restricts the function of CL15 to rhematic elements, corresponding to the interpersonal devices of Predicator, Lashing out at and Complement, the system.

After the past that stanzas one, two, and three favor, the conformity of stanzas four and five operates in the present events. The narrator describes the phenomenon, using the circumstantial mechanism of Now, which refers to the engagement of time. One observes the emphasis of Now in clauses 12, 13, 14, and 20 as well. The past can be categorized as the premature stage, while the mature stage connotes the present. The past unveils the “Area Boy” as being in servitudes of influential people, who violate social standards to take advantage of the boy’s weakness and cheat him. The present displays the “Area Boy”, as an individual with freedom. Thus, he troubles the society that, by the opinion of the boy, has not been kind to the sore-hearted person. Those who renege in ministering to the needy usually pay the astronomical price for their negligence. Perhaps, some people may not dream of evil perpetration; the circumstances surrounding them may incite their behaviors toward social vices. The “Area Boy” reveals that Now that something in you has snapped, one can retaliate, has a connection with the experience of the past. The author can recall the utilization of the mental process of remember in three different occasions in the verses. The lexeme, remember, is a pointer to how the servitude experience borders the painful-hearted fellow, and negatively influences his mental capabilities. The experience has made the boy so unpleasant to an extent of outpouring his annoyance to the audience. The gathered knowledge stimulates the boy to confess that one can no longer stomach it. It is a frame of mind expressed in the mental process of can no longer stomach that is very difficult to erase from one’s cognitive storage. It is an indicator that those who are rich in the society must treat the poor fairly well; else as the time is fast approaching, in no time, the less privileged will fight back, and perhaps, be terroristic.

The poet takes cognizance of this, as commented that Now that you’re fighting back in the street … stinging the molochs it is time to call you names: Tout! … The “Area Boy” understands the trouble that he causes the society. Besides, it is the society that labels him “Area Boy” and other synonymous appellations such as tout, vagrant, and vandal. The names seem to signify the punishment that the boy inflicts on the society. In a precise way, “Area Boys” are those irresponsible children most of them boys (because there are no “Area Girls” in Lagos), who pick pockets, steal, and later turn to armed robbers. Possibly, some socially affected individuals might not be armed robbers but beggars and miscreants, who wander to beseech people for money in order to sustain their lives under the bridge. It cannot be totally ruled out that one, who wanders, can turn to a thief because an aphorism stipulates that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.

There are four processes in stanza four. These are stinging (material), operate (material), tolerate (behavioral), and is (relational). Sting represents a poisonous spirit, while operate refers to the workable mechanism of the social system and structure. Tolerate describes the attitude of the entire actors of society that accept the evil that the powerful perpetrate on the less privileged (see Halliday and Matthiessen 2004, 179–238). At this juncture, the expectation of the narrator is that the society ought to intervene by protesting against the General’s inhumanity, Oga’s callousness, and Madam’s overbearing qualities. Instead of necessary interpositions, the people seem to add to the traumatic experience of the boy. The poem draws on those behaviors to create a relational process as an attribute as well as a cursor to the current perspective of the society on the helpless individual, who has perhaps turned to a criminal. CL16 expresses the residue as Predicator, stinging and Complement, the molochs. The Subjects in CL17 and CL18 are relative markers, who, that attract different Finites of operate and tolerate in present tense respectively. CL19’s Subject is it, which takes is as its Finite. The explanation below characterizes the thematic choices of stanza four.

The four clauses in stanza four appear in different parameters except that CL17 and CL19 have a similar pattern of theme/rheme structures. CL16 operates only in rheme with an empty set of theme. The stanza experiences a full-stretch of thematic configuration in CL18 with three themes at a go.

The poet fraternizes with the “Area Boy” by calling him brother as a point of departure of CL20. The association becomes a necessity because George, the “Area Boy” provides the poet pieces of information about the environment and personal feelings. The poem, “Area Boy”, seems to honor the citizens, who are victims of being miscreants; the poet is a probable voice for “Area Boys.” Besides, the poet, being an intellectual, subsumes himself into a similar situation in order to sensitize the government to rise to the plight of “Area Boys”, who cause headaches to the larger society. In respect of that, the poet perceives the challenge of the notion of “Area Boy”, as a concern that rocks the social boat of Lagos and Nigeria at large. Even if the government should rescue “Area Boys” after that they have been socially bartered; what about the damages that the misfortune has created in their subconscious souls? The Subjects, your being an Area Boy and Nobody in CL20 and CL21 take on the Finites, is and will ever respectively to reflect the mood system of the interaction. The structure below indicates the themes of the stanza.

