The dynamicity of communication below, around and above the clause
  • ISSN 1874-8767
  • E-ISSN: 1874-8775
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


This article offers a comparative view of a Systemic Functional (SF) account of Theme in English and Spanish declarative clauses. It considers the lexicogrammatical realization of Theme in both languages and shows how Themes across the clauses construe the method of development of a phase of discourse in the respective languages, unmarked Themes scaffolding textual continuity and marked Themes scaffolding transitions between discourse phases. The paper reviews the concept of Theme in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and analyzes texts in both languages, taking into account a trinocular perspective (Matthiessen & Halliday 2009): from above, considering textual discourse functions related to the lexicogrammatical function of Theme; from roundabout, considering other textual functions in the clause as New; and from below, paying attention to the role that different ranks may play in the realization of the function under focus. In addition, the paper argues for a re-interpretation of previous SFL accounts of Spanish Theme, on the assumptions of SFL language typology. Based on the analysis of fragments of Research Articles, the paper shows how English and Spanish texts perform similar strategies to maintain the method of development of a text, through the interaction between lexical strings and reference chains with the function of Theme (Fries 1981; Martin 1992). It is shown, however, that the lexicogrammatical realization of unmarked Theme differs between these languages.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abbamondi, Gennaro R. , Giuseppina Tommonaro , Nele Weyens , Sofie Thijs , Wouter Sillen , Panagiotis Gkorezis , Carmine Iodice , Wensley de Melo Rangel , Barbara Ncolaus & Jaco Vangrosveld
    2016 Plant growth-promoting effects of rhizospheric and endophytic bacteria associated with different tomato cultivars and new tomato hybrids. Chemical and Biological Technologies in Agriculture 2016 3:1. áchembioagro.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40538-015-0051-3ñ (Last accessed on29 February 2016). doi: 10.1186/s40538‑015‑0051‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s40538-015-0051-3 [Google Scholar]
  2. Bertín, Omar D. & Sergio Cepeda
    2007 Defoliación y control químico de duraznillo blanco (Solanum glaucophyllum) en pastizales naturales. Revista Argentina de Producción Animal27: 67–158.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Lizzi, José M. , Martín F. Garbulsky , Rodolfo A. Golluscio & Alejandro V. Deregibus
    2007 Mapeo indirecto de la vegetación de Sierra de la Ventana, provincia de Buenos Aires. Ecología Austral17 (2): 217–230.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Sheneiter, Omar , Sergio Fontana , Adriana Andrés & Beatriz Rosso
    2006 Efecto del manejo de la defoliación sobre la acumulación de forraje y persistencia de dos cultivares de Trifolium pratense. Revista Argentina de Producción Animal26: 11–21.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Sleighter, Rachel L. , Paolo Caricasole , Kristen M. Richards , Terry Hanson & Patrick G. Hatcher
    2015 Characterization of terrestrial dissolved organic matter fractionated by pH and polarity and their biological effects on plant growth. Chemical and Biological Technologies in Agriculture 2015 2: 9. álink.springer.com/article/10.1186%2Fs40538-015-0036-2ñ (Last accessed on29 February 2016). doi: 10.1186/s40538‑015‑0036‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s40538-015-0036-2 [Google Scholar]
  6. Ståhl, Göran , Svetlana Saarela , Sebastian Schnell , Sören Holm , Johannes Breidenbach , Sean P. Healey , Paul L. Patterson , Steen Magnussen , Erik Næsset , Ronald E. McRoberts & Timothy G. Gregoire
    2016 Use of models in large-area forest surveys: Comparing model-assisted, model-based and hybrid estimation. Forest Ecosystems 2016 3:5. áforestecosyst.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40663-016-0064-9ñ (Last accessed on29 February 2016). doi: 10.1186/s40663‑016‑0064‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s40663-016-0064-9 [Google Scholar]
  7. Alarcos Llorach, Emilio
    1994Gramática de la Lengua Española. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Arús Hita, Jorge
    2010 On Theme in English and Spanish: A comparative study. InThresholds and Potentialities of Systemic Functional Linguistics: Multilingual, Multimodal and Other Specialised Discourses, Elisabeth Swain (ed.). Trieste: EUT, 23–48.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bentivoglio, Paola
    2003 Orden de palabras en español: Un análisis sintáctico-semántico-pragmático del sujeto. Lexis. Revista de Lingüística y Literatura27 (1–2): 235–260.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Berry, Margaret
    1996 What is Theme? A(nother) personal view. InMeaning and Form: Systemic Functional Perspectives, Robin P. Fawcett , Margaret Berry , Christopher Butler & Guowen W. Huang (eds). Norwood: Ablex, 1–64.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Caffarel, Alice
    2004 Metafunctional profile of the grammar of French. In Caffarel et al (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,77–138. doi: 10.1075/cilt.253.04caf
  12. 2006A Systemic Functional Grammar of French. From Grammar to Discourse. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Caffarel, Alice , J.R. Martin & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen
    2004aLanguage Typology: A Functional Perspective. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/cilt.253
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.253 [Google Scholar]
  14. 2004b Introduction: Systemic functional typology. In Caffarel , et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,1–76.
