|Title:||Theme in Argumentative Texts: An analytical tool applied and appraised||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Peter Crompton||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||Lancaster University, BA programmes in Language and Linguistics|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Semantics; Text/Corpus Linguistics;|
|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 considered.
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 value.