Academic journal article British and American Studies

Thematic Development in Online Institutional Tourism Discourse: A Contrastive Study

Academic journal article British and American Studies

Thematic Development in Online Institutional Tourism Discourse: A Contrastive Study

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Online tourism promotion plays an important part in the creation of a destination and its brand on the international worldwide market. It sets up the tourist image of a destination and signals its attractiveness (Calvi 2006). Through various modes, such as words and images, it captures tourists' interest and convinces them to visit various places.

The present study focuses on online tourism promotion from a textual perspective. It provides a small-scale comparison of institutional tourist websites belonging to two different countries, Romania and Great Britain. The websites are owned by these countries' Tourist Boards (i.e. Romania Tourism and Visit Britain) and are used to promote numerous landmarks and World Heritage Sites belonging to them. The study looks at these webpages, paying particular attention to their texts. The landmarks chosen are the Horezu Monastery, the Dacian Fortresses of the Orästic Mountains, and Sighisoara, for Romania; and Canterbury Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Edinburgh, for Great Britain.

The study aims (1) to analyse the texts from the perspective of their Themes and Thematic structures, and (2) to compare the findings. The comparison has considered the similarities and differences between the ways in which the texts are composed, as far as their Themes and Thematic structure are concerned. The analysis has been carried out within the frameworks of Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday 1994; Halliday and Matthiessen 2004) and Thematic patterns (Danes 1974).

2. Theoretical framework

The Systemic Functional theory defends and proves the idea that any semiotic system fulfils simultaneously three communicative functions: ideational, interpersonal and textual. Applied to language, they indicate how reality is constructed in discourse, the way people enact their complex and diverse interpersonal relations, and the internal organization and communicative nature of a text (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 5).

The textual metafunction in language "enables the clause to be packed in ways which make it effective given its purpose and its context" (Eggins 2004: 298). The system of Theme serves this purpose, as it is responsible for the coherence and internal organization of discourse. It usually organizes the initiation of the clause and/or directs the attention of the receiver of the message to the parts the sender wishes to emphasize (Dejica 2005). This system practically divides the clause into just two main constituents: Theme (the first experiential constituent) and Rheme (the rest of the clause). Theme acts as the starting point for the message, presenting what the clause is going to be about, while Rheme develops the Theme (Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 64-7; Eggins 2004: 273-5). Frequently associated with given and new information, Theme is seen as expressing information which has already been mentioned somewhere in the text or is familiar from the context, whereas Rheme is said to present unfamiliar information (Halliday 1994: 59). It should be pointed out that this is not always true as various reasons can determine message emitters to interchange these values (Lombardi Vallauri 1995: 359).

There are different types of Themes, depending on their composition and status. Composition classifies Theme in simple and multiple. When simple, the Theme is expressed by one single element, which must be the experiential one. There are three types of experiential elements that the Theme can contain, i.e. participants (persons or things involved in processes), processes (verbs related to doing or happening, saying or sensing, being or having) or circumstances (background of processes). When multiple, the Theme is expressed by other elements, apart from the experiential one, such as textual, which indicates the way clauses are connected and, at the same time, confers cohesion to the text, and/or interpersonal, which expresses the writer's point of view on the message (Thompson 1996: 156-160; Halliday and Matthiessen 2004: 68, 79-87). …

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