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Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof.

Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

Prof.

The textual metafunction - Theme


Introduction When we look at language from the point of view of the textual metafunction, we are trying to see how speakers construct their messages in a way which makes them fit smoothly into the unfolding language event. There are three main ways in which the textual meanings are constructed in the text: Repetition: clearly includes the repetition of the same word or a synonym, but also includes more grammatical kinds of repetition with meaning, which may not be expressed by the same word or similar wording. By repeating, the speakers signal that they are keeping the same topic. Conjunction: its function is to show how the different parts of the text are related. Thematization: it relates, not to the way in which individual components are expressed, but to the structuring of the clause itself: the order in which elements appear in the clause. Theme The Theme of a clause is the first element or constituent of the clause, all the rest is labeled as the Rheme. The different choice of Theme contributes to the meaning of the clause. According to Halliday, Theme is what the clause is about. He also refers to Theme as the point of departure of the massage or that which locates and orients the clause within its context. Identifying Theme Theme is usually easier to identify in declarative clauses (statements), because in the majority of cases Theme and Subject are the same, i.e., they are said to be conflated. For example: You havent heard about this before. Yellow have been used to test the air in mining for canaries centuries. Theme Rheme Another kind of constituent that is often chosen as Theme in declarative clauses is an Adjunct. The position of the Adjunct is fairly flexible, and it can be placed in Theme without this seeming particularly unusual or marked. For example: Last night a man was caught by the police. In our classical you will find many well-known collection masterpieces. Theme Rheme The other main type of clause is interrogative (question). In these clauses we need to think about the communicative function of question, the basic reason of asking questions is to obtain some missing information. The WH-word or group itself represents the missing information. In questions, the natural stating point is the thing that the questioner wants to know about, so the WH-word or group appears in the Theme position. For example: What happened to her? Which does it leaves 1

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011 platform Theme from? Rheme

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Marked Theme choices are relatively rare in questions, since not always the WH-word or group comes in the first position. Example: After the where did you party, go? Theme Rheme We also need to consider Yes/No interrogatives. The missing information in these cases is polarity, which is expressed by the finite verbal operator. This element is included in Theme position, together with the Subject. For example: Have you Did he Theme finished your meal? tell you about it? Rheme

A further type of clause is the imperative. Here, again, the unmarked Theme choice can be understood by considering the communicative purpose. The natural starting point is the Predicator, which expresses the action. The same happens in cases of negative or emphatic imperatives. There is a sub-category of imperatives with Lets, because it expresses, in an idiomatic way, the Subject. Marked Theme is more common in imperatives than in any other non-declarative clause. For example: Lets go for a walk. the lamp Leave here. Them Rheme e Finally, a small group of clauses are exclamatives: clauses that are formally declaratives but are similar in some ways to WH-interrogatives, and are analysed in the same way with the WH-element as natural Theme. For example: What a nice youve got. plant she looks How lovely tonight. Theme Rheme Exclamative clauses bring the question of minor clauses: clauses that do not have Predicator. Generally, only major clauses have thematic structure, and so minor clauses are not analysed for Theme or Rheme. It is worth mentioning that either the Theme or Rheme may be missing from a clause. This happens with elliptical clauses, where part of the message may be carried over from an earlier message or may be understood from the general context. For example: (elliptical elements are presented between brackets) Who (would you most like to meet)? d most like to meet) Your real (I father. 2

