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Lecture 13. The Composite Sentences


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.

Earlier grammarians in their prescriptive grammars didn't pay much attention to a sentence in their syntactic parts, they mostly described word-groups and didn't consider a sentence as a unit. The first to introduce the idea of tire sentence as a unit (the concept of the sentence) was Brightland (18th century). He defined the sentence as a unit consisting of one affirmation and a name and he distinguished a simple and a compound sentence: a simple - one name and one affirmation; a compound - more than one name and more than one affirmation.

Later the prescriptive and scientific grammars (the middle of the 19th century) introduced a very important innovation: the subdivision of the compound sentence into compound proper and a complex sentence. The term “composite" was introduced by Poutsma, thus we got the so-called the thrichotomic division of sentences into simple, compound and complex (together - the composite).

One of the usual approaches to a compound sentence is that it is a sentence, whose parts are independent. 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.

There are at least three ways helping to avoid the ambiguity concerning the fact that a compound sentence in fact is a number of sentences:

- some grammarians try to explain it by emphasizing the complete independence of clauses of a compound sentence and the ability of isolating each member of a compound sentence without any change of its meaning or intonation,

- other grammarians just employ new terms to express more exactly the grammatical peculiarity of the combinations of sentences: “double", “multiple" sentences;

- still others exclude the concept of a compound sentence from the structural classification of sentences.

The use of composite sentences, especially long and logically intricate ones, is characteristic of literary written speech rather than colloquial oral speech. This un-questionable 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.

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.

That the composite sentence structure answers the special needs of written mode of lingual expression is quite evident.

Composite sentences display two principal types of construction: hypotaxis (subordination) and parataxis (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.

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.

As far as the complex sentence is concerned it is a sentence consisting of at least two parts: the main clause, which is more independent, and a subordinate clause, which depends on the main clause. But in some cases it's difficult to see which of the two is more dependent on the other. So a complex sentence is a sentence in which one or more members of the sentence are expressed by subject-predicate groups/clusters, the parts of the complex sentence are interdependent both semantically and grammatically.

What you say, must be true. - mutually dependent.

I say, you 're absolutely right. - the subordinate is more independent of the two. As far as the subordinate clauses there are two approaches to their classification. The first is based on the syntactic function of the clause. According to it the subordinates may be subject, object, predicative, attributive, adverbial (all of them are clauses). The second is based on the part of speech which the clauses represent or whose function they perform (in Curme’s grammar). Here we find:

- substantive clauses (subject, predicate, object);

- adjective clauses (attributive);

- adverbial clauses (adverbial);

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 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.

It should be mentioned that English is rich in constructions built up around a certain non-finite form. Some grammarians consider them clauses too. Bryant names them verbids — verbid clauses.


In semiotics, a modality is a particular way in which information is to be encoded for presentation to humans, i.e. to the type of sign and to the status of reality ascribed to or claimed by a sign, text or genre. It is more closely associated with the semiotics of Charles Peirce (1839–1914) than Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) because meaning is conceived as an effect of a set of signs. In the Peircean model, a reference is made to an object when the sign (or representamen) is interpreted recursively by another sign (which becomes its interpretant), a conception of meaning that does in fact imply a classification of sign types.

Modality is one of the two ingredient parts of predication, the other being temporality. Modality and temporality are the two ingredient parts of predication.

Modality is the speaker’s attitude towards what he is speaking about. In the wide sense of the word it is any attitude - in this meaning it is normally used in literal criticism meaning the emotional key-note. According to the narrower approach modality as the speaker’s attitude from the point of view of the reality of the action - the degree of reality of the action. In the later approach two spheres of modality are to be distinguished:

- modality of reality/unreality proper which is usually marked by the category of mood - the morphological way of expressing modality;

- modality of necessity, probability, which is usually expressed by means modal verbs, words and expressions.

Modality always carries some elements of subjectivity which is clear from the very definition, but considering the two spheres we see, 1st sphere is more objective and the 2nd is more subjective.

Modality can be expressed at all the lingual levels:

- phonetically (intonation, emphatic stresses);

- lexically (modal verbs, phrases, words);

- grammatically (morphologically - morphologically modality is marked by the Moods);

- syntactically it can be expressed by certain syntactic structures which are not special ways of expressing modality but which may acquire some special modal change: tags, pseudo-questions and pseudo-subordinate clauses (And he is a scoundrel, that brother of yours. You ’re ready, aren't you? (in both cases - the modality of reality and assurance)). By pseudo-questions we mean sentences which are constructed like questions, but which are not questions but assertions: Do you know him? - Do I know him! (Мне ли его не гнать!) By pseudo-subordinate clauses we mean constructions, which look like subordinate clauses, which are introduced by certain subordinate conjunctions, but which are also complete assertions: As if you have never heard of it! - Как будто ты не знаешь об этом! All these structures are expressively charged and they all carry the subjective modality of assurance and the objective modality of reality.

