Given-New

As well as the grammatical system of THEME, the clause as a message also carries “a unit that is parallel to the clause” (H & M, p.88): the information unit. This is a system of Given and New information, where information “is presented by the speaker as  recoverable (Given) or not recoverable (New) to the listener” (H & M, p.91) and is realised by the tone group. The unmarked form is one that proceeds Given → New:

  • I usually (Given) play tennis (New).

The tone having prominence signals to the listener the information focus:

  • I usually play tennis (Given) on Wednesdays (New).

It is also possible, however, for a marked information focus to signal to the listener that some information is news, often used contrastively:

  • I (New) usually play tennis (Given) but my sister (New) doesn’t (Given).
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About eflfunc

I'm an EFL teacher in Japan and this is a blog to record some thoughts on using Systemic Functional Linguistics in the foreign language classroom.
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