Is Information Binary?

Information Structure in Spoken English - A Systemic Functional Linguistics View - Gerard O'Grady

Gerard O'Grady [+-]
Cardiff University
Gerard O'Grady is a professor in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University.


Chapter 4 provides a more expansive exploration of recoverability by examining various approaches including Firbas’ Functional Sentence Perspective, Krika’s distinction between common ground management and common ground content, Prince’s theory of information structure, Gundel and Hedberg’s Givenness hierarchy and Lambrecht’s functional theory of information structure. The discussion centres on whether information structure is binary or ternary with inferable items neither Given or New. I also review differences between hearer/speaker given and new and text Given and New, After reviewing the evidence the issue remains unresolved though the preponderance of evidence suggests that information structure is binary with the primary cut being between Given and New elements; though there may well be more delicate distinctions between elements which are present and those which are inferable. The chapter concludes by arguing for a firm distinction between recoverable and identifiable elements though it notes that both can be grouped together under a superordinate category of retrievable and that the relation between the lexicogrammatical and prosodic realisation of identifiable and recoverable lexical items is a mutually re-enforcing redundancy. Thus, it is shown that topical items are predicted to be Given which as we have already seen are predicted to be Thematic though when it suits the speaker’s purpose they can be separated. It will be noted that topic, Theme and Given appear to be identical with Mathesius’ three aspects of theme which I discussed in chapter 2.

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O'Grady, Gerard. Is Information Binary?. Information Structure in Spoken English - A Systemic Functional Linguistics View. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2024. ISBN 9781800504912. Date accessed: 24 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43961. Nov 2024

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