Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1874-8767
  • E-ISSN: 1874-8775
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This paper offers a detailed study of Theme as point of departure in English and Spanish academic texts. A corpus of around 45,000 words is examined from different perspectives to compare the realizations, functions and interplays of the point of departure in these two languages. Examples reveal crosslinguistic contrasts in terms of (a) the preferred realizations of thematic elements, (b) the strategies to maintain participant identity and present new participants and (c) the resources used to construe texture. We will see that whereas English favours thematic non-pronominal noun groups, Spanish combines these with other realizations. Additionally, the different syntactic characteristics of each language have a reflection on different ways of signalling semantic continuity and on textual development in general. The findings presented in this paper should make a significant contribution to the existing literature on Theme, as well as on academic writing and contrastive typological research.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Alarcos Llorach, Emilio
    1987Estudios de Gramática Funcional del español, 3rd edn. Madrid: Gredos.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Arús-Hita, Jorge
    2006 Perspectiva sistémico-funcional de los usos de ‘se’ en español. Revista Signos39(61). 131–159.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. 2017 Theme in Spanish. InTom Bartlett & Gerard O’Grady (eds.), Routledge handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics, 194–212. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. 2021 Pushing the theory out of its comfort zone: The role of SPCA structure in English and Spanish. InIzaskun Elorza, Tom Bartlett & Jorge Arús-Hita (eds.), Lingua 261, special issue on Dynamicity and Contrast in Systemic Functional Linguistics. 102909.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. . 2022. Theme as point of departure in English and Spanish casual conversation: A contrastive study. Language, Context and Text4(2). 197–226. 10.1075/langct.21009.aru
    https://doi.org/10.1075/langct.21009.aru [Google Scholar]
  6. . Forthcoming. Theme as point of departure in English and Spanish academic writing and casual conversation: Towards a generalization. Submitted toText and Talk.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Arús-Hita, Jorge, Julia Lavid & Lara Moratón
    2013 Annotating thematic features in English and Spanish: A contrastive corpus-based study. InMaite Taboada, Susana Doval Suárez & Elisa González Álvarez (eds.), Contrastive Discourse Analysis: Functional and corpus perspectives, 164–182. London: Equinox.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Banks, David
    1995 There is a cleft in your sentence: Less common clause structures in scientific writing. Actes du 16e colloque du GERAS, 3–11. 10.4000/asp.3702
    https://doi.org/10.4000/asp.3702 [Google Scholar]
  9. 2017 The extent to which the passive voice is used in the scientific journal article, 1985–2015. Functional Linguistics4(12). 1–17. 10.1186/s40554‑017‑0045‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s40554-017-0045-5 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bartlett, Tom
    2016 Phasal dynamism and the unfolding of meaning as text. InBen Clarke & Jorge Arús-Hita (eds.), The dynamicity of communication below, around and above the clause, English Text Construction9(1). 143–164. 10.1075/etc.9.1.08bar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.9.1.08bar [Google Scholar]
  11. Bowen, Neil & Nathan Thomas
    2020 Manipulating texture and cohesion in academic writing: A keystroke logging study. Journal of Second Language Writing501. 100773. 10.1016/j.jslw.2020.100773
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2020.100773 [Google Scholar]
  12. Davies, Florence
    1997 Marked Theme as a heuristic for analysing text-type, text and genre. InJordi Piqué & David J. Viera (eds.), Applied Linguistics: Theory and Practice in ESP, 45–79. Valencia: Universitat de València.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Downing, Angela
    1991 An Alternative approach to Theme: A systemic-functional perspective. Word42(2). 119–143. 10.1080/00437956.1991.11435835
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00437956.1991.11435835 [Google Scholar]
  14. Eastwood, John
    2004Oxford Practice Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Eggins, Suzanne
    2004An introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics, 2nd edn. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Enkvist, N. E.
    1973 Theme dynamics and style: An experiment. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia51. 127–135.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Gil, José María & Adolfo García
    2010 Transitividad, modo y tema en español: Un primer análisis en términos de la gramática de Cardiff. Revista Signos43(72). 71–98. 10.4067/S0718‑09342010000100004
    https://doi.org/10.4067/S0718-09342010000100004 [Google Scholar]
  18. Gómez González, María de los Ángeles & Ana Patricia García Varela
    2014 Discourse-organizational patterns in English and Spanish: Some notes on the thematic management of news reports. Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada27(1). 87–117. 10.1075/resla.27.1.04gom
    https://doi.org/10.1075/resla.27.1.04gom [Google Scholar]
