by Lisa Schrödter

Brian Paltridge, who is a professor as well as associate dean and director at the university of Sydney, has published the book “Discourse Analysis: An introduction” in 2006. In that he treats amongst others three different types of thematic progression, which is also called method of development of texts.

Thematic progression refers to the way in which the theme of a clause may pick up a meaning from a preceding theme or rheme.

First type Paltridge considers is the “Constant theme”, where theme 1 is picked up and repeated at the beginning of the next clause, signalling that each clause has something to say about the theme.

Second type of thematic progression is when the subject matter in the rheme of a clause is taken up in the hteme of a following clause. Paltridge called this “Linear theme”.

Third type he examines is the so called “Split rheme” also called “Multiple theme”. Here a rheme may include a number of different pieces of information, each of which may be taken up as the theme in a number of subsequent clauses.

For futher information on Brian Paltridge and his academic work please visit:

by Christopher Schütze

Conversations occur in our everyday life but what’s behind it?

First of all you need two or more people to have a conversation. It is the main way for people to come together, exchange information, negotiate and maintain social relations.

So if you think about it, without conversations we would have almost no social skills and it would be much harder for us to gather information. You could also say that conversations are indispensable for almost every interaction between two or more people.

From a conversation analysts point of view there are two types of conversation:

  • Transactional Conversations where the expression of context is the main goal and
  • Interactional Conversations with the main goal of expressing social relations and personal attitudes

But in our modern times these two types of conversations seem to fuse together into one type where people want to interact in order to have a transactional conversation. To get a taste of how conversations could look like in the future of Social Media and how to manage them watch the video below:

by Juliane Koch

Daily, we are surrounded by masses of words presented in all forms imaginable- whether it are advertisements or books, letters or mediums like the internet which everybody who has access to it employs regularly. Misleadingly, though, almost all written sentences are referred to as being a text. But what is it that a text really makes a text?

The linguists Halliday and Hasan say it is texture that sets apart a text from a non-text. To find out whether texture is present or not, one has to take a look at the cohesive relationships between the elements of the ‘text’ in question. These cohesive relationships are established when the interpretation of one element depends on the interpretation of another one in the discourse.

According to Halliday and Hasan, the following types of cohesive relationships can be identified:

Reference occurs when the identity of one element of a text can be retrieved from either outside the text (exophoric relationship) or from within the text (endophoric relationship).

Endophoric relations are divided into anaphoric reference, where an item refers back to something or someone already mentioned in the text, and its opposite, the cataphoric reference, an element referring forward in the text.

Anaphoric reference: it refers back to coffee(source:

Substitution means that, instead of repeating one element, it is replaced by another element in the text.

Substitution: tourists is substituted by one(source:

Ellipsis occurs when an identical element of a text is omitted.

Conjunction constitutes a relationship between two phrases by using words like because, nevertheless, and or then.

Ellipsis: of the keyboard is omitted Conjunction: and

Lexical relationships describe relations in meaning between lexical elements.

Why does this little boy wriggle all the time? Girls don’t wriggle.

(Halliday and Hasan, 1976: 285)

by Enno Lüllmann

At first, a short definition of ‘theme‘:

Paltridge defines a ‘theme’ as the starting point of a clause. It expresses what the clause is about.

Combined with the ‘rheme’, a theme contributes to the texture of a text.

Now, what is a ‘rheme‘?

A ‘rheme’ is the remainder of a clause. It expresses what the sentence has to say abot the ‘theme’.

Thus, a ‘rheme’ is everything of the clause that is NOT a ‘theme’.

This still might sound a bit weird, but the following example should help to understand:

Philipp Lahm is the skipper of the German team.

In this sentence, ‘Philipp Lahm’ is the theme, and the rest of the sentence is the rheme, it tells us something about the theme ‘Philipp Lahm’.


‘Philipp Lahm’ in the sentence above is even more than merely a ‘theme’ – it is a certain kind of theme, namely a ‘topical theme’.

