Dr. Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. His work was very influential for me, and I thought I might share a few words on what he meant.
In 2016, Halliday moved to a care facility and letters were requested for him via an SFL listserv I follow. Because of the great impact he made on my life, I decided to write him a letter. Below is the text. It sums up what he meant to me.
Dear Dr. Halliday,
My name is Michael Maune, and I recently completed my doctorate in English Education at Purdue University in the U.S.A. under the tutelage of Dr. Luciana de Oliveira and Dr. Christian Knoeller. I read recently on the sys-fling listserv about your recent move to this facility. An address was provided to which correspondence could be sent. As I used Systemic Functional Linguistics in my dissertation, I thought I might write you to express my gratitude and best wishes.
In 2010, I came upon your research and theory through the work of Dr. Frances Christie, who was recommended to me by an anthropological linguist at Purdue. I dove into the SFL rabbit hole full speed and have not looked back. In the U.S., as I’m sure you know, most of us graduate students were trained in Chomsky’s work, to whom I also owe a debt. But it was your work that inspired me as a way to unlock the ways language worked to create cultures.
I am the son of a factory worker, the grandson of a farmer. My time learning to write in college was challenging, and as I pursued my career in writing instruction, I became dissatisfied with the ways I could talk about language with my students. Traditional grammar did not seem to help the students I taught from the outskirts of Indianapolis, nor the college freshmen I taught at Purdue. Your theories not only helped me understand how my own writing worked, but also how to explain to my students how to make linguistic choices to make their own writing more powerful.
Through my studies of Dr. Jim Martin’s work on genre and the mentorship of Dr. de Oliveira, I’ve developed as a teacher of writing, now serving students, many poor and disadvantaged, in the Southern United States. They are improving their writing and gaining access to language that can empower them because of you and your research. I cannot thank you enough for you and your late wife’s work, for your service to educational linguistics, and for your challenging writings that I continue to wrestle with and learn from.
I want to extend my best wishes to you on your recent move. I hope your time there is restful but nonetheless productive.
Michael Maune, Ph.D.
Magnolia, Arkansas, U.S.A.