LINGUIST List 28.97

Thu Jan 05 2017

Review: Morphology; Semantics; Syntax; Typology: Hetterle (2015)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 06-Aug-2016
From: Nabat Erdogan <>
Subject: Adverbial Clauses in Cross-Linguistic Perspective
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

AUTHOR: Katja Hetterle
TITLE: Adverbial Clauses in Cross-Linguistic Perspective
SERIES TITLE: Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs [TiLSM]
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Nabat Erdogan, University of Missouri–Kansas City

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


A slightly revised version of her PhD thesis, the book “Adverbial Clauses in Cross-Linguistic Perspective” by Katja Hetterle investigates twelve adverbial relations from a cross-linguistic perspective across 45 languages with a total of 756 adverbial clause constructions. The investigation is carried out taking into consideration the morphosyntactic characteristics and basic semantic issues concerning adverbial clauses. The study argues that the diversity that is observed in the cross-linguistic coding of adverbial relations is not haphazard, but highly systematic. The purpose of the study is to provide a better understanding of the unity and diversity in the cross-linguistic coding of adverbial relations.

The book consists of six chapters, the first of which serves as an introduction and the last as a conclusion wrapping up the entire book.

In the introduction, the author provides an overview and an outline of the study. The twelve semantic types of adverbial clause that are the focus of the study are listed in this chapter. The author groups these twelve semantic types of adverbial relations under three semantic classes – temporal relations, logical relations, and modal relations. Semantic types denoting simultaneity overlap (‘when’), simultaneity duration (‘while’), anteriority (‘after’), posteriority (‘before’), and terminus ad quem (‘until) are categorized under temporal adverbial relations. Semantic types such as condition, concession, cause, purpose, and result are grouped under logical relations. The ones indicating manner/instrument and similarity/comparison fall into the semantic class of modal relations. In the introductory part of the book, the author also lists numerous studies that informed this investigation. However, it is claimed that none of the previous studies attempted to address a number of structural and semantic aspects of a variety of clause types across a broad range of languages. The author asserts that this study fills the gap in research by providing a holistic picture of the system of adverbial clauses.

The second chapter, entitled ‘Theoretical and Methodological Preliminaries’, informs readers about the theoretical background and the methodology that was applied in the study, as the title also suggests. In this chapter, Hetterle provides a rationale for adopting the functional-typological approach to analyze linguistically diverse languages in the study. The functional-typological approach fits the purpose of the study well since this approach involves a cross-linguistic comparison of genetically unrelated languages and has an explanatory goal (Croft, 1999). The study also adopts the variationist approach to linguistic diversity, which is applied to discover the patterns of usage in diverse languages and focuses on examining linguistic variables comprising a set of variants used by speakers to express a given meaning or function (Guo, & Chow, 2014). The use of the functional-typological method not only serves to describe and analyze cross-linguistic patterns, but also allows explaining them. Hetterle refers to the explanations for linguistic patterns as “usage-based explanations” or “motivations,” which comprise a broader range of explanations including cognitive, language processing, and diachronic aspects of language usage. More specifically, the author introduces the motivations that are frequently associated with structural and semantic aspects of adverbial clauses, such as iconicity (the pressure to shape language in a way that it complies to the structure of the conceptual situation as a result of which the form of language is a direct reflection of meaning) and economy (the pressure to express more commonly used concepts in shorter forms in order to be as efficient and formally minimal as possible), the discourse-functional potential of a clause, language processing, and aspects of language change. In the second chapter, the author also defines the notion of adverbial clause and subordination, and provides a rationale for using genetically and areally controlled convenience sampling in the study to analyze adverbial clauses in 45 languages comprising 30 different families and four language isolates. The scope of the analysis with respect to the characteristics of individual adverbial constructions is also defined in this chapter. The author does not separate constructions for every single adverbial linker, but rather considers different types of constructions for adverbial relations.

Chapter 3, entitled ‘The Structure of Adverbial Clauses in Cross-Linguistic Perspective’, explores the morphosyntactic characteristics of adverbial clauses across a variety of languages and provides a detailed description of the morphosyntactic structures across 12 adverbial relations. The author also provides some explanations for the structural choices in different languages in regard to separation of dependent adverbial clauses from independent main clauses. Hetterle defines adverbial clause linkers in much broader terms than the literature suggests. According to the author, adverbial clause linkers can be “items of any formal type and position that specify one or more adverbial relations between an adverbial clause and an associated main clause” (p.106). Hetterle also explores the position of clausal linkers and adverbial clauses and addresses the issue of negation in adverbial clauses in this chapter.

