You are on page 1of 8

TOPIC 8: CLAUSE AND SENTENCE MANIPULATION

1 Introduction: Motivating Clause Manipulation
A given idea can be put into words in many different ways. For instance, we might
write:
There are many old works in this collection. Alderton’s published the one depicted
above in 1673.
The second sentence is given in the default (active) voice. The constituents are given
in the unmarked order of Subject ^ Verb ^ Object ^ Adjunct.
However, these defaults are not always the best means of delivering our message.
There is a tendency in language to put the thing we are focused on (what we are
talking about) as the Subject. It might be better to place the book itself as Subject.
We could rewrite these sentences as:
There are many old works in this collection. The one depicted above was
published in 1673.
The rewrite makes clear another reason to use the passive. The actual publisher
might not be relevant to the writer’s point (about how old the book is). In the active
clause, the publisher is obligatory. In the passive however, it can be deleted.
This example shows how VOICE can be used to manipulate the order (and
optionality) of the clause constituents. In this topic, we will consider a number of such
sentence manipulation devices.

2 Unmarked Clause Order
The unmarked order of constituents in a clause depends on the speech function
(statement, question, order, …)
Declarative Clause:
SUBJECT FINITE…PRED OBJECT/COMPLEM. ADJUNCT*
We saw John this morning
Interrogative Clause: Yes-No
FIN SUBJECT PRED OBJECT/COMPLEM. ADJUNCT*
Will we see John tomorrow
Interrogative Clause: Yes-No (lexical be)
FIN/PRED SUBJECT COMPLEM. ADJUNCT*
is John sick today
Interrogative Clause: Wh-interrog.
Move the Wh element to the front, and then move the Finite just next to it. If the Finite
is the Predicator, and the verb is not ‘be’, use the ‘do’ construct
WH- FIN SUBJ PRED COMPLEM. ADJUNCT*
Who will - be the president tomorrow
WH- FIN SUBJ. PRED OBJ ADJUNCT*
What did you make - today
WH- FIN SUBJ. PRED OBJ ADJUNCT
When will the president see me -

1
Imperative Clause:
SUBJECT FINITE PRED DOBJ IOBJ
- - Give John The apple

The order of the elements within the clause can be manipulated for different kinds of
prominence: focus, theme, and emotive emphasis.

3 Using Active or Passive to choose the Subject
VOICE, the choice between active and passive, allows us to manipulate which
element is realised as Subject. This choice is only available for transitive clauses (at
least two participants), except for have, be, seem, etc.
SUBJECT FINITE/PRED OBJECT ADJUNCT
We saw John this morning

SUBJECT FINITE…PRED ADJUNCT ADJUNCT
John was seen by us this morning

In ditransitive clauses, we have can choose between three possible Subjects:
SUBJECT FINITE/PRED IOBJ DOBJ
John gave me the book

SUBJECT FINITE…PRED DOBJ ADJUNCT
I was given the book by John

SUBJECT FINITE…PRED IOBJ ADJUNCT
The book was given to me by John

We might choose to use the passive for 2 reasons:
• To make a particular participant Subject. We often want to place an already
mentioned entity as Subject (the GIVEN) and the rest of the clause is NEW
information about it:
I sold my car today
Given New

It was bought by a neighbor.
Given New

• So that what would have been Subject in an active clause can be left implicit,
either because it is not considered relevant, or because the writer wants to
hide the agency, e.g.,
The book was published in 1908. (agent ‘publisher’ not relevant)
Protestors were killed during demonstration. (agent: ‘police’ hidden)

2
Task 4: Write below each of the following sentences the corresponding passive form,
if passivisation is possible.
a) They founded the first kindergarten in the United States in 1856 in Watertown,
Wisconsin.

b) That legacy has traditionally benefited Milwaukee residents.

c) People have taken four-year-old kindergarten as much for granted as summer
breezes off Lake Michigan.

d) Now there is a severe budget crunch. Milwaukee Public School officials have
proposed the unthinkable eliminating four-year-old kindergarten.

4 Theme and Method of Development of a Text
The first constituent of a sentence is important in the organisation of a text. We call
this element the THEME. The rest of the message constitutes the Rheme.

Theme Rheme
I can’t stand the noise.
The noise I can’t stand.
What I can’t stand is the noise.
Sometimes I just cannot stand the noise.

