It has been noted in grammar books
that there exist more than three hundred definitions of the sentence but it
seems hardly possible to arrive to a complete and exaustive definition of the
sentence because the unit itself possesses so many specific features that any
attempt to define it in all respects would seem futile. Moreover, the
philosophical outlook and the linguistic conception of scholars predetermine
their approach to the main communicative units of language.
a) The sentence is
identified as a syntactical level unit possessing the distinguishing features
of such level-units and occupying its appropriate place in the hierarchy of
b) The sentence
is a predicative unit of quite definite type which is a lingual representation
of predicative thoughts.
c) The sentence
is the main syntactic unit and the highest linguistic form which may occur
as part of the supersyntactic structural forms. The sentence itself Is not a
mere composition of words and word-groups, it is a constructive integration of
all the lower language units.
d) The sentence
is a very complex linguistic entity. Its complexity is revealed both in its
content and expression sides. The content of the sentence is the complex of
semantic features whereas the expression of the sentence is represented by the
complex of its formal characteristics.
e) the sentence
is undoubtedly the main communicative unit of human language with the help
of which speech communication is achieved, and without which the latter is inconsistent.
The communicative force of the sentence is its distinguishing qualitative
characteristics which makes it dominant over the rest of syntactic units of
non-predicative and of predicative nature.
sentence, as different from the simple sentence, is formed by two or more
unit in a composite sentence makes up a clause in it, so that a clause as part
of a composite sentence corresponds to a separate sentence as part of a
contextual sequence. E.g.:
When I sat down is
dinner I looked for an opportunity to slip in casually the information that I
had by accident run across the Driffields; but news travelled fast in
Blackstable (S. Maugham).
composite sentence includes four clauses which are related to one another on
different semantic grounds. The sentences underlying the clauses are the
I sat down to
dinner. I looked for an opportunity to slip in casually the information. I had
by accident run across the Driffields. News travelled fast in Blackstable.
In combination of
sentences into larger units we may observe two different types of grammatical
relationship based upon relative position and interaction of sentences. These
are co-ordination and subordination. This classification remains the prevalent
scheme of the structural classification of sentences in the grammars of all
types in various languages. A very important syntactic concept developed along
with this classification is the concept of syndeton and asyndeton.
Sentences joined together
by means of special function words designed for this purpose are syndetic those
joined without function words are asyndetic (or contact-clauses).
are structures of co-ordination with two or more immediate constituents which
are syntactically equivalent, i. e. none of them is below the other in rank.
are structures of subordination with two or more immediate constituents which
are not syntactically equivalent. In the simplest case, that of binary
structure, one of them is the principal clause to which the other is joined as
a subordinate. The latter stands in the relation of adjunct to the principal
clause and is beneath the principal clause in rank. The dependent clause may be
either coordinate or subordinate.
of a composite sentence are organically interrelated and as such are not
independent elements of a single syntactic unit 1.
Our starting point
in describing the multiplicity of ways in which English sentences may logically
be combined in actual usage will be to distinguish one-member and two-member
is a reality in both, speech and writing, but it often has no formal markings
other than intonation in the one case and punctuation in the other.
essence of these two types of composite syntactic units is best understood when
viewed in terms of their meaning and structural peculiarities.
As we shall
further see, a major point of linguistic interest is presented also by the
correlation of the verb-forms in the component parts of a composite sentence
and its functioning in different contexts of communication.
It is noteworthy
that when two sentences occur together as constituents of an utterance, their
relationship is indicated by at least one and sometimes ail of the following
1) the fact that
one immediately follows the other in time suggests their natural relationship
in both lexical and grammatical meaning;
2) the use of
certain linguistic devices in the first sentence may also suggest that another
sentence shall follow;
3) the use of some
words in the second sentence may recall certain elements of the first and set
up retrospective structural links with the latter.
Let us compare the
following compound sentences which differ only in the order of their
(a) Now she is
my collegue, two years ago she was my student.
(b) Two years
ago she was my student, now she is my colleague.
The total meaning
of (a) is not absolutely the same as that of (b).
We cannot fail to
see that two sentences (a) and (b) differ in emphasis, which is due to
relative position of the given utterances.
The same is true
of all other types of composite sentences in coordination and subordination.
We have seen
throughout our previous discussion that the position of words in syntactic
structures relative to one another is a most important part of English syntax.
Relative position seems to bear relation to the meaning of sentences as well.
That grammar must take account of "sentence-order" as well as word-order
can hardly leave any doubt.
It seems perfectly
reasonable to distinguish here two lines of linguistic development: 1)
one-member complex sentences and 2) two-member complex sentences with
subordinate clauses (further abbreviated as "sub-clauses") of cause
or result, purpose and time, conditional and concessive sub-clauses. Logically
interrelated, with one idea or subordinated to another, the constituents of
such sentences make up a single complex syntactic unit.
But she'd had
heard his name until she saw it on the theatres. (Mansfield)
soon as he had become a director, Winifred and others of his family had begun to acquire
shares to neutralise their income-tax. (Galsworthy)
What can you do if
you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome,
suddenly by a feeling of bliss — absolute bliss! (Mansfield)
agreed with the others, then it was bound to be all right. (Mansfield)
It was so big that
the carter and Pat carried it into the courtyard. (Mansfield)
Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead ofwalk. (Mansfield).
The first to be
mentioned here are complex sentences with relative sub-clauses, attributive in
their meaning. In such sentences pronominal-demonstrative elements are
organically indispensable and are readily reinstated in the principal clause.
