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COMPOSITE SENTENCE AS A POLYPREDICATIVE CONSTRUCTION

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COMPOSITE SENTENCE AS A POLYPREDICATIVE CONSTRUCTION
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COMPOSITE SENTENCE AS A POLYPREDICATIVE CONSTRUCTION

§ 1. The composite sentence, as different from the simple sentence, is formed by two or more predicative lines. Being a polypredicative construction, it expresses a complicated act of thought, i.e. an act of mental activity which falls into two or more intellectual efforts closely combined with one another. In terms of situations and events this means that the composite sentence reflects two or more elementary




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situational events viewed as making up a unity; the constitutive connections of the events are expressed by the constitutive connections of the predicative lines of the sentence, i.e. by the sentential polypredication.

Each predicative unit in a composite sentence makes up a clause in it, so that a clause as part of a composite sentence corresponds to a separate sentence as part of a contextual sequence. E.g.:

When I sat down to dinner I looked for an opportunity to slip in casually the information that I had by accident run across the Driffields; but news travelled fast in Blackstable (S. Maugham).

The cited composite sentence includes four clauses which are related to one another on different semantic grounds. The sentences underlying the clauses are the following:

I sat down to dinner. I looked for an opportunity to slip in casually the information. I had by accident run across the Driffields. News travelled fast in Blackstable.

The correspondence of a predicative clause to a separate sentence is self-evident. On the other hand, the correspondence of a composite sentence to a genuine, logically connected sequence of simple sentences (underlying its clauses) is not evident at all; moreover, such kind of correspondence is in fact not obligatory, which is the very cause of the existence of the composite sentence in a language. Indeed, in the given example the independent sentences reconstructed from the predicative clauses do not make up any coherently presented situational unity; they are just so many utterances each expressing an event of self-sufficient significance. By way of rearrangement and the use of semantic connectors we may make them into a more or less explanatory situational sequence, but the exposition of the genuine logic of events, i.e. their presentation as natural parts of a unity, achieved by the composite sentence will not be, and is not to be replaced in principle. Cf.:

I ran by accident across the Driffields. At some time later on I sat down to dinner. While participating in the general conversation, I looked for an opportunity to slip in casually the information about my meeting them. But news travelled fast in Blackstable.

The logical difference between the given composite sentence and its contextually coherent de-compositional

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presentation is, that whereas the composite sentence exposes as its logical centre, i.e. the core of its purpose of communication, the intention of the speaker to inform his table-companions of a certain fact (which turns out to be already known to them), the sentential sequence expresses the events in their natural temporal succession, which actually destroys the original purpose of communication. Any formation of a sentential sequence more equivalent to the given composite sentence by its semantic status than the one shown above has to be expanded by additional elucidative prop-utterances with back-references; and all the same, the resulting contextual string, if it is intended as a real informational substitute for the initial composite, will hardly be effected without the help of some kind of essentially composite sentence constructions included in it (let the reader himself try to construct an equivalent textual sequence meeting the described semantic requirements).

As we see, the composite sentence in its quality of a structural unit of language is indispensable for language by its own purely semantic merits, let alone its terseness, as well as intellectual elegance of expression.

§ 2. As is well known, the use of composite sentences, especially long and logically intricate ones, is characteristic of literary written speech rather than colloquial oral speech. This unquestionable fact is explained by the three reasons: one relating to the actual needs of expression; one relating to the possibilities of production; and one relating to the conditions of perception.

That the composite sentence structure answers the special needs of written mode of lingual expression is quite evident. It is this type of speech that deals with lengthy reasonings, descriptions, narrations, all presenting abundant details of intricate correlations of logical premises and inferences, of situational foreground and background, of sequences of events interrupted by cross-references and parenthetical comments. Only a composite sentence can adequately and within reasonable bounds of textual space fulfil these semantic requirements.