When we write, we use the themes to structure the text. Exactly how this works
depends on the organising strategy (or Method of Development) chosen by the
writer. For instance, look at the text below:
In 1470 the Columbus Family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over
a tavern. In the same year, Columbus was on a Genoese ship hired in the
service of René I of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of
Naples. In 1473 Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for
the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. Later he
allegedly made a trip to Chios, a Genoese colony in the Aegean Sea. In
May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry a
valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol, Galway, in Ireland
and was possibly in Iceland in 1477. In 1479 Columbus reached his brother
Bartolomeo in Lisbon, keeping on trading for the Centurione family. He
married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, daughter of the Porto Santo governor, the
Portuguese nobleman of Genoese origin Bartolomeu Perestrello. In 1479 or
1480, his son Diego was born.
(FROM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus)
In writing this text, the author has chosen “Temporal Sequence of Events” as his
primary “Method of Development”: events are given in the sequence in which they
occur. To mark this sequence, dates and other temporal markers are given focus (the
Thematic position). Note that for a particular date there may be more than one

3
sentence, and thus other themes occur. These are usually Columbus himself, given
he is the topic of the article.
The primary “sentence manipulation” in this text involves moving Adjuncts of time
from the default position to the front of the clause.
Now, look at the following text, giving directions to a certain location.
Coming from San Francisco, go over the Golden Gate Bridge and continue
going north on 101 until you get to Petaluma. Take the first off ramp. This
will be Petaluma Blvd. South, actually the old highway. Go on into the center
of town. On your left, you will see Walnut Park. Go a few blocks further to
Western Avenue. Turn left. This will take you out of town. From Petaluma
Blvd., you will be traveling 1.9 miles before you need to make another turn.
While on Western Ave., be looking for 2 signs on your right. They will say,
"Walker Creek Ranch" and "Helen Putnam Park". The signs will direct you
to your left. Turn left. This will be Chileno Valley Road, and is marked with a
small street sign as well. (From: http://www.chilenobnb.com/directions.html)
The main “Method of development here is that of a sequence of directions (realised
by imperatives). Realising this, the main theme chain consists of verbs indicating
motion: “take”, “go”, “go”, “turn”, and “turn”.
At key points in the route, the direction is preceded with a location, to provide
identification as to when to perform the action: “Coming from San Francisco”, “on
your left”, “From Petaluma Blvd”, “While on Western Ave”. A third stragegy is to tell
you something about the road you just entered: “This”, “This”, “This”.
This text demonstrates two things: firstly, that the default constituent order is fine for
many contexts: here the imperatives start with a verb by default. However, where a
particular Adjunct is critical to the carrying out of the direction, that Adjunct may be
fronted so as to make it more salient.

5 Unmarked and marked themes
The Theme is unmarked when it coincides with the expected element such as
Subject in a declarative clause. When some other element is fronted to initial position
it is a marked Theme, and carries some additional significance in the discourse.
Thematised Objects: A nicer girl you’ll never meet. (O)
Thematised Archibald his name is. (Cs)
Complements: Angry it made me. (Co)
Out into the fields ran the frightened villagers. (Cp)
Thematised Adjuncts Reluctantly he did it.
Non- WH- Subject in a Alice went where?
WH- interrogative:
Subject in an You go home!
imperative:

Thematised Adjuncts and Passivisation are typically used to make the sequence of
theme choices support the chosen Method of Development. The remaining marked
themes are usually used in other contexts:
Emphatic Statements: A better strudel I have never tasted!
You go home!

4
Contrastives: Don’t you like Mary? Mary, I like. It’s Jane I don’t like.
Cohesive Repetition: Alice went to Brazil. Alice went where?

Task 1: Underline the Theme in each of the following examples and say whether it is
marked or unmarked. If marked, say which clause constituent has been thematised
(fronted) in each case:
1. Paul telephoned an antique dealer in Brussels.
2. Abruptly they were cut off.
3. Is he a friend of yours?
4. High quality consumer goods they specialise in.
5. One of the most popular artists of this century David Hockney must be.
6. Meet me at eight at the Café de Paris.
7. In the American soft-drink industry, plastic bottles are extensively used.
8. Celebrating her victory today is downhill ski champion Mariana Kielh of West
Germany.
9. For months, all had been quiet in the Holy Wars.
10. Absolutely dumbfounded he left me.
11. Another thing you’re likely to come across there, and that’s certain lack of
humour.

6 Themes which provoke inversion
There are two ways to front a constituent:
• Just move it to the front of the sentence: John I like.
• Move the constituent to the front, and invert the Subject and Finite:
There goes my last dollar!
This last set are the most marked, and are thus often used for added emphasis. Also
in poetry. Common cases include:These include: expressions of direction,
expressions with negative meaning:
Direction: Home went Alice.
There goes my last dollar.
Down to the bottom of the sea plunged the diver.
Negative meaning Never have I seen such a sight.
Not a thing could the patient remember.
Hardly a soul did the travellers see.
Other So depressed did he feel that nothing would cheer him
up.

7 Information focus (from Downing and Locke, 1992:237)
1. In order to be understood, messages are divided into chunks called
information units, which are realised in speech by tone units. These do not
correspond to any one grammatical category, since the speaker is free to break
up the message as he wishes into units which are smaller or larger than a
clause.

