clausal coordination (grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

clausal coordination


In English grammar, clausal coordination is the connection of two or more main clauses or sentences of equivalent status, using the conjunction and. Also called sentential coordination. Compare with phrasal coordination.

Bengt Altenberg has noted that "the distinction between clausal and phrasal coordination is a complex one and difficult to establish on purely formal grounds" (Prosodic Patterns in Spoken English).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Examples and Observations

  • Becky is a graduate student, and Paul is an undergraduate.
  • Molly Bloom is a concert singer, and Mary Hooligan is a caretaker.
  • Students should write more, and teachers should grade less.
  • Clausal (Sentential) Coordination vs. Phrasal Coordination
    "There are two major forms of syntactic coordination with the conjunction and. In sentential coordination, both propositions appear in their entirety:
    Eliza flew the coop and James had a fit.
    and may contain redundant elements:
    Eliza washed the dishes and Eliza flooded the kitchen.
    The other form of a coordinated sentence, called phrasal coordination, contains no redundancy--for example:
    James and Philip grew orchids.
    In phrasal coordination, many different conjuncts are possible: subjects, as in the preceding example; predicates:
    Eliza washed the dishes and flooded the kitchen;
    James grows orchards and petunias,
    and so on."
    (Helen Tager-Flusberg, Jill de Villiers, and Kenji Hakuta. "The Development of Sentence Coordination." Language Development: Syntax and Semantics, ed. by Stan Kuczaj, II. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1982)
  • Clausal Independence
    "[L]et us look at an example of clausal juncture . . .:
    (142) His face collapsed with relief, and then he took her arm again. (BNC AN7 3643)
    Here, each clause is independent of the other, both structurally and in terms of the operators concerned. . . .

    "Clausal coordination is exemplified by (142) above. Each clause in such a structure is able to make independent selections of operators at all levels. . . . [E]ven clauses with different illocutionary forces can be coordinated."
    (Christopher S. Butler, Structure and Function: A Guide to the Three Major Structural-Functional Theories: Part 2, From Clause to Discourse and Beyond. John Benjamins, 2003)
  • Asymmetry in Clausal Coordination
    "Asymmetry in coordination has been an object of much theoretical discussion, and, as far as clausal coordination is concerned, certain types of asymmetry, in fact, occur so frequently that what is called canonical coordination may seem an abstract ideal rather than a 'real' prototype. Thus it has been repeatedly observed that clausal coordination in practice often deviates from standard logical conjunction by being sensitive to permutation of the conjuncts, i.e., that the interpretation may change with the order of the conjuncts, even if overt anaphoric dependencies between the second and the first conjunct are adjusted; cf. (1)-(2) taken from Levinson (2000-121) and Blakemore & Carston (2005:570), respectively.
    (1) John turned the key and the engine started.
    (≠ The engine started and John turned the key.)

    (2) She {[jumped on the horse] and [rode into the sunset]}.
    (≠ She rode into the sunset and jumped on the horse.)
    Here the conjuncts are 'equal' at the syntactic level, they are full clauses of the same 'type' in (1) and verb phrases in (2); that is, the asymmetry concerns the level of interpretation alone. This phenomenon of conjunction buttressing (Levinson 2000) can be explained as pragmatic enrichment based on the principle of informativeness (I-principle) which allows the hearer/reader to choose the strongest interpretation coherent with what is explicitly said . . .."
    (Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen and Wiebke Ramm, Introduction. "Subordination" versus "Coordination" in Sentence and Text: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective. John Benjamins, 2008)
  • Language Acquisition and Coordination
    "The fact that most phrasal coordinations have sentential counterparts (John and Mary left = John left and Mary left) led to the natural notion of 'conjunction reduction': phrasal coordinations are reductions/ellipses of a sentential coordination structure. Results from early childhood studies seem to be consistent with this view, in that children command sentential coordination from very early stages, while phrasal coordination is more variable in its development. However, certain conjunction structures cannot be analyzed as conjunction reductions, since there is no sentential conjunction counterpart with the equivalent semantics; Lust et al. investigated the acquisition of two such types: reciprocals, as in John and Tom hit each other (≠ John hit each other and Tom hit each other), and 'mud-puddle' sentences, such as Dirt and water make a mud puddle (≠ Dirt makes a mud puddle and water makes a mud puddle). Interestingly, children seem to be insensitive to the semantic anomaly involved in creating sentential conjunctions from sentences of the second type, but they showed a great awareness of the restrictions on the reciprocal type."
    (William D. Lewis, Simin Karimi, Scott O. Farrar, and Heidi Harley, Introduction. Time and Again: Theoretical Perspectives on Formal Linguistics. John Benjamins, 2009)