23. Unfolding theme: the development of clausal and textual perspectives on theme
Geoff Williams [+]
University of Sydney
Our understanding of Theme has, of course, developed considerably over the past 40 years, in terms of its function in both the clause and the text; but this has not meant abandoning or changing the nature of the concept. Rather, it has involved a process of unfolding the potential of the initial insights and exploring the implications, both in relation to the evolution of the model and through the analysis of an increasingly wide range of different registers and genres. In this process, Halliday’s accounts of Theme (see especially Halliday, 1967/8; 1985; 1994; Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004) have provided constant points of reference, as the basis for other linguists to work from or react against – in many cases both together. In particular, since the 1970s the interpretations of Theme have been marked by a significant expansion of contributions relating Theme in clause and clause complex to patterns in textual organisation. In this chapter I will trace, without aiming for a simple chronology, some of the main directions in which this unfolding has led, indicating areas of uncertainty or disagreement – that is, the potential growth points. Though many of these echo issues raised in an earlier survey (Fries and Francis, 1992), there have been advances, as well as shifts of emphasis.