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011 Them e Rheme

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Special thematic Structures There are different ways in which the speaker can manipulate the structure of his/her message in order to establish specific kinds of starting points. Thematic equative (Halliday and Matthiessen): traditionally called pseudo-cleft, it is a textual resource in English by which the speaker can group together more than one element of the message as a single constituent, and then use it as Theme and Subject. For example: What Im going to do is to go out. now was that Mary hit What happened him. Theme Rheme The Theme-Rheme structure is exposed as Theme = Rheme. This represents a type of identifying clause in which the Wh-clause acts as the Value and the = is expressed by the predicator be. Most of these kinds of sentences could be rewritten so as to distribute the components in their normal positions. E.g.: Now Im going to go out. Mary hit him. (This reveals that any of the meaning components can function as Theme). The Wh-element, present in both Wh-clauses and in Wh-interrogatives, represents a gap to be filled in: in thematic equatives, it is the speaker who completes his/her own message, imagining that the hearer might want to ask the question found in the starting point. But particularly in speech, it seems to serve more as a way of staging the message; splitting it into two chunks that the hearer will find easier to process. Both functions show the interactive consideration of the audience. It is also possible to put the Wh-clause in Rheme. These are the marked versions of thematic equatives, which often occur with pronouns in Theme, and refer to what has been said in a preceding message. For example: is not what I That meant. Them Rheme e Predicated Theme (Halliday and Matthiessen), traditionally called cleft sentence, is another thematic structure that allows the speaker to pick out a single element and give it emphatic thematic status. For example: It is not the which is wrong. technology who have not learnt how to It is we use it. Theme Rheme 3

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

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The clause constituent which occurs in Theme may be Subject (as in the examples given), Complement or Adjunct. If the examples are rewritten to remove the predicated theme, the contrast between the two subjects is lost. E.g.: The technology is not wrong. We have not learnt how to use it. In speech, the contrast is marked by stressing technology` and we`, but when writing this is not available. Therefore, Predicated Theme serves to guide the reader towards a particular pattern of emphasis which is not the most natural one. Thematized comment is another thematic structure that allows speakers to start their message with their own comment on the value or validity of what they are about to say. For example: It is that it took five years to true do so. Them Rheme e Here, the main information is placed in the Rheme, and the comment is located in the Theme. It resembles predicated Theme in that in both cases the it` acts as a place-holder for the Subject of the Predicator be` in the first clause, and the real Subject is in the second clause. The difference is that, with thematized comment, the comment in the It-clause is not a meaning component of the second clause, so it is not possible to rewrite them as with predicated Theme. However, this operation serves to set up as the starting point the speakers own comment. Preposed Theme is a thematizing structure that occurs almost exclusively in speech or in writing that imitates speech. Here, speakers announce their Theme as a separate constituent (normally a nominal element), and they substitute a pronoun in the following clause; the Rheme occurring as a declarative or as an interrogative. For example: People like us, we have to be careful. Your Mum, does she know youre here? Theme Rheme Passivization is a thematizing device which has the function of moving a particular constituent into Theme. In cases where both potential Subjects are present, there is a dominant influence of Theme choice that justifies choosing passive rather than active. E.g.: Theyd managed to get themselves on the wrong bus at Oxford. They were rescued by a soldier. He took them back to Oxford. The passive form in the second sentence enables to maintain the starting point They` from the previous sentence. The other character, a soldier`, is introduced in the Rheme of the second sentence, and is then a natural starting point for the third sentence. If the active and passive forms are switched, it would sound less natural. E.g.: Theyd managed to get themselves on the wrong bus at Oxford. A soldier rescued them. They were taken back to Oxford by him. Theme in clause complexes When a dependent clause in a clause complex precedes the clause on which it depends, for practical reasons the dependent one is analysed as the Theme for the whole 4

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

Prof.

clause complex i.e. in spite the fact that every clause has a Theme, it is not necessary to show so much detail. the temperature of the decrease As the universe expanded, radiation d. E.g. : Theme Rheme Theme Rheme Theme Rheme The dependent clause functions in a similar way to the Adjunct in the second sentence: 1) As the universe expanded, the temperature 2) On the second after the big it would have fallen bang, Theme Rheme In both cases, the component before the comma is setting the following information in a sequenced time frame (in this case, the steps in the origin of the universe). So the way in which Themes signal the method of development of the text emerges more clearly if the dependent clause is taken as a point of departure for the whole clause complex. In this way, the dependent clause can be treated as equivalent to a constituent of the dominant clause, and therefore when the later comes first, the Theme of that clause functions as Theme for the whole clause complex, including the dependent one. (The dependent clause is underlined). E.g.: died when I was My dad five. Them Rheme e When there is more than one dominant clause, more than one Theme may be identified in a sentence: The T-unit represents an independent clause together with all the clauses that are dependent on it. If the sentence has more than one independent clause, there will be two Tunits, each with its own Theme. (T-units are separated by slashes, and Themes are underlined). E.g.: When we talked I was thinking of myself, // and you may have thought me very selfish. Multiple Theme Some conjunctions like and, but and as are integrated in Theme. However, they do not fill the Theme position by themselves, having a special status in the clause thematic structure.