Themes of this kind are noun phrases at the beginning of a clause.


Textual themes are conjunctions at the beginning of a clause.

To have an example, we can lengthen the sentence from above:

Philipp Lahm is the skipper of the German team and is 5 feet and 7 inches tall.

Other conjunctions such as ‘but’, ‘although’ or ‘even if’ are of course also possible.

But in this case I think ‘and’ is more appropriate.


Interpersonal themes express a point of view. Thus, they are marked by expressions such as ‘of course’, ‘surely’, ‘frankly’ or ‘hopefully’.

Recently, The Sun contained an interpersonal theme by quoting the ‘German legend’ Franz Beckenbauer:

Stupidly, the English have slipped up a little by finishing second in their group.’

‘Stupidly’ expresses the point of view of ‘Kaiser Franz’.


A theme component that comprises more than one theme element is called a ‘multiple theme’.

The quote of Franz Beckenbauer can again serve as an example.

Stupidly‘ is an interpersonal theme, ‘the English‘ is a topical theme. Makes two themes.

Any other combination of topical, textual and interpersonal themes in the theme component also results in a multiple theme.


The last three kinds of themes are all ‘patterns of thematic progression’.

Thematic progression serves to develop texts and thus to construct information flow.

The pattern of a ‘constant theme’ is rather simple. It can be found when the theme of a sentence is repeated in the subsequent sentence (or sentences):

Philipp Lahm is the skipper of the German team.

He is 5 feet and 7 inches tall.

The repetition of the theme ‘Philipp Lahm’  makes the theme constant.


A ‘linear theme’ can be found when a part of the rheme of the first sentence appears to be the theme of the subsequent sentence (or sentences).

Remember: A rheme expresses what the sentence has to say about the theme.

Philipp Lahm is the skipper of the German team.

The German team has only one player that is as small as Philipp Lahm, namely Marko Marin.

The function of ‘the German team’ has changed from being one part of the rheme to being the theme. ‘Marko Marin’, being a part of the rheme of the second sentence, could now serve as the theme of a third one. And so on.


Not exactly a theme, but clearly making this list complete.

When a second and a third sentence contain themes that are parts of the rheme of a first sentence, we are concerned with a ‘split rheme’:

The smallest players of the German team are Philipp Lahm and Marko Marin.

Philipp Lahm is 5 feet and 7 inches tall.

Marko Marin is 5 feet and 7 inches tall, too.

Obviously, the rheme of the first sentence is split into themes. ‘Philipp Lahm’ is the theme of the second, ‘Marko Marin’ the theme of the third sentence.

by Judith Uhlemann

If you consider this question you might ask yourself what is a topic and what is a structural paragraph.

A topic is the main idea a discourse deals with. In other words, it represents what is being talked or written about in a discourse. It is therefore the question of immediate concern.

Hence, a written discourse can deal with more than one topic these ideas have to be structured in some way. To mark this topic shift the structural paragraph plays a certain role.

A structural paragraph consists of the topic and further information, thoughts, or ideas about this topic.

Here you can see how such a structural paragraph might look like.

Therefore the topic and the structural paragraph are closely connected to each other.

If you want further information about topic and paragraphs, I recommend you this video from an academic of the Massey University. He gives very detailed information of how a paragraph is structured and the role of the topic in a paragraph.

by Mandy Krüger

If you open Google and type in ‘adjacency pair’ you will get about 184.000 results. Basically, they all look the same: boring tables, long texts and the same sources all over again.

Now listen to this: You will get an exclusive inside look into the minds of an adjacency pair! Listen to what first and second part have to say about each other and you will come to understand what an adjacency pair is really about!

Mr. and Mrs. Part – An Adjacency Pair at Couples Therapy

Dr. Wise:                    So, what can I do for you?

Second Part:               We don’t actually need to be here.

First Part:                    Yes, we do.

Dr. Wise:                    (to First Part) Why do you think you should be here?

