“The potatoes are boiling”: Thetic Sentences as a Means of Presentation on the Scene


ADAM Martin

Year of publication 2012
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Description Within the Firbasian framework of the theory of FSP, sentences are understood to implement either the Presentation Scale or the Quality Scale; the author’s research into the area of FSP has recently dealt with the role of the English verb operating in the Presentation Scale sentences (Pr-sentences) (Adam 2011, 2012). In addition to the existential there-construction, it is the “prototypical” configuration of the rhematic subject in preverbal position that seems to convey existence/appearance on the scene most frequently in English (A cruel smile hovered over her face.). The present corpus-based paper proposes to shed light on the structure and the function of a rather specific type of Pr-sentences patterning as relatively short structures with a tentatively context-independent subject (The potatoes are boiling. or The kettle is singing.). Such sentences came to be labelled as “thetic” or sometimes “all-new sentences” (Mathesius 1975: 87; Firbas 1992: 86-87; cf. Kuroda 1972; Lewis 2001). The point is that even if from the static point of view (i.e. that of lexical semantics) such sentences do not suggest the characteristic of appearance/existence, they do not appear to be excluded from expressing presentation on the scene.

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