COMPOSITE SENTENCE AS A POLYPREDICATIVE CONSTRUCTION
It has been mentioned, that composite sentences differ from simple sentences by the number of predicative lines represented: simple sentences are monopredicative syntactic constructions, formed by only one predicative line, while composite sentences are polypredicative syntactic constructions, formed by two or more predicative lines, each with a subject and a predicate of its own. This means, that the composite sentence reflects two or more situations or events making up a unity.
Each predicative unit in a composite sentence forms a clause. A clause as a part of a composite sentence corresponds to a separate sentence, but a composite sentence is not at all equivalent to a sequence of the simple sentences underlying its clauses. Cf.: This is the issue I planned to discuss with you. - This is the issue. I planned to discuss it with you. The purpose of communication in the composite sentence above is the presentation of a certain topic; this is lost in the transformation of the sentence into a sequence of simple sentences.
There are two principal types of composite sentences: complex and compound. In compound sentences, the clauses are connected on the basis of coordinative connections (parataxis); by coordination the clauses are arranged as units of syntactically equal rank, i.e. equipotently (cf. equipotent, or coordinative phrases; see Unit 19). In complex sentences, the clauses are united on the basis of subordinative connections (hypotaxis); by subordination the clauses are arranged as units of syntactically unequal rank, one of which dominates another (cf. dominational, or subordinative phrases; see Unit 19). In terms of the positional structure of the sentence; this means that by subordination one of the clauses (subordinate) is placed in a notional position of the other (principal). This structural characteristic has an essential semantic implication: a subordinate clause, however important the information rendered by it might be for the whole communication, presents it as naturally supplementing the information in the principal clause, cf.: This is the issue I planned to discuss with you. As for coordinated clauses, their equality in rank is expressed above all in each sequential clause explicitly corresponding to a new effort of thought, which can be introduced by the purely copulative conjunction and or the adversative conjunction but, cf.: I want to discuss something with you, but we can talk about it later. The sequential clause in a compound sentence is usually rigidly fixed and refers to the whole of the leading clause, whereas the subordinate clause in a complex sentence usually refers to one notional constituent in the principal clause and can vary positionally (as in the examples above).
The connections between the clauses in a composite sentence may be effected syndetically, i.e. by means of special connecting words, conjunctions and other conjunctional words or word-combinations, or asyndetically, i.e. without any conjunctional words used.
There is some controversy concerning the status of syndeton and asyndeton versus coordination and subordination. According to the traditional view, all composite sentences are to be subdivided on the upper level into compound and complex, and on the lower level of subdivision each type is represented by syndetic and asyndetic connections. This view was challenged by N. S. Pospelov and some other Russian linguists, who treated this subdivision in the opposite way: at the higher level of classification all composite sentences should be divided into syndetic and asyndetic, while at the lower level the syndetic composite sentences (and only these) should be divided into compound and complex ones in accordance with the connective words used. This approach was also challenged, in particular, by B. A. Ilyish, who pointed out the mixture of two different criteria – formal and semantic - in both classifications. Indeed, the semantic equality of syndetic and asyndetic constructions is unquestionable in the following example: This is the issue I planned to discuss with you. – This is the issue, which I planned to discuss with you; both sentences include the subordinate attributive clause. Besides, asyndetic connection of clauses often displays its own specific functional value, which supports arguments for the existence of asyndetic polypredication.
Alongside the two basic types of composite sentences there is one more type of polypredicative construction, in which the connections between the clauses are rather loose, syntactically detached: the following clause is like an afterthought, an expansion or a comment to the proceeding clause. In oral speech its formal sign is often the tone of sentential completion, followed by a shorter pause than the usual pause between separate sentences. In written speech such clauses are usually separated by semi-final punctuation marks: a dash, a colon, a semi-colon or brackets, e.g.: I wasn’t going to leave; I’d only just arrived. This type of connection is called cumulation (see Unit 19), and such composite sentences can be called cumulative. The status of cumulative sentences is intermediary between composite sentences proper and combinations of sentences in supra-sentential constructions.
Various parenthetical clauses of introductory and commenting-deviational semantics can be treated as specific cumulative clauses, which give a background to the essential information of the expanded clause, e.g.: As I have already told you, they are just friends.
Alongside the “completely” composite sentence, built up by two or more fully predicative lines, there are polypredicative constructions, in which one predicative line may be partially predicative (potentially predicative, semi-predicative), as, for example, in sentences with various verbid complexes, e.g.: I heard him singing in the backyard (see Unit 11). Such sentences actually render two situations and present two predicative lines in fusion, or blended with each other; this can be demonstrated in explanatory transformations of these constructions into composite sentences: I heard him, when he was singing in the backyard; He was singing in the backyard and I heard him. The transformations show that such sentences are derived from two base sentences and that their systemic status can be treated as intermediary between the simple sentence and the composite sentence. They can be defined as “semi-composite sentences”. (They will be analyzed in Unit 28).