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The prevalence of similar indeterminate structures in widely different varieties of English not only independently motivates the analysis here but also offers insight into the paratactic style of clause linkage that novice writers seem to carry into their texts from spontaneous speech in the form of the fused sentence or the comma splice.

O ther subordinate clauses in the corpus also exhibit paratactic relationships to their main clauses; note the comma splices in 22 and S entences 22 and 23 are ambiguous between hypotaxis where an understood subordinator like that might introduce the second clause in each example, as in My tooth hurt so bad that I was afraid it would have to be pulled and parataxis where an understood coordinator like and might introduce the second clause in each example, as in My tooth hurt so bad, and I was afraid it would have to be pulled.

In the corpus, many of the comma splices written by college composition students were exactly like examples 22 and 23 , ambiguous between hypotaxis and parataxis. F used sentences, on the other hand, would seem to be obviously paratactic: they are two sentences joined together as one orthographic sentence without benefit of conjunctions or punctuation.

Often they involve conjunctive adverbs functioning as coordinators between clauses. The semantics of conjunctive adverbs is indeterminate in itself, exhibiting a gradient between the functions of conjunction at one pole and modification at the other pole. Consider the last fused sentences in 24 from an impromptu essay written by a remedial English composition student. T he middle sentence in 24 , also a fused sentence, exhibits a different structure, a structure indeterminate between para- and hypotaxis.

In that sentence, the first main clause seems to function presentationally as theme of the second main clause. That is, the first main clause The main problem is that I know what I want to say functions to orient or present a universe of discourse in which the second main clause its just that its very hard for me to put it on paper can be interpreted. T hese errors suggest that instruction about sentence faults needs to do more than prescribe to students about punctuation, conjunctions, or clause boundaries.

Effective instruction must recognize first that students' syntax is itself ambiguous, demonstrating both para- and hypotaxis. Is the clausal relationship in 22 and 23 hypo- or paratactic? If hypotactic, the students need to learn about effective subordination, punctuation with commas, and the uses of subordinating conjunctions.

If paratactic, the students need to learn about effective coordination, punctuation with semicolons, and coordinating conjunctions. T here are, moreover, a variety of constructions that are related to the fused sentence and the comma splice in that they derive the motivation for their existence from the same preference for paratactic constructions on the part of novice writers. For example, sentence 25 employs subordination to background some information while highlighting another portion of the message.

T he student's actual sentence, in 26 , is now more understandable, if one remembers that the assignment of information focus is difficult for novice writers, who seem to prefer paratactic constructions whenever possible. As further evidence for this analysis, consider sentence 27 , which demonstrates the stylistic option of placing the information in the sentence in a paratactic sequence. I t seems reasonable to suggest that examples of awkward syntax or faulty subordination like 26 are the result of a novice writer's incomplete attempt to use subordinate clauses as paratactic, rather than hypotactic, constructions.

T he stylistic conflict that I have discussed throughout the article can now be more clearly understood: the syntax of the nonrestrictive relative clauses and the adverbial clauses examined above is hypotaxis, but the semantics is parataxis. Further, one can now begin to explicate the pretheoretical notions of awkward syntax and sentence faults found in many college compositions and discussed in every composition handbook: awkwardness and sentence faults may be the result of a mismatch between syntax and semantics, between form and function generally, usually where the syntax suggests hypotaxis, but the semantics suggests parataxis.

Style here refers to the pattern, the texture, of linguistic choices made by a writer or group of writers. The majority of students in college composition courses are linguistically sophisticated enough to employ a host of different syntactic structures available to them as speakers of English, but the author of 5 uses the nonrestrictive clauses as a choice, a style marker. In fact, the style of 5 is not uncommon in college composition. Some research on the composing process of writers at the college level suggests that the syntax and semantics of clausal connections are troublesome for many novice writers cf.

One study Kies, forthcoming found that remedial writers at the college level mastered the stylistic options of subordination relatively late in their acquisition of the composing process. In those cases, it may be fair to characterize the semantic ambiguity associated with clause connections in 5 above or in any of the other examples as developmental in origin.

H owever, realization may not be the most appropriate term here. As the term is used in systemic-functional linguistics, realization suggests that the choice of a paratactic nonrestrictive relative clause is one of several clause-level options available to speakers of English. I believe that such a suggestion would be an inaccurate description of the language generally and of the style of composition specifically because these structures are limited in their distribution, use, and frequency both in and out of college compositions.

A fter considering the various errors of fused sentences, comma splices, awkward syntax, and faulty subordination, one notices that in the prose of college composition students subordinate clauses function both as hypotactic structures and paratactic structures. Fluent writers match the linguistic functions of parataxis and hypotaxis with the linguistic forms of juxtaposition, tags, coordination, and different forms of subordination nonrestictive relative clauses, adverbial clauses, and other subordinate clauses as illustrated in On the other hand, college composition students often match linguistic function and linguistic form differently.

Subordinate clauses in the corpus, particularly the nonrestrictive relatives and the adverbial clauses, are semantically indeterminate, exhibit a gradient, functioning both as para- and hypotactic structures as illustrated in T he gradient nature of taxis suggested here receives some cross-linguistic support in Talmy's study of the universal properties of coordination and subordination.

