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Academic Paper


Title: Complex Syntax as a Window on Contrastive Rhetoric
Paper URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.07.006
Author: Ruth A. Berman
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.tau.ac.il/~rberman/
Institution: Tel Aviv University
Author: Bracha Nir
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://hw2.haifa.ac.il/index.php/staff-communication/472-bracha-nir
Institution: University of Haifa
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Syntax
Abstract: The paper concerns complex syntax in the sense of text-embedded clause-combining. We consider different perspectives on why languages employ complex syntax, taking the usage-based view that 'discourse drives grammar'. Complex syntax is analyzed as shedding light on the nature of 'contrastive rhetoric', on the assumption that linguistic typology interacts with rhetorical strategies in the construction of discourse. An innovative methodology is delineated for evaluating syntactic complexity along a hierarchy of clause-combining relations, from isotactic single clauses to paratactic symmetric and asymmetric stringing by coordination and complementation, on to hypotactic layering by adverbials and relative clauses, and endotactic nesting or embedding of one clause inside another. Detailed criteria for each of these levels of clause-combining were applied to 64 narrative texts written by graduate-level university students, native speakers of four different languages (English, French, Hebrew, and Spanish) on the shared topic of interpersonal conflict. The discourse effects of linguistic typology are analyzed in terms of the linguistic means available to these different languages for combining clauses as well as discursive strategies preferred by speaker–writers in constructing narratives.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Journal of Pragmatics
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.07.006


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