  15. Daneš, František
    1974 Functional sentence perspective and the organisation of the text. InPapers on Functional Sentence Perspective, František Daneš (ed.). The Hague: Mouton, 106–128.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Delbecque, Nicole
    1991El orden de los sintagmas. La posición del regente. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Di Tullio, Ángela
    2005Manual de Gramática del Español. Buenos Aires: La Isla de la Luna.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Durán, José
    2010 Progresión temática y análisis de tema (no) marcado en noticias políticas. InEl Discurso en Español y Portugués. Estudios desde una Perspectiva Sistémico-Funcional, María Delia Fernández & Elsa Ghio (comp.). Santa Fe: Universidad nacional del Litoral, 162–172.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Eggins, Suzanne
    1994An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Cassell.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Firbas, Jan
    1964 On defining the theme in functional sentence perspective. Travaux Linguistiques de Prague1: 267–280.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Fries, Peter
    1981 On the status of theme in English: Arguments from discourse. Forum Linguisticum6 (1): 1–38.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Ghio, Elsa & María Delia Fernández
    2008Lingüística Sistémico-Funcional. Aplicaciones a la Lengua Española. Santa Fe: Universidad Nacional del Litoral.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Gouveia, Carlos & Leila Barbara
    2006 Marcado ou não marcado não è a questão, a questão è: onde está o Tema?InLinguagem, Cultura e Sociedade, Desireé Motta-Roth, Nina Almeida de Barros & Gustavo Richter (orgs). Santa Maria: Programa de Pós-Graduação em Letras, UFSM, 57–56.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Halliday, M.A.K
    1968 Notes on transitivity and theme in English 3. Journal of Linguistics4: 179–215. doi: 10.1017/S0022226700001882
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700001882 [Google Scholar]
  25. 1985An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. 1994An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 2nd edition. London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. 2002 [1979] Modes of meaning and modes of expression: Types of grammatical structure and their determination by different semantic functions. InOn Grammar. Collected Works of M. A. K. Halliday, Vol. 1, Jonathan J. Webster (ed.). London: Continuum, 196–218.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Halliday, M.A.K. & Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen
    2004An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 3rd edition. London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Halliday, M.A.K. & Edward McDonald
    2004 Metafunctional profile of the grammar of Chinese. In Caffarel et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,305–396.
