Saturday, 20 February 2016

Problems With The Argument For Hyper-Theme

Martin (1992: 437):
Daneš (1974: 118-9) suggests a number of ways in which strings, chains, Themes and Rhemes may interact in text. In some texts Themes typically relate to immediately preceding Rhemes, in others to immediately preceding Themes. Of special interest is the pattern suggested by Daneš whereby successive Themes are related to a single preceding Theme (or hyper-Theme as he terms it). This is the pattern that [6:34] would have displayed had wisdom and chance been made thematic in clause [6:34d] (e.g. Wisdom and chance gave birth to the English Constitution). As [6:34] stands however, Themes are predicted by clause [6:34d]'s New, not its Theme.
The important point here however is that [6:34d] stands in a predictive relationship to the interaction between lexical strings and Theme selection.  It thus functions as the Topic Sentence in school rhetoric — as the Theme of the paragraph in other words, rather than as the Theme of a clause.  Daneš's term hyper-Theme will be extended here to refer to paragraph Themes of this kind.

Blogger Comments:

[1] To be clear, Daneš (1974) identifies three main types of thematic progression:
  1. a preceding Rheme becomes the next Theme;
  2. a repetition of the same Theme, the first appearance termed a 'hypertheme';
  3. a progression of derived Themes
[2] The relation here is one of identity. In SFL theory, this is lexical cohesion (elaborating: identity) working with Theme. That is, it is the non-structural and structural resources of the textual metafunction creating texture.

[3] The Greek prefix 'hyper-' means over; beyond; above.  The 'hypertheme' of Daneš (1974) is 'over' or 'above' its later repetitions.

[4] If the type 2 ('hypertheme') thematic progression had been used, it would have had a significant deleterious effect on the texture:
The English Constitution — that indescribable entity — is a living thing, growing with the growth of men, and assuming ever-varying forms in accordance with the subtle and complex laws of human character. Wisdom and chance gave birth to the English Constitution.
[5] On the model of Daneš (1974), the thematic progression from [6:34d] to [6:34e] is type 1 (above), at least to the extent that the preceding Rheme is the child of wisdom and chance can be said to be taken up in the following Theme the wise men of 1688.  But, strictly speaking, the Rheme does not become the following Theme; the relation between the two is the lexical cohesion between wisdom and wise.

[6] Any "prediction" in what will be taken up as subsequent Theme can only be made with hindsight — by taking a synoptic perspective on the text.  This is inconsistent with — contrary to — Martin's claim (1992: 401) that interaction patterns — here: mode of development — will be interpreted as a process rather than as a synoptic system:
Grammatical metaphor, like interaction patterns, will be interpreted as a process here, rather than as a synoptic system…
[7] To be clear:
In prescriptive grammar, the topic sentence is the sentence in an expository paragraph which summarises the main idea of that paragraph. It is usually the first sentence in a paragraph. 
Also known as a focus sentence, it encapsulates or organises an entire paragraph. Although topic sentences may appear anywhere in a paragraph, in academic essays they often appear at the beginning. The topic sentence acts as a kind of summary, and offers the reader an insightful view of the writer’s main ideas for the following paragraph. More than just being a mere summary, however, a topic sentence often provides a claim or an insight directly or indirectly related to the thesis. It adds cohesion to a paper and helps organise ideas both within the paragraph and the whole body of work at large. As the topic sentence encapsulates the idea of the paragraph, serving as a sub-thesis, it remains general enough to cover the support given in the body paragraph while being more direct than the thesis of the paper.
[8] The paragraph is a unit of graphology.  It is a unit of the expression plane form, but restricted to written mode.  The paragraph is not a unit of spoken language; no-one speaks in paragraphs.  Here it is misapplied to semantics, the stratum of meaning on the content plane.

[9] This extension of the term 'hypertheme' is not justified by Martin's exposition.  Here is a summary of the 'argument':

First, two of the three types of thematic progression in Daneš (1974) are introduced.

Second, an example in text [6:34] that actually demonstrates type 1 (Rheme > Theme) is used to make the case for type 2 (Theme repetition): hyper-Theme > Theme.

Third, the clause featuring the New/Rheme ([6:34d]) is claimed to have the same function as a Topic Sentence.

Fourth, the (clause featuring the New/Rheme that is misconstrued as functioning as a) Topic Sentence is deemed to be the Theme of a graphological unit, the sentence, and termed a hyper-Theme.

In short, this convoluted argument merely disguises the fact that Martin has just rebranded Topic Sentence as hyper-Theme.

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