17. A Corpus Approach to Method of Development: Discourse Markers and Presuming Reference in 32 ICE-GB Text Types
Michael Cummings [+]
York University, Toronto.
'Method of development' is a term introduced into Systemic Functional Linguistics by Peter Fries (1981/83, 1992, 1994) to describe the roles played by the Themes and Rhemes of clauses in the logogenetic development of information in discourse. The language of Themes is predicted to be rich in markers of topical continuity, for example, presuming reference items, and also rich in markers of discoursal variation, for example, conjunctive Adjuncts. Rhemes are predicted to be rich in lexical variation, serving the development of successive points in the discourse. This theory has had both supporters, particularly in its development by Jim Martin in English Text (1992: 434-448) and Christian Matthiessen in Lexicogrammatical Cartography (1995: 575-590) - and some detractors. The purpose of this paper is to test the theory by tabulating the distribution of continuity and variation markers within the clauses of various text types in a large corpus: the British Component of the International Corpus of English. Comparison of different proportions of continuity and variation markers in Themes and Rhemes through a whole spectrum of text types will permit the identification of some texts which are really contrastive in their respective methods of development.