PARALLELISM OF SYNTACTIC FUNCTIONS
When we set out to characterise the syntactic function of some word, phrase, or clause, we are often at a loss for want of objective criteria which would justify this or that view of their function, and we are often reduced to subjective opinions, often incompatible with one another, instead of reaching conclusions binding on every one. The result is that the whole sphere to which such a question belongs, begins to look like one inaccessible to scientific treatment, and we either reconcile ourselves to this state of things, or else we decide that the question had better be dropped altogether.
Among these questions is that of the function of subordinate clauses in a complex sentence. In more than one case the description of a subordinate clause as belonging to this or that type appears to be a scholar's private opinion rather than anything else. We must therefore attach special value to any objective criterion that might be discovered here, and we must be on a constant look-out for such criteria.
Now, a very valuable criterion in this sphere is parallel use of a subordinate clause and of a word or phrase in the same syntactic function. If the syntactic function of the word or phrase has been established — and this is in many cases an easier thing to do than with subordinate clauses — the function of the subordinate clause may be defined on this ground with a much greater degree of objectivity than on any other. Unfortunately, cases of this kind do not seem to be frequent. The more value should be attached to the few cases that there are.
The following sentence affords a clear example of parallelism: For himself, he did not mind this but if she made silly jokes about the old ladies at Potter's Farm he would get angry and then Mummy would say all that about his having to learn to take a joke and about his being highly strung and where could he have got it froom, not
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from her. (A. WILSON) Towards the end of it there are three parts connected by the conjunction and: ...all that about his having to learn to take a joke and about his being highly strung and where could he have got it from, not from her. So the syntactical function of the three parts (1) about his having to learn to take a joke, (2) about his being highly strung, (3) where could he have got it from, not from her, are bound to be the same. So a clause is shown to be on the same syntactical level as the two prepositional phrases introduced by about. If we agree that the two prepositional groups, joined as they are to the words all that, are on that account to be considered as attributes, the subordinate clause is bound to be an attributive clause.
A parallel use of a word and a clause is found in the following passage: "I have heard that something very shocking indeed will soon come out in London." Miss Tilney, to whom this was chiefly addressed, was startled, and hastily replied, "Indeed! — and of what nature?" "That I do not know, nor who is the author." (J. AUSTEN) This extract is interesting in more than one respect. On the one hand, the demonstrative pronoun that is here used to replace a clause, as implied from the question "...of what nature?" The full answer might have been "Of what nature it is, I do not know." On the other hand, in the last sentence of the extract, the object that is connected with the clause who is the author by the co-ordinating conjunction nor, which shows that they are parallel elements of the sentence, standing in the same relation to the predicate do not know. Again, if we term the pronoun that an object, there seems no valid reason for denying the status of object to the clause who is the author.
A similar parallel use of a secondary part of a sentence and of a subordinate clause is also seen in the following example: During the evening, and until they finally went to bed at midnight, Judith attempted several times to get Eve to tell her what kind of job she had and about the kind of work she did, but Eve always laughed and said it was too unimportant to discuss at a time like that when they had not seen each other for so long and had so many interesting things to talk about. (E. CALDWELL) There are two cases of such parallel use in this sentence. (1) The adverbial modifier during the evening and the subordinate clause until they finally went to bed at midnight are joined together by the conjunction and. Their similarity in meaning is seen from the fact that they are both introduced by words referring to time (during and until) and both contain nouns expressing temporal units (evening, midnight). So if we term the phrase during the evening an adverbial modifier of time, there is every reason to term the clause an adverbial clause of time. (2) With the verb tell there are two syntactical units denoting the contents of the action denoted by this verb: the subordinate clause
312 Some General Remarks on Syndetic Composite Sentences
what kind of job she had, and the phrase about the kind of work she did, and they are also joined together by the conjunction and. Their closeness in meaning is also shown by the fact that the subordinate clause contains the words kind of job, and the following phrase the words kind of work (job and work being of course synonyms), though this lexical closeness is not here essential to prove the syntactical parallelism of the two units. Again, if we term the phrase about the kind of work she did an object, there is every reason to term the subordinate clause an object clause.
What had seemed his defeat, her unsuccessful reaction to his account of Bone in the chapel, could be altered completely now by her consent. (BUECHNER) The two syntactical elements, the subordinate clause what had seemed his defeat, and the phrase her unsuccessful reaction to his account of Bone in the chapel, are clearly connected with each other. Probably the best way to take this connection is to say that the phrase her... chapel is an apposition to the subordinate clause, which then apparently must be the subject clause: if both the clause and the phrase are dropped there will be no subject in the sentence; and if the clause alone is dropped, the phrase will be the subject in its place, which of course is quite the rule with an apposition to the subject, in whatever way it may happen to be expressed.
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