ERIC Number: ED185555
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Mar
Reference Count: 0
Topicalization: A Stylistic Process.
Although the nature of topicalization is complex and cannot be easily separated from considerations of syntactic structure and sentence focus, analysis of language usage has indicated that topicalization is more a stylistic than a syntactic process. Topicalization refers to moving a noun phrase (NP) into the initial position of a sentence. Examples of language use demonstrate that speakers and writers often use passive constructions as part of their rhetorical strategies because the passive allows movement of NPs into virtually any position within the sentence. The apparent ease with which NPs can be topicalized seems to have less to do with the distinctions between old and new information than with packaging the information so that it is processed and interpreted by the audience in ways that favor the motivations of the speaker/writer. Even the syntactic configurations characteristic of "objective" prose enable simple transformations of NPs that systematically suppress agency, which is another way of manipulating audience response. What this evidence indicates is that syntactic rules exist because they favor certain descriptions of the world over others; thus, any attempt to construct a grammar based on "case" relations as somehow inherent in the construction of sentences is not only doomed to failure but abdicates the responsibility of discovering how sentences come to be produced and interpreted. (RL)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (31st, Washington, DC, March 13-15, 1980).