How Graduate Students Present Information from Academic Texts: Theme-Rheme Analysis
Teri Rose Dominica Gannaban Roh (Sogang University)
Roh, Teri Rose Dominica Gannaban. 2015. How Graduate Students Present Information from Academic Texts, English Language and Linguistics 21.2, 101-129. Amid many writing instructors' traditional focus on smaller units such as the proper use of pronouns, conjunctions, subject-verb agreement, and so on, recent calls to overhaul the focus of English as a second language (ESL) instruction on the level of discourse has reached a consensus (Hyland, 2009; Mellos, 2011; Wang, 2007 cited in Jing, 2014). The Theme-Rheme construct as it is applied in Halliday's (1994) functional linguistic approach to the study of texts has consequently gained much attention. It is now considered as an important analytical and instructional tool in academic writing because of its focus on how words are cohesively developed to fulfill the real-world communicative purposes of their writers. Following the work of Fries (1995a), this study aims to analyze patterns of thematic progression (Danes, 1974) (i.e., the method of development of texts) by exploring the point of departure of a message (or 'Theme'), and what is said after that point (or 'Rheme') (Halliday, 1994) in summary writing assignments written by international graduate students at a Korean university. This paper discusses the two most typical patterns used by the students in presenting the summary of an author's work. Implications of the analysis are discussed in terms of developing a summary essay to meet multiple purposes in the academic context.
Key words: ESL academic writing, summary essay, functional linguistics, theme, rheme, thematic progression