UNIT 4. Functional Sentences Perspective: Thematic and Information Structures

Roberto Rojas
Mind Map by Roberto Rojas, updated more than 1 year ago
Roberto Rojas
Created by Roberto Rojas almost 3 years ago


Book: Perspectives on Discourse Analysis. Laura Alba-Juez

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UNIT 4. Functional Sentences Perspective: Thematic and Information Structures
1 8.1. Functionalism
1.1 8.1.1. Functional sentence perspective
1.1.1 Thematic structure: Theme vs. Rheme Multiple Themes 2 or 3 types of theme concurrent in the same utterance: the typical sequence is textual-interpersonal-experiential. "Well then you little brat what do you want?" "Well" - (Non-exp) Interpersonal, continuative. "then" - (Non-exp) Textual, connective adjunct. "you little brat" - (Non-exp) Interpersonal, vocative. "what" - Experiential, object. "Unfortunately though she rejected my offer" "Unfortunately" - (Non-exp) Interpersonal, adjunct of stance (evaluative) "though" - (Non-exp) Textual, connective adjunct. "she" - Experiential, subject. Detached Themes They are detached from the main clause. They are normally detached NP which stand outside the clause and are called ABSOLUTE THEMES: "The financial crisis (AT), we are all aware that some measures have to be taken". It does not have any grammatical relation with the second part of the message. DISLOCATIONS: a dislocated element is a detached element which is a constituent of the clause, frequently the subject. At the begining of the clause is a left-dislocation, at the end of the clause is a right-dislocation. "That scream (left-dislocation), where did it come from?" "That house (left-dislocation) that is the one I've always dreamed of." "Is it yours, that jacket?" (right-dislocated theme) "It's fantastic, this book." (right-dislocated theme)" "Your friend (Absolute theme), the car outside her house (left-dislocated theme), they have stolen it". Thematic clauses: when 2 or more clauses are joined together in a complex clause, the clause that is placed first is said to be thematic. This applies for cases of coordination and subordination. Examples: Coordination: "Tommy hit his sister (theme) and she burst into tears (rheme)". Subordination: "When I saw her (theme) I realized she had been crying (rheme)". Theme, subject and topic: Theme is a different category from syntactic subject and from topic what the text is about). They tend to coincide in one wording but sometimes they do not. Examples: The new president has been strongly criticized. "The new president" is subject, theme and topic. In Spain, the people criticized the new president for his foreign policy. "In Spain" = Theme; "the people" = Subject; "new president" = Topic. Marked and Unmarked Themes MARKED Theme: when the theme does not coincide with the expected first constituent of each structure. Never (Marked theme) will Sally pass that exam (rheme). (The expected 1st constituent of a declarative clause is the subject). // The question (Marked theme) he popped (rheme). UNMARKED Theme: when the theme co-exists with such a constituent. Sally (Unmarked Theme) will never pass that exam (rheme). // He (Unmarked Theme) popped the question (rheme). Thematization/Staging: They refer the process which has to do with the linear organization of sentences and text. Sentence word order is vital for the organizacion of the information. The speaker/writer always chooses a beginning point which will influence the interpretation of the text which follows it. The thematic structure of a clause contains 2 elements: THEME (the point of departure) and RHEME (the rest of the message): Peter (theme) doesn't like the car (rheme). TOPICAL THEME: A theme that contains an ideational element which functions as subject, object, complement or circumstantial adjunct. The ideational function represents our experience of the world, so it is also an EXPERIENTIAL THEME. 1. SUBJECT: "Tom" is coming for dinner. 2. OBJECT: "No!" I said. 3. CIRCUMSTANTIAL ADJUNCT: "This morning at the cafeteria" we had a lot of fun (Time and place adjuncts). 4. COMPLEMENT: "A terrible fiasco" it was (subject comp.) / "General Director" he was appointed (object comp.) 5. VERB: "Coming up" is the latest news (thematized verb). NON-EXPERIENTIAL THEMES: a) INTERPERSONAL THEMES: 1. CONTINUATIVE THEMES: markers of attention such as "well, oh, please, hey". 2. ADJUNCTS OF STANCE: such as "apparently, surely, certainly". 3. VOCATIVES AND APPELATIVES: such as "Dad! Mr. Wilson! Ladies and gentlemen!" b) TEXTUAL THEMES: CONNECTIVE ADJUNCTS / DISCOURSE MARKERS suchs as "anyway, however, first, finally" which connect a clause to the previous part of the text.
