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Picture of Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. (Prof.)
Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. (Prof.)
Chair Professor

(Ph.D. UCLA, M.A. UCLA, Phil. Cand. Lund University)
Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA.
Dissertation title: Text-generation as a Linguistic Research Task. 1989.
Master of Arts in Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA.
Dissertation title: Choosing Tense in English. 1984.
Candidate of Philosophy in English and Linguistics, University of Lund, Sweden. 1980.

Room No.AG433
Tel2766 7537
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Research Overview

Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen is Chair Professor of the Department of English, the Faculty of Humanities at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he is a member of the PolySystemic Research Group. He has degrees in linguistics from Lund University (BA), where he also studied Arabic and philosophy, and from UCLA (MA, PhD), and has previously held positions at USC/ Information Sciences Institute, Sydney University, and Macquarie University. He has held visiting appointments at e.g. the University of Hamburg and the Brain Science Division of the RIKEN Institute in Tokyo. He is Honorary Professor, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, the Australian National University, Canberra, and Guest Professor, University of Science and Technology, Beijing.

Matthiessen has been involved in major text-based research projects informed by systemic functional linguistics since 1980, starting with the Penman project at USC/Information Sciences Institute, which produced a large-scale systemic functional grammar of English (the Nigel grammar). His research has covered a wide range of areas, including analysis of many kinds of discourse, corpus compilation and corpus-based studies, register analysis and context-based text typology, the development of Rhetorical Structure Theory (jointly with Bill Mann and Sandy Thompson), the description of English and other languages spoken around the world, language typology and comparison, translation studies, multisemiotic studies, institutional linguistics, computational linguistics, the evolution of language, and systemic functional theory.

With other members of the PolySystemic Research Group in the Faculty of Humanities at PolyU, he is working on medical discourse/ health communication, language across the curriculum and other aspects of educational linguistics, multilingual studies (language comparison and typology, translation studies and second/foreign language education), language arts, and the language of space. 

Teaching Areas

Grammar and discourse and grammar
Functional grammar for English language teachers
Text/ discourse analysis
Text analysis and translation
Functional language typology
Systemic functional linguistics
The evolution of language

Research Interests

  • Systemic-functional theory and metatheory in general; the complementarity between theoretical, representational and computational specifications of models; computational support in theoretical and descriptive models.
  • Development of theoretical and computational models of systems.
  • Modelling of the meaning base (ideation base, interaction base and the text base) of a text processing system.
  • Investigation of multilinguality through analysis of parallel and comparable texts (English and German, English and Swedish), research into translation issues in various languages through research students (English and Chinese, English and Japanese, English and Korean), and modelling of it in text processing systems: multilingual text-generation; text-based and ‘target language’ oriented translation.
  • Revision and extension of a systemic functional grammar of English (documented as Matthiessen, 1995, English systems: Lexicogrammatical cartography, which is a primary resource in various research projects, and in a database system, SysRef, and as Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004).
  • Development of comparable accounts of grammars of languages other than English, in particular focus through research students, including work on French, Vietnamese, Akan, currently with Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Òkó, Thai, Bajjika.
  • Development of comprehensive, text-based systemic functional typology, translation model and other aspects of the field of multilingual studies.
  • Exploration of the evolution of language as a key part in the evolution of humans (with emphasis on the co-evolution of “meaning” and “matter” in human systems — language and the brain, language and social systems).
  • Application of functional theory and description in discourse interpretation, profiling of persons and institutions (e.g. in clinical contexts in hospitals), comprehensive register/ text typology based on context with semantic and lexicogrammatical correlates, etc..
  • Exploration of language and the brain in reference to an ordered typology of systems (physical — biological — social — semiotic), with a focus on “resonances” across these different systemic orders.

Administrative Post(s)

Chair (DRC)
Chair (DMC)
Member (Senate)
Member (RC)
Ex-Officio, FRC
Member, Faculty Board (FH)
Member (Working Group for Quality Audit of PolyU PRg Programems)

Research Projects

From 1980 to 1988 —
• research on text-generation and related issues within a series of research projects directed by Dr. William C. Mann at the Information Sciences Institute/ University of Southern California — as research linguist responsible for the development of the linguistic modelling in the Penman text-generation system.

