Utterances with themes as strategies to address a broad Question Under Discussion

  • Laia Mayol
  • Enric Vallduví


In a QUD-model of discourse, any utterance elaborates on the maximal QUD in that context. QUDs play an essential role in defining the two parts in which an utterance can be divided: theme and rheme. An utterance must always contain a rheme, which is the part that elaborates on the QUD, and may contain a theme, which replicates content already present in the QUD. Since themes are replicating material already present in the QUD, one may wonder why themes are uttered at all. Vallduví (2016) proposes that themes signal the the QUD update will have an intermediate step and that the QUD being addressed is not the maximal one. In other words, themes mark that the QUD update is non-default. The goal of this paper is to empirically examine one of these non-default updates and, in particular, whether theme-containing utterances can be used to signal that the QUD being addressed is broader than the maximal one and, if so, whether they are necessary in this situation. Two discourse-completion studies in Catalan were carried out. The results show that theme-containing utterances are mostly used to address a broad QUD (as opposed to narrower ones) and that when speakers decide to address a broad QUD, the proportion of theme-containing utterances increases significantly. The use of themes is, however, not required to signal this change of QUD; themeless-utterances can also be used in this context.
How to Cite
Mayol, L., & Vallduví, E. (2020). Utterances with themes as strategies to address a broad Question Under Discussion. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 24(1), 533-546. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2020.v24i1.916