6

Embedded Clauses

English contains many different sentence structures built around two or more verbs. Among the most frequent structures of this sort are those in which a verb takes a clause rather than an NP or a PP as its complement. Table 6.1 illustrates the major subtypes of complement clauses in English. (A dot (.) marks a missing or 'understood' subject; for a discussion of patterns in which an untensed verb apparently takes an overt subject, see note 4 to chap. 5.) As examples (1)-(2) show, embedded clauses can also serve as adverbial modifiers and as conjuncts in coordinate structures.

(1)Embedded clauses serving as adverbial modifiers:
a. John ate supper [after he got home].
b. [Because Sue worked hard], she passed the exam.
c. The pilot circled the airport [before . landing the aircraft].
(2)Embedded clauses serving as conjuncts in coordinate structure:
[He's light] and [he's big].

This chapter focuses on the development of embedded clauses of various sorts. It begins by examining what is known about the emergence of the complement clause patterns exemplified in table 6.1. Section 2 concentrates on the interpretive strategies that are employed in embedded infinitival clauses, an area that has been the subject of quite intense investigation during the past two decades. Finally, section 3 offers a brief survey of adverbial clauses and coordinate structures. A later chapter is devoted to the emergence of relative clauses, yet another type of embedded structure.

Table 6.1 English Complement Clauses
Complement TypeWithout Overt SubjectWith Overt Subject
Unmarked infinitiveHe helped [. fix it].He watched [ John play].
Marked infinitiveHe tried to [. work].He wanted [ John to work].
ParticipleHe likes [. playing ball].He watched [ John working].
Tensed clause----He said [(that) John works].

1. The Development of Complement Clauses

Pioneering work on the development of complement clauses in child language was done by Limber ( 1973), who studied the spontaneous speech of 12 children

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Syntactic Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 6. Conclusion 34
  • 4- Word Order and Case 55
  • 6- Embedded Clauses 101
  • 8- Inversion 157
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