1.1.2 Information Structure: Given vs. New Marked and Unmarked Focus But how do we identify the focus? Speakers divide their messages into information units (segments of information). They syllable which contains the intonation nucleus of the unit constitutes the focus of information. Cleft Constructions: Clefting is a process which takes place when speakers reorganize the content of a single clause into 2 related parts or units in order to place te focus on a new element. It-cleft: "It's a HAMBURGER that I want" (New + Given) Wh-cleft: "What I want is a HAMBURGER" (Given + New) Unmarked Focus: the principle of END-FOCUS establishes that the unmarked distribution starts with the given and progresses towards the new. It allows us to say that the unmarked option for the focus is to fall on the last lexical item of the clause. Example: It sounds ODD. / She is SHY. / You will see me in the FUTURE. Marked Focus: when the focus does not fall on the last lexical item. Example: It DOES sound odd. / She IS shy. / You WILL see me in the future. Information is a process of interaction between what is already known or predictable and what is new or unpredictable. The information unit is a structure made up of 2 functions: The NEW and the GIVEN information. Given information precedes the new and the new is always marked by tonic prominence called INFORMATION FOCUS.
1.1.3 Theory of linguistic analysis which refers to an analysis of utterances or texts in terms of the information they obtain. The role of each part of a utterance is evaluated for its semantic contribution to the whole. COMMUNICATIVE DYNAMISM: a notion that attempts to rate the different level of contribution within a structure, in particular those related to the THEME and the RHEME. Firbas: Communicative Dynamism is the extent to which a linguistic element contributes to the further development of the communication. When speakers say something, they have a communicative purpose and the elements of the language contribute to that purpose.
1.1.4 Functional sentence perspective provides an explanation for word order. There are 4 factores that determine communicative dynamism: 1) LINEAR MODIFICATION 2) CONTEXTUAL FACTOR: Context-dependent vs. Context-independent. 3) THE SEMANTIC FACTOR: it deals with the dynamic functions. THEME: the part of a sentence which has the lowest degree of communicative dynamism. RHEME: the part of the sentence which has the highest degree of communicative dynamism. 4) PROSODIC PROMINENCE: only studied in spoken language as it focuses on aspects such as intonation.
1.2 One of the great linguistic paradigms of the 20th century: an alternative to Transformational Grammar's view of language, considered too abstract.
1.3 Focus: language as social interaction and the rules which govern such interaction. It studies the linguistic structures of language in relation to the context in which they occur.
1.4 Most important aspect: the organization of information.
1.4.1 FUNTIONAL SENTENCE PERSPECTIVE: studies the distribution of information in more or less dynamic elements called THEME and RHEME.
2 8.2. Information Structure and Thematic Structure (Given + New, and Theme + Rheme): Information structure and Thematic structure are closely related from the semantic point of view because the speaker will choose the theme from within what is given and will locate the new within the rheme.
2.1 However, neither given and theme nor new and rheme are the same. THEME/RHEME are speaker-oriented, and GIVEN/NEW are listener-oriented. (The speaker can use thematic and information structures to produce a variety of RHETORICAL EFFECTS).
3 8.3. Some Considerations related to Halliday's Information Structure Analysis: Some authors note the Hallday focuses on the sole function of pitch prominence to mark the focus of new information, but this has other discourse/pragmatic functions such as marking the beginning of a speaker's turn or the beginning of a new topic.
3.1 BUT information structure is not only realized by the phonological system, but also the syntactic and textual systems.
4 8.4. Sample analysis of data
4.1 8.4.1. Thematic structure
4.2 8.4.2. Information Structure
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