CL20 demonstrates a marked multiple structure of themes, while CL21 shows an unmarked thematic organ. The poet concludes with a declarative that Nobody will ever bother to evacuate/The fossils of disenchantment/Buried deep down in your soul. Perhaps, irrespective of the aids given to the “Area Boy” the past experience might prevent the agonized destitute from adopting the full status and responsibility of a good citizen. In that case, it becomes imprudent to allow citizens to degenerate in social treasures before the society rescues them from their plights. Such delay could be very extortionate in relation to loss of lives and property.


The study shows that SFL is an instrument of DH by allowing scientific facilities to process the structural values of the poem, as illustrated earlier in Figures 8, 9, and 10; Tables 3, 4, and 5; and Figures 11, 12, 13, and 14. The results of the analysis of the poem, “Area Boy”, in which SFL is applied display the tenor of discourse, as explicating the experience of the painful heart in declarative statements functioning with Subject and Finite. These semiotic values are highly supported with Adjuncts. The interactions reveal how the society creates bitterness in the soul of the “Area Boy.” The organization of the clauses operates on themes, which are sometimes marked multiple themes, as means of expressing the markedness. The mode of discourse exhibits meaning in the rhemes, which are in alignment with most processes. The experience that the text shares utilizes material processes of having and being (e.g. spent, fighting back, lashing out at, stinging, and operate) in order to explain the situation of the “Area Boy” in the past and in the present. The study also observes the field of discourse, oscillating between mental processes (e.g. remember, can no longer forget, and can no longer stomach) and verbal processes (e.g. said). These are indicators of the traumatic experience of the painful soul and his expectation from the society. Examining the poem from the transitivity systemic approach, the author observes some repetitive devices from the investigation. There are about five of the communicative facilities that function as processes, circumstances, and full-fledged clauses. These are: At times you still remember (declarative clause); Yet nobody said anything (declarative clause); spent (material process); Now (circumstantial element of time); and Of (circumstantial element of manner).

There are two divisions in the poem, that is, the environment of the past and that of the present. The past experience displays accumulated thoughts of the “Area Boy” as a laborer as well as a houseboy. Apart from that, personal feelings, crowded with sentiments, disturb the victim. The later can be accepted as the fault of the society. However, one is also compelled to indict the boy, and to negate his grievances. The boy does not need to blame others for his shortcomings, failings, and challenges. Instead of groaning, the individual ought to chart a new course of survival in a legally-acceptable way. The envy of the master’s family berates social norms. Nevertheless, the present, the poet alerts, is a fighting back – a time of retaliation. This represents a period when the concerned individual feels being frustrated by the society. The disappointment might have permitted the “Area Boy” to become a burden to the society because the government has somehow abdicated its social responsibility of caring for its own. That is, all citizens. The selfishness of the society contributes as well to make a nuisance out of the helpless individual. Instead of assisting the “Area Boy” in order to have access to good things of life, the penniless is taken advantage of in order to slavishly serve the haughty.

From a theoretical perspective, the study suggests that SFL has the potency to provide socio-cultural meaning potential to texts in their literary forms. It also deduces from “Area Boy” that the government and private individuals should endeavor to consider the less privileged, which have equal rights to survive as citizens of the nation. Apart from the corpus that can be achieved, SFL textual interpretations have the capacity to stimulate computer experts to construct simulations of poetic devices that the audience can easily observe from computers. It is the hope of the study that researchers will make use of SFL conceptual frameworks to analyze literature for desired meaning potential.

Furthermore and in retrospect, the constraints experienced in the manual counting of the systemic constituents of “Area Boy” inspires the following suggestions. To the best of my knowledge, some of the available software assisting in DH (e.g. AntConc) could not vividly cater for systemic appreciations of texts. On that ground, one could recommend the need for computer experts (or programmers) to produce some software that can take care of SFL analyses and positions on lexemic investigations. Such technological facility must have the potency to identify and compute a corpus of systemic processes, circumstantial devices, continuatives, vocatives, etc. of their kinds. If a project of this magnitude, involving systemicists and software experts, is conducted; one is seemingly sure that such cross-fertilization of ideas will yield some merits. First, the software will eradicate the manual counting, as done in this paper, to automation of systemic accountability of communicative facilities either in Microsoft Excel Sheet or Microsoft Word or any other computerization concepts. Second, it might attract researchers to participate in the development of SFL for the betterment of the humanity at large. Third, the software could promote SFL as learner- and user-friendly. Fourth, it can aid easy generation of meaning potential of texts to reveal “what a composer of a text means” structurally and contextually.