Now, the said requirements, fortunately, go together with the fact that in writing it is actually possible to produce long composite sentences of complicated, but logically flawless structure (the second of the advanced reasons). This is possible here because the written sentence, while in the process of being

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produced, is open to various alterations: it allows corrections of slips and errors; it can be subjected to curtailing or expanding; it admits of rearranging and reformulating one's ideas; in short, it can be prepared. This latter factor is of crucial importance, so that when considering the properties of literary written speech we must always bear it in mind. Indeed, from the linguistic point of view written speech is above all prepared, or 'edited' speech: it is due to no other quality than being prepared before its presentation to the addressee that this mode of speech is structurally so tellingly different from colloquial oral speech. Employing the words in their broader sense, we may say that literary written speech is not just uttered and gone, but is always more carefully or less carefully composed in advance, being meant for a future use of the reader, often for his repeated use. In distinction to this, genuine colloquial oral speech is uttered each time in an irretrievably complete and final form, each time for one immediate and fleeting occasion.

We have covered the first two reasons explaining the composite sentence of increased complexity as a specific feature of written speech. The third reason, referring to the conditions of perception, is inseparable from the former two. Namely, if written text provides for the possibility for its producer to return to the beginning of each sentence with the aim of assessing its form and content, of rearranging or re-composing it altogether, it also enables the reader, after he has run through the text for the first time, to go back to its starting line and re-read it with as much care as will be required for the final understanding of each item and logical connection expressed by its wording or implied by its construction. Thus, the length limit imposed on the sentence by the recipient's immediate (operative) memory can in writing be practically neglected; the volume of the written sentence is regulated not by memory limitations as such, but by the considerations of optimum logical -balance and stylistic well-formedness.

§ 3. Logic and style being the true limiters of the written sentence volume, two dialectically contrasted active tendencies can be observed in the sentence-construction of modern printed texts. According to the first tendency, a given unity of reasons in meditation, a natural sequence of descriptive situations or narrative events is to be reflected in one composite sentence, however long and structurally complicated

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it might prove. According to the second, directly opposite tendency, for a given unity of reflected events or reasons, each of them is to be presented by one separate simple sentence, the whole complex of reflections forming a multisentential paragraph. The two tendencies are always in a state of confrontation, and which of them will take an upper hand in this or that concrete case of text production has to be decided out of various considerations of form and meaning relating to both contextual and con-situational conditions (including, among other things, the general purpose of the work in question, as well as the preferences and idiosyncrasies of its users).

Observe, for instance, the following complex sentence of mixed narrative-reasoning nature:

Once Mary waved her hand as she recognised her driver, but he took no notice of her, only whipping his horses the harder, and she realised with a rather helpless sense of futility that so far as other people were concerned she must be considered in the same light as her uncle, and that even if she tried to walk to Boduin or Launceston no one would receive her, and the door would be shut in her face (D. du Maurier).

The sentence has its established status in the expressive context of the novel, and in this sense it is unrearrangeable. On the other hand, its referential plane can be rendered by a multisentential paragraph, plainer in form, but somewhat more natural to the unsophisticated perceptions:

Once Mary recognised her driver. She waved her hand to him. But he took no notice of her. He only whipped his horses the harder. And she realised that so far as other people were concerned she must be considered in the same light as her uncle. This gave her a rather helpless sense of futility. Even if she tried to walk to Boduin or Launceston no one would receive her. Quite the contrary, the door would be shut in her face.

One long composite sentence has been divided into eight short sentences. Characteristically, though, in our simplification we could not do without the composite sentence structure as such: two of the sentential units in the adaptation (respectively, the fourth and the sixth) have retained their compositive features, and these structural properties seem

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to be indispensable for the functional adequacy of the rearranged passage.

The cited example of syntactic re-formation of text will help us formulate the following composition rule of good non-fiction (neutral) prose style: in neutral written speech each sentence construction should be as simple as can be permitted by the semantic context.