5
2. Each tone unit contains an intonation nucleus, which represents the highest
point of the focus of information. Information focus extends to the syntactic
unit in which the nucleus occurs.
3. Each information unit contains an obligatory New element and, optionally, a
Given element, the unmarked order being Given-New. The Given is the
information that the speaker presents as recoverable by the hearer, the New is
the information that is presented as not recoverable by the hearer. The whole
tone unit may contain New information, for instance at the start of a
conversational exchange.
4. The devices of ellipsis and substitution are used to avoid repeating
information that is known to the hearer.
5. Unmarked focus falls on the last lexical item of the information unit. This leaves
the options open as to the amount of information that is New. If the intonation
nucleus is made to fall on some other item it is marked and unequivocally
represents New information.
6. Focus can coincide with marked Theme and is a cohesive device in texts.
7. Focus can also be used for emotive purposes.

Task 2: Choose sentences from set B that could follow those in set A, respecting the
“Given-New” contract in the distribution of information.
A B
1) John sliced the salami.
2) John sliced the salami with an axe.
a) John did something. 3) What John did was slice the salami.
b) John sliced the salami with 4) It was with an axe that John sliced the
something. salami.
c) Somebody sliced the salami. 5) What John sliced the salami with was an axe.
6) It was John who sliced the salami.
7) The person (one) who sliced the salami was
John.

Task 3: Rewrite the following sentences to give focus to the underlined elements by
means of grammatical devices like cleft sentences, pseudo-cleft sentences, passive,
postponement, etc.
a) I enjoy Mahler more than any other composer.
b) A man in a black raincoat bought the Sheraton chairs.
c) Staying at Luke’s was never boring.
d) A rifle shot interrupted our picnic.
e) The rains started the following Tuesday.
f) They love it an we love it too.
g) There was a fanfare and the champion marched in.

6
8 Other Sentence Manipulation Devices
8.1 Existential clauses
Existential clauses are introduced by unstressed there followed by a verb and a
Nominal Phrase, with be as the most common verb. The NP may contain a wide
variety of qualifiers and/or be followed by an Adjunct of time or place:
There are no fairies (no qualifier)
There was a storm last night. (Adjunct of time)

8.2 Clefting:
By clefting a clause we divide it into a structure of two components, for the purpose
of identifying a particular element as New information.

Basic clause Cleft sentences
It was Mary that phoned me last night.
Mary phoned me last night
It was me that Mary phoned last night.
It was last night that Mary phoned me.

8.3 Pseudo-clefts (or WH-cleft sentences)
What he said was that the machine had broken down.
Where we hope to live is in Padua.
What he really likes is surfing.

Task 5: Change the information structure of each of the following clauses into a cleft
sentence, and when acceptable, a WH-cleft structure. Use the underlined sequence
as the focus of the cleft or the WH-cleft
1) Experts are working on the recycling of plastic.
2) Smoking can cause fatal diseases.
3) This kind of garment is best reserved for the evening.
4) She bought the children some ice-cream.
5) We are counting on your help to put up the tents.
6) John was not on the train that crashed, because he didn’t reach the station in
time.
7) Last thing at night I unwind by reading and listening to the radio.
8) The computer industry is fighting against viruses.
9) At 12.30 p. m. I nip down to Marks and Spencer’s in Oxford Street for a
sandwich.
10) Shortly after I got home I realised I had lost my purse.

8.4 Extraposition
When a long Subject clause is shifted to the end of the superordinate clause and is
replaced by it in initial Subject position, this is called extraposition. Both finite and
non-finite Subject clauses can be extraposed and, in fact, are in many cases more
common in English than the canonical form, since they satisfy the principles of end-
weight and end-focus.

7
It’s a nuisance that banks here are closed on Saturdays.
(extraposed finite clause)
It would be unwise to interfere. (extraposed non-finite clause)
Occasionally, anticipatory it stands for an extraposed Direct Object.
We find it strange that the lawyers have not appealed.
I consider it essential to know the conditions of payment.

A person or things mentioned in the extraposed clause, as Direct Object or even as
part of the Adjunct, can sometimes be brought forward to stand as Theme:

To live with Bill is difficult

It is difficult to live with Bill

Bill is difficult to live with.

To cook rice is easy

It is easy to cook rice

Rice is easy to cook.

8.5 Postponement
Movement of the postmodifier of the subject to the end:
The time X will come when no-one will write by hand any more.

9 RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Downing, A. and Locke, P. (1992) A University Course in English Grammar. Hemel
Hempstead, Prentice Hall International. Chapter 6 (modules 28 and 30).
Quirk, R. and S. Greenbaum (1990) A Student’s Grammar of the English Language.
London: Longman. Chapter 18.

8