  30. Lavid, Julia , Jorge Arús Hita & Juan Rafael Zamorano Mansilla
    2010Systemic Functional Grammar of Spanish. A Contrastive Study with English. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Martin, James
    1983 Participant identification in English, Tagalog and Kate. Australian Journal of Linguistics3 (1): 45–74. doi: 10.1080/07268608308599299
    https://doi.org/10.1080/07268608308599299 [Google Scholar]
  32. 1990 Interpersonal grammaticalisation, mood and modality in Tagalog. Philippine Journal of Linguistics, Special Issue on the 25th Anniversary of the Language Study Centre of Philippine Normal College, 1964–1989, 21 (1): 2–50.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. 1992a Theme, method of development and existentiality: The price of reply. Occasional Papers in Systemic Linguistics6: 147–183.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. 1992bEnglish Text: System and Structure. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/z.59
    https://doi.org/10.1075/z.59 [Google Scholar]
  35. 1996 Types of structure: Deconstructing notions of constituency in clause and text. InComputational and Conversational Discourse: Burning Issues – An Interdisciplinary Account, Eduard H. Hovy & Donia R. Scott (eds). Heidelberg: Springer, NATO Advanced Science Institute Series F – Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol. 151, 39–66. doi: 10.1007/978‑3‑662‑03293‑0_2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-03293-0_2 [Google Scholar]
  36. 2004 Metafunctional profile of the grammar of Tagalog. In Caffarel et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,255–304. doi: 10.1075/cilt.253.07mar
  37. 2008 Chaser’s war on context. Plenary lecture given at the 35th International Systemic Functional Conference , Macquarie University, Sydney, July 2008.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Martin, James , Christian M.I.M. Matthiessen & Claire Painter
    2010Deploying Functional Grammar. Beijing: The Commercial Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Martin James & David Rose
    2007 [2003]Working with Discourse. Meaning beyond the Clause, 2nd edition. London: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M
    1995Lexicogrammatical Cartography: English Systems. Tokyo: International Language Science Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. 2004.Descriptive motifs and generalizations. In Caffarel et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,537–662. doi: 10.1075/cilt.253.12mat
  42. Matthiessen, Christian M.I.M. & M.A.K. Halliday
    2009Systemic Functional Grammar: A First Step into the Theory. China: Higher Education Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. McCabe, Ann
    1999 Theme and thematic patterns in Spanish and English history texts. Ph.D. dissertation, Aston University.
  44. Montemayor-Borsinger, Ann
    2009Tema. Una Perspectiva Funcional de la Organización del Discurso. Buenos Aires: Eudeba, Enciclopedia Semiológica.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Moss, Gillian
    2008 Tema en español: ¿una armonía implícita?Lecture given at the IVº Congresso ALSFAL . Florianópolis: Universidad Federal de Santa Catarina, 29 September – 3 October 2008.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Moyano, Estela
    2008 Theme in Spanish: Discourse perspective for a controversial topic. Lecture given at the 35th International Systemic Functional Conference , Macquarie University, Sydney, July 2008.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. 2010 El sistema de Tema en español: Una mirada discursiva sobre una cuestión controvertida. InEl Discurso en Español y Portugués. Estudios desde una Perspectiva Sistémico-Funcional, María Delia Fernández & Elsa Ghio (comp.). Santa Fe: Universidad Nacional del Litoral, 39–88.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Quiroz, Beatriz
    2011 Towards a systemic profile of the Spanish mood. Linguistics and the Human Sciences4 (1): 31–65. doi: 10.1558/lhs.v4i1.31
    https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v4i1.31 [Google Scholar]
  49. 2015 La cláusula como movimiento interactivo: Una perspectiva semántico-discursiva de la gramática interpersonal del español. DELTA31 (1): 261–301. doi: 10.1590/0102–445023762456121953
    https://doi.org/10.1590/0102–445023762456121953 [Google Scholar]
  50. Real Academia Española (RAE)
    2010 Nueva Gramática de la Lengua Española. Manual.Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española y Real Academia Española. Buenos Aires: Espasa.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Rose, David
    2001 Some variation in Theme across languages. Functions of Language8 (1): 109–145. doi: 10.1075/fol.8.1.06ros
    https://doi.org/10.1075/fol.8.1.06ros [Google Scholar]
  52. 2004 Metafunctional profile of the grammar of Pitjantjatjara. In Caffarel et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,479–536. doi: 10.1075/cilt.253.11ros
  53. 2005 Narrative and the origins of discourse: Construing experience in stories around the world. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics SeriesS19: 151–173.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Silva-Corvalán, Carmen
    1982 Subject expression and placement in Mexican-American Spanish. InSpanish in the United States. Sociolinguistics Aspects, Jon Amastae & Lucía Elías-Olivares (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 93–120.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. 1983 On the interaction of word order and intonation: Some OV constructions in Spanish. InDiscourse Perspectives on Syntax, Flora Klein-Andreu (ed.). London: Academic Press, 117–140.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Taboada, Maite
    1995 Theme markedness in English and Spanish: A Systemic-Functional approach. MA dissertation, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. áwww.sfu.ca/~mtaboada/docs/taboada-theme-markedness.pdfñ (Last accessed on31 December 2015).
  57. Teruya, Kazuhiro
    2004 Metafunctional profile of the grammar of Japanese. In Caffarel , et al. (eds). Language Typology: A Functional Perspective,185–254.
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): academic discourse; English; method of development; Spanish; Theme
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