Theme is defined within the Systemic-Functional Linguistics framework as the point of the departure for the clause and therefore important for text organisation. Aspects of theme are examined in the elicited narratives and story retells from a group of 25 5-8 year-old children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and a group of 25 age-matched children with Typically Developing Language. The analysis indicated that subjects with SLI used less variety and complexity in themes with more than one element but this is suggested to reflect localised lexicogrammatical problems. Analysis of the aspects of theme which are more reliant on text-level resources, namely marked theme and theme progression patterns, yielded equivocal results. No significant inter-group difference was found in the subjects' representation of marked Theme and only one of the two progression patterns showed a significant difference. These findings are discussed in relation to the theoretical implications for the description of narrative abilities in SLI.
Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics Vol. 19, no. 3, p. 175-190