Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Subordinate clauses

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language sets out the language in piercing detail, but I often find it overwhelming and need to step back and bring together what I've read in a way that displays the basic relationships minus overmany particulars. Recently, my attention has been on subordinate clauses. Five years ago I would have said I had a good understanding of subordinate clauses, but how wrong I was. The more I delved into it, the more I found and the more lost I felt.

In the following taxonomy/tree diagram/organizational chart, or what-have-you, I've attempted to illustrate the relationships between all these various subordinate clauses. As time allows I'll add example sentences to illustrate each.

PS, If somebody can conjure an elegant way to allow telescoping of the various daughter levels (click-to-expand kind of thing) along with links to example sentences, please let me know.


michael said...

Try a mind mapping program like free mind or PersonalBrain

Q Higuchi said...

Please allow me to comment on the diagram which you so diligently created, and on which I am casually free-riding. I mean, this must have been a bit of work.

But I think that once you start with the finite/non-finite (and verbless) distinction, you might want to follow this verb-based logic. Non-finite clauses will be better classified directly into such verb-based categories as infinitival forms, participial forms, and so on. Diagrams that attempt to incorporate multiple dimensions inevitably get messy.

Diagrams of this sort inevitably creates/requires a lot of cross-reference. For instance, if you want to show the contrast between

(1) I don't know [where I should go]
(2) I don't know [where to go]

you are going to point to the 'finite-content-interrogative-open' on the one hand, and to the 'nonfinite-content-ordinary-infinitival-to-interrogative-open' on the other hand. My question is, will this help to see the contrast clearly?

It is for this reason, I believe, that diagrams of this kind (you see a lot of them especially in systemic grammar literature) haven't really caught on. And when they do work, it is always when they are based on a simple, single dimension.

j said...

I use compendium for things like this. I think I'll have a go at making examples too.