Thematic Parentheticals in Dutch and English


  • Mike Hannay VU University Amsterdam
  • María de los Ángeles Gómez-González Universidade de Santiago de Compostela



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.

Author Biographies

Mike Hannay, VU University Amsterdam

Mike Hannay is professor of English language at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. His research interests lie in the relation between grammar and discourse, particularly with regard to the organization of information at the level of the complex written sentence, and he seeks to incorporate insights from relevant research into training programmes for writers, editors and translators.

María de los Ángeles Gómez-González, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

María de los Ángeles Gómez González is Full Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Santiago de Compostela. She is also the principal investigator of the research group SCIMITAR ( and has published articles in numerous scholarly journals such as Applied Linguistics, Discourse Studies, Language Sciences, Word, International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, Functions of Language, Interface, Southwest Journal of Linguistics, or Spanish in Context, as well as the following books: The Theme-Topic Interface: Evidence from English (John Benjamins, 2001), A New Architecture for Functional Grammar (Mouton de Gruyter, 2004), Studies in Functional Discourse Grammar (Peter de Lang, 2005), The Dynamics of Language Use: Functional and Contrastive Perspectives (Benjamins, 2005), Languages and Cultures in Contrast and Comparison (Benjamins, 2008a), and Current trends in Contrastive Linguistics: Functional and Cognitive Perspectives (Benjamins, 2008b). Personal website:


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How to Cite

Hannay, M., & de los Ángeles Gómez-González, M. (2012). Thematic Parentheticals in Dutch and English. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 6(1-3), 99–127.



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