- Complex sentences in grammar and discourse: Essays in honor of Sandra A. Thompson ed. by Joan Bybee, and Michael Noonan
Sandra A. Thompson is widely known for her original contributions to the study of discourse, grammaticalization, and related typological issues. It is therefore fitting that a collection of articles dealing with the functional structure of complex sentences should honor her sixtieth birthday. Written by the honoree’s friends, students, and colleagues—most of [End Page 833] whom have previously co-authored books or articles with her—the thirteen individual studies in this volume span a diverse topical spectrum. All somehow deal with the confluence of grammar and discourse, and many revisit issues investigated jointly by author and honoree in past publications.
Several contributions focus specifically on complex sentences. Joan Bybee’s ‘Main clauses are innovative, subordinate clauses are conservative’ (1–18) argues that the relative pragmatic richness of main clauses naturally makes them the focus of new grammaticalization processes and word-order permutations, which, by analogy, may later be introduced to subordinate clauses. John Haiman and Tania Kuteva’s ‘The symmetry of counterfactuals’ (101–25) investigates crosslinguistic patterns of synonymy between habitual and counterfactual verb forms. Carol Lord’s ‘Are subordinate clauses more difficult?’ (223–34) examines the cognitive processing of complex sentences in mathematics word problems. In ‘Combining clauses into clause complexes: A multi-faceted view’ (235–321), by far the volume’s longest article, Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen explores the complex sentence from a larger discourse vantage. Emanuel A. Schegloff’s contribution, entitled ‘Overwrought utterances: “Complex sentences” in a different sense’ (321–36), deals with pragmatic rather than grammatical complexity; it examines the means used by speakers to signal failure in understanding their interlocutor.
Two articles provide solutions to grammatical problems in specific languages. Bernard Comrie’s ‘Participles in Tsez’ (19–30) demonstrates that Tsez (Nakh-Dagestanian) lacks a formally definable class of participles, with some deverbal modifiers representing adjectives, others pronominals. Pelin Hennesy and Talmy Givón’s ‘Note on the grammar of Turkish nominalizations’ (125–45) succeeds in uncovering a clear functional difference between the suffixes -mek and -me, previously regarded as synonymous means of nominalizing subordinate clauses in Turkish. In a similarly data-rich study entitled ‘Mini-grammars of some time-when expressions in English’ (31–60), Charles J. Fillmore provides an overview of idiosyncrasies in the lexical composition and usage of temporal adjuncts such as some day, in the morning, on that morning but does not offer any explanation for them.
Other contributions explore broader issues of cognitive or functional grammatical theory. In ‘Denial and the construction of conversational turns’ (61–78), Cecilia E. Ford argues that the speech action combination of denial plus follow-up correction represents a basic unit of discourse. Barbara Fox’s ‘On the embodied nature of grammar: Embodied being-in-the-world’ (79–100) deals with the mental representation of language. Paul Hopper’s ‘Hendiadys and auxiliation in English’ (145–75) pursues Sandra Thompson’s ideas on the inherent fuzziness between main and subordinate clauses, and between subordination and coordination. Shoichi Iwasaki and Tsuyoshi Ono’s ‘ “Sentence” in spontaneous spoken Japanese discourse’ (175–202) argues for a redefinition of the ‘sentence’ as a fundamental linguistic unit.
The topic of one contribution stands apart from the others. In ‘Some issues concerning the origin of language’ (203–22), Charles N. Li speculates that linguistic polygenesis may have occurred but only if the genetic prerequisites for language development were already present in the human population at the time of its dispersal out of Africa.
This is a useful and thought-provoking collection. The variety of Sandra A. Thompson’s own publications, provided in an extensive bibliography (337–45), suggests that this Festschrift might easily have been longer.