| Literary Stylistics:
Workshop Notes no. 12
Clause Complexing: Some Preliminary Observations
Review of Important Considerations
Further Simplification: Importance of the Predicator
Independent and Dependent Clauses
Simple, Compound, Complex
Paratactic and Hypotactic
Interchangeable and Non-Interchangeable Positions
Clause Complexing: Some Stylistic Considerations
In relation to the study of clause complexing, it may be useful to revise some of the factors considered in the analysis of the clause. We have noted in an earlier workshop
To simplify matters even further, we can say here that the PREDICATOR is essential to the clause: it is usually the case that the number of clauses in a sentence depends on the number of predicators found in it.1 We can also say that even if the overt subject or subjects is/are not present, the number of predicators in the sentence is an indicator of the number of clauses in it. For example, there are four clauses in the following sentence, and the missing subjects for three of the clauses is understood to be the 'he' in the first clause:
He shouted, laughed, cried, and finally fell down the stairs
|4.||"||fell||-||1. finally (clause initial)
2. down the stairs (end of clause)
We have also noted in an earlier workshop that the clauses in a sentence are related to one another according to whether they have
You should also know, from the earlier workshop, that a sentence with only one clause in it is called a simple or simplex sentence. It is also called a clause simplex in Halliday's grammar. There are however, many sentences with two or more clauses in them, and in this connection,
These terms are tabulated below.
|Simple / Simplex||A sentence with only one clause.|
|Compound||A sentence with two or more independent clauses.|
|Complex||A sentence with one or more dependent clauses.|
| Mixed or
|A sentence which has features of both compound and complex sentences.|
|Term||Also known as:|
|Independent clause||Paratactic clause|
|Dependent clause||Hypotactic clause|
|Compound sentence||Paratactic construction|
|Complex sentence||Hypotactic construction|
For the sake of comparison between parataxis and hypotaxis, it may be useful to use the term primary clauses for both the initiating clause of a paratactic construction and the main clause of a hypotactic construction; and secondary clauses for both the continuing clause of a paratactic construction and the dependent clause of a hypotactic construction. It should be mentioned here that the main clause of a hypotactic construction is also known as a dominant clause. The relationship of some of the terms mentioned above are usefully indicated in table 11.4 below from p. 195; 219; 376 of Halliday's Introduction.
|parataxis||1 (initiating)||2 (continuing)|
|hypotaxis||α (dominant)||β (dependent)|
Halliday uses Greek letters to represent the clauses in a hypotactic structure, and Arabic numerals to represent those in a paratactic structure. Many of you however, are not familiar with the Greek alphabet. For this reason, the first five letters of the alphabet are given in their proper sequence below. These letters are also the most commonly used in the analysis of hypotaxis.
α - alpha; β - beta; γ - gamma; δ - delta; ε - epsilon
Symbolically, the initiating and continuing clauses of a paratactic structure can be written as '1 2'. If there is another clause which is paratactically related to the continuing clause, we write '1 2 3'. The dominant and dependent clauses of a hypotactic structure may also be represented in a similar manner:
'α β' and 'α β γ'
As you may know from the syntax courses you have taken, the clauses in a sentence or what Halliday calls a clause complex may occur at different levels. Examples are given in the tree diagram below.
Clause A can be more economically represented as:
1α 1β 2α 2β
An example of the above construction (which indicates that there are two independent clauses in the sentence, each of which is in turn a hypotactic construction) can be found in the extract from Mary Barton analysed in the previous workshop:
From a symbolic perspective, the positions of the primary and secondary clauses of a paratactic structure, unlike those of a hypotactic structure, cannot be interchanged. In other words, it is possible for the secondary clause of a hypotactic structure to precede the primary clause (i.e. 'β α' may be correct), but it is not possible for the secondary clause of a paratactic structure to come before the primary clause (i.e. '2 1' is incorrect).
Students should bear this principle of the non-inversion of paratactic elements in mind, as it is not merely a symbolic nicety, but quite often proves to be a major criterion in the attempt to distinguish paratactic from hypotactic structures; for example, if you cannot make the expanded secondary element (see below) of a particular clause complex precede the primary element, then the structure is probably paratactic.
|Subordinate Clause||Presence of a predicator|
|Circumstantial Adjunct||Predicator may or may not be present: it may be a phrase, and not a clause|
For an example of fronted subordinate clauses, we see a virtual mirror-image of the sentence construction mentioned above (1β 1α 2β 2α instead of 1α 1β 2α 2β), in the following sentence, which is taken from an essay by Bertrand Russell (the fronted subordinate clauses appear in bold characters):
When Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem, 185,000 of his army died in one night, "and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses" (II Kings xix. 35).
Both the lower-level clauses within the higher-level paratactic construction in the sentence by Bertrand Russell are examples of hypotactic expansion.
|Definition||Secondary clause controlled by a mental
verbal process in the primary clause
|Tactic features||May be either paratactic or hypotactic|
|Significance||Essential for the study of speech and
thought presentation: notes 19 and 20
1. However, this assertion has to be modified when one encounters downranked clauses: see the beginning of workshop 16. In the present workshop, we assume that that the clauses are not downranked. (Back to the earlier position in the text).
2. Arguably, this may be possible,
but once the projected clause of a hypotactic construction
is fronted, then we are not dealing with a straightforward example
of indirect discourse, but of free indirect
discourse. This construction, as we will learn later in the
semester, is paratactic and not hypotactic.
Traditionally, the possible interpretations as regards clause complexing are quite straightforward, and hinge on the terms used for the major types of construction. For example, simple sentences are regarded as indicating simplicity, compound sentences are related to a listing procedure, and complex sentences have to do with complexity of thought. However, you should not take these at face value. Simple sentences, for example, may conceal an underlying complexity or subtlety, and complex sentences may indicate convoluted thinking rather than complexity of thought. It is best to use your own discretion in the analysis of individual literary texts, and not rely too closely on preconceived ideas.
A different set of possible interpretations arise when one deals with projection, as you will discover later in the workshops on speech and thought presentation (workshop notes 19 and 20).
Texts to Analyse
In relation to the topic of clause complexing, we will be dealing with the following poems, all of which have been analysed in the last two workshops (and which are given here again for your convenience). If time permits, we may be analysing another poem which will be distributed during the workshop.
Carl Sandburg's 'A. E. F.'
Emily Dickinson's 'The Soul Selects Her Own Society'
Hart Crane's 'North Labrador'
another poem might be given during the session.
Click here for the notes for the next workshop.
Click here for the notes for the previous workshop.
© Ismail S. Talib 1999-2017.
Last revised: 12 May 2017