Modality can also be expressed through nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

Modal nouns: possibility, probability, certainty, obligation, necessity, requirement

Modal adjectives: possible, probable, obligatory, necessary, required, determined, likely, certain

Modal adverbs: possibly, probably, maybe, perhaps, sometimes, always, never, certainly, definitely

Epistemic vs. deontic modality

Epistemic modals are used to indicate the possibility or necessity of some piece of knowledge. In the epistemic use, modals can be interpreted as indicating inference or some other process of reasoning involved in coming to the conclusion stated in the sentence containing the modal. However, epistemic modals do not necessarily require inference, reasoning, or evidence. One effect of using an epistemic modal (as opposed to not using one) is a general weakening of the speaker's commitment to the truth of the sentence containing the modal. However, it is disputed whether the function of modals is to indicate this weakening of commitment, or whether the weakening is a by-product of some other aspect of the modal's meaning.

Examples of the expression of epistemic modality in English are: he might be there (low probability, substantial doubt), He may be there (possibility), He should be there by now (high probability), and He must be there by now (certitude, no doubt).

In contrast, deontic modality is concerned with possibility and necessity in terms of freedom to act (including ability, permission, and duty). English examples include She can go (ability), You may go (permission), You should go (request), and You must go (command). In English as in many other languages, some of the same words are used for deontic modality as for epistemic modality, and the meaning is distinguished from context: He must be there by now (epistemic) versus He must be there tomorrow at noon (deontic).


1. What is the composite sentence in the modern approach?

2. Who was the first to introduce the idea of tire sentence as a unit?

3. What was included in the simple sentence?

4. What are the subdivisions of the compound sentence? Give the definitions of each of them.

5. What is the difference between a simple sentence and part of a compound sentence according to Freeze?

6. Talk about the ways helping to avoid the ambiguity concerning the fact that a compound sentence in fact is a number of sentences.

7. Which two principal types of construction the Composite sentences display?

8. Which approaches are the subordinate clauses based on?

9. Give a definition of a complex sentence.

10. Give a definition of the modality.

11. How many spheres of modality can be distinguished?

12. What kind of modal change may modality acquire?



1. Classify these adverbial clauses according to their semantics:

a) Bessie sometimes narrated on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour.

b) Mr. Miles affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home...

c) ...I went to the window-seal to put in order some picture-books and doll’s- house furniture scattered there...

d) There were moments when I was bewildered by the terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions.

e) My racked nerves were now in such a state that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.

f) She never saw him strike or abuse me, though he did both now and then in her presence.

g) ... Bums immediately left the class, and going into the small inner room where the books were kept, returned in half a minute...

h) ... she took her hands out of my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not know whether I were child or fiend.

2. According to the syntactic forms the adverbial clauses present, they can be classified into five groups: finite, ed-clauses, ing-claitses, to-clauses, verbless clauses. Use this criterion to classify the following sentences:

a) ...till emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon the hum of many voices...

b) When. I dared move, I got up and went to see.

c) After tea. I asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton...

d) ... a testimonial of character and capacity, signed by fire inspectors of that institutions, should forth-with be furnished me.

e) ... I was tugging at tire sash to put out the crumbs on the window-sill...

3. Give your own examples illustrating modality at the phonological, lexical, grammatical and syntactical levels.



The composite sentence - составное предложение

Predictive - [prɪˈdɪktɪv] – предиктивный, предсказательный

Affirmation - [æfɜːˈmeɪʃn] – утверждение, подтверждение

To correspond - [kɔrɪsˈpɔnd] - соответствовать

The ambiguity - [æmbɪˈgjuːɪtɪ] – двусмысленность, неоднозначность

Logically intricate - логически сложный, запутанный

Condition of perception - условие восприятия

Inalienable feature - неотъемлемая характеристика

Intercourse [ˈɪntəkɔːs] - общение

Adequately - [ˈædɪkwətlɪ] – адекватно

Syntactically equal rank - cинтаксически равноценны

Equipotently [ɪˈkwɪpətənt] - эквипотенциально

Controversy - [ˈkɔntrəvɜːsɪ] – противоречие, разногласие

To expound [ɪksˈpaʊnd] – изложить, разъяснить

Fallacious [fəˈleɪʃəs] – ошибочный, ложный

Indisputable [ˈɪndɪsˈpjuːtəbl] – бесспорный, непререкаемый

To vindicate [ˈvɪndɪkeɪt] – подтвердить, доказать

Subjectivity [sʌbʤekˈtɪvɪtɪ] - субъективность

To acquire [əˈkwaɪə] – приобрести, овладеть

Assertion [əˈsɜːʃn] – утверждение

Ascribe [əsˈkraɪb] – приписывать

Emphatic [ɪmˈfætɪk] – выразительный, подчеркнутый

Syntactically [sɪnˈtæktɪklɪ] - синтаксически

Attributive [əˈtrɪbjʊtɪv] - атрибутивный

Subordinate [səˈbɔːdnɪt] – подчиненный

Conjunction [kənˈʤʌŋkʃn] - соединение

Assurance [əˈʃʊərəns] - гарантия

Epistemic [ɪˈpɪsemɪk] – эпистемологический



1. Головачева А.Н. Concise Theoretical Grammar (краткий курс лекций и практических заданий по теоретической грамматике английского языка) – Сочи 2006

2. Блох М. Я. Теоретическая грамматика английского языка: Учебник. Для студентов

филол. фак. ун-тов и фак. англ. яз. педвузов. — М.: Высш. школа, 1983.— с. 383

2. Asher, R. E. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (pp. 2535–2540). Oxford: Pergamon Press.

3. Chandler, Daniel. (2001/2007). Semiotics: The Basics. London: Routledge.



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