§ 4. We have emphatically pointed out in due course (see Ch. I) the oral basis of human language: the primary lingual matter is phonetical, so that each and every lingual utterance given in a graphic form has essentially a representative character, its speech referent being constructed of so many phones organised in a rhythmo-melodical sequence. On the other hand, and this has also been noted before, writing in a literary language acquires a relatively self-sufficient status in so far as a tremendous proportion of what is actually written in society is not meant for an oral reproduction at all: though read and re-read by those to whom it has been addressed, it is destined to remain 'silent' for ever. The 'silent' nature of written speech with all its peculiarities leads to the development of specifically written features of language, among which, as we have just seen, the composite sentence of increased complexity occupies one of the most prominent places. Now, as a natural consequence of this development, the peculiar features of written speech begin to influence oral speech, whose syntax becomes liable to display ever more syntactic properties directly borrowed from writing.

Moreover, as a result of active interaction between oral and written forms of language, a new variety of speech has arisen that has an intermediary status. This type of speech, being explicitly oral, is at the same time prepared and edited, and more often than not it is directly reproduced from the written text, or else from its epitomised version (theses). This intermediary written-oral speech should be given a special linguistic name, for which we suggest the term 'scripted speech', i.e. speech read from the script. Here belong such forms of lingual communication as public report speech, lecturer speech, preacher speech, radio- and television-broadcast speech, each of them existing in a variety of subtypes.

By way of example let us take the following passage from President Woodrow Wilson's address to the Congress urging it to authorise the United States' entering the World War (1917):

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But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

The text presents a typical case of political scripted speech with a clear tinge of solemnity, its five predicative units being complicated by parallel constructions of homogeneous objects (for-phrases) adding to its high style emphasis.

Compare the above with a passage from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second inaugural address (1937):

In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens — a substantial part of its whole population — who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

The sentence is not a long one, but its bookish background, although meant for oral uttering before an audience, is most evident: a detached appositional phrase, consecutive subordination, the very nature of the last appositional clausal complex of commenting type, all these features being carefully prepared to give the necessary emphasis to the social content of the utterance aimed at a public success.

Compare one more example — a passage from Bernard Shaw's paper read before the Medico-Legal Society in London (1909):

Nevertheless, trade in medical advice has never been formally recognised, and never will be; for you must realise that, whereas competition in ordinary trade and business is founded on an elaborate theoretic demonstration of its benefits, there has never been anyone from Adam Smith to our own time who has attempted such a demonstration with regard to the medical profession. The idea of a doctor being a tradesman with a pecuniary interest in your being ill is abhorrent to every thoughtful person.

The scripted nature of the cited sentential sequence is clearly seen from its arrangement as an expressive climax built upon a carefully balanced contrastive composite construction.

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§ 5. We have hitherto defended the thesis of the composite sentence of increased complexity being specifically characteristic of literary written speech. On the other hand, we must clearly understand that the composite sentence as such is part and parcel of the general syntactic system of language, and its use is an inalienable feature of any normal expression of human thought in intercourse. This is demonstrated by cases of composite sentences that could not be adequately reduced to the corresponding sets of separate simple sentences in their natural contexts (see above). Fictional literature, presenting in its works a reflection of language as it is spoken by the people, gives us abundant illustrations of the broad use of composite sentences in genuine colloquial speech both of dialogue and monologue character.

Composite sentences display two principal types of construction: hypotaxis (subordination) and parataxis (coordination). Both types are equally representative of colloquial speech, be it refined by education or not. In this connection it should be noted that the initial rise of hypotaxis and parataxis as forms of composite sentences can be traced back to the early stages of language development, i. e. to the times when language had no writing. Profuse illustrations of the said types of syntactic relations are contained, for instance, in the Old English epic 'Beowulf' (dated presumably from the VII с A. D.). As is known, the text of the poem shows all the basic forms of sentential composition including the grammatically completed presentation of reported speech, connection of clauses on various nominal principles (objective, subjective, predicative, attributive), connection of clauses on various adverbial principles (temporal, local, conditional, causal, etc.). E. g.:

* From: Beowulf/Ed. by A. J. Wyatt. New edition revised with introduction and notes by R. W, Chambers. Cambr., 1933, verses 590- 597.

