P. 1
Sentence Processes v1

Sentence Processes v1

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Published by: Simona Leafu on Sep 12, 2011
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By definition, coordination (or conjoining) is a syntactic operation that puts
together constituents of the
same rank. Conversely, subordination (or
Embedding) is a syntactic operation that involves rank-shifting, namely one
constituent is subordinated to a higher-rank constituent.

Consider the following examples where one can look at the same situation
expressed differently from a syntactic point of view:

(3) Hit my wife and you’ll die.
(O lovesti pe sotia mea si vei muri.)
(4) If you hit my wife, you will die.
(Daca o lovesti pe sotia mea, vei muri.)

Such examples, that have a lot in common from a semantic point of view, led
grammarians to believe that coordination is the basic structure wherefrom
subordination originated. Example (3) is an instance of coordination where
constituents of the same rank are linked by means of the coordinating
conjunction and. In example (4) one can notice a more complex structure,
where the subordinating conjunction if plays a major part. We will come back
to example (3) in a subsequent subsection.

From the previously mentioned examples, we can already make at least two
important remarks:

a) that from a formal point of view, coordination differs from subordination
in that it is realized by means of coordinating conjunctions.

Unit four



b) that there might be important semantic similarities related to examples
exhibiting coordinated, respectively subordinated constituents.

However, we need to specify that, from a logical & semantic point of view, a
major difference between coordination and subordination is that the
information in subordinate clauses is not asserted, but presupposed.


(5) John came back and gave her a piece of his mind.
(John s-a intors si i-a spus vreo doua.)
(6) John gave her a piece of his mind after he came back.
(John i-a zis vreo doua dupa ce s-a intors.)

Unlike in the case of (5) where we are dealing with assertion, the subordinate
adverbial clause of time contains a presupposition: We presuppose that the
event of John’s coming back happened.

c) from a pragmatic point of view it is to be remarked that example (3) will
be found more frequently in instances of dialogue and spoken language as
it is obviously characterized by a rather informal tone.


Activity 1

Coordination and style

The following two passages are straightforward descriptive
paragraphs taken from narrative works. The first is a vivid
description of a sequence of actions; the second, a static
description of a small town in nineteenth-century Ireland. The
student will notice the almost complete absence of subordinate

Nadina VIŞAN


clauses from both passages. In the first, this adds to the graphic
effect of the movement in the passage. In the second, the
comparative looseness of the sentence construction is admirably
suited to the evocative informality of description.

Passage 1: The black cloud had crossed the sky, a blob of dark
against the stars: The night was quiet again, Tom stopped into
the water and felt the bottom drop from under his feet. He
threshed the two strokes across the ditch and pulled himself
heavily up the other bank. His clothes hung to him. He moved
and made a slopping noise; his shoes squished. Then he sat
down, took off his shoes and emptied them. He wrung the bottom
of his trousers, took off his coat and emptied them. He wrung the
bottoms of his trousers, took off his coat and squeezed the water
from it.

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Reconstruct the paragraph, combining as many of the simple
sentences as you feel reasonable into compound sentences with
subordinate clauses. How does the effect of your passage differ
from Steinbeck’s?

Passage 2: Castlebar had preserved the appearance of a feudal
town. Though the castle hadvanished, on its site fortifications
still frowned above steep and narrow streets, the houses were
beautiful and ancient, built, with enormous solidity, of cut gray
stone, adorned with cornices, stone-wreathed windows and
carved doorways. In the late eighteenth century a Mall had been
added to the town, with formal walks under rows of trees, but the

Unit four



streets tailed off abruptly into mud cabins, curlews wheeled and
cried in the centre of the town, and the walkers in the Mall had
bare feet.

Cecil Woocham – Smith, The Reason Why

Compare the previous two passages with the following in point
of complexity of structure and formality of tone. Note that the
more intricate construction of the third passage is correlated by
the author to the difficult journey the character in the passage has
to make:

Passage 3: The Canon dressed and, waving the remonstrances of
his housekeeper aside, left the house. Before him was a climb
that would take at least three hours, over some of the roughest
ground in the country. He walkedup to the top of the village
street and struck off up a boreen that went for a bit and then
petered out as if discouraged. After that he had to make do with
the narrow rocky footpath when he could see it or stumble a
while over the tangled scrub and sharpstones till he found it
again. The unwonted exercise made his heart pound and his head
swim, and his clothes stuck damply to him: darkness fell before
he was half-way up and although he had a torch the way in front
was so strange and featureless he thought he should never arrive
at his goal. His feet pained him from continually stubbing against
the bits of rock: in spite of the long dry spell the mountain was
soaking, and as the way is with Irish mountains, the higher he
went the wetter it grew, until he found the water gurgling about
his ankles and seeping over the top of his boots; and more than
once he missed his footing and measured his length on the

Nadina VIŞAN


prickly ground.

Honor Tracy – The Straight and Narrow Path

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