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Problems of Implicit Predication

Formal subordinative relations in composite sentences are sometimes weakened and the second part of the sentence comes to function as an optional element, not necessarily needed to complete the meaning of the first.

Such borderline cases between subordination and coordination will be found, for instance, in syntactic structures with if-clauses which give rather some additional information about the event involved than the condition under which the action is performed. A few typical examples are:

She was pretty, too, if my recollection of her face and person are correct.

In upper and middle classes we're doing it all the time and blinking the moral side, if there is one. (Galsworthy)

That's still the American who counts, especially if you lump in the Dutch and Scandinavians stock Americans like this fellow Hallorsen. (Galsworthy)

If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did. (Doyle)

Related to this are syntactic structures with implicit predication.

The absence of the direct logical relationship between the explicit parts of the composite sentence can suggest the omission of a certain predicative unit in its surface structure. The formal organisation of such a sentence does not reflect the actual syntactic relations of its parts.

In spoken English and literary prose such compression in sentence-structure is fairly common.

A few typical examples are:

..."It's just a crazy old thing," she said. ' I just slip it on sometimes when I don't care what I look like."

"But it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean," pursued Mrs. McKee.

"If Chaster could only get you in that pose I think he could make something of it". (Fitzgerald)

281

...James and the other eight children of "Superior Dosset", of whom there are still five alive, may be said to have represented Victorian England, with its principles of trade and individualism at five per cent and your money back if you know what that means. (Galsworthy)

...And if it is any satisfaction to you, we are not formally engaged. (Galsworthy)

The predicative unit to which the if-clause would be logically attached is not formally expressed and remains in deep-sense structure:

"...And if it is any satisfaction to you, I can tell you that we are not formally engaged."

Linguistic studies of recent times have made it obvious that the interdependence of the clauses in parataxis is not absolute.

The logical connection of the co-ordinated clauses makes it clear that apparently independent clauses are often not absolutely independent, and one of them implicitly stands in some grammatical relation to the other.

Take, for instance, clauses co-ordinated by the disjunctive or in such composite sentences as:

  • ...Are those yours, Mary?

  • I don't wear such things... Stop or I'll tell the missis on you. Out half the night. (Joyce) (Stop, if you don't, I'll tell...)

..."Go out. Leave this house, or I'll do you an injury". That fellow to talk of injuries! (Galsworthy) Leave this house! If you don't I'll...)

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