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Compare the tentative prose translation of the cited text into Modern English (with the corresponding re-arrangements of the word-order patterns):

Truly I say onto thee, oh Son Egglaf, that never would Grendel, the abominable monster, have done so many terrible deeds to your chief, (so many) humiliating acts in Heorot, if thy soul (and) heart had been as bold as thou thyself declarest; but he has found that he need not much fear the hostile sword-attack of your people, the Victorious Skildings.

Needless to say, the forms of composite sentences in prewriting periods of language history cannot be taken as a proof that the structure of the sentence does not develop historically in terms of perfecting its expressive qualities. On the contrary, the known samples of Old English compared with their modern rendering are quite demonstrative of the fact that the sentence does develop throughout the history of language; moreover, they show that the nature and scope of the historical structural change of the sentence is not at all a negligible matter. Namely, from the existing lingual materials we see that the primitive, not clearly identified forms of subordination and coordination, without distinct border points between separate sentences, have been succeeded by such constructions of syntactic composition as are distinguished first and foremost by the clear-cut logic of connections between their clausal predicative parts. However, these materials, and among them the cited passage, show us at the same time that the composite sentence, far from being extraneous to colloquial speech, takes its origin just in the oral colloquial element of human speech as such: it is inherent in the very oral nature of developing language.



§ 6. The two main types of the connection of clauses in a composite sentence, as has been stated above, are subordination and coordination. By coordination the clauses are arranged as units of syntactically equal rank, i. с equipotently; by subordination, as units of unequal rank, one being categorially dominated by the other. In terms of the positional structure of the sentence it means that by subordination one of the clauses (subordinate) is placed in a notional position of the other (principal). This latter characteristic has an essential semantic implication clarifying the difference

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between the two types of polypredication in question. As a matter of fact, a subordinate clause, however important the information rendered by it might be for the whole communication, presents it as naturally supplementing the information of the principal clause, i.e. as something completely premeditated and prepared even before its explicit expression in the utterance. This is of especial importance for post-positional subordinate clauses of circumstantial semantic nature. Such clauses may often shift their position without a change in semantico-syntactic status. Cf.:

I could not help blushing with embarrassment when I looked at him. When I looked at him I could not help blushing with embarrassment. The board accepted the decision, though it didn't quite meet their plans. Though the decision didn't quite meet their plans, the board accepted it.

The same criterion is valid for subordinate clauses with a fixed position in the sentence. To prove the subordinate quality of the clause in the light of this consideration, we have to place it in isolation — and see that the isolation is semantically false. E.g.:

But all the books were so neatly arranged, they were so clean, that I had the impression they were very seldom read.→ *But all the books were so neatly arranged, they were so clean. That I had the impression they were very seldom read. I fancy that life is more amusing now than it was forty years ago. *I fancy that life is more amusing now. Than it was forty years ago.

As for coordinated clauses, their equality in rank is expressed above all in each sequential clause explicitly corresponding to a new effort of thought, without an obligatory feature of premeditation. In accord with the said quality, a sequential clause in a compound sentence refers to the whole of the leading clause, whereas a subordinate clause in a complex sentence, as a rule, refers to one notional constituent (expressed by a word or a phrase) in a principal clause [Khaimovich, Rogovskaya, 278]. It is due to these facts that the position of a coordinate clause is rigidly fixed in all cases, which can be used as one of the criteria of coordination in distinction to subordination. Another probe of rank equality of clauses in coordination is a potential possibility for any •coordinate sequential clause to take either the copulative

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conjunction and or the adversative conjunction but as introducers. Cf.:

That sort of game gave me horrors, so I never could play it. That sort of game gave me horrors, and I never could play it. The excuse was plausible, only it was not good enough for us. The excuse was plausible, but it was not good enough for us.

§ 7. The means of combining clauses into a polypredicative sentence are divided into syndetic, i. e. conjunctional, and asyndetic, i. e. non-conjunctional. The great controversy going on among linguists about this division concerns the status of syndeton and asyndeton versus coordination and subordination. Namely, the question under consideration is whether or not syndeton and asyndeton equally express the two types of syntactic relations between clauses in a composite sentence.

