Clause Ordering in English Complex Sentences

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Park, TaeSook
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Seoul National University Department of English Language and Literature
SNU Working Papers in English Language and Linguistics 1, 92-108.
clause orderingsubordinate clausessubordinatorsend-focus
This paper is a corpus-based investigation of clause ordering in the English sentences which contain a subordinate clause. We analyze the sentences containing thirteen simple subordinators which can be semantically classified into time, reason, condition and concession phrases. The data is from the Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen (LOB) Corpus and the British National Corpus (BNC). Data Analysis shows that the subordinate clauses have a tendency to be positioned sentence-finally in general, with the exception of if-clauses. Among the clauses, reason clauses most frequently occur in the sentence-final position. Among condition clauses, the positive if-clause frequently precedes the main clause, whereas the negative unless-clause often follows it. Data also shows that spoken English reflects this tendency more clearly than written English. We suggest that the clause ordering may be analyzed in terms of the semantic principle of end-focus, on the assumption that most of the subordinate clauses have a relatively heavy meaning weight within complex sentences.
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)SNU working papers in English language and linguisticsSNU working papers in English language and linguistics Vol.01 (2002)
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