Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Misrepresenting New Information

Martin (1992: 453-4):
The pattern of hyper- and macro-Themes recognised in 6.3.2 above raises the question of whether a similar symbolic pattern arises based on New.  Reviewing text [6:23] it can be seen that hyper- and macro-New are also important aspects of texture, particularly in abstract writing.  The function of hyper-New is illustrated in [6:23l] below; this clause pulls together and summarises the information build up in the rest of the paragraph. … 
Hyper-New [is] single underlined … in the following representation of [6:23]; the minimal News of remaining clauses appear in bold-face.

(illustrating New, hyper-New …)

Wars are costly exercises.

They cause death and destruction

and put resources to non-productive uses

but they also promote industrial and economic change.

This benefit does not mean that war is a good thing, but that it sometimes brings useful developments.

The Second World War further encouraged the restructuring of the Australian economy towards a manufacturing basis.

Between 1937 and 1945 the value of industrial production almost doubled.

This increase was faster than otherwise would have occurred.

The momentum was maintained in the post-war years

and by 1954-5 the value of manufacturing output was three times that of 1944-5.

The enlargement of Australia’s steel-making capacity, and of chemicals, rubber, metal goods and motor vehicles all owed something to the demands of war.

The war had acted as something of a hothouse for technological progress and economic change.

Blogger Comments:

[1] The field here is again writing pedagogy, rather than linguistic theory.

[2] The paragraph is a unit of graphology, the expression plane of language realising written mode.  It is not a unit of linguistic content.

[3] New is not a functional component of the clause.  It is the obligatory element of the information unit, which is parallel with the clause.  The distribution of information units in a text is indicated by the phonological system of tonality, which specifies the distribution of tone groups, because an information unit is realised by a tone group.  The culmination of New information, the information focus, is indicated by the phonological system of tonicity, which specifies the location of tonic prominence, because the information focus is realised by tonic prominence.

In contrast, in the analysis of text [6:23], the New is arbitrarily assigned to the last functional element of the Rheme of the clause, regardless of intonation, graphological indications of tone group boundaries, lexical density, and so on.  The possibility of New information in the Theme, a very frequent feature of discourse, is ruled out by such a rigid, arbitrary approach.

Some of the likely foci of New information in text [6:23], based on a spoken reading, and overlooked by the arbitrary approach, are highlighted above in dark red.