My sincere appreciation goes to Dr. Daniel P. O’Donnell (Editor-in-Chief), Mr. Virgil Grandfield (Managing Editor) and Mr. Steven Gillis (Congress 2017 Issue Manager) of Digital Studies/Le champ numerique (DSCN), the University of Lethbridge Journal Incubator, and all the other editors and reviewers who have contributed in one way or another to this article. The contributions of these individuals, without mincing words, have had great impacts on this work. I am also grateful to Mrs. Bonke Dalamu for her consistent encouragement during the multi-tasking reviewing processes of this article.

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


Adesanmi, Pius. 2010. “Area Boy.” In Lagos of the Poets, edited by Ofeimun Odia, 308. Lagos: Hornbill House.

Anthony, Laurence. 2018. AntConc: A freeware Corpus Analysis Toolkit for Concordancing and Text Analysis. Accessed June 13 2018. Bottom of Form:

Bailey, Richard W. 1985. “Negotiating Meaning: Revisiting the Context of Situation.” In Systemic Perspectives on Discourse 2, edited by James D. Benson, and William S. Greaves, XVI: 1–16. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Bartlett, Tom. 2013. “I’ll Manage the Context: Context, Environment and the Potential for Institutional Change.” In Systemic Functional Linguistics: Exploring Choice, edited by Lise Fontaine, Tom Bartlett, and Gerard O’Grady, 342–364. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Binotti, Lucia, and Carmen Urioste-Azcorra. 2017. “Digital Humanities and the Common Good. The Case of Entiéndelo.” Revista de Humanidades Digitalés 1: 207–222. Accessed May 21, 2018.

Bloor, Thomas, and Meriel Bloor. 2004. The Functional Analysis of English. Great Britain: Hodder. DOI:

Bloor, Thomas, and Meriel Bloor. 2013. The Functional Analysis of English. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Bogna, Alice. 2017. “From Ancient Texts to Maps (and Back Again) in the Digital World. The Digiliblt Project.” Revista de Humanidades Digitalés 1: 297–313. Accessed May 21, 2018. DOI:

Bradley, John. 2004. “Text tools.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 487–503. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. 2012. Digital_Humanities. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Burke, Kenneth. 1969. A Grammar of Motives. California: University of California Press.

Burrows, John. 2004. “Textual Analysis.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 316–342. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Burton, Dolores M. 1981a. “Automated Concordances and Word Indexes: The Fifties.” Computers and the Humanities 15: 1–14. DOI:

Burton, Dolores M. 1981b. “Automated Concordances and Word Indexes: The Early Sixties and the Early Centers.” Computers and the Humanities 15: 83–100. DOI:

Busa, Roberto A. 2004. “Foreword: Perspectives on the Digital Humanities.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, xvi–xxi. Oxford: Blackwell.

Butler, Christopher S. 1985. Systemic Linguistics Theory and Applications. London: Batsford Acedemic and Educational.

Butler-Kisber, Lynn. (ed.) 2013. Teaching and Learning in the Digital World: Possibilities and Challenges 6(2): 1–423. Accessed January 12, 2016.

Castro, Rojas A. 2017. “Big Data in the Digital Humanities. New Conversations in the Global Academic Context.” Humanities Commons, Digital Culture Annual Report, 62–71. Accessed April 23, 2018.

Ciula, Arianna. 2017. “Digital Palaeography: What is Digital about it?” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 32(suppl. 2): ii89–ii105. Accessed December 17, 2018. DOI:

Craig, Hugh. 2004. “Stylistic Analysis and Authorship Studies.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 271–285. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Crane, Greg. 2004. “Classics and the Computer: An End of the History.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 46–55. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Creative Block Inc. 2017. IBM’s New Tagline: Think 3.0. Accessed January 27, 2018.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017a. “Institution’s Title and Shibboleth: A Construction of Grammatical Relationship in Advertising Plates.” Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies 13(1): 260–282.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017b. “Systemic Functional Theory: A Pickax of Textual Investigation.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature 6(3): 187–198. DOI:

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017c. “A Preliminary Exposé of Systemic Functional Theory Fundamentals.” Ethical Lingua 4(2): 98–108. DOI:

