A science for verbal art: Elizabeth Gaskell's contribution to a critique of political economy

Fang Li, David Kellogg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The two central arguments of this paper are symmetrical: language science is a science for verbal art, and Elizabeth Gaskell's verbal art offers a way of understanding the historical method pioneered by Marx and using it to develop language science in turn. The argument unfolds on three different timescales, examining the logogenetic development of one work, the ontogenetic development of one writer, and the sociogenetic development of one genre, namely the nineteenth century social-realist novel. Taking a logogenetic view, we use a Hallidayan linguistic framework to show how Elizabeth Gaskell's treatment of inter-class dialogue differs from that of the man who was probably her first Marxist critic—Marx himself. Taking an ontogenetic view, we use Hasan's distinction between theme, verbalization, and symbolic articulation to compare an earlier industrial novel by Gaskell with a later one. Taking a sociogenetic view, we argue that Gaskell's role in the development of the novel genre may also be understood through a comparative linguistic contrast between her work and previous and succeeding literary genres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-102
Number of pages11
JournalLanguage Sciences
Early online date10 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • verbal art
  • Karl Marx
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • political economy
  • industrial novels
  • Ruqaiya Hasan
  • systemic-functional linguistics


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