According to the traditional view, all composite sentences are to be classed into compound sentences (coordinating their clauses) and complex sentences (subordinating their clauses), syndetic or asyndetic types of clause connection being specifically displayed with both classes. However, this view has of late been subjected to energetic criticism; the new thesis formulated by its critics is as follows: the 'formal' division of clause connection based on the choice of connective means should be placed higher in the hierarchy than the 'semantic' division of clause connection based on the criterion of syntactic rank. That is, on the higher level of classification all the composite sentences should be divided into syndetic and asyndetic, while on the lower level the syndetic composite sentences (and only these) should be divided into compound and complex ones in accord with the types of the connective words used. The cited principle was put forward by N. S. Pospelov as part of his syntactic analysis of Russian, and it was further developed by some other linguists.

But the new approach to coordination and subordination has not been left unchallenged. In particular, B. A. Ilyish with his characteristic discretion in formulating final decisions has pointed out serious flaws in the non-traditional reasoning resulting first of all from mixing up strictly grammatical criteria of classification with general semantic considerations [Ilyish, 318 ff.].

Indeed, if we compare the following asyndetic composite

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sentences with their compound syndetic counterparts on the basis of paradigmatic approach, we shall immediately expose unquestionable equality in their semantico-syntactic status. E. g.:

My uncle was going to refuse, but we didn't understand why.→ My uncle was going to refuse, we didn't understand why. She hesitated a moment, and then she answered him. She hesitated a moment, then she answered him.

The equality of the compound status of both types of sentences is emphatically endorsed when compared with the corresponding complex sentences in transformational constructional paradigmatics. Cf.:

We didn't understand why my uncle was going to refuse. After she hesitated a moment she answered him.

On the other hand, bearing in mind the in-positional nature of a subordinate clause expounded above, it would be altogether irrational to deny a subordinate status to the asyndetic attributive, objective or predicative clauses of the commonest order. Cf.:

They've given me a position I could never have got without them. They've given me a position which I could never have got without them. We saw at once it was all wrong. We saw at once that it was all wrong The fact is he did accept the invitation. The fact is that he did accept the invitation.

Now, one might say, as is done in some older grammatical treatises, that the asyndetic introduction of a subordinate clause amounts to the omission of the conjunctive word joining it to the principal clause. However, in the light of the above paradigmatic considerations, the invalidity of this statement in the context of the discussion appears to be quite obvious: as regards the 'omission' or 'non-omission' of the conjunctive introducer the compound asyndetic sentence should be treated on an equal basis with the complex asyndetic sentence. In other words, if we defend the idea of the omission of the conjunction with asyndetic subordinate clauses, we must apply this principle also to asyndetic coordinate clauses. But the idea of the omission of the conjunction expounded in its purest, classical form has already been demonstrated in linguistics as fallacious, since asyndetic

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connection of clauses is indisputably characterised by its own functional value; it is this specific value that vindicates and supports the very existence of asyndetic polypredication in the system of language. Moreover, many true functions of asyndetic polypredication in distinction to the functions of syndetic polypredication were aptly disclosed in the course of investigations conducted by the scholars who sought to refute the adequacy of coordinate or subordinate interpretation of clausal asyndeton. So, the linguistic effort of these scholars, though not convincing in terms of classification, has, on the whole, not been in vain; in the long run, it has contributed to the deeper insight into the nature of the composite sentence as a polypredicative combination of words.

§ 8. Besides the classical types of coordination and subordination of clauses, we find another case of the construction of composite sentence, namely, when the connection between the clauses combined in a polypredicative unit is expressly loose, placing the sequential clause in a syntactically detached position. In this loosely connected composite, the sequential clause information is presented rather as an afterthought, an idea that has come to the mind of the speaker after the completion of the foregoing utterance, which latter, by this new utterance-forming effort, is forcibly made into the clausal fore-part of a composite sentence. This kind of syntactic connection, the traces of which we saw when treating the syntagmatic bonds of the word, comes under the heading of cumulation. Its formal sign is often the tone of sentential completion followed by a shorter pause than an inter-sentential one, which intonational complex is represented in writing by a semi-final punctuation mark, such as a semicolon, a dash, sometimes a series of periods. Cf.-.

