The informational role of nominal expressions in English texts

Xu, Hongying; Neumann, Stella (Thesis advisor); Fontaine, Lise (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2023)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2023


This thesis explores the informational role of nominal expressions in English texts by taking a multi-dimensional approach. While the field of nominal expressions has been studied from a variety of perspectives, their informational role in text however remains a relatively underdeveloped area. The main goal of this thesis is to examine how nominal expressions convey information values in different texts. The research presented in this thesis investigates four main areas: (i) information distributions of nominal expressions in English texts; (ii) the relationship between linguistic forms of nominal expressions and type of information status they represent in English texts; (iii) the interplay between information status of nominal expressions and thematic structures of English texts; and (iv) the interaction between information status of postmodifiers and integration in meaning in English texts.This thesis combines text analysis from a functional-discourse perspective such as Systemic Functional Linguistics with corpus linguistics and cognitive linguistics methodologies. It first reconsiders Prince’s (1981) theoretical classifications of information status and then conducts a corpus analysis of 3095 nominal expressions. The corpus contains four comparable genres that are selected from the American National Corpus, namely Travel guide, News report, Government document and Essay. This research has the following findings: (i) information distributions of nominal expressions reveal differences between the texts due to varied cognitive and situational characteristics; (ii) linguistic forms of nominals show multiple correspondences to types of information values they convey in the texts; (iii) information distributions of nominals in Theme and Rheme positions are different from those of the complete texts; and (iv) postmodifiers of complex nominals show varied tendencies to convey information values when they are involved in different types of integration in meaning. This thesis shows how nominal expressions structure information values at the levels of group/phrase, clause and text and provides empirical evidence that the informational role of nominal expressions is an important index of English text types.


  • Chair of English Linguistics [793810]