Theme movement in academic discourse

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978-80-7308-244-4 (vyhledej v knihovnách)

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This paper examines the tendency of English to retain the same subject in successive clauses with regard to its largely prevalent function of theme. Both these properties of the English subject were first pointed out by Vilém Mathesius and confirmed in further studies especially with regard to the subject’s thematic function. The other property of the English subject, the disposition to denote the same entity in successive clauses, subsequently appeared worth examining in connection with the concept of thematic progressions proposed by František Daneš.
The concept of theme is based on Jan Firbas’s theory of functional sentence perspective (FSP, i.e., information structure). The FSP theory works with four FSP factors: semantic structure, context dependence/independence (cf. discourse old and discourse new), linearity and intonation in speech. The interplay of these four factors determines the FSP function (theme, transition, rheme) of the clause elements. In the deep (interpretative) word order the clause elements are arranged according to gradual increase in the information load (i.e., the degree of communicative dynamism). This arrangement constitutes the basic distribution of communicative dynamism, and basically corresponds to what is called the principle of end focus in British grammar. The theme and the rheme are defined, respectively, as the elements carrying the lowest and the highest degree of communicative dynamism irrespective of sentence position. This is the meaning in which the term “theme” is used henceforth. In a more general sense of “the subject matter” the term employed is the “hypertheme.”