Thematic Parentheticals in Dutch and English
Keywords:discourse analysis, thematic parentheticals, parenthetical expressions
Adopting a contrastive-rhetorical stance, this study explores what we call thematic parentheticals in a comparable English-Dutch corpus comprising four written genres. Thematic parentheticals are parenthetical expressions, irrespective of form, which are marked off typographically and occur immediately after, and are triggered by, a thematic element, where the latter is defined in terms of its treatment in Systemic Functional Grammar. Our data suggest that English uses thematic parentheticals much more than Dutch. This quantitative picture is true across the genres studied, but we also see qualitative differences between Dutch and English in the use of parentheticals in news texts and academic texts in particular. In attempting to explain the quantitative difference between the languages, we conclude that an interplay between writing cultures and basic syntactic patterns contrives to facilitate the use of parentheticals in English, which also demonstrates a relatively broad range of discourse functions, whereas for Dutch this interplay leads to a dispreference for certain kinds of thematic parentheticals.
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