LINGUIST List 14.970

Wed Apr 2 2003

Diss: Text/Corpus Ling: Crompton "Theme in..."

Editor for this issue: Anita Yahui Huang <>


  1. CROMPTON, Text/Corpus Ling: Crompton "Theme in argumentative texts..."

Message 1: Text/Corpus Ling: Crompton "Theme in argumentative texts..."

Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 01:42:16 +0000
Subject: Text/Corpus Ling: Crompton "Theme in argumentative texts..."

Institution: Lancaster University
Program: PhD
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Peter Crompton 

Dissertation Title: 

Theme in argumentative texts: an analytical tool applied and appraised

Linguistic Field: Text/Corpus Linguistics, Syntax, Discourse Analysis

Subject Language: English (code: 1738)

Dissertation Director 1: Roz Ivanic

Dissertation Abstract: 

This thesis examines the concept of Theme and attempts to assess its
value as an instrument for analysing, describing and evaluating
argumentative texts in written English. Beginning with the influential
account given by Halliday (1967; 1985) and comparing this with
differing accounts by other scholars, the thesis reviews what has been
theorised and what demonstrated about Theme and Theme-related
concepts. To characterise thematising behaviour in argumentative text
on an empirical rather than an impressionistic basis, the system of
analysing Theme outlined by Halliday is applied to a small corpus of
short argumentative texts. Evidence is considered for claimed semantic
regularities in successive Theme selections--Danes's (1974) Thematic
Progression and Fries's (1981) Method of Development. Evidence that
alternative or complementary textual regularities--regularities in
Subject and Rheme selection--may have an organising role is also

Claims that particular kinds of Theme are exponents of a text's genre
and components of a text's structure are of particular significance
for academic writing instruction. The research corpus was therefore
designed to examine whether, in texts of the genre essay, there is any
evidence of correlation between particular kinds of variation in Theme
and two other variables: (a) mother-tongue of writer, more
specifically the binary distinction of whether or not the writer is a
native English speaker, and (b) writing quality. The texts are
arranged in four subcorpora of 20 texts each, designed to capture
differences in these variables.

Claims about the role of Theme in structuring discourse are also
examined by reference to the co-occurrence of given thematic
selections and other formal and semantic phenomena which have been
considered to have importance in structuring discourse.

In terms of academic writing pedagogy, it is concluded that there is
little evidence to suggest that instruction in Theme or Method of
Development deserve inclusion in ESL curricula. In terms of analysing
discourse structure it is concluded that Theme is a tool of limited
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