First Part:                    (sighs) You know, when we married I thought we were kind of meant to be together…. always complementing one another.

Dr. Wise:                     In what way?

First Part:                    Well, in fact, like we do right now: You ask a question and I answer. It’s perfect, you know, two utterances successfully produced by different speakers. It’s simple really but she doesn’t manage it anyhow.

Second Part:               Yes I do! It’s just not always the answer you expect.

Dr. Wise:                     Can you elaborate on that, Second Part?

Second Part:               For example, he invites me to dinner, right? Having already reserved a table and everything. But, you know, it’s Thursday night and Sex and the City is on HBO. So naturally, I refuse. And he’s pissed.

First Part:                    Because it’s not the answer I wanted.

Dr. Wise:                     So you would say that you have certain expectations of her answer should be like?

First Part:                    Well, of course! Like most people I prefer an acceptance over a refusal. I want her to agree to what I have to say instead of disagreeing. Natural, isn’t it? And very economic!

Second Part:               Oh, no, not that again…

Dr. Wise:                     Can any of you fill me in?

Second Part:               (speaks before First Part has the chance to answer) Yes, I can. Smart as he thinks he is, he says that he immediately notices if I am going to use a dispreferred second or not – because of the delay with which my answer comes and the use of announcers like ‘uh’ or ‘well’.

First Part:                    More importantly though, and that again shows that you did not get the actual point, is that these kinds of second parts are marked since they are structurally more complex than preferred answers. I mean, compare a simple “Yes, sure.” to a “No, sorry, I really appreciate your invitation but unfortunately I have to watch Sex and the City, yada-yada-yada…”

Dr. Wise:                     I see, so you say that dispreferred seconds need to include some signs of appreciation or apology which in turn make the answer longer.

First Part:                    Yes! And reasons! You should give reasons for why you reject the other person. And if you ask me, I think that watching reruns of a TV show which you already know is no good explanation….

Second Part:               No one asks you! But let’s come back to what he said before – about how I should always agree to his first parts. Yesterday he came home from work and was really frustrated because his boss turned down his reconstruction concept for the city center. So he came to me and showed me the plans, the estimates and so on and said ‘I haven’t done well, have I?’ So I said ‘No, you haven’t’ because I thought that was what he wanted to hear – that I agree with him. But then, he started to make a scene saying I would not support him at all and that I don’t know anything about his needs and the rest of the day we did not speak a word.

First Part:                    Damn it, yeah, because it was impolite! In this situation I would have preferred that you’d disagree, maybe saying something like ‘Nonsense. Of course, you did well!’

Second Part:               I could also say nothing at all!

First Part:                    (angry) Then you would ruin the whole conversation!

Dr. Wise:                     (soothing) Now let me interrupt here, shortly. First Part, I want you to think about possible situations in which you and Second Part worked in harmony, so not as separate parts but as one adjacency pair! What would come to your mind?

First Part:                    (thinking) Well, let’s see… If I greet her, she greets back. Same goes for saying goodbye. Where I come from, that is called reciprocal, by the way. Oooor… if I apologize, she normally accepts. I mean, she sure could refuse but it would probably make me feel bad and who would want that? (chuckles) Oh and if I request her to turn of the light so I can go to sleep she usually does and stops reading. (silence) In fact, if I come to think about it in more detail, she’s pretty good as a second part.

Second Part:               (a little bit embarrassed) I’ll do my best, you know. I mean, I want to keep up the conversation, too and it’s not always my intention to be impolite.

Dr. Wise:                     And be also aware that to disagree with each other, to say no to wishes or even to refuse an offer doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person wants to offend you! Sometimes such reactions can open up new topics for conversations and thus new perspectives on certain things.

First Part:                    I think she’s right, isn’t she?

Second Part:               Yes, I think she is!

Dr. Wise:                     (smiles) Now that was a good adjacency pair, wasn’t it?


