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L'ordre des mots dans l'espace de la phrase

Clause order in sentences containing a since- subordinate

Bénédicte GUILLAUME

Résumés

Le présent article s’intéresse aux subordonnées introduites par since en anglais, et plus précisément à la place qu’elles occupent au sein de l’énoncé par rapport à la principale dont elles dépendent sur le plan syntaxique. L’étude d’un corpus comprenant près de cinq cents exemples, composé à partir du British National Corpus dont la taille totale représente cent millions de mots, montre que la place d’une subordonnée en since (qui peut donc précéder ou bien suivre la principale) ne dépend en aucun cas de la nature de cette subordonnée, qui peut être soit causale, soit temporelle. En effet, il est plus fréquent que la subordonnée apparaisse après la principale, et ce