From: Mark Beatty (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Feb 08 2001 - 12:07:43 EST
You are taking an approach that I would call "discourse only". You have a
list of discourse motivations, "Theme-Rheme" but also, perhaps, "what
experiential, interpersonal and textual meanings are being realized". Your
approach seeks to explain all the variability in terms of these discourse
The other approach I see is a basic order that is modified by discourse
motivations. See my recent "standard word orders are cumbersome"
contribution for a criticism of extant forms of this.
As to Halliday, he has been around a while and I have read some of his
books. I do not doubt that his "theme-rheme" is a more sophisticated,
refined, and useful than that of others. Still as to the extent he falls
into the "discourse only" approach, there are weaknesses.
Among those weaknesses I predict the following when you apply the discourse
only model. First, you will neglect large categories of data. You will
largely ignore categories like P, D, I, and C. You will look at the
relationship between V and subjects and objects in Greek, but your
observations will not be transferable to other languages like English and
Second, you will have to stretch your discourse motivations unnaturally. If
you try to use "theme-rheme" to account for everything, then it will to too
general to give any insight and your terms will become as vague and circular
as "emphasis" and "focus" have become.
The direction my research is going is to use a universally valid syntax
theory to capture the mechanical aspects of the relations of words to each
other. (I used a revised Minimalist approach.) As to discourse motivations
I see discourse motivations for word order similar to semantics-it is
largely inferential. For semantics inferences are made based on an
individuals knowledge bank according to the context. (Maybe Halliday's
"experience" is similar to my "knowledge bank"-which is not a technical term
for me.) For discourse motivations, an inference is also made according to
the context. The result of this might be similar to the findings of other
discourse researchers to include: "emphasis", definiteness, information
management, given-new information, viewpoint, peak marker, anteriority
marker, cohesion, foregrounding/backgrounding, presupposition, insistence,
obviousness, theme, topic, focus, contrast, grounding, and others.
Of course you might prove me wrong with your dissertation and you might be
able to explain 100% of the details of language with your paradigm, and
additionally your observations might explain both child language acquisition
and variations between the 6703 languages in the world. I predict, however,
that you will not come near to this standard call explanatory adequacy.
(This, or course, should be fine for your dissertation since you can simply
make a statement at the end that your approach gets you only so far and
finding out how far an approach can get you is a sufficient contribution for
Thanks for the interaction.
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