STRUCTURE OF THE CLAUSE – UNIT 1. Topics covered so far in Unit 1: Nominal group (NGp), verbal group (VGp), adjectival group (AdjGp), adverbial group (ADvGp) and prepositional phrase (PP): their structure and function *. STRUCTURE OF THE CLAUSE – Unit 1.
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Topics covered so far in Unit 1:
Nominal group (NGp), verbal group (VGp), adjectival group (AdjGp), adverbial group (ADvGp) and prepositional phrase (PP): their structure and function*
Topic to be developed in this section of the unit:
Elements of the clause: their function and recognition criteria
Lower-rank units (groups and phrases) that fill the elements of the clause
Clauses that fill elements of the clause (embedded clauses/embedding)
[Bloor & Bloor, chapter 3; Downing, Angela & Philip Lock, chapter1]
In that elements of the clause (highest-ranking unit in the rank-scale), like Subject, Complement, Adjuncts, are generally (though not only) filled by the lower-ranking units, groups and phrases, we have studied so far
In that an understanding of the elements of the clause and how they are filled will help us better understand the three kinds of meanings we make through language and the linguistic resources we use to encode/express/realize those meanings
The elements of the clause we will be referring to in this course are illustrated by means of the sentence below and shown in red below each of the groups and phrases (sometimes made up of a single word) that fill them:
“However, luckily, Otto Loewi had
A(djunct) A(djunct) S(ubject) F(inite) con(junctive)mod(al)
jotted down the idea on a sheet of paper
The Subject can be defined semantically
We will attempt to define the S from both perspectives. Semantically we will only consider it from an experiential and textual perspective.
S is usually, though not always, the main participant in the event or action being represented
The guests left. The guests brought a present
The poor man feared the encounter .
He said a few words. He is fearless.
The S is usually (though not always) the topic of the message, what the text is about. In the following examples, we can see how the topic changes when the S changes:
The guests brought a present
The present that the guests brought was very expensive.
He said a few words. His words were well-chosen.
The S is the syntactic function which in English must be present in declarative and interrogative clauses, but not in imperatives.
In declaratives the S is placed before the finite verb; in yes-no and wh- interrogatives (except for “who”), after the finite operator (Downing & Locke, chapter 1, p- 42)
Otto Loewi jotted down the idea on a sheet of paper.
Did Otto Loewi jot down the idea on a sheet of paper?
Jot down the idea on a sheet of paper.
With some pronouns (the so-called Subject pronouns) their form reflects that they are the Subject (except for “you” and “it”)
I see what you mean. She saw me from a distance and greeted me.
He devised a new theory. They credit him with having devised a new theory.
I vs. me
he/she vs. him/her
we vs. us
they vs. them
(1) The S-Verb agreement probe:
The S would be the word or group of words that agrees with the verb in person and number. To test change the S in number and check effect on verb
(i) Erosion depletes the grasslands.
(ii) All savanna lands experience a period of drought.
(iii) The failure of the rain brings disaster.
(iv) Rich pastures support more animals.
Problem with of S/V agreement probe:
English does not always display even these limited distinctions. Modals and past tense main verb forms, for example, do not vary to show person and number in this way. Also if there are two Ngps in the Clause and both could in theory agree with the V in person and number as in (iii) and (iv) above, which one is the S?
(2) The Mood-tag probe:
The Subject is the word or group of words in the Clause that is picked together with the Finite in the mood tag:
Your parents will buy a new house soon, won’t they?
His sister was granted a scholarship, wasn’t she?
This probe also enables us to know the gender of the person being referred to by the nominal group standing as S if the gender is not explicitly signalled
The doctor prescribed those pills, didn`t she?
Problem of the Mood-tag probe:
Also not quite useful/reliable to determine S in the two cases pointed out as problematic before:
(iii) The failure of the rain brings disaster, doesn’t it?
(iv) Rich pastures support more animals, don’t they?
Which is “it”, “the failure of the rain” or “disaster”? Which “they”, “rich pastures” or “more animals”?
(3) The Yes-No question re-expression probe:
To determine the S for a declarative clause we re-express the declarative as interrogative, and the S is the element that immediately follows the Finite operator (suggested by Robin Fawcett, An invitation to SFG: the Cardiff Grammar).
(iii) Does the failure of the rain bring disaster?
(iv) Do rich pastures support more animals?
The Subject in a Passive clause
In passive clauses the S would be a C in the corresponding active clauses. It generally responds to all probes (S-V agreement, Tag-question probe and Yes-No re-expression probe). Generally, the S in the passive voice corresponds to the DO in the active voice.
Brutus killed Caesar (active)
S F/P C
Caesar was killed by Brutus (passive).
S F/P A
The Subject in a Passive clause can also be the IO in the active voice
They gave my sister a grant.
S F/P C(IO) C(DO)
My sister was given a grant.
S F P C(DO)
The Subject in a Passive clause can also be, though very infrequently, the term of a preposition in a PP functioning as Circumstance:
Nobody has slept on this bed.
S F P Acir (place)
This bed has not been slept on.
