Theme and rheme

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Theme and rheme are terms used widely by 20th century European structuralists for topic and focus.


The term pair was made widely known by the work of Vilém Mathesius and others in the Prague School, in the first systematic attempt of studying information structure (called functional sentence perspective in the Prague School).

However, it was not coined by Mathesius, but by Hermann Ammann. The term pair theme and rheme first appears in Ammann (1928:3), where the author points out that this terminology was foreshadowed in Ammann (1911/1912).

At the time, the best-known term pair for topic and focus was psychological subject and psychological predicate.


  • Ammann, Hermann. 1911/1912. Die Stellungstypen des lateinischen attributiven Adjectivums und ihre Bedeutung für die Psychologie der Wortstellung auf Grund von Ciceros Briefen an Atticus untersucht. Indogermanische Forschungen 19:1-122.
  • Ammann, Hermann. 1928. Die menschliche Rede: sprachphilosophische Untersuchungen. Teil 2: Der Satz. Lahr i.B.: Schauenburg.

Other languages

German Thema und Rhema
French thème et rhème