Theme and thematic patterns in Spanish and English history texts.
The aim of this research project is to compare published history textbooks written for upper-secondary/tertiary study in the U.S. and Spain using Halliday's (1994) Theme/Rheme construct. The motivation for using the Theme/Rheme construct to analyze professional texts in the two languages is two-fold. First of all, while there exists a multitude of studies at the grammatical and phonological levels between the two languages, very little analysis has been carried out in comparison at the level of text, beyond that of comparing L1/L2 student writing. Secondly, thematic considerations allow the analyst to highlight areas of textual organization in a systematic way for purposes of comparison. The basic hypothesis tested here rests on the premise that similarity in the social function of the texts results in similar Theme choice and thematic patterning across languages, barring certain linguistic constraints. The corpus for this study consists of 20 texts: 10 from various history textbooks published in the U.S. and 10 from various history textbooks published in Spain. The texts chosen represent a variety of authors, in order to control for author style or preference. Three overall areas of analysis were carried out, representing Halliday's (1994) three metafunctions: the ideational, the interpersonal and the textual. The ideational analysis shows similarities across the two corpora in terms of participant roles and circumstances as Theme, with a slight difference in participants involved in material processes, which is shown to reflect a minor difference in the construal of the field of history in the two cultures. The textual analysis shows overall similarities with respect to text organization, and the interpersonal analysis shows overall similarities as regards the downplay of discrepant interpretations of historical events as well as a low frequency of interactive textual features, manifesting the informational focus of the texts. At the same time, differences in results amongst texts within each of the corpora demonstrate possible effect of subject matter, in many cases, and individual author style in others. Overall, the results confirm that similarity in content, but above all in purpose and audience, result in texts which show similarities in textual features, setting aside certain grammatical constraints.