Topic and topicality in text
A contrastive study of English and Spanish narrative texts
Keywords:discourse analysis, topic, narrative texts, topicality
In this study, topic and topicality are explored through the application of a model of analysis to a bilingual sample of English and Spanish written narrative texts in equivalent genres. A Core Annotation Scheme and an Extended Annotation Scheme were designed to search for and test ‘aboutness’ topics, frame setting topics, and the information status of discourse referents. The texts are also analysed for classes of topics, namely NewTops, GivTops, SubTops and ResTops. All the Annotation categories were tested in both the Spanish and the English texts. The results of the analysis show that aboutness topics and frame-setting topics are cross-linguistically stable categories, although language-specific differences are found in the syntactic coding, for instance in how Spanish marks topicless sentences. The distribution of the information status of discourse referents is also stable, with minor differences between languages and genres. Likewise, the distribution of the different classes of topics tallies with the general principles of topic organisation and information structure. A surprising result was to find a higher distribution of Resumed Topics than expected, suggesting that this class has a wider range of discourse functions than is usually noted in the literature.
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