It was just the time that my aunt and uncle would be coming home from their daily walk down the town and I did not like to run the risk of being seen with people whom they would not at all approve of; so I asked them to go on first, as they would go more quickly than I (S. Maugham).

Cumulation as here presented forms a type of syntactic connection intermediary between clausal connection and sentential connection. Thus, the very composite sentence

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(loose composite) formed by it is in fact a unit intermediary between one polypredicative sentence and a group of separate sentences making up a contextual sequence.

There is good reason to interpret different parenthetical clauses as specific cumulative constructions, because the basic semantico-syntactic principle of joining them to the initially planned sentence is the same, i. e. presenting them as a detached communication, here — of an introductory or commenting-deviational nature. E.g.:

He was sent for very suddenly this morning, as I have told you already, and he only gave me the barest details before his horse was saddled and he was gone (D. du Maurier). Unprecedented in scale and lavishly financed 100,000 was collected in 1843 and 9,000,000 leaflets distributed) this agitation had all the advantages that the railways, cheap newspapers and the penny post could give (A. L. Morton).

If this interpretation is accepted, then the whole domain of cumulation should be divided into two parts: first, the continuative cumulation, placing the cumulated clause in post-position to the expanded predicative construction; second, the' parenthetical cumulation, placing the cumulated clause in inter-position to the expanded predicative construction. The inter-position may be made even into a pre-position as its minor particular case (here belong mostly constructions introduced by the conjunction as: as we have seen, as I have said, etc.). This paradox is easily explained by the type of relation between the clauses: the parenthetical clause (i. e. parenthetically cumulated) only gives a background to the essential information of the expanded original clause. And, which is very important, it can shift its position in the sentence without causing any change in the information rendered by the utterance as a whole. Cf.:

He was sent for very suddenly this morning, as I have told you already. He was sent for, as I have told you already, very suddenly this morning. As I have told you already, he was sent for very suddenly this morning.

§ 9. In the composite sentences hitherto surveyed the constitutive predicative lines are expressed separately and explicitly: the described sentence types are formed by minimum two clauses each having a subject and a predicate of „its own. Alongside of these 'completely' composite sentences,

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there exist constructions in which one explicit predicative line is combined with another one, the latter being not explicitly or completely expressed. To such constructions belong, for instance, sentences with homogeneous predicates, as wall as sentences with verbid complexes. Cf.:

Philip ignored the question and remained silent. I have never before heard her sing. She followed him in, bending her head under the low door.

That the cited utterances do not represent classical, explicitly constructed composite sentence-models admits of no argument. At the same time, as we pointed out elsewhere (see Ch. XXIV), they cannot be analysed as genuine simple sentences, because they contain not one, but more than one predicative lines, though presented in fusion with one another. This can be demonstrated by explanatory expanding transformations. Cf.:

Philip ignored the question, (and) he remained silent. I have never before heard how she sings. As she followed him in, she bent her head under the low door.

The performed test clearly shows that the sentences in question are derived each from two base sentences, so that the systemic status of the resulting constructions is in fact intermediary between the simple sentence and the composite sentence. Therefore these predicative constructions should by right be analysed under the heading of semi-composite sentences.

It is easy to see that functionally semi-composite sentences are directly opposed to composite-cumulative sentences: while the latter are over-expanded, the former are under-expanded, i. e. they are concisely deployed. The result of the predicative blend is terseness of expression, which makes semi-composite constructions of especial preference in colloquial speech.

Thus, composite sentences as polypredicative constructions exist in the two type varieties as regards the degree of their predicative explicitness: first, composite sentences of complete composition; second, composite sentences of concise composition. Each of these types is distinguished by its own functional specification, occupies a permanent place in the syntactic system of language and so deserves a separate consideration in a grammatical description.

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