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The Grammar of the Message:

Thematic and Information Structure

Fina Dwisari Yadi Firmansyah

Topic and theme


Theme and rheme make up thematic structure and express textual meaning. They are sometimes realised by the same words or phrases as the subject and predicate respectively. Examples of sentences in which theme equals subject and rheme equals predicate are: [1] That man in the corner is my father. Subject Predicate THEME RHEME [2] The visitors admired his paintings. Subject Predicate THEME RHEME

In the following sentence, the theme is the direct object


[3] Coffee he Subject drinks ( ) by the bucketful Predicate
RHEME

THEME In sentence [4], the theme is an adverbial; [4] Three times THEME she Subject

s rung me ( ) this morning. Predicate RHEME

In sentence [5], the theme is the head of the verb phrase; [5] Sing I Subject cant ( ) very well. Predicate

THEME

RHEME

Marked and unmarked themes


The subject may consist of a single word, for example, a name, as in: [6] MARY had a little lamb. THEME RHEME Or, the subject may consist of a noun phrase containing - and/or post-modifiers. An example is: [7] ITS FLEECE was white as snow. THEME RHEME

Or, the subject may consist of a noun clause, as in the following pseudo-cleft example [8] WHAT I WANT is a good cup of coffee. THEME RHEME

[9] Merrily

we Subject
RHEME

roll along Predicate

THEME

[10] On Saturday night


THEME

we Subject
RHEME

went out dancing Predicate

In addition to fronted objects as marked nominal themes, of which we gave an example in sentence [3], we may also have fronted subject complements. Sometimes such sentences sound somewhat poetic or archaic. Examples of a fronted object and a fronted complement are found in sentences [11] and [12]:

[11] A BAG OF GOLD

the king Subject

would pay Predicate RHEME

THEME [12] A BRILLIANT STUDENT THEME he Subject

s not certainly Predicate RHEME

In addition to noun phrases other than the subject, noun clauses which are lot the subject can also constitute marked themes. An example is found n the following sentence:

[13] ] WHAT THEY COULDN'T EAT

she Subject

served as breakfast Predicate

THEME

RHEME

Functions of thematic choice


[14] J.S. Bach Was a composer of the Baroque Era

THEME

RHEME

[15] A composer of the Baroque Era


THEME

was J.S. Bach


RHEME

Common theme-rheme patterns in texts

Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3

Rheme 1 Rheme 2 Rheme 3

Theme 4

Rheme 4

Theme 1

Rheme 1

Theme 2
Theme 3 Theme 4

Rheme 2
Rheme 3 Rheme 4

Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3

Rheme 1 Rheme 2 Rheme 3

Theme 4

Rheme 4

Theme 1

Rheme 1

Theme 2
Theme 3 Theme 4

Rheme 2
Rheme 3 Rheme 4

Information structure
Mary Subject THEME OLD had a little Predicate RHEME NEW (FOCUS) lamb

Mary

had a

little

LAMB

She

visited

him

that

very

DAY

She

visited

that

day

an elderly

and

much

loved

FRIEND

She She

gave gave it

the the to

book to him

to him

JOHN

BOOK

She GAVE

The
The

TELephones
SUNs

ringing
shinning

Im Im Im Im

painting

my

living

room

BLUE

painting PAINTING painting

my my MY

LIVING living living

room room room

blue blue blue

I IM

AM painting

painting my

my living

living room

room blue

blue