Conjunctions in Theme Conjunctions, if present, must come first, as their function is to signal that the clause that follows forms part of a larger structural unit, the clause complex, and also to show the relationship the coming clause has with the other clauses in the complex. Conjunctions then constitute a natural point of departure, but they do not take up the full thematic potential of the clause (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004: 83). That is, speakers still have their main thematic options open. Example: But all rooms look out onto the secluded garden. 5

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011 A special thematic status also corresponds to two classes of Adjuncts.

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Conjunctive and Modal Adjuncts in Theme Conjunctive Adjuncts like however, alternatively and as a result signal how the clause as a whole fits in with the preceding text. The difference with conjunctions is that these adjuncts do not link the clause into a larger structural unit. Modal Adjuncts, such as probably, surprisingly and frankly, convey the speakers judgment of the message relevance. They orient the hearer to the message by signalling a standpoint from which to view the information in the clause. Both conjunctive and modal Adjuncts are natural starting points, but they do not have to be thematic, i.e., it is possible for the speaker to choose whether or not to put them in Theme. For instance, they frequently occur in second position in the clause, at the ThemeRheme boundary immediately after the constituent chosen as Theme; and they may even appear later in the Rheme. Examples: Nevertheless, we can reflect on our own activities. Certainly his wife June was a very odd woman. Textual, interpersonal and experiential elements in Theme Lexical elements like conjunctive and modal Adjuncts, expressing primarily textual and interpersonal meaning, have the function of placing the content, of signalling how it fits coherently with the content around it. That is why they tend to gravitate towards the beginning of the clause, the structural slot where fitting-in work is done. In other words, the textual and experiential elements signal how the fitting-in is going to work. But what they do not signal is what is going to be fitted in. For that purpose, seeing what the actual starting point is, we need an element from the experiential content of the clause. Theme, then, must always include a constituent that plays a role in transitivity: a participant, process or circumstance. This constituent can be labeled as experiential Theme. And if anything precedes the experiential element textual or interpersonal elements it is also part of Theme. It is the case of a multiple Theme. Example: But surely the course doesnt start till next week. Interrogatives as multiple Themes Yes/no interrogatives are a kind of multiple Themes, with the Finite as an interpersonal element (the Predicator expressing the process in transitivity). But WH-interrogatives are not the case since the WH-element is always involved in the transitivity of the clause, expressing experiential meaning.
Some problems in Theme analysis Existential there in Theme Though existential there is Subject and thus belongs to Theme, it has no representational function in experiential terms. Existential there in Theme functions then as a pass option. Example: There is something special about this situation.

Theme in reported clauses


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Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

Prof.

As regards quotes, the reporter makes a Theme choice in the projecting clause and also recycles the original speakers Theme choice in the quote. In the case of indirect speech, the projected clause can be treated as forming a T-unit with its projecting clause Theme does not need to be shown separately- or as a separate message on a different level Theme should appear separately. Example: Strike action puts teachers hopes of winning reductions at risk, the education secretary will warn today.

