Conjunction: structural and semantic classifications – Part 2

July 16th, 201210:00 am


Conjunction: structural and semantic classifications – Part 2

Conjunction: structural and semantic classifications – Part 1

One cannot but notice that the use of coordinating conjunctions is not unlimited, i.e. there are some grammatically similar structures that may not be joined by coordinating conjunctions. The analysis of these limitations brings up the concept of presupposition. By presupposition we mean extralinguistic conditions that make the utterance relevant and liable to in­terpretation. As a result, clauses, joined by a coordinating conjunction, are expected to have a common topic, which may be either implicit or explicit: e.g. the coordinating conjunction is possible in the sentence Jane is a lawyer and her father is a marketing expert, if her refers to Jane, whereas the sen­tence Jane wears wonderful perfume and all Parisians are chic implies the presupposition that Jane is a Parisian, but the sentence Jane is a vegetarian and underage children are not allowed to watch the movie can hardly be backed up by any presupposition, as well as the sentence John is a kind man and he is cruel and violent, where the first part contradicts the second one.

Apart from these limitations of the conjunction and in natural languages, it cannot escape our attention that, though coordination means equality of clauses, their rearrangement is not always possible. The reason lies in that the conjunction and combines the copulative meaning with the temporal one. Therefore the order of predications usually presupposes the succession of events or actions: cf. He lay on the bed and died vs. He died and lay on the bed. Besides, the conjunction and may express the causative-consecutive rela­tion, e.g. You move and I‘ll shoot (= If you move, then I’ll shoot). Coordination that does not permit rearrangement of its components is called asymmetric.

The terms “symmetry” and “asymmetry” may also be applied to other coordinating conjunctions, such as but (in the sentence Jeremy is well-be­haved but his brother is naughty, the conjunction is symmetric, whereas in He was listened to but nobody followed his advice the conjunction is asym­metric). The correlative conjunctions either…or exhibit the same properties (compare their symmetric use in Either Jane will lay the table or she will pop out for some fresh bread with the asymmetric use Either you do what you are told, or I’ll tell your father about your behaviour!). It is easy to no­tice that the asymmetric use of the disjunctive conjunction is caused by the causative-consecutive relation between the clauses.

Subordinating conjunctions (e.g. that, while, because, as, though, since, in case, suppose) introduce, as a rule, dependent predicative units (i.e. sub­ordinate clauses within a complex sentence). They are differentiated on the ground of the clause-type. For example, the subordinating conjunction if introduces object clauses and adverbial clauses of condition: Greg cannot know if the plane will arrive on time; If Greg has no other plans for tonight, he will join us for dinner. That, in its turn, may introduce subject clauses, predicative clauses, object clauses, adverbial clauses of purpose and of re­sult: That Jill has come late is no surprise for us; What Greg means is that she spends money like water; He reports that the company has lost half of its clients this year; He turned to the sales assistant that she should help choose the present; We had so many options that we were at a loss.

Only rarely does a subordinating conjunction join homogeneous mem­bers: He was pleased though tired.

It should also be mentioned that some conjunctions may combine coor­dinating and subordinating meanings, which is observed with the conjunc­tion while: Jack has been overlooked for promotion for two years while his friends have been successfully climbing up the career ladder (coordination); While talking on the phone, he made several notes (subordination).