From 1988 onwards  —
Australian Research Council (ARC)
• ARC project on multilanguage generation — as project leader (1990, 1991, 1992; large grant, approximately $35K/year);
• ARC project on multilingual resources and processes — as project leader (1993, 1994, 1995; large grant, approximately $40K/year);
• ARC project on generating multilingual and multimodal presentations — as project leader (1996, 1997, 1998; large grant, approximately $90K/year);
• ARC project on computational reference grammar — as project leader (1998; small grant, $7,000).
• ARC project on computational tools for resource development  — as project leader (1999; small grant, $ 13,000)
• ARC project on modelling a “meaner” in a socio-semiotic role network  — as project leader (2000-2001-2002; large grant, $ 77,000 - $77,000 - $70,000)
• ARC safety net grant for project on describing and modelling intonation and interpersonal meaning, as joint project leader with Dr. David G. Butt (2002, $19,326)
• ARC safety net grant for project on modelling text analysis for computational implementation (2003, $)
• ARC safety net grant for project doing interpersonal analysis across strata (2004, $)
• ARC SPIRT grant on the melody of human language (description and modelling of intonation across linguistic levels), with the University of Technology, Sydney, and AMES as Industrial Partner, as joint Principal Investigator with A/Professor D. Slade (3 years, starting in mid 2001)
• ARC Linkage grant on communication in emergency departments — the EDCOM project. As joint Chief Investigator with Professor D. Slade (UTS), Professor J. Stein-Parbury, A/Professor R. Iedema, A/Professor H. Scheeres, Ms. Joyce H. De Silva, S. Choucair, Dr. R. Dunston. (3 years, starting in March 2007.)

Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre (CM-CRC)
• CM-CRC Scamseek project, directed by Professor Jon Patrick, Computer Science, University of Sydney (up through June, 2004).

Internally funded

• Development of corpus resources — as project leader jointly with A/Prof. Pam PETERS (1997, $10,000).

Macquarie University Research Grant (MURG)

• MURG for translation between grammatical specifications in the KPML and Multex generation systems — as project leader, jointly with Dr. ZENG Licheng (1998; $6,500);
• MURG to support Dr. Elke TEICH as visiting scholar (1998; $ 5,000).


• Telecom project, joint with Electrical Engineering on dialogue description (Dialogue project) — as associate project leader (phases I and II, approximately $140K each);
• Fujitsu-based project on electronic discourse analysis (EDA project) — as principal investigator (1990-1992);
• UTS-based project on spoken language in the workplace — as consultant;
• DSTO project, joint with DSTO, Canberra, on development of multimodal meaning base and generation capability for health reports — as project leader for the Macquarie team (1996-7, $40K; 1997-8, $ 50K).

Research Output
Apart from publications (see below), research output includes:

  •  Resources for natural language processing systems, like the “Nigel grammar”, a large computational systemic functional grammar of English
  •  Databases for doing linguistics, like SysAm (together with Dr. Wu Canzhong), a database system for collecting and analysing texts and for describing grammatical systems
  •  Web sites supporting linguistic teaching and research, e.g.
     - Systemic Functional Linguistics for Translation and Interpreting
     - Systemic Functional Notes on the Languages of the World

Selected Publications


  1. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & J. Bateman. 1991. Systemic Linguistics and Text Generation: Experiences from Japanese and English. London: Frances Pinter. xxii + 348 pp.
  2. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 1995. Lexicogrammatical Cartography: English Systems. xviii + 978 pp. Tokyo, Taipei & Dallas: International Language Sciences Publishers.
  3. Martin, J.R., Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & C. Painter. 1997. Working with Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. viii + 306 pp.
  4. Halliday, M.A.K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 1999. Construing experience through meaning: a language-based approach to cognition.  London: Cassell. xiii + 657 pp.
  5. Caffarel, Alice, J.R. Martin & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen (eds.). 2004. Language typology: a functional perspective. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  6. 6. Halliday, M.A.K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 2004. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. 3rd, revised edition. London: Edward Arnold.
  7. Halliday, M.A.K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 2006. Construing experience through meaning: a language-based approach to cognition.  Study edition (of # 4.) London: Continuum.
  8. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. in press. The architecture of grammar. New Delhi: Decent Books.
  9. Hasan, Ruqaiya, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & Jonathan Webster (eds.). 2005. Continuing discourse on language. Volume 1. London: Equinox.
  10. 10. Hasan, Ruqaiya, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & Jonathan Webster (eds.). 2007. Continuing discourse on language. Volume 2. London: Equinox.
  11. Martin, J.R., Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & C. Painter. in press. Deploying Functional Grammar. Revised, new edition of 3. Shanghai: Commercial Press.
  12. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & M.A.K. Halliday. 2009. Systemic Functional Grammar: a First Step Into the Theory. In English and Chinese. Higher Education Press.
  13. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Kazuhiro Teruya & Lam, Marvin. in prep. Key terms in systemic functional linguistics. London & New York: Continuum. [Under Contract; manuscript to be submitted on the 16th of February, 2009.]