Talmy , p. In fact a rough surface version of the general syntactic structure of relative-clefted can be provided I n conclusion, the analyses described in this study suggest several tentative hypotheses; each requires further study:. First, one can hypothesize that a significant number of structures in the prose of college composition students are semantically indeterminate and that taxis is a gradient phenomenon in college composition. Second, in the language development of college composition students, there seems to be a mismatch between meaning and grammar, between function and form generally, between the semantics of parataxis and the syntax of hypotaxis in the complex sentences specifically.

The gradient nature of subordination discussed above is an overextension of paratactic semantics and function to structures with hypotactic syntax. Yet the student does not seem to have mastered the linguistic functions of the nonrestrictive relative clauses as quickly as she was able to acquire the linguistic form. She overextends paratactic semantics to her hypotactic forms.

Third, one can extend the hypotheses above to account for the linguistic nature of particular usage errors commonly found as style markers in college compositions: if linguistic function determines linguistic form in a given context a central tenet in most functional analyses , then stylistic errors result from the use of linguistic forms that are not motivated by linguistic, communicative, function. W hat remains unclear, nevertheless, is the order of acquisition. Some of the data here suggest that the direction of acquisition is form perhaps through imitation first and then function, but much more research needs to be done.

F inally, one should note an important distinction between research methodologies in quantitative and qualitative corpus and textual studies. Quantitative corpus and textual studies often assume that statistically salient co-occurrence patterns between linguistic features bear witness to a shared communicative function. That is the assumption behind the quantitative textual studies of Ervin-Tripp , Biber and , and, in part, Besnier ; as Besnier , p.

However, that assumption may not always be warranted: in this study, for example, one might mistakenly assume that all overt subordinators between clauses axiomatically entails hypotactic function, conflicting with many examples in the data here on the semantic indeterminacy of subordination.

O ne might suggest therefore that all corpus and textual studies must include a careful qualitative analysis of the both the phenomena and the concepts under investigation, as in Halliday's study of metaphor Halliday, Semantic indeterminacy and gradience would go unnoticed, for example, if the most basic concepts such as subordination went unanalyzed. Linguistic description and explanation would be that much weaker. I am grateful to the many convention participants who shared their comments and questions with me.

I must also thank David Bloome and the anonymous reviewers of Linguistics and Education : the editor's insights and the reviewers' criticisms have made this article immeasurably better than its earlier drafts. The corpus on which this article is based was collected at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee in September The corpus consists of essays totalling , words written by freshmen early in the term.

The freshmen were enrolled in English composition courses from the remedial level through the more advanced second semester English composition or business writing courses.

The corpus is larger than most data bases in textual or stylistic studies. The size of the corpus helps to ensure that the texts are representative of the freshman English speech community. The essays fall into two groups: impromptu essays and prepared essays. The impromptu essays were thirty minute diagnostic essays assigned during the first class session using writing prompts such as How do you assess yourself as a writer?

The prepared essays are the first assigned essays, all of which were prepared outside of the composition classroom. The topics for the prepared essays varied from instructor to instructor, but all fell into the rhetorical modes of narration or description. The exception was the business writing samples.

Those essays were all examples of "bad news" correspondence designed to persuade the addressee. Which is why, says Coates, a woman will feel personally slighted if a man walks past her wearing a frown Notice for example that parataxis is the dominant strategy for clause linkage among young speakers:. I got some money and I went to the store and I bought lots of candy and I ate it all up and I got sick and I went home and I threw up.

Similarly, many writers of children's literature prefer parataxis over hypotaxis in their works:. As students read and write in such courses, they quickly discover various stylistic markers of business and technical prose, such compounding, nominalizations, and the frequent use of the passive voice.

Suddenly, as every instructor of business or technical writing will testify, the students' prose is filled with those same stylistic patterns.

However, the students are not acquiring the linguistic functions of passive voice as quickly as they are mastering the linguistic forms, and so their prose is filled with stylistic 'errors' as in the letter below, a student's attempt at a 'bad news' letter in a sophomore business writing class. The letter is filled with an inappropriate use of the passive voice creating an unnecessary and unwanted threatening tone. Dear Mr. Bronson: Over the past few months you have been sent letters requesting you to submit your S E Forms before or on the 10th of each month. Thus far you have failed to get them in on time. As one of Blaylock's best sales dealers, I don't want to see you get in trouble over this matter of late forms.

I have been informed that if this situation is not reversed stern action will be taken such as fewer rewards or a talk with the Senior Vice President of Marketing. Andersson, L-G. Form and function of subordinate clauses. Gothenburg monographs in linguistics 1. Goteburg: University of Goteburg Department of Linguistics.

Besnier, N. The linguistic relationships of spoken and written Nukulaelae registers. Language , 64 , Bever, T.

Perceptual mechanisms and formal properties of main and subordinate clauses. Walker Eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Biber, D. Linguistics , 23 , Variation across speech and writing.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bolinger, D. Pronouns in discourse.

English grammar tutorial: Clauses of purpose