Specializations > Typology and Descriptive Linguistics

Typology of clause types

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zaba:
In simple, a clause is a reduced form of a sentence. I'm describing the syntax of a wildly agglutinative indigenous language and identified several clause types (e.g. RCs, advbl clauses, prep clauses, etc) but have yet to make any general comments on "clause types" as such.

How should one go about describing a main clause? What kind of information would be useful to you, as a fellow linguist?

Daniel:

--- Quote ---In simple, a clause is a reduced form of a sentence.
--- End quote ---
No. A "sentence" is not part of syntactic theory. A clause is a sentence, although one clause can be contained within another. Some clauses are independent utterances in themselves (and therefore "sentences").


--- Quote ---How should one go about describing a main clause? What kind of information would be useful to you, as a fellow linguist?
--- End quote ---
The general approach is to describe everything relative to main clauses, starting with phonology, etc. Then at the end of the grammar there is discussion of non-main clauses. Depending on how the language works, this may require more or less attention-- do non-main clauses behave similarly to the already discussed main clauses? If there's a lot more, for example, morphology to be discussed, you'll need to spend more time on that.

I would focus more on describing the variation you observe than some kind of cookie-cutter theory-motivated approach. Syntactic theory is, in my opinion, not yet to the point of really understanding clause interaction. So what would be most helpful would be lots of data with clear explanations of how clauses are joined and what different structures each has.

Broadly there are a few topics to cover, some of which you already mentioned:
--Main clauses
--Complement clauses
----Also, nominalized clauses in general (eg, as subjects)
--Adverbial clauses
----including interesting subtypes like purpose clauses
--Relative clauses
--Coordination
--Serialization/chaining

Whether all of those exist, or perhaps others not on the list, will determine exactly what applies for those language.

zaba:

--- Quote ---No. A "sentence" is not part of syntactic theory. A clause is a sentence, although one clause can be contained within another. Some clauses are independent utterances in themselves (and therefore "sentences").
--- End quote ---

Thanks for clearing this up! But sometimes it's tricky to know what's what. According to my Oxford Concise Dict of Ling, a clause is "any syntactic unit whose structure is, or is seen as reduced from, that of a sentence. thus, in particular, one which includes a verb and the elements that accompany it."

Do you think this definition is incorrect or am I misunderstanding?

Daniel:
That's basically correct. "Sentence" is not a technical term in Linguistics, really. Basically "clause" and "sentence" refer to the same thing, but almost always we only use "sentence" to refer to a main clause. So think of sentences as a subtype of clauses, while at the same time a sentence may contain multiple clauses. A bit confusing when phrased like that, I admit.

zaba:
THanks! So how do I recognise a main clause as distinct from a complement clause, advbl clause, or RC? What's the distinguishing characteristics?

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