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Sentence complexity and comprehensibility

Combining subordination devices within a sentence

A B C C D
[They point out [that India has not had the luxury, [as the US did,] of [finding a fresh, virgin land
E EDBA
at its disposal at the moment [when its modern development began.]]]]

A B C CBA D
[He was irritated at [Edwin taking [what seemed to him like an unfair advantage]]] [though
E E DA
[where the advantage lay] he could not have said. ]]

A B B C
[In Kowloon he hired a car from the biggest outfit [he could find], [using the escape passport and
D E E F FDCA
driving licence [because marginally [he thought] the false name was safer [if only by an hour.]]]]

Principle of resolution
 the principle that stated that the final clause should be the point of maximum emphasis
 is therefore the counterpart of the end-focus principle in the tone unit
 that effect is often pointed out by intonation, i.e. by the finality of the falling tone

Positions of subordinate clauses


 INITIAL/left-branching  When you're ready, we'll go to my parents' place.
 MEDIAL/nesting  We'll go, when you're ready, to my parents' place.
 FINAL/right-branching  We'll go to my parents' place when you're ready.

Syntactic functions of subordinate clauses


 SUBJECT  That we need a larger computer has become obvious.
 DIRECT OBJECT  He doesn't know whether to send a gift.
 INDIRECT OBJECT  You can tell whoever is waiting that I'll be back in 10 minutes.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  One likely result of the postponement is that the cost of
constructing the college will be very much higher.
 OBJECT COMPLEMENT  I know her to be reliable.
 ADVERBIAL  When you see them, give them my best wishes.

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Subordinate clauses may also function within these clause elements:
 Postmodifier in NP
 Few of the immigrants retained the customs that they had brought with them.
 Complement of preposition within a PP functioning as prep. object
 It depends on what we decide.
 Complement of the adj. within an AdjP functioning as subject complement
 We're happy to see you.

Functional classes of subordinate clauses


 NOMINAL CLAUSES  who, whom, what, which, whoever, whatever, how, why
 similar to NPs  can be subjects, objects, complements, (not appositives or prep.
complements)
 normally abstract  refer to events, facts, dates and ideas rather than to objects
 Exception: Nominal Relative Clause  may refer to objects (including persons)
 What pleases one party infuriates the other.
 ADVERBIAL CLAUSES  after, although, as, because, before, if, since, that, though, till,
unless, when, where, ...
 function as adjuncts or disjuncts, resemble AdvP
 answer question like When? Where? Why?
 reason, time, concession (although), manner, condition (if), ...
 We left after the speech was over.
 RELATIVE CLAUSES  who, whom, whose, which, that, ...
 describe a noun
 can function as restrictive or nonrestrictive modifiers in NPs
a man who is lonely a lonely man
 they are positioned like postmodifying PP
tourists who came from Italy  tourists from Italy
 answer questions like Which? What kind of?
 COMPARATIVE CLAUSES
 resemble adjectives and adverbs
 He's not as clever a man as I thought.
I love you more deeply than I can say.

FORMAL TYPES OF NOMINAL CLAUSES

1) NOMINAL THAT-CLAUSES
 Can have the following functions:
 SUBJECT  That the invading troops have been withdrawn has not affected our
government's trade sanctions.
 DIRECT OBJECT  I realized that he was wide awake.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  The idea is that you should work harder.
 APPOSITIVES His remark, that we are incompetent, is just another
manifestation of his arrogance.
 ADJECTIVAL COMPLEMENTS  We are happy that you succeeded.
 cannot function as object complements or as prepositional complements ????
 the conjunction is frequently ommitted when the clause is an object or complement
 ZERO THAT-CLAUSE:
 when the subject is it, and it is extraposed
 It's a pity you don't know Russian.