Chapters & Articles: 2006 onwards (out of 83)

  1. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2006. “Educating for advanced foreign language capacities: Exploring the meaning-making resources of languages systemic-functionally.” In Heidi Byrnes (ed.), Advanced instructed language learning: The complementary contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky. London & New York: Continuum. 31-57.
  2. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2006. “Frequency profiles of some basic grammatical systems: an interim report.” In Susan Hunston & Geoff Thompson (eds.), System and corpus: exploring connections. London: Equinox. 103-142.
  3. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2006. “The multimodal page: a systemic functional exploration.” In Wendy Bowcher & Terry Royce (eds.), New directions in multimodal discourse analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 1-62.
  4. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2006. “Remembering Bill Mann.” Functions of Language 13(2): 147–149.
  5. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2006. “Foreword.” In Teruya, Kazuhiro. 2006. A systemic functional grammar of Japanese. 2 volumes. London & New York: Continuum. ix-xv.
  6. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2007. “Lexicogrammar in Systemic Functional Linguistics: descriptive and theoretical developments in the “IFG” tradition since the 1970s.” In Book 10. 765-858.
  7. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. 2007. “The “architecture” of language according to systemic functional theory: developments since the 1970.” In Book 10. 505-561.
  8. Teruya, Kazuhiro, Ernest Akerejola, Thomas H. Andersen, Alice Caffarel, Julia Lavid, Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Uwe Helm Petersen, Pattama Patpong & Flemming Smedegaard. 2007. “Typology of MOOD: a text-based and system-based functional view.” In Book 10. 859-920.
  9. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M., Kazuhiro Teruya & Wu Canzhong. 2008. “Multilingual studies as a multi-dimensional space of interconnected language studies.” In Jonathan Webster (ed.), Meaning in context. London & New York: Continuum. 146-221.
  10. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. in press. “Multisemiotic and context-based register typology: registerial variation in the complementarity of semiotic systems.” In Eija Ventola & Jesús Moya Moya Guijarro (eds.), The world told and the world shown. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  11. Slade, Diana, Hermine Scheeres, Marie Manidis, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen, Rick Iedema, Maria Herke, Jeannette McGregor, Roger Dunston & Jane Stein-Parbury. in press. “Emergency Communication: The discursive challenges facing emergency clinicians and patients in hospital emergency departments.” Discourse & Communication 2(3): 289-316.
  12. Burns, Anne, Mira Kim & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen. 2009. “Doctoral work in translation studies as an interdisciplinary mutual learning process: how a translator, teacher educator, and linguistic typologist worked together.” The Interpreter and Translator Trainer 3(1): 107-128.
  13. Maria Herke, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen, Jeannette McGregor, Marie Manidis, Hermine Scheeres, Diana Slade, Jane Stein-Parbury & Rick Iedema. 2008. “Patient Safety: a tri-stratal interpretation of communicative risk in the Emergency Departments of public hospitals.” In Wu Canzhong, Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & Maria Herke (eds.), Proceedings of the 35th International Systemic Functional Linguistics Congress: Voices around the world, Macquarie University, Sydney, 19-25 July 2008. 140-145.
  14. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. in press. “Ideas and new directions.” In M.A.K. Halliday & Jonathan Webster (eds.), A companion to systemic functional linguistics. London & New York: Continuum. 12-58.
  15. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & Diana Slade. in press. “Analysing conversation.” In Ruth Wodak et al. (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics. SAGE.