Ling 131: Language & Style
Topic 7 (session A) - The grammar of complex sentences > Linking, listing and nesting Checksheet
|Grammar made easy - the basic principles|
|Linking, listing and nesting clauses|
|Linking, listing & nesting checksheet|
|Complex SPOCA self test|
|Topic 7 'tool' summary|
CHECKSHEET - LINKING, LISTING AND NESTING
(I) THE HIERARCHICAL NATURE OF GRAMMATICAL UNITS
We have seen from our work on grammar so far that grammar involves a hierarchy of levels Here is the basic hierarchy again:
We have been working mainly on simple sentences (which consist of one clause) and phrases (which are made up of one or more words). Everyone knows roughly what a sentence is like and what a word is like, because they are marked in a text, respectively, (a) by initial capitals and final full stops and (b) spaces . But phrases and clauses are not normally marked in this way, so we need ways of showing where they start and end. When we annotate texts one way is to use Round Brackets to mark (PHRASES) and Square brackets to mark [CLAUSES].
In fact, SPOCA analysis belongs to CLAUSES, not sentences, so when we have a single SPOCA pattern in a sentence, we say that this is a SIMPLE SENTENCE containing a SINGLE MAIN CLAUSE (MCl), as in the example below:
(1) [(The professor) (devoured) (his sixth peach) (with gusto)].
However, sometimes this kind of notation can mean that there are a large number of sets of brackets to mark in, and this can make it rather awkward to see where the various clauses and phrases start and end. So it may be more helpful to set out the structure using another notation, called a TREE DIAGRAM. Below, we show how this works with the same simple sentence:
(II) LINKING, LISTING AND NESTING
The types of structure which can occur enable us to add more elements on, or in to, a sentence as we need them -- to make sentences as long and complex as we want them to be, in fact. The main types of structure this involves are called LINKING, LISTING and NESTING.
Look at this bracketed example:
We notice that in this sentence there are two main clauses (marked by the square brackets), each with its own "SPOCA" pattern:
Note that in this, and the other examples below, our tabular boxes effectively do the same job as the round brackets, but we have left the brackets in to help you see how to mark grammatical structures in text.
The two clauses are linked together by the conjunction but, so the sentence has two main clauses. SENTENCES WHICH HAVE MORE THAN ONE MAIN CLAUSE, LIKE THAT ABOVE, ARE CALLED COMPOUND SENTENCES.
When we add two clauses together as above, and make them into a compound sentence, this is an example of LINKING. The main linking words are and, or, and but - known as coordinating conjunctions (CJ).
Linking can take place not only between clauses, but also at other grammatical levels, and hence between other units, like phrases and words. Examples:
In sentences where the Subject of the linked main clauses is the same, English grammar allows us to miss out (or elide) the second ("understood") Subject, because it can easily be retrieved from the context:
Facts about Linking:
(a) LINKING of clauses is what makes compound
The last two abstract sentence structures given in 4 above are exceptional, because when we use a sequence of 3 or more linked elements in English, we generally prefer to omit all 'ands' except the last 'and', and replace them (in writing) by a comma, so that we get:
What we are doing in (5) is modifying the basic "linking" structure so that it becomes "listing".
We may go further, and miss out all the ands, replacing them by commas or other punctuation marks:
Whenever we juxtapose the elements without using a conjunction like 'and', we will call the structure LISTING. So, in the above examples, (6) shows LISTING, (4) shows LINKING, and (5) shows a mixture of LINKING AND LISTING, which is actually normal when we coordinate 3 or more elements in a typical list in English writing.
A special kind of listing:
Look at the Noun Phrases highlighted in (7). They look like a case of LISTING, but you could not insert 'ands' wherever you want: (Why not?)
This is an extreme illustration of the structure called APPOSITION, where two Noun Phrases, placed together, refer to the same person, place, group, etc. In the above example there are only two people, but they have, respectively, 4 and 5 noun phrases in apposition to the first noun phrase referring to them. Note that apart from the last item in each appositional list, it would not be possible to LINK each pair of phrases together, as this would force the reader to think that there were more, different, people being referred to. Simpler examples would be:
There is another kind of sentence, called a COMPLEX SENTENCE, where one clause is part of another clause. For example, in (10) below the clause [that the weakness was in the region of the heart] is the Object of "gathered" (i.e. it is what Pemberton gathered). Hence it is part of the Mcl shown by the outer square brackets:
Other, more or less alternative terms which you may come across for nesting are embedding and subordination. The nested clause in (10), is the O of the main clause. In (11) it is the A of the main clause:
Notice that we find two SPOCA patterns in these two clauses, one within the square brackets indicating the structure of the nested clause, and one outside it, indicating the structure of overall Mcl
Often in prose a sentence contains two Main Clauses and a subordinate clause. This is called a COMPOUND COMPLEX SENTENCE, e.g.:
So NESTING is a relation between grammatical units of the same rank, when one is included in the other, or when a unit of a higher rank is included in a lower-level unit. For example:
(John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men)
In (12) and (13), the nested clause in each case fills up an entire SPOCA element (O, A), and acts as that element. This is called direct nesting. In (14) below, the subordinate clause is embedded inside a Noun Phrase, the whole Noun Phrase acting as the SPOCA element (S):
Things to Notice about Nesting:
(a) Nesting is when a clause has another clause embedded inside it.
(b) When a clause is nested inside another clause, it acts as an S, O, C, or A in that clause (in which case it is directly nested) - or sometimes, as part of an S, O, C, or A (in which case it is indirectly nested).
(c) There can be more than one clause nested inside the same Mcl:
(d) You can nest things inside things which are already nested (e.g. nested clauses inside other nested clauses:
(e) As indicated in (a) above, we can nest phrases inside phrases as well as clauses inside clauses, e.g:
(g) With linking and listing, nesting accounts for our ability to build sentences as long and complex as we need them - even sentences hundreds of words long.
(h) Subordinate clauses can be nested inside main clauses to occupy a number Of different SPOCA slots. For example: