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Title: Structuring information in written English : a re-appraisal of the systemic functional approach to information structure
Author: Moore, Nicolas Antony James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 4253
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2010
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The concept of Information Structure in English originated in Systemic Functional Linguistics, and has developed to function as newsworthy information, or what the speaker directs the listener to focus on. In spoken English, Information Structure is realised in intonation, with the tonic foot identifying New information. In written English, consensus has gradually converged on the same function being realised by final position in a clause. While this is assumed to be the case, there has been no study so far that demonstrates a role for Information Structure in written English independent of Reference or Theme. The aim of the present study is to demonstrate the existence and role of an independent Information Structure in written English, within the context of a modern Systemic Functional theory. The main strategy employed is to investigate the systems in the Textual Metafunction that are realised within clauses by analysing texts for the systems of Participant Identification and Tracking, and for Theme and Rheme, using a largely quantitative approach on a range of texts from a single register. Systemic Functional theories of reference are compared with other perspectives, resulting in a re-evaluation of the theory of bridging to include an integration of a taxonomy of sense relations. Quantitative analysis of a small corpus of texts reveals significant patterns for Participant Identification and Tracking. Starting with a clarification of Theme within a Systemic Functional perspective, text analysis describes the interplay of Theme with Participant Identification and Tracking to quantitatively demonstrate the unmarked correlation of Theme with Presuming and Rheme with Presenting reference. An investigation of the development of the concept of Information Structure both within and beyond SFL concludes that sequence is likely to realise both Theme and Information in written English. This hypothesis is tested against the corpus of texts used in this study. By examining the interaction of the three systems of Participants, Theme and Information, quantitative and discoursal patterns emerge that reveal an independent function of Information Structure. Finally, functional, psychological, neurological and historical evidence is examined to explain the importance of sequence in realising Information Structure. It is argued that spaces and punctuation marks realise Information Structure in written English. The implications for theories of linguistics are explored.
Supervisor: Thompson, Geoff Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available