Interpolations in Theme It is more practical to include interpolations in Theme because the speaker chooses to bring them in as interruptions rather than as structurally independent messages. Example: Karr, 40, is a testimony to survival. Preposed attributives The preposed attributive can be said to have thematic prominence and experiential content, and as a result taken as Theme. However, it is considered dependent to the following nominal group, being this nominal group the real starting point. Example: Always ready the instant you need it, the torch needs no battery or mains recharging.
Theme in Text After having identified Theme and its constituents, we broaden the topic in order to include the functions of clauses and clause complexes in signaling coherence and development of a given text. To begin with, we can identify four main functions signaled through these relationships in texts: 1. Maintenance or progression of the Theme in the text at a given point. We show this through signaling Subject as unmarked Theme. Maintenance of the topic is developed by repeating the same Theme as in the previous clause. Progression, on the contrary, appears when we choose a constituent from the preceeding Rheme. 2. Framework change, to help in the understanding of the following clause(s). This is shown in the choice of marked Theme: a heavy Subject, an Adjunct or clause, or even the addition of interpersonal or textual elements to the Theme. 3. Boundaries or sections signaling. This is often effected by shifting Theme types. A very common example is the so-called thematic triplet, which usually includes a summative Theme, one that shows a change of framework, and the last one, that signals the beginning of the new framework. 4. Highlighting of the speakers opinion as a viable starting point. It is easily recognizable because the speaker chooses a particular element to appear repeatedly in Theme. These are the main functions of Theme in texts, but now we get on the task of analyzing the role of Rheme. In this case, we find that while Theme constructs the framework of the text the skeleton or conceptual map where content is fitted, and also a certain way to comprehend it, Rheme seems to provide the information that the speaker wants to get across. In other words, Theme elements construct a hierarchy of the contents of the texts, which will help readers to follow the Rheme structure new information presented along (and through) the Theme. 7

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

Prof.

Therefore, if we were to reverse the Theme-Rheme structure in a text for example, taking out unnecesary details, the text would still be the same. The reader, however, would notice that the text becomes harder to understand, because much of the cultural reference is lost in time, for the sake of brevity. This system of Theme and Rheme as conceptual map becomes very fixedly organized when in presence of argumentative or persuasive texts, as there is no need for the writer to express the line of thought the text follows. Besides, the fact that no negotiation is needed to establish the relationship with the readers denotes that interpersonal relationships are fixed by conventions in this text type. Finally, it is interesting to try to categorize Theme choices made by speakers in conversation, i.e., pure interaction. A detailed analysis shows that, for example: Theme patterns do not appear so frequently and explicitly, but rather subtlely. There is a high frequency of occurrence of multiple Themes, with interpersonal and textual elements. Speakers in conversation are always concerned with the way the interaction develops, and not only with getting the message through. The choice of interactional Themes (which refer to speaker and addresee directly) denotes the degree of concern speakers feel with interpersonal relationships, as well as with experiential meanings. Sometimes these two may even be connected, like in the case of I dont think, which at the same time belongs in a multiple Theme and includes reference to the emitter of the message (I). Theme choices in conversation tend to reflect the up-to-the-minute state of the discussion, rather than responding to a previously planned topic to be communicated. The inherent tension between experiential and interpersonal meanings is usually solved with the speakers deciding to take radical, very unpredictable and uncommon Theme choices. Therefore, Theme choices may varyy through registers and thanks to the development of the conversation up to the point being considered. A final note on identifying Theme The main analysis parameter of Theme includes it in the first experiential element in the clause. However, even within the same theoretic set of rules (Systemic Functional Grammar), different interpretations of this complex system are plausible, and one of them especially, stands out from the rest: Theme should normally include an unmarked Theme, i.e., when a marked Theme appears, the Subject next to it is also included as part of the Theme. This device is a displaced Theme, in the words of Halliday and Matthiessen. In this approach, the marked Theme Orienting Theme or Contextual Frame someway changes the textual framework, and the Subject maintains the topic of the text. Examples from previous analyses will show how different this analysys can be. As the universe the temperature of the decreased. expanded, radiation Last night a man was helping police enquiries. is unable to provide continuous It is regretted that the University nursing or domestic care. Contextual frame Unmarked Theme Rheme (marked Theme) 8

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

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Some analysts claim that this division allows them a better tracing of the contribution of thematic choices to the logical organization of a text. The use of this parameter is also supported by a discrepancy in the actual function of Theme: no serious, down-to-earth definition of Theme has been reached yet. Perhaps after a large number of analyses and researches, an agreement will be reached on what the actual function of Theme is, and then the real usability of these approaches will be rated.

Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

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Organizing the message: the textual metafunction Cohesion


Cohesion and coherence Texture is said to be the quality of being recognizably a text rather than a collection of unconnected words or clauses which are generally grouped together under the label of cohesion. Cohesion and coherence appears to be two similar concepts. However, there is an important difference between them. Cohesion refers to the linguistic devices by which the speaker can signal the experiential and interpersonal value of the text, i.e., we can point to features of the text that carry out a cohesive function. And coherence is a mental phenomenon which cannot be identified or quantified in the same way as cohesion. They are, in most cases, connected in a way that a text that uses cohesive devices should undoubtedly be coherent. Reference and Ellipsis Grammatical repetition consists of two main types: reference and ellipsis. When the speaker suggests that something has been mentioned previously in a conversation or that something is going to be mentioned for the first time, he is making use of a grammatical set of rules known as Reference. Ellipsis, on the other hand, is shown when a speaker evades repetition and signals the listener to gather information from the previous clause. Two ways of ellipsis can be recognized: Ellipsis proper: the element is missed out. Substitution: a linguistic token replaces the element. It is worth noticing that reference and ellipsis can be found in the clause or in a clause complex, as well as across clause complexes.

Reference Some uses of reference do not count as repetition, but it is only the cases of references that are linked with repetition of meaning which function as cohesive devices. In other words, sometimes the presuming item has not been mentioned earlier in the conversation or text but is part of a shared context: Exophoric Reference. When in a text or conversation the presuming item can be retrieved from the previous sentences, it is said to be Endophoric Reference. Both uses of reference serve the broad function of showing how the message fits into its context; but exophoric reference links the message to its external context, whereas endophoric reference signals how the message fits specifically into its textual context. Endophoric reference can be divided into different types, according to the placement of the presuming item. Anaphoric reference: the reference to the presuming item has been mentioned earlier in the text. Cataphoric Reference: the presuming item has not yet been mentioned but it will occur in the next sentence or near it. Homophora: when we can retrieve the presumed item from a shared context of culture.
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Camargo, Di Dinno, Fuentes Bassi, Mata, Segatta Fernndez Prof. Cheme Arriaga English Grammar II 2011

Prof.

Esphora: when the reference has not yet appeared, but will be provided subsequently, in the clause or sentence that follows immediately. There are three types of cohesive reference. The first includes the third person personal pronouns. The second includes the demonstratives (this, that, these, those, here, there, now and then). The type of cohesive reference is comparative. The comparison can either be with something in the outside world or can be related to a previously mentioned entity.

Ellipsis Ellipsis typically operates between adjacent clauses. This is due to the fact that the reader or hearer needs to complete the message with words from the previous sentence. This type of cohesive resource is often more exploited in speech than in written texts, and this reflects the negotiation, cooperation and involvement in face-to-face conversation. The distinction between Exophoric and Anaphoric references can be applied in a different way to ellipsis. In an elliptical Theme or Rheme, the missing element may be understood from the situation; or it may be carried over from the preceding message. Ellipsis is particularly common in answers and responses. In response to a Wh-question, only the missing element is given; and if an answer cannot be provided the whole question is ellipsed. When Wh-questions are used to ask for additional information of what has been just mentioned, they are elliptical. When it comes to substitution, we can identify two cases. When a counter is put into the elliptical clause to represent the missing wording in this case the answer would have its own grammatical structure, but it is also possible to keep the grammar of the elliptical clause parallel to that of the non-elliptical one, being more a case of ellipsis proper than substitution. This is not accidental because whenever in the structure of the clause you can have one, you can also have the other. In certain contexts the so, neither and nor can replace the residue or they can be substituted by a whole projected clause, following a certain verbal or mental process verb. The residue can also be replaced with do. In the nominal group, the substitute form one/s can replace the head noun or the whole group. In these cases, the negative form is none.
Conjunction Conjunction refers to the combining of any two textual elements into a potentially coherent complex semantic unit. There are three basic levels that can be used to analyze conjunction: within the clause (prepositions); between clauses (conjunctions) and between clause complexes or sentences (conjunctive adjuncts). In a conversation or text, it can be assumed that a clause will provide the context within which the next clause is going to be interpreted. Thus, linking and logical meaning is created.

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