Functional sentence perspective and text analysis

Functional sentence perspective and text analysis

According to W. Mathesius, functional (actual) division of the sentence should be opposed to its formal division. Formal division presupposes the division of a sentence into its grammatical elements, while functional division deals with the ways of including a sentence into the overall context. Correspondingly, the main elements of formal sentence division are grammatical subject and grammatical predicate, and the main elements of formal sentence division are: a) the starting point (or basis) of the utterance, i.e. something that is known in the given situation (or may be easily understood) and from which the speaker proceeds; b) the nucleus of the utterance, i.e. something that the speaker informs about the starting point of the Utterance.

As a rule, each utterance of oral and written speech reflects the movement of the thought from something, that is already known, that is named by the speaker or is placed in front of the eyes of (he interlocutors to something that is still unknown to the readers or listeners. While forming the utterance the speaker takes into consideration the background knowledge of the addressee about the subject of speech and depending on this he makes the known part of the utterance the starting point of it, and in the second part he presents what he has to inform about the first part.

That is why, such division of the utterance into two parts – the theme (given, unknown) and rheme (new, unknown) – is called actual division (Functional sentence perspective). This division reflects the actual position of the speaker in a given (specific) case as regards the contents of the utterance and those the utterance is meant for.

The division into theme and rheme depends on the real context and specific speech situation: He’s got the book from a colleague He’s got a book from the colleague. Both sentences contain the same material information, but different actual information. The aim of the speaker in the two sentences is different: the first focuses on the book, rather than any other object, the second – on the person who gave him something. Thus, according to Yu.S. Maslov, “actual information is the angle under which the material information is presented; material information loses its purposefulness without actual information.

Sometimes it is impossible to divide the utterance into theme and rheme because it contains only new, unknown for the interlocutor information. It is characteristic of the phrase-beginners (phrase-starters) when the speaker wants to introduce the interlocutor into the essence of events: There lived an old man and his wife.

Word-order and intonation are the most important means of actual division (FSP). As Yu.S. Maslov has it, “actual information; is expressed by the linear and dynamic organization of a sentence, i.e. by succession (sequence) of its elements and the place of logical stress, as well as by the usage of some other grammatical and lexical means, serving the division of the sentence into two mutually correlated parts.

As a rule, the theme precedes the rheme in a sentence. W. Mathesius called such order of theme-rheme organization ‘an objective order’, in which the movement proceeds from the known to the unknown, thus making the process of utterance comprehension easier. W. Mathesius called the sequence in which the rheme precedes the theme ‘a subjective order’; in this case the rheme moves to the beginning of the sentence, thus acquiring particular importance. The placement of the rheme into initial position is accompanied by a particular intonational foregrounding, and the utterance itself acquires emotional and expressive colouring.

Besides word-order and intonation there are other means of expression of actual information: emphatic particles, special syntactic constructions, articles, active-passive voice transformations. Different languages make use of these means of expression in a different way.

Thus, the two sentences discussed before “The door opened and an old man entered the room” and “The door opened and the old man entered the room” have identical syntactic structure and almost identical lexical content: the difference is just in the form of article. But this difference determines a different functional perspective of the two sentences. In the first case the indefinite article is the marker of new information, and in the second the definite article shows that the object referred to is already known. The morphological form of an article is absent from the Ukrainian language, and the function of actual information foregrounding is taken over by other means, word-order in particular; Двері прочинилися і у кімнату увійшов старий чоловік; Двері прочинилися і старий чоловік увійшов у кімнату.

The theme of the utterance possesses some particular markers as well. V.B. Kasevych names at least four ways to mark the theme:

1) positional, according to which in a typical case the theme tends to the initial position;

2) grammatical, that presupposes the usage of special word-forms, functional words and syntactic constructions;

3) lexical, that presupposes the usage of constructions of the type: as for …; concerning …;

4) phonetic (with the help of pauses and melody).

Together with the division of the utterance into theme (the starting point) and rheme (what is reported about the theme), some scholars also distinguish between the given (i.e. the knowledge, that (as the speaker presupposes) is in the mind of the hearer in the moment of the utterance) and the new (i.e. the knowledge, that is introduced into the mind of the hearer by the utterance).

The division of the utterance into theme/rheme, on the one hand, and the given/new, on the other, touches upon different communicative axes of the utterance. This principle may be illustrated by the following example: In the English language the cases are preserved only in the system of pronouns. In the French language (theme, new) a similar picture is observed (rheme, given).

The theme of the second sentence is simultaneously the new, because The French language, is introduced for the first time. The rheme of the second sentence is simultaneously the given, because the expression a similar picture is an anaphorical reference to the old, i.e. to the already introduced knowledge about the preservation of cases in the system of pronouns. Let’s discuss another variant of the second sentence: A similar picture (theme, the given) is observed in the French language as well. Here we deal with direct distribution (theme = given; rheme = new).