  19. Halliday, M. A. K.
    1985An introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. 1988 On the ineffability of grammatical categories. InJames D. Benson, Michael J. Cummings & William S. Greaves (eds.), Linguistics in a systemic perspective, 27–51. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.39.03hal
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.39.03hal [Google Scholar]
  21. Halliday, M. A. K. & Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen
    2014Halliday’s introduction to Functional Grammar, 4th edn. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203783771
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203783771 [Google Scholar]
  22. Halliday, M. A. K. & Jim R. Martin
    2003Writing science: Literacy and discursive power. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203209936
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203209936 [Google Scholar]
  23. Huddleston, Rodney D.
    1988 Constituency, multi-functionality and grammaticalization in Halliday’s functional grammar. Journal of Linguistics241. 137–174. 10.1017/S0022226700011592
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700011592 [Google Scholar]
  24. 1991 Further remarks on Halliday’s Functional Grammar: A reply to Matthiessen and Martin. Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics51. 75–130.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Hudson, Richard
    1986 Systemic Grammar. Linguistics241. 791–815.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Lavid, Julia, Jorge Arús-Hita & Juan R. Zamorano
    2010Systemic Functional Grammar of Spanish: A contrastive study with English. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. López Meirama, Belén
    1997La posición del sujeto en la cláusula monoactancial en español. Santiago de Compostela: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Martin, J. R.
    1992English text: System and structure. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 10.1075/z.59
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.59 [Google Scholar]
  29. 1995 More than what the clause is about: English Theme. InMohsen Ghadessy (ed.), Thematic development in English texts, 223–258. London: Pinter.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Martin, J. R. & Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen
    1992 A brief note on Huddleston’s reply to Matthiessen and Martin’s response to Huddleston’s review of Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics61. 185–195.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Matthiessen, Christian M. I. M.
    1995Lexicogrammatical cartography: English systems. Tokyo: International Language Sciences Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Matthiessen, Christian M. I. M. & J. R. Martin
    1991 A response to Huddleston’s review of Halliday’s Introduction to Functional Grammar. Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics51. 5–74.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. McCabe, Anne
    1999 Theme and thematic patterns in Spanish and English history texts. Birmingham: Aston University PhD thesis.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. McEnery, Tony & Andrew Wilson
    2001Corpus Linguistics, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. MedCalc Software Ltd
    MedCalc Software Ltd 2022 Comparison of proportions calculator (Version 20.027). https://www.medcalc.org/calc/comparison_of_proportions.php (Last accessed on14 February 2022).
  36. Moore, Nicholas
    2011 Modelling the flow of discourse in a corpus of written academic English. InNicholas Groom (ed.), Proceedings of the Corpus Linguistics 2011 Conference ‘Discourse and Corpus Linguistics’. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/college-artslaw/corpus/conference-archives/2011/Paper-11.pdf (Last accessed on3 May 2021).
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Moyano, Estela
    2016 Theme in English and Spanish: Different means of realization for the same textual function. InBen Clarke & Jorge Arús-Hita (eds.), The dynamicity of communication below, around and above the clause, Special issue ofEnglish Text Construction9(1). 190–219. 10.1075/etc.9.1.10moy
    https://doi.org/10.1075/etc.9.1.10moy [Google Scholar]
  38. 2021 La función de Tema en español: Sus medios de realización desde la perspectiva trinocular de la Lingüística Sistémico-Funcional. Revista Signos56(106). 487–517. 10.4067/S0718‑09342021000200487
    https://doi.org/10.4067/S0718-09342021000200487 [Google Scholar]
  39. Mwinlaaru, Isaac N. & Wilfred W. Xuan
    2016 A survey of studies in systemic functional language description and typology. Functional Linguistics3(8). < 10.1186/s40554‑016‑0030‑4 (Last accessed on16 February 2021).
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s40554-016-0030-4 [Google Scholar]
  40. Quiroz, Beatriz
    2018 Negotiating interpersonal meanings in Spanish: Reasoning about mood. Functions of Language25(1) (Special Issue on Interpersonal Meaning). 130–158. 10.1075/fol.17013.qui
    https://doi.org/10.1075/fol.17013.qui [Google Scholar]
  41. Ravelli, Louise J.
    1995 A dynamic perspective: Implications for metafunctional interaction and an understanding of Theme. InRuqaiya Hasan & Peter H. Fries (eds.), On Subject and Theme: A discourse functional perspective, Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science Series41. 187–234. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.118.07rav
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.118.07rav [Google Scholar]
  42. Thompson, Geoff
    2014Introducing Functional Grammar, 3rd edn. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203785270
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203785270 [Google Scholar]
  43. Thompson, Geoff & Susan Thompson
    2009 Theme, subject and the unfolding of text. InGail Forey & Geoff Thompson (eds.), Text type and texture, 45–69. Sheffield: Equinox.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error