S F P
Apposition as part of Subject
In some cases the nominal group functioning as S is a complex NGp, made up of two NGps with their own Head and (in some cases) pre- and/or postmodifiers. The second NGp in the complex is considered an Apposition, which specifies the first NGp further, and is also part of the S:
“Otto Loewi, the Austrian physician, had jotted down
the idea on a sheet of paper”
Subjects can be filled (realized) by various elements:
Pronouns (subject pronouns):
They were very willing to cooperate.
We usually meet on Tuesdays.
Obama won the elections on the promise to bring about change.
Cocaine can damage the heart as well as the brain.
The precise number of heart attacks from using cocaine is not known.
Non-finite Clauses (To-infinitive or –Ing Clauses). These are included between double brackets and can have their own Ss, in bold below. In the case of To-Infinitive clauses, the alternative form with anticipatory “it” and postponed S is more frequent (see next slide):
[[To take such a risk]] was rather foolish.
[[For the children to escape]] was impossible.
[[Where to leave the dog]] was a problem.
Non-finite Clauses, continued:
[[Having to go back for the tickets]] was a nuisance.
[[His/Him/Sam/Sam’s having to go back for the tickets]] was a nuisance. (somewhat obsolete)
[[Move the car]] was what he did.
Finite Clauses (also included between brackets):
[[What he said]] pleased me/was unacceptable.
[[That he did not pass the test]] surprised everybody.
[[Why the library was closed for a month]] was not explained.
We replace what we think is a clause functioning as S by the pronoun “it”, the demonstratives “that” or “this” or a Ngp comparable to the Clause in meaning. This helps confirm the clause is functioning as S and its extension:
[[To take such a risk]] was rather foolish.
That/His attitude was rather folish.
Finite Clauses :
[[What he said]] pleased me/was unacceptable.
It/that/his words pleased me.
Anticipatory “it”. The real Subject in italics below. The “it” has no reference and is only a place-holder. The fact that the real S can be placed in initial position instead of “it” confirms its status as S, though the resulting clause does not always sound idiomatic or natural. These clauses would be analysed as shown in the first example:
It is easy to forget your keys.
S (ant) F/P C(SC) S (real)
It was difficult for everyone to escape.
It surprised everyone that he did not pass the test.
Anticipatory “it” continued. Real S in italics. It is not always possible to place the real S in initial position (*) or it’s only possible with changes in expression:
*It is (high) time he stopped fooling around.
*It is time to leave.
It is a pity that you are leaving the firm.
It seems that you were right after all. (That you are right seems to be the case; no C).
It so happened/came to happen that the driver lost control. (That the driver lost control was what happened; no C)
Dummy “it” (in expressions of ‘time’, ‘weather’ and ‘distance’)
It is nearly 6 o’clock.
S F/P C(SC)
It is raining.
S F P
It is six hundred Kms from Madrid to Barcelona.
S F/P C(SC) Acir
Waiter, there is a fly in my soup.
AmodS F/P C
There are many species of whales.
Element of the clause that relates it/the event to the here and now of the speaker (by signalling modality and tense)
“He is calling you.” (simultaneous w/ time of speaking).
“He was calling you.” (non-simultaneous time/ previous time to time of speaking).
“He will be calling you.” (non-simultaneous time = time forecast to occur).
“He may be calling you.” (= modality = attitude of speaker).
Element of the clause that determines the structure of the rest of the clause, in bold below:
The guests had left (“left” P; it determines there is no further participant except for the S).
The guests will bring a present (“bring” P; it determines there is one more participant apart from the S).
They gave my sister a grant. (“gave” P; it determines there are two more participants, apart from the S).
Finite and Predicator are realized by a verbal group
The F is realized by the operator; the Predicator by Aux(s) and Lexical Verb
“He had jotted down the idea on … paper.”
“He will/may/could be jotting down the idea …”
F P ::::::::::::::::::
F fused with P when the VG is made up only of a lexical verb (single/non-extended VGp). What this means is the lexical items that fuses F and P performs two functions simultaneously (indicating time, person, number and also determining the structure of the clause)
He jotted down the idea on a sheet of paper.
He is/seems a bit absent-minded.
The C can also be defined semantically and syntactically, like the S:
Semantically, the C is the element that usu. realizes minor participants in the event or action (experiential perspective) and
the element that is not the topic; element that contains new information about the topic (textual perspective)
Syntactically, any element, usually nominal or pronominal, that is obligatory but is not the S.
It can be realized by
Pronouns (object pronouns):
We did not see him.
We invited them to go with us.
They granted him the credit.
They gave the poor child some food.
They took the house with a balcony.
They rented the flatthat had a wonderful view onto the sea.
It can also be realized by Clauses (non-finite):
I enjoy [[playing the piano]]. C = DO
He regretted[[having said that]]. C = DO
My advice is [[to refrain from investments]]. C = SC
It can be realized by Clauses (finite):
He feared [[what was to come]]. C = DO
He took [[what he wanted]]. C = DO
I will always give [[whoever comes before this court]]the benefit of the doubt. C = I O
This is[[where we keep our money/what I would do/how I would go about it]]. C = SC
Also for clauses (both Non-Finite and Finite) functioning as C we can use the replacement test (replacing them by “it”, “this/that” or a Ngp comparable in meaning to confirm their function as C and their extension, as for clauses functioning as S:
My advice is [[to refrain from investments]]. My advice is this.