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017d. “Nigerian Children Specimens as Resonance of Print Media Advertising: What for?” Communicatio 11(2): 79–111.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017e. “Narrative in Advertising: Persuading the Nigerian Audience within the Schemata of Storyline.” Anu. Filol. Lleng. Lit. Mod. 7, 19–45.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017f. “Periodicity: Interpreting Waves of Information in Osundare’s Harvestcall.” Buckingham Journal of Language and Linguistics 10: 42–70.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017g. “Maternal Ideology in an MTN® Advertisement: Analysing Socio-Semiotic Reality as a Campaign for Peace.” Journal of Language and Education 3(4): 16–26. DOI:

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017h. “Yuletide Ideology as Advertising Ideology: An Historical Illumination from Saint Nicholas to the Present Day.” Facta Universitatis Series: Linguistics and Literature 15(2): 143–161. UDC 659. 1: 27–36. Nikola, sveti.

Dalamu, Taofeek O. 2017i. “A Discourse Analysis of Language Choice in MTN® and Etisalat® Advertisements in Nigeria.” PhD Thesis, Yaba, Lagos: University of Lagos, School of Postgraduate Studies.

Dalamu, Taofeek. 2018. “Exploring Advertising Text in Nigeria within the Framework of Cohesive Influence.” Styles of Communication 10(1): 75–97.

De Beaugrande, Robert. 1991. Linguistic Theory: The Discourse of Fundamental Works. London and New York: Longman.

Digital Humanities Manifesto. nd. A Manifesto on Manifestos. Accessed March 14, 2017.

Drucker, Johanna. 2016. “Graphical Approaches to the Digital Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 238–250. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Edmond, Jennifer. 2016. “Collaboration and Infrastructure.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 54–66. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Eggins, Suzanne. 2004. Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Continuum.

Ellis, Jeffrey. 1987. “The Logic and Textual Functions.” In New Developments in Systemic Linguistics: Theory and Description, edited by Michael A. K. Halliday, and Rupert P. Fawcett 1: 107–129. London: Frances Painter.

Erlin, Matt. 2016. “Digital Humanities Masterplots.” Digital Literary Studies 1(1): 1–11.

Ess, Charles. 2004. “Revolution? What Revolution? Successes and Limits of Computing Technologies in Philosophy and Religion.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 132–144. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Firth, John R. 1957. Papers in Linguistics, 1934–1951. London: Oxford University Press.

Fontaine, Lise. 2013. Analyzing English Grammar: A Systemic Functional Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gustavsson, Gina. 2008. “What Individualism Is and Is Not.” Workshop Paper to be Presented at the NOPSA Conference 2008. Tromsö, 1–25.

Halliday, Michael A. K. 1973. Explorations in the Functions of Language. London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, Michael A. K. 1985. “Systemic Background.” In Systemic Perspectives on Discourse XV, edited by James Benson, and Williams Greaves, 1–15. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Halliday, Michael A. K. 1994. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Great Britain: Arnold.

Halliday, Michael A. K. 2013. “Meaning as Choice.” In Systemic Functional linguistics: Exploring Choice, edited by Lise Fontaine, Tom Bartlett, and Gerard O’Grady, 15–36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Halliday, Michael A. K., and Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen. 2004. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Great Britain: Hodder Arnold.

Halliday, Michael A. K., and Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen. 2014. Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. Abindon, Oxon: Routledge.

Halliday, Michael A. K., and Ruqaiya Hasan. 1985. Language, Context, and Text: Aspects of Language in a Socio-Semiotic Perspective. Geelong: Deakin University Press.

Hockey, Susan. 2004. “The History of Humanities Computing.” In A Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 3–19. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Hodge, Robert, and Gunther Kress. 1988. Social Semiotics. Cambridge: Polity.

IBM. 2017. Enter the Cognitive Era. Accessed June 17, 2018.

Innis, Robert E. 1987. “Entry for Bühler, Karl.” In Thinkers of the Twentieth Century, edited by Roland, Turner. London: Saint James Press.

Jockers, Matthew L., and Ted Underwood. 2016. “[Text] Mining the Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 291–306. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Jørgensen, Finn Arne. 2016. “Summary: The Internet of Things.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 42–53. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. 2010. “What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin 150: 55–61. DOI:

Kreniske, Philip, and Jesse Kipp. 2014. “How the San of Southern Africa Used Digital Media as Educational and Political Tools.” The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Accessed February 15, 2016.

Kress, Gunther. 2010. Multimodality: A Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. New York: Routledge.

Kress, Gunther, and Theo van Leeuwen. 2003. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London and New York: Routledge.

