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Discourse Information Packaging in Selected Catholic Creeds (Published)

In recent times, a number of different ways of describing the sequencing and ordering of information in spoken and written discourse has emerged in linguistic scholarship. Notable works on information packaging or structure are associated with Functional Sentence Perspective Scholars and Hallidayan Systemic Linguistic Scholars. In Information Structure, the notions of (Given-New) and the Thematic Structure (Theme -Rheme ) are very central. Bloor and Bloor (1995) explaining both information and thematic structure and ascertained that ‘theme’ and ‘given’ are equivalent and while the ‘new’ tends to go along with the ‘rheme’. However, Hllidayan approach and the Prague’ FSP approach both capture the same features of language. Downing (2001) quoting Fries (1983:116) says ‘linguists have adopted what Fries terms ‘the combining approach’, equating Theme with Given, or the ‘separating approach’ disentangling the two.  The former include van Dijk, Firbas, Danes, among others, whereas the latter is propounded by Halliday and the systemic school in general, who separate information structure (Given-New) from thematic structure (Theme-Rheme).  The separation of the two appears to be useful, necessary even, for English at least… ’ . This paper explores the discourse packaging of thematic patterns of selected Catholic creeds. It considers how information are sequenced, organised and packaged in the Catholic creeds and also describes their internal structure in terms of the theme-rheme analysis of the clauses by utilising Danes (1976) model of thematic progression and relates the organisation of information to their speech functions. The paper taps it motivation from the paucity of works on creedal language in Nigeria. Apostle’s creed and Nicene creed are purposively selected for the study. Catholic use creeds in their Mass, either as spoken text, or sung as chant. These creeds are selected because they are widely accepted by the early church. The former was the first creed use by early Christians to openly declare their faith while the later came as a result of the heresy or controversies about some doctrines precisely about the nature of Christ and the need to use language to clear the air and to shed light on some controversial ideas and false belief. The secondary data include books, journal articles and the internet. The study reveals that the Constant TP , the Split Rheme and the Simple Linear TP featured in the two creeds. The implied themes are more prominent in the Nicene creed. The study concludes that the understanding of the information structure of the creeds will enhance a proper understanding of the topical development of the creed as a formal statement or brief authoritative formula of religious beliefs and also add to the increasing literature on discourse information structure and language of religion in general.

Keywords: FSP, Theme, creeds., given-new, information structure, rheme, thematic progression