It was the same
ship as that in which my wife and the correspondent came to England. (Galsworthy)
The fellow, with
his beard and his cursed amused way of speaking — son of the old man who had
given him the nickname ,,Man of Property". (Galsworthy)
But at night in
his leisure moments he was ravaged by the thought that time was always flying
and money flowing in, and his own future as much ,,in irons" as ever. (Galsworthy)
So she slept and
dreamed, and smiled in her sleep, and once threw out her arm to feel something
which was not there, dreaming still. (Mansfield)
of one-member complex sentences are those in
which a sub-clause
expresses the object or the subject felt as missing in
clause, e. g. :
Aunt Juley was
sure that dear Val was very clever. (Galsworthy) Did not Winifred think that it was
much better for the young
people to be
secure and not run any risk at their age? (Gals worthy)
What's done cannot
be undone (Proverb)
Here belong also
sub-clauses which extend some part of the principal clause: subject,
predicative, attribute, object or adverbials with demonstrative pronouns,
present or readily understood, e. g.: All is well that ends well. He is the
one you wanted to see.
The process of
coordination, simply stated, involves the linking of structures of equal
grammatical rank — single words and phrases in elementary compound groups or
independent clauses in compound sentences. The coordinative conjunctions and
the correlatives serve to produce this coordination by joining the
grammatically equivalent elements in question. Two or more clauses equal in
rank can together be given the status of a single sentence. Such co-ordinated
units make up a compound sentence:
disappointed, for he had wanted a son, but he nevertheless was pleased chough
are his small black-haired daughter… (M. Mitchel).
within a multi-clause sentence is a means of joining a series of parallel
subordinate clauses in joint dependence upon a subordination centre in the
leading clause, or a means of connecting two or more independent main clauses,
which jointly subordinate, a common member, mostly expressed by a dependent
clause. In other words, coordination in this monograph is recognized»as a
syntactic means of connecting the constituent parts of multi-clause sentences
only when it is made use of in the same way as in single-clause sentences,
which contain a member in common subordinating or subordinated by coordinated
syntactic elements. In all other cases independent coordinated subject
predicate units are viewed as syntactically independent though contextually
related sentences, regardless of the marks of punctuation which divide them .
The patterns of
multi-clause sentences containing more than two clauses (from three to twelve
or thirteen) are based upon two fundamental principles of connection. The first
is the principle of consecutive (step-wise) subordination, according to which
in each clause (except the last one) there is a single subordination centre,
nominal or verbal. It subordinates only one dependent clause.
principle is that of parallel (or homogeneous) and non-parallel
con-subordination (i. e. dependence of two or more parallel or non-parallel
clauses upon one, two or more subordination centres within the main clause). In
the second sentence-pattern (represented by several variant patterns) there are
only two syntactic levels as all dependent clauses are of the same level of
When both these
principles are combined within one and the same sentence, the most complicated
structures of multi-clause sentences arise.
It will be helpful
to identify linking words in co-ordination as follows:
connecting two members and their meanings, the second member indicating an
addition of equal importance, or, on the other hand, an advance in time and
space, or an intensification, often coming in pairs, then called correlatives: and;
both... and; equally... and; alike... and; at once... and; not... nor for
neither, or and neither); not for never)...
not for nor)... either; neither... nor, etc.
It was a nice little place and
Mr. and Mrs. Witla were rather proud of it.
Mr. Home did not lift his eyes
from his breakfast-plate for about two minutes nor did he speak. (Ch.
connecting two members but disconnecting their meaning, the meaning in the
second member excluding that in the first: or, in older English also either
or outher(-or) and in questions whether... or with
the force of simple or; or... either; either ... or, etc., the
disjunctive adverbs else, otherwise, or... or, or... else, in
older English other else.
He knew it to be nonsense or
it mould have frightened him (Galsworthy).
connecting two members, but contrasting their meaning: but, but then,
only, still, yet, and yet, however, on the other hand, again, on the contrary, etc.
The room was dark,
but the street was lighter because of its lamps. (Dickens)
something amiss with Mr. Zightnood, for he was strangely grave and
looked ill. (Dickens)
After all, the two
of them belonged to the same trade, so talk was easy and happy between
conjunctions are rather few in number: and, but, or, yet, for.
words, called conjunctive advebs are: consequently, furthermore, hence,
however, moreover, nevertheless, therefore.
Some typical fixed
prepositional phrases functioning as sentence linkers are: at least, as a
result, after a while, in addition, in contrast, in the next place, on the
other hand, for example, for instance.
It comes quite
natural that the semantic relations between the coordinate clauses depend to a
considerable degree on the lexical meaning of the linking words.
of subordinate clauses offers special difficulties and remains the area of
syntax where we find different linguistic approaches with some important
disputable points open to thought and discussion. Much still remains to be
done in this field of grammar learning. This is one of many ranges of
linguistic structure in which we find borderline cases where the
lexico-grammatical organization of complex syntactic units presents special
Contexts are of
extreme importance in understanding syntax.
Various kinds of
contextual indication, linguistic or situational, and intonation in actual
speech resolve structural ambiguity in homonymic patterns on the syntactic
As we shall
further see, the significant order of sentence elements, as an important factor
of syntax, will also merit due consideration in describing the distributional
value of various kind of subordinate clauses.
It is to be noted
that disagreement over the classification of sub-clauses is based not on
conflicting observations in language learning but rather on different
linguistic approaches to the study of syntax.
There are obvious
reasons for describing sub-clauses proceeding from the similarity of their
functions with those of parts of the sentence. Analysis of clause patterns from
this angle of view seems most helpful and instructive.