  • Pätzold, Kurt-Michael (2003). A Survey of Modern English. London: Routledge, Ch. 6
  • Slembrouck, Stef (1998-2000). “Adjacency Pairs with (Dis)Preferred Seconds”. English Department Universiteit Gent. 20.06.2010

by Marie Meininger

Conversations are part of our everyday life, every time we meet people and communicate with each other a conversation takes place. But do we ever take a closer look at our conversations, how they are composed, if there are schemes or if our conversations are efficient?

Linguists did take a closer look at conversations and found out about the ‘cooperative principle’. It describes how people interact with one another, they work together to achieve some goal in a conversation and they normally attempt to be informative, truthful, relevant, and clear in a conversation.

The Linguist Paul Grice found out about four conversational ‘maxims,’ which are commandments that people follow (or should follow) to further the conversation efficiently:

  1. Quantity:
  • Say no less than the conversation requires.
  • Say no more than the conversation requires

nonessential information declines the efficiency of your conversation

2.    Quality:

  • Don’t say what you believe to be false.
  • Don’t say things for which you lack evidence.

3.     Manner:

  • Don’t be obscure.
  • Don’t be ambiguous.
  • Be brief.
  • Be orderly.

4.     Relevance:

  • Be relevant.

This video clearly shows the constraints of the cooperative principle. This conversation is obviously inefficient. The cooperative principle neglects some factors, which also have influences on conversations for example politeness, irony or ohter social factors. There are new theories already coming up to improve conversational analyises including these factors, but the researches are still not completed.

For further information use these sources:

Grice, Paul (1975). “Logic and conversation”. In Syntax and Semantics, 3: Speech Acts, ed. P. Cole & J. Morgan. New York: Academic Press. Reprinted in Studies in the Way of Words, ed. H. P. Grice, pp. 22?40. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1989)

Cameron, D. (2001). Working with Spoken Discourse. London: Sage Publications.

or have a look at these links:

What do you think? Is this principle still useful for discourse analysis or did it lose plausibility?

1. Explain in your own words how turn-taking in conversation works. What assumptions about talk-in-interaction does this account of turn-taking make?

2. What characterizes the first pair-part of an adjacency pair? How do we recognize one when we see one? What characterizes the second pair-part? Is it always immediately adjacent to its first?

3. What tasks/problems do conversationalists face at the beginning of a telephone call? What structures are available for addressing/resolving them?

4. What tasks/problems do conversationalists face at the close of a telephone call? What structures are available for addressing/resolving them?

5. What are dispreferred actions? What formal features characterize dispreferred seconds?

1. How does Paltridge define theme? In what sense does it “give prominence” (p. 145) to information? What is its relation to Brown&Yule’s sentential topic (B/Y p. 70)?

2. What different kinds of theme does Paltridge identify? Can there be several instances of one particular type of theme in a sentence or clause? Can the different types co-occur? Do they have to come in a particular order? (146ff)

3. What is thematic progression? Is this notion applicable to all three kinds of theme? What types of thematic progression does Paltridge identify? Find prototypical examples of each. (148ff)

1. What makes a text a text, according to Halliday & Hasan? Are (11) and (12) on p. 197 in Brown/Yule texts? Why or why not?

2. What types of cohesive relationships do Halliday & Hasan identify in texts? Find examples to illustrate each type. (B/Y 191ff)

3. Why do Brown/Yule criticize Halliday & Hasan’s view of texture as being created uniquely by cohesive ties? (B/Y 195f)

4. On what grounds do Brown/Yule question the distinction between exophora and endophora? (199) On what grounds do they question the notion of substitution? (201)

5. Examine Paltridge’s definition of cohesion on p. 131. How does it differ from Brown/Yule’s on p. 191f? (Hint: What entities is cohesion said to establish relationships between?

6. Paltridge’s treatment of (a) reference (= co-reference in Brown/Yule) and (b) lexical cohesion goes beyond that of Brown/Yule’s. (P 131ff) In what ways?

7. What is the difference between a lexical chain and a reference chain? (P 142ff).