Relative Importance in English and Persian: Thematization or Tonic Prominence?

Document Type: Research Article


1 Islamic Azad University of Masjed Soleiman

2 Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Khouzestan


There are two common ways to assign relative importance in spoken language: tonic prominence and thematization. The former is expressing the main points of information units in speech (Halliday, 1994), and the latter is putting an element at the beginning of a clause. This study explores how relative importance is realized in English and Persian. It also investigates how advanced Persian learners of English assign it in English. 20 Persian declaratives were given to 30 Persian Native Speakers (PNSs) to assign relative importance in whatever way. Results revealed that PNSs more thematize rather than use tonic prominence. Then, the English equivalents of the 20 Persian declaratives were given to 10 English Native Speakers (ENSs). Results demonstrated that ENSs thematize more too. Finally, the same English clauses were given to 20 learners of English. Contrary to expectations, results showed their greater use of tonic prominence.