Lee, James, Blaine Greteman, Jason Lee, and David Eichmann. 2018. Linked Reading: Digital Historicism and Early Modern Discourses of Race around Shakespeare’s Othello. Accessed November 23, 2018.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1935. Coral Gardens and Their Magic, 2: The Language of Magic and Gardening. New York: American Book Company.

Malmkjaer, Kirsten. (ed.) 2004. The Linguistics Encydopedia. London: Routledge. DOI:

Martin, James R. 1992. English Text: Structure and System. Philadephia: John Benjamins. DOI:

Matthiessen, Christian. 1993. “Register in the Round: Diversity in a Unified Theory of Register Analysis.” In Register Analysis: Theory and Practice, edited by Mohen Ghadessy, 221–392. London and New York: Pinter Publisher.

McGregor, William B. 1992. “The Place of Circumstantial in Systemic-Functional Grammar.” In Advances in Systemic Linguistics: Recent Theory and Practice, edited by Martin Davies, and Louise Ravelli, 136–145. London: Pinter Publisher.

McGregor, William B. 1997. Semiotic Grammar. London and New York: Oxford University

Montfort, Nick. 2016. “Exploratory Programming in Digital Humanities Pedagogy and Research.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 98–107. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Muzny, Grace, Mark Algee-Hewitt, and Dan Jurafsky. 2017. “Dialogism in the Novel: A Computational Model of the Dialogic Nature of Narration and Quotations.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 32(suppl. 2): ii31–ii52. DOI:

O’Donnell, Daniel P., Katherin L. Walter, Alex Gil, and Neil Fraistat. 2016. “Only Connect: The Globalization of the Digital Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 493–510. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Olivares, Beatriz E. Q. 2013. “The Interpersonal and Experiential Grammar of Chilean Spanish: Towards a Principled Systemic-Functional Description Based on Axial Argumentation.” PhD thesis. Accessed February 17, 2018.

O’Toole, Michael. 1994. The Language of Displayed Art. London: Pinter.

Peirson, Erick, Julia Damerow, and Manfred Laubichler. 2016. “Software Development & Trans-Disciplinary Training at the Interface of Digital Humanities and Computer Science.” Digital Studies/Le champ numérique, 1–15. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Quirk, Randolph, and Sidney Greenbaum. 1973. University Grammar of English. Essex England: Longman.

Rashidi, Linda S. 1992. “Towards an Understanding of the Notion of Theme: An Example from Dari.” In Advances in Systemic Linguistics: Recent Theory and Practice, edited by Martin Davies, and Louise Ravelli, 189–204. London: Pinter Publisher.

Ravelli, Louise. 2000. “Getting Started with Functional Analysis of Texts.” In Researching Language in Schools and Communities, edited by Len Unsworth, 27–63. London and Washington: Cassel.

Riguet, Marine, and Suzanne Mpouli. 2017. “At the Crossroads Between the Scientific and the Literary Discourse: Comparison as a Figure of Dialogism.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 32(suppl. 2): ii60–ii77. Accessed October 15, 2018. DOI:

Robinson, Amy, and Jon Saklofske. 2017. “Connecting the Dots: Integrating Modular Networks and Narrativity in Digital Scholarship.” Digital Studies/le Champ Numerique 9. Accessed October 15, 2018. DOI:

Rodilla, Patricia M., and César Gonzalez-Perez. 2017. “A Modelling Language for Discourse Analysis in Humanities: Definition, Design, Validation and First Experiences.” Revista de Humanidades Digitales 1: 368–378. Accessed March 16, 2018. DOI:

Schreibman, Susan, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. (eds.) 2004. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Blackwell.

Svensson, Patrik. 1998. Number and Countability in English Nouns. An Embodied Model. Uppsala: Swedish Science Press.

Svensson, Patrik. 2010. “The Landscape of DH.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 4(1): 1–35. Accessed March 19, 2017.

Thompson, Geoff. 2004. Introducing Functional Grammar. Great Britain: Hodder Arnold.

Thompson, Geoff. 2014. Introducing Functional Grammar. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. DOI:

Unsworth, John. 2002. “What Is Humanities Computing and What Is Not?” Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences. Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana.

Unsworth, John. 2010. “Message to the Author.” E mail to Matthew Kirschenbaum.

Warwick, Claire. 2016. “Building Theories or Theories of Building? A Tension at the Heart of Digital Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 538–552. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Wodak, Ruth, and Michael Meyer. (eds.) 2001. Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: SAGE. DOI:

Yule, George. 1985. The Study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.