The fourth chapter, entitled ‘The Downgrading Hierarchy of Adverbial Clauses’, studies the individual types of adverbial clause and tries to determine the degree to which the individual adverbial clause types are downgraded. In this chapter, Hetterle provides the method that was used to analyze and compare the relative degree of downgrading of the adverbial relations in the study. The author defines downgrading as “a morphosyntactically observable process by which a clause is reduced compared to independent clauses”, which results in losing some clausal properties (p.147). Downgrading mean indices for each adverbial relation are calculated based on the sum of information from nine individual descriptive parameters such as tense and aspect, mood, the categorical status of the verb, the coding of the arguments, negation, and so forth. Hetterle presents the results of the analysis, which demonstrate the downgrading hierarchy of 12 adverbial relations. The findings of the analysis are also discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 5, entitled ‘The Intra-Categorical Conceptual Space of Adverbial Clauses: The Multifunctionality of Adverbial Relations’, focuses on semantic issues. More precisely, this chapter is concerned with the meaning of individual clausal linkers and highlights patterns of semantic multifunctionality of clausal linkers that involve the individual adverbial relations. In this chapter, the author tries to demonstrate the degree to which the individual semantic types of adverbial linkers can express more than one inter-clausal relation. Hetterle introduces research findings that show that adverbial relations demonstrate various degrees of multifunctionality and explicitness. However, it is also concluded that relation-specific patterns of multifunctionality into which the individual adverbial relations enter is largely systematic cross-linguistically.


The book can serve as a valuable resource for linguists, linguistics professors and students, and language learners. Analyzing a variety of adverbial relations in 45 languages comprising 30 different families and 4 language isolates, certainly adds to the significance of the study. The study has the potential to address a wide range of readers from diverse language backgrounds.

The author has added several useful appendices at the end of the book that include a list of language-specific reference material alphabetically sorted by language names, excerpts from the dataset demonstrating the morphosyntactic structure of adverbial clauses and multifunctionality of adverbial relations, and other useful information for possible different interpretation and understanding of the study findings.

The book is clearly written. However, occasionally, the reading becomes more difficult due to linguistics terminology that is widely used in the book. The reason for this is the fact that the book is a slightly revised version of the author’s PhD dissertation, as Hetterle herself states. The intended audience of this study is experts in the field of linguistics, which might make it harder for readers who do not have linguistics background to follow the ideas in the book. The book would be easily understandable and more accessible to larger audiences if the author provided a glossary of linguistic terms, preferably, at the beginning of the book, to prepare its readers for the scientific language used in the book.

The book provides a lot of evidence to support the author’s claim that the present study fills the gap in the literature in that no other studies have attempted to investigate a number of structural and semantic aspects in a variety of adverbial clause types across many languages. However, in order to present a better understanding of the behavior of the individual adverbial clause types in individual languages and a more holistic view of adverbial relations in each language, more examples could be provided for each language studied. For example, the author provides only two examples for the adverbial relations (more specifically the adverbial linkers) in Mandarin Chinese, one example in Chalcatongo Mixtec and Fehan Tetun, and no sentence examples for languages such as Mosetén, Purépecha, Rama, and Slave. The study can be improved by adding some/more sentence examples of adverbial clauses in each of 45 languages investigated.

The study suggests future research questions that could further develop our current understanding of adverbial relations, such as whether the individual adverbial clause types can take independent negation marking. The study also proposes further investigation of adverbial clauses of result and modal relations. Moreover, it encourages researchers to pursue compositional encoding of interclausal relations.

Based on the aforementioned, it can be concluded that this book is useful not only for linguistics students and professors, but also for anybody who is interested in cross-linguistic studies and furthering research in this field.


Croft, W. (1999). Modern syntactic typology. In M. Shibatani, & Bynon, T (Eds.), Approaches to language typology (pp. 85-144). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Guo, H., & Chow, D. (2014). A corpus-based variationist approach to bei passives in Mandarin Chinese. Corpus Linguistics & Linguistic Theory, 10(1), 139-173.


Nabat Erdogan earned her first doctorate degree in Linguistics in 2008 from Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku, Azerbaijan. She is currently pursuing her second Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (with an emphasis on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and English at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. She also serves as an adjunct instructor of TESOL at the aforementioned university. Her research interest areas include General Linguistics, Syntax, Second Language Acquisition, Second Language Reading and Writing, and TESOL. Her long-term goal is to contribute to research in the areas of Linguistics and Second Language Teaching and Learning.

Page Updated: 05-Jan-2017