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American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), whose work on semiotics deals with, among many other things, rhemes


From Ancient Greek ῥηματικός (rhēmatikós, verbal, pertaining to verbs), from Ancient Greek ῥηματ- (rhēmat-), ῥῆμα (rhêma, verb (grammar), word) + -ικός (-ikós, -ic; suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to, in the manner of’).



rhematic (countable and uncountable, plural rhematics)

  1. (linguistics) The provision of new information regarding the current theme.
    • 1995, Francis P. Dinneen, “Different Constants”, in General Linguistics, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, →ISBN, page 565:
      Within a non-theme, transitionals cede to rhematics, the transition itself being lowest on the CD scale.
  2. (chiefly linguistics, obsolete, rare) In the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834): the doctrine or study of arranging words into sentences clearly.
    • 1835, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Henry Nelson Coleridge, editor, Specimens of the Table Talk of the Late Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In Two Volumes, volume I, London: John Murray, OCLC 78310744, page 207:
      The object of rhetoric is persuasion, – of logic, conviction, – of grammar, significancy. A fourth term is wanting, the rhematic, or logic of sentences.
    • 1984, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Whalley, editor, Marginalia II: Camden to Hutton (The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge; 12, part 2; Bollingen Series; 75), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, →ISBN, page 881:
      He [Coleridge] establishes an opposition between Σύνταξις ῥημάτων or ῥηματική ("rhematic"), the art of joining words into sentences, and γραμματική ("grammar"), which in its derivation from γράμμα (a letter, written character) is the art of joining letters together, spelling. Or, cf CN IV 4771: "Grammar [is] the scheme & instrument of connecting words significantly, the Meta-grammatic <rhematic>, the Doctrine of arranging words perspicuously" []


rhematic (not comparable)

  1. Of or pertaining to a rheme.
    1. (linguistics) Of a part of a sentence: providing new information regarding the current theme.
      • 1983, Hans-Heinrich Lieb, Integrational Linguistics (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory; 17), volume I (General Outline), Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, page 364:
        Rhematic relations are, in a sense, 'intermediate syntactic meanings'. To avoid a proliferation of types of intermediate meanings I do not extend the concept of intermediate syntactic meaning to cover rhematic relations.
      • 1997, Gérard Genette; Jane E. Lewin, transl., Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 87:
        In addition, if imitation and recycling tend to turn thematic titles into rhematic ones as I have shown for Situations, the use of sequels and continuations cannot avoid doing so. The title Le Menteur [The Liar: [Pierre] Corneille] was perfectly thematic; in La Suite du Menteur [Sequel to The Liar: Corneille], which is rhematic (this play is the sequel ...), Le Menteur itself becomes rhematic (this play is the sequel to the play entitled ...).
      • 2003, Libuše Dušková, “Constancy of Syntactic Function across Languages”, in Josef Hladký, editor, Language and Function: To the Memory of Jan Firbas, Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, page 132:
        Given that rhematic subjects are more common in Czech than in English [] , the degree of syntactic constancy among rhematic subjects may be supposed to be lower than among subjects counted without respect to their FSP [functional sentence perspective] role. To test this assumption, I collected 50 rhematic subjects from each original of Čermáková's sources and examined their syntactic counterparts in the other language.
      • 2007, Iryna Alexeyeva, Theoretical Grammar Course of Modern English, Vinnytsia, Ukraine: Nova Knyha, →ISBN, page 295:
        The terms "theme" and "rheme" are both derived from Greek, and are parallel to each other. The term "theme" comes from the Greek root the- "to set", or "establish", and means "that which is set or established". The term "rheme" is derived from the root rhe- "to say", or "tell", and means "that which is said or told" (about that which was set or established beforehand). These terms are also convenient because adjectives are easily derived from them: "thematic" and "rhematic", respectively. The etymology of the terms presupposes that the thematic part of the sentence contains the topic, while the rhematic part conveys new information about the topic.
    2. (Peircean semiotics) Of or pertaining to a sumisign (a sign that represents its object in respect of quality and so, in its signified interpretant, is represented as a character or mark).
      • 1995, Victorino Tejera, Literature, Criticism, and the Theory of Signs (Semiotic Crossroads; 7), Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, page 137:
        Rhematic Indexical Sinsign: As an object of raw experience, a burst of unplanned hollering is a rhematic indexical sinsign: it directs attention to the object which caused the presence of the sign [] .
      • 2015, Winifried Nöth, “Three Paradigms of Iconicity Research in Language and Literature”, in Masako K. Hiraga, William J. Herlofsky, Kazuko Shinohara, and Kimi Akita, editors, Iconicity: East Meets West (Iconicity in Language and Literature; 14), Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, pages 29–30:
        [Charles Sanders] Peirce argues that common and proper nouns function typically as indices, whereas verbs and adjectives are typically icons and rhemes (MS 516:39). The noun camel is a rhematic index when it is interpreted and thus connected with real-life experience. The adjective green is a rhematic icon open to many interpretations because it says nothing about any object to which this color should be attributed.
  2. (obsolete) Of or pertaining to word formation.
  3. (obsolete, rare) In Coleridge's work: relating to the arrangement of words into sentences clearly.
  4. (grammar, obsolete, rare) Having a verb for its base; derived from a verb.
    rhematic adjectives
    • 1877, Fitzedward Hall, On English Adjectives in -able, with Special References to Reliable, London: Trübner, OCLC 457573309, page 47:
      Passive rhematic adjectives ending in -able []
    • 1976, Patrick David Teskey, Theme and Rheme in Spanish and English (Occasional Papers in Linguistics and Language Learning; 1), Coleraine, County Londonderry: Board of Studies in Linguistics, New University of Ulster, →ISBN, page 40:
      Emotion may sometimes cause the speaker to adopt a marked sequence, and the rhematic adjective will then appear in sentence-initial position.
    • 1992, Russell S. Tomlin; Richard Rhodes, “Information Distribution in Ojibwa”, in Doris L. Payne, editor, Pragmatics of Word Order Flexibility (Typological Studies in Language; 22), Amsterdam; Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, pages 120 and 130:
      Since in many languages adverbs do not have a fixed place in the word order, questions can be used to isolate the unmarked position of rhematic adverbs. [] There are facets of contrastive NPs [noun phrases] which are both "old" or thematic information and "new" or rhematic information. Consider the use of contrastive constructions to repair texts. In such cases the contrastive NP represents rhematic information in that it adds information to the text which corrects the hearer's error.
    • 1999, Gunter R. Lorenz, Adjective Intensification – Learners Versus Native Speakers: A Corpus Study of Argumentative Writing, Amsterdam; Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, →ISBN, page 210:
      In terms of its phrasal environment, adjective intensification seems to occur most 'naturally' in predicative position. By modifying an independent, rhematic adjective, the intensifiers seem to perform their function in the most efficient way.


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