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2) WH-INTERROGATIVE CLAUSES
 May function as:
 SUBJECT  How the book will sell depends on the reviewers.
 OBJECT  I can't imagine what they want with your address.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  Their problem is who will water my plants when I
am away.
 APPOSITIVES  Your original question, why he did not report it to the police
earlier, has not yet been answered.
 ADJECTIVAL COMPLEMENTS  I'm not sure what I want.
 PREPOSITIONAL COMPLEMENTS  They did not consult us on where to build
the playground.
 they resemble wh-questions because they leave a gap of unknown information

3) YES-NO AND ALTERNATIVE INTERROGATIVE CLAUSES


 may include infinitive clauses
 YES-NO CLAUSES:
 introduced by the subordinators if or whether
 Do you know whether the banks are open?
 I wonder if you can help me.
 ALTERNATIVE CLAUSES:
 introduced by correlatives whether... or or if.... or
 I can't find out whether/if the flight has been delayed or whether/if it has been
cancelled.
 if the second unit is a full clause (as above), the subordinator is repeated; but
otherwise it is omitted  They didn't say whether it will rain or be sunny.
 TO-INFINITIVE CLAUSES:
 repetition is optional, but the subordinator is not repeated if the second infinitive
is bare
 He didn't tell us whether to wait for him or (whether) to go without him.

4) EXCLAMATIVE CLAUSES
 May function as:
 EXTRAPOSED SUBJECT  It's incredible how fast she can run.
 DIRECT OBJECT  I remember what a good time I had at the party.
 PREPOSITIONAL COMPLEMENT  I read an account of what an impression you
had made.
 in the last case, strictly speaking, they do not qualify as nominal clauses
 wh-words  how or what + noncount/plural noun

5) NOMINAL RELATIVE CLAUSES


 resemble wh-interrogative clauses, but are more like NPs
 can be concrete as well as abstract and can refer to persons
 can be paraphrased by NPs containing a noun head
 Whoever did that should be punished.
The person who did that...
 the wh-element may be a pronoun, determiner, or an adverb:
 She tasted what I bought.
 She saw what food I bought.
 Here is where I bought the food.

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 May have following functions:
 SUBJECT  What happened upset him.
 DIRECT OBJECT  What he saw upset him.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  What she became in later life distressed her friends.
 OBJECT COMPLEMENT  That's what she calls her sister.
 ADVERBIAL  Where she went was Manchester.
 when they are PREPOSITIONAL COMPLEMENTS, they don't count as nominal
clauses  I'll show you what you can open the bottle with.
 WH-ELEMENT can express:
 specific meaning  generally indictaed by the absence of the -ever suffix
I took what was on the table.
 nonspecific meaning  generally indictaed by the presence of the -ever suffix
Whoever breaks this law deserves a fine.

6) TO-INFINITIVE CLAUSES
 May function as:
 SUBJECT  To remain silent would be extremely cowardly.
 OBJECT  He promised to come.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  The best excuse is to say that you have an
examination tomorrow morning.
 APPOSITIVE  Your plan, to start at five, was endorsed by everybody.
 as Cadj, they don't count as nominal clauses

7) -ING CLAUSES
 nominal -ing clauses  sometimes called GERUDIVE or GERUDIVAL CLAUSES
 May function as:
 SUBJECT  Watching television keeps them out of trouble
 DIRECT OBJECT  He enjoys playing practical jokes.
 SUBJECT COMPLEMENT  Her first job had been selling computers.
 APPOSITIVE  His current research, investigating attitudes to racial stereotypes,

takes up most of his time.


 may refer to a fact or an action
Your driving a car to NY in your condition disturbs me gretly.  fact
Your driving a car to NY took longer than I expected.  action

8) BARE INFINITIVE CLAUSES


 infinitive clause, without to
 may only be Cs  What the plan does is ensure a fair pension for all.
 rarely:
 S  Mow the lawn was what I did this afternoon.  in pseudo-cleft sentences
 Co  They made her pay for the damage.
 Cprep  She did everything but make her bed. (?)

9) VERBLESS CLAUSES
 superficially looking like NPs
 A friend in need is a friend indeed.
 Wall-towall carpets in every room is their dream.
 Are bicycles wise in heavy traffic?