He feared [[what was to come]]. He feared the future/that.
Non-obligatory/peripheral/optional elements of the clause = They can be left out without affecting the core meaning of the proposition being made
The fall into three subtypes:
They express the circumstances concommitant to (= that accompany) the events or actions being represented. Experiential in nature. We will be looking at them in more detail in unit 2. In the next three slides, there is a provisional simplified classification of them, with illustration of the different types:
“He jotted down an idea on a slip of paper.” (Acir = place/spatial location)
That night he jotted down an idea on … (Acir = time/temporal location)
He wrote down the idea very quickly. (Acir = manner)
He took cover out of fear. (Acir = cause)
He saved money for college. (Acir = purpose)
He went to school by bus. (Acir = manner, means)
He travelled with his sister. (Acir = accompaniment)
According to Obama/In Obama’s opinion/words, the republicans are to blame for the crisis. (Acir = angle)
They disagreed about the reasons for the crisis. (Acir = matter)
In spite of serious disagreements, they still decided to form a coalition. (Acir = concession)
In the event of fire, leave the room immediately. (Acir = condition)
Ascir are realized by means of AdvGps, PPs and occasionally NGps. In italics below:
“He jotted down an idea on a slip of paper.” PP
“That night he jotted down an idea on …” NGp
“He wrote down the idea very quickly.”AdvGp
They express some aspect of the speaker’s attitude to or interpretation or evaluation of the message (his comments on the validity of his statements, his emotions towards what he is saying or his judgement of what he is presenting, etc.). They fall into two major groups and some minor groups: Mood Adjuncts, Comment Adjuncts, Vocatives and Politeness Adjuncts. See next slide for examples
1) Mood Adjuncts fall into two subgroups; frequency and probability adjuncts
Frequency Adjuncts (always, frequently, generally, never, occasionally, often, seldom, sometimes, usually, etc.) expressing our interpretation of time as opposed to circumstances of time that are more experiential/factual
1) Mood Adjuncts:
Probability adjuncts = perhaps, maybe, probably, possibly, certainly, definitely (expressing low and high probability/certainty). They express the attitude of the certainty or uncertainty of the speaker with respect to what’s being said.
2) Comment Adjuncts:
They express the emotions or judgement of the the speaker in connection with what he is saying. Among them we can mention: clearly, evidently, obviously (evidentiality); honestly, frankly, to be honest (sincerity); happily, (un)luckily, (un)fortunately, regrettably, sadly (emotions); oddly enough, strangely enough (unexpectedness), etc.
3) Vocatives (they do not express anything about experience, but serve to establish and signal interpersonal relations)
Mary, tell me what you think.
Mr. Smith, what’s your opinion on this?
4) Politeness expressions
Please, let me know your decision.
Excuse me, where is Buckingham Palace?
Frankly, darling, I don’t give a damm.
He spoke frankly
Regrettably, we had no time to help him.
He spoke regretfully.
They express links among sentences and signal rhetorical organization:
Conjunctive Adjuncts link sentences or sections of a text, whereas Conjunctions link clauses in clause complexes. Conjunctive Adjuncts are an element of the clause and can be moved around in it; conjunctions are not an element of any of the clauses they link and cannot be moved around.
“He sensed he had written something of the utmost importance, but now he could not decipher his own scrawl.” Conjunction; not an element of any of the clauses; not capable of being moved around (remains unanalysed)
“He sensed he had had an idea of the utmost importance. (However,) he could not remember it, however.”Conjunctive adjunct; an element of the second clause; can be moved around.
“He was not yet at safe distance from his persecutors, but he decided to leave the place where he was taking cover and run as fast as he could.”
“He was not yet at safe distance from his persecutors. However, he decided to leave the place where he was taking cover and run as fast as he could.”
“He was not yet at safe distance from his persecutors. He decided(, however,) to leave the place where he was taking cover (, however,) and run as fast as he could.”
The night before Easter Sunday, 1920, Otto Loewin, an Austrian physiologist awoke in the middle of the night with an idea that he jotted down on a tiny slip of paper //and then he went back to sleep. /// When he awoke again about six, // he remembered //he had written something of the outmost importance, // but he could not decipher his own scrawl.
There is a growing risk of a large volcanic explosion on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. /// Salem, the largest town, is going to be evacuated. /// The decision was made by Bertrand Osborne, the UK’s minister of the island. /// It came // after a new warning had been given by scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. //They believe // there will soon be a large explosion// and the safety of the local people cannot be guaranteed.
Yesterday people were being moved to a safe zone in the North of the island. /// Financial help for the islanders will be announced later this week, // Mr. Osborne said.
However, local residents have criticized the government. /// They say // that the government knew about the danger a week ago // but no action was taken. /// They also claim // that people are being evacuated to areas that are still dangerous. /// “The situation has not been improved”, // said a local activist. [Harris, Michael et al. (2000) Opportunities Intermediate. England:Longman, p.48.]