Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Exploring Predicated Themes from a Systemic Functional Point of View in Alan Paton's Novels

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Exploring Predicated Themes from a Systemic Functional Point of View in Alan Paton's Novels

Article excerpt

Summary

This paper intends to prove that the recurrent use of predicated themes in the novels written by the South African writer Alan Paton has certain communicative implications, since they are appropriate to express feelings, and to highlight information in situations of climax in the novels under analysis. The analysis of this syntactic structure in context will point out that predicated themes allow the writer to be conscious that he is asserting or denying something in a firm way; the predicated theme is also an important structure for the textual organisation of discourse. The linguistic framework for this paper is systemic functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004), a linguistic school that establishes a clear link between lexicogrammatical choices in the text, and the relevant contextual factors surrounding it. Systemic linguistics explores how linguistic choices are related to the meanings that are being expressed.

Opsomming

Met hierdie artikel word daar gepoog om te bewys dat die herhaalde gebruik van bevestigde temas in die romans van die Suid-Afrikaanse skrywer Alan Paton bepaalde kommunikatiewe implikasies het: in die romans wat ontleed is, word hierdie temas aangewend om uitdrukking aan gevoelens te gee en om inligting in klimakssituasies uit te lig. Deur die ontleding van hierdie sintaktiese struktuur binne die konteks word daar getoon dat bevestigde temas die skrywer in staat stel om daarvan bewus te wees dat hy iets nadruklik te kenne gee of ontken. Die bevestigde tema voorsien ook 'n belangrike struktuur vir die tekstuele organisasie van diskoers. Die linguistiese raamwerk vir hierdie artikel is sistematiese funksionele linguistiek (Halliday & Matthiessen 2004)--'n skool van linguistiek wat toon dat daar 'n duidelike skakel tussen leksikogrammatiese keuses in die teks en die relevante kontekstuele faktore daaromheen is. Sistematiese linguistiek verken hoe linguistiese keuses verband hou met die betekenisse waaraan uitdrukking gegee word.

1 Introduction

This article emphasises a very important use of predicated themes: (1) the fact that this syntactic structure is used by the protagonists and the narrator of the novels written by the South African writer Alan Paton in some of the most important moments of his novels makes clear that predicated themes can be used to emphasise, to highlight a certain part of the information, or to point out feelings or emotions. The hypothesis in this article is that the recurrent use of predicated themes has certain communicative implications that will be the object of this study. The corpus of examples is drawn from the three novels written by Alan Paton: Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), Too Late the Phalarope (1955) and Ah, but Your Landis Beautiful (1981).

Predicated themes are structures in which the elements at the beginning of the sentence are introduced with the predicative formula "it +be". After that, there is a nominal or adverbial group that receives emphasis. The analysis of this syntactic structure in context will point out that predicated themes allow the writer to be conscious that he is asserting or denying something in a firm way; it is also an important structure for the textual organisation of discourse because the predicated theme contrasts with something previously said or highlights a certain fact that is important for the narrative. The recurrent use of a certain grammatical pattern such as the predicated theme is always significant from the semantic and the grammatical point of view because there is no doubt that grammar is the means by which we make meanings. In this sense I agree with Butt in the following statement:

   But grammar is significant because (and only because) we know it is
   the organisation of meaning-of semantics. And crucially, it is this
   tie-up between the semantics and the grammar that we are always
   focusing on when we are talking about grammar--we are talking about
   it in relation to the higher levels in the linguist's model, the
   semantics (2) and the context: how do the grammatical selections
   construct a particular kind of meaning, and how does that
   particular kind of meaning have a place in, contribute to, shape,
   direct, provide the basis for, the unfolding of a social event? … 
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