Compound and Complex Sentences

§ 543. The growth of the written forms of English, and the advance of literature in Late ME and Early NE manifested itself, among other changes, in the further development of the compound and complex sen­tence. Differentiation between the two types became more evident, the use of connectives — more precise. The diversity of sentence struc­tures in Late ME and Early NE reveals considerable freedom in the na­ture and use of clauses. The flexibility of sentence patterns and the va­riable use of connectives were subjected to new constraints and regula­tions in the period of normalisation.

§ 544. The complicated hierarchical structure of the sentence in Late ME and also correlation of connectives inherited from OE is illus­trated by the opening stanza of Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES (see the text in § 361).

The poem begins with an adverbial clause of time introduced by whan that: the interrogative adverb whan (‘when’) is accompanied by the conjunction that, the two words together being used as a conjunc­tion; another adverbial clause of time whan Zephirus... goes on for two and a half lines, then two temporal clauses are joined by and, and two more clauses are inserted — an attributive clause beginning with That slepen... and a parenthetical clause; then, finally, the principal clause begins with the adverb thanne which correlates with whan that and whan in the first and fifth lines.

Many new conjunctions and other connective words appeared during the ME period: both...and, a coordinating conjunction, was made up of a borrowed Scandinavian dual adjective bath and the native and; be­cause, a subordinating conjunction, was a hybrid consisting of the native English preposition by and a borrowed Latin noun, cause (by + cause ‘for the reason’); numerous connectives developed from adverbs and pronouns — who, what, which, where, whose, how, why. These connec­tives sometimes occurred in combination with that (like whan that in the above quotation from Chaucer), which probably served to show that the former pronouns and adverbs were employed in a new, connective, function.

The following examples from Chaucer’s works illustrate various types of subordinate clauses in ME and some of the connectives used to join the clauses, especially the polyfunctional that:

Subject and object clauses:

And notified is thurghout the toun That every wight, with greet devocioun,

Sholde preyen Crist that he this manage Receyve in gree, and spede this viage.

(‘And it is notified throughout the town that every man should pray to Christ with great devotion that he receive this marriage favourably and make the voyage successful.’)

An attributive clause joined by that and which correlated with thilke (‘such’):

A knyght ther was and that a worthy man That fro the tyme that he first bigan To riden out, he loved chivalrie...

(‘There was a knight and he was a worthy man, that loved chivalry from the time he first began to ride out (as a knight.’)

That oon of hem was blynd and myghte nat see,

But it were with thilke even of his mynde With whiche men seen, after that they been blynde.

(‘That one of them was blind and could not see except with such eyes of his mind, with which men see after they get blind.’)

An adverbial clause of result joined by so ... that:

And so ferforth she gan oure lay declare That she the constable, er that it was eve Converted, and on Crist made hym bileve.

(‘And she began to declare (“preach”) our creed to such a degree that she converted the governor and made him believe in Christ, before evening came.’)

The last two quotations contain also adverbial clauses of time intro­duced by after that, er that.

An adverbial clause of manner introduced by as:

And for to kepe his lordes hir degre —

As it is ryght and skylfyl that they be Enhaunsed and honoured, ...

(‘And to maintain the rank of his lords, as it is right and reasonable that they should be promoted and honoured, ...’)

Adverbial clauses of condition joined by if that and if:

What wot I, if that Crist have hider ysent My wyf by see...

(‘What do I know if Christ has hither sent my wife by sea.’)

And if so be that thou me fynde fals,

Another day do hange me by the hals

(‘And if it be so that you find me false, the next day hang me by the neck.’)

Adverbial clauses of concession joined by wher-so and though that: But forth she moot, wher-so she wepe or singe.

(‘But she must (go) forth, whether she weeps or sings.’)

For I ne can nat fynde A man, though that I walked in-to Ynde Neither in citee nor in no village.

(‘For I cannot find a man, though I walked to India, either in a city or in a village.’)

An adverbial clause of cause joined with the help of by way of reason and by cause that:

Than seye they ther-in swich difficultee By way of resoun, for to speke al playn,

By cause that ther was swich diversitee Bitwene her bothe lawes...

(‘Then they saw there such difficulty in it for the reason, to speak plainly, because there was so much difference between their two laws...’)

§ 545. In the 16th-17th c. the structure of the sentence became more complicated, which is natural to expect in a language with a growing and flourishing literature. The following passage from a prose romance by Philip Sidney, one of the best authors of the Literary Renaissance, shows the complex structure of the sentence:

“But then, Demagoras assuring himselfe, that now Parthenia was her owne, she would never be his, and receiving as much by her owne determinate answere, not more desiring his owne happines, then envying Argalus, whom he saw with narrow eyes, even ready to enjoy the per­fection of his desires; strengthening his conceite with all the mischievous counsels which disdayned love, and envious pride could geve unto him; the wicked wretch (taking a time that Argalus was gone to his countrie, to fetch some of his principal frendes to honour the mariage, which Parthenia had most joyfully consented unto), the wicked Demagoras (I say) desiring to speake with her, with ummercifull force, (her weake arms in vaine resisting) rubd all over her face a most horrible poyson: the effect whereof was such, that never leaper lookt more ugly than she did: which done, having his men and horses ready, departed away in spite of her servants, as redy to revenge as they could be, in such an unexpected mischiefe.”

§ 546. The structure of the sentence was further perfected in the 18th and 19th c. It suffices to say that from the 15th to 18th c. the number of coordinating connectives was almost doubled. As before, most con­spicuous was the frequent use of and, a conjunction of a most general meaning; other conjunctions widened their meanings and new connec­tives arose from various sources to express the subtle semantic relation­ships between clauses and sentences, e. g. in consequence, in fact, to con­clude, neither...nor. In the Age of Correctness the employment of connec­tives, as well as the structure of the sentence, was subjected to logical regulation in the writings of the best stylists: J. Dryden, S. Johnson, R. Steele, J. Addison, J. Swift, D. Defoe, and others. Their style com­bined a clear order with ease and flexibility of expression, which mani­fested itself in the choice of words, grammatical forms and syntactic patterns.

The concern of 18th c. men-of-letters with language matters is illustrated by the debate about the use of relative pronouns. In 1711 R. Steele, one of the editors of the first English newspapers, published a letter entitled “The Humble Petition of Who and Which”, in which he claimed that the upstart that was ousting the older wh-forms. He was wrong in asserting that who and which as relative pronouns were older than that: that was common as a relative (also as a conjunctive) pronoun since the earliest periods of history, while who and which — originally Interrogative — turned into relative pronouns at a far later date — prob­ably in ME.

R. Steele objected vehemently to the use of which in reference to human beings and suggested that the use of that should be restricted. Other authors, who took part in the debate, agreed that a strict distinction should be made between who and which, and argued that whose was the Gen. of who but not of which. It is noteworthy that the editors of Shakespeare's plays in the 18th c. (Rowe, Pope) made many “corrections” of the forms of pronouns: they corrected who and what to which with an inanimate antecedent, emended who to whom as an interrogative and relative pronoun in the function of object.[63] In this way they attempted to improve English syntax — in line with the general tendency of 18th c. normalisators to make the language more logical and correct.

The development of English syntax at this stage of history — as well as later — was to a considerable extent determined by the formation and differentiation of styles which is beyond the scope of this course.

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