LINGUIST List 6.1308

Mon Sep 25 1995

Sum: Adverbial clauses as predicative complements?

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  1. , Sum: Adv. clauses as predicative complements? (6; 1201)

Message 1: Sum: Adv. clauses as predicative complements? (6; 1201)

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 1995 11:19:01 Sum: Adv. clauses as predicative complements? (6; 1201)
From: <>
Subject: Sum: Adv. clauses as predicative complements? (6; 1201)

Dear linguists,

A few weeks ago I posted a query (issue 6.1201) about the
acceptability of sentences like

(1) My first visit to Oberammergau in Bavaria was while I
 was at Tatsfield.

(2) The return of Colmore's power and control was not until
 he had been at his desk for a half-hour.

(3) Our special interest both in education and selection is
 because democratic ideals and economic needs put a
 premium on the emergence of ability.

(4) The time to leave is when people yawn.

(5) The reason he went home is because he was ill.

Many thanks to the following persons for their replies:

B. Abbot, A. Cormack, P. Daniels, M. Egan, K. Goeringer, G.
Green, R. Hankison, L. Hewitt, R. Hudson, J. Kirchner, C.
Lynam, P. Patrikis, M. Ross, B. Santorini, C. Scott, D.
Solnit, C. Thiersch, M. Toolan, J. Wiedrick, D. Yeager.

The judgments and comments are highly interesting, not
least so because they cover much of the range of
acceptability and grammaticality and thus would serve as
excellent material for the discusion of these notions.

However, there is a clear tendency. The majority of the
informants see no problems in (1)-(5); some have
objections (to different degrees) for reasons of style,
register, prescriptive norms etc. Averaging the objections
against (1)-(3), (1) seems to be objected against least,
followed by (2) and (3). (5), which I took to be
unproblematic, was also objected against by three
informants, two of them (if I see it correctly) for
prescriptive reasons (use 'that' instead of 'because' in
such sentences; 'because' here is redundant); one
informant considers 'because' in (5) as well as in (3) to
be ungrammatical.

I think I can conclude that (1)-(5) are acceptable - if
not in all co- and contexts ('total' acceptability probably
doesn't exist anyway). I personally believe that (1)-(5)
are also grammatical. (I take grammaticality judgments to
be based on grammar-theoretical grounds and thus
disputable. Pace the 'grammatical objector' against
'because' in (5)and (3).)

As some people asked for the background of my query, I will
try to sketch it briefly:

M.A.K. Halliday (Introduction to Functional Grammar)
regards the when-clause in (4) to be a nominalization that
functions as (what he calls) Head of a nominal group.
(Halliday's constituent analyses and his terminology seem
to be very idiosyncratic, but I appreciate his analyses of
functional relations between constituents very much.) My
idea is that, just in that same Hallidayan sense, we can
regard the adverbial- and the that-clauses in the following
cleft sentences as nominalizations.

(1a) It was while I was at Tatsfield that I first visited
Oberammergau in Bavaria to witness the passion play.

(2a) It was not until Colmore had been at his
desk for a half-hour that his sense of power and control

(3a) It is because democratic ideals and economic needs at
the present time put a premium on the emergence of ability
that we are specially interested both in education and

(These are authentic sentences from the LOB-Corpus
(written British English). The context of (1a) makes it
clear that 'was at Tatsfield' has to be understood as
'lived in Tatsfield'.) I thought it a good idea to test my
assumption by transforming the cleft-sentences so as to
make them similar to (4) by making NPs out of the
that-clauses and substituting them for the resp.
'it'-subjects. The results (partially simplified) are my
sentences (1)-(3). Although I was sure that they are
grammatical, I was unsure about their acceptability. And -
although I make a distinction between grammaticality and
acceptability - as I have strong reservations against
grammars that generate sentences which are not acceptable
at all, I had to test their acceptability.

There is a wealth of important, interesting,
discussion-worthy ideas and comments in the mail I have
received, which would be difficult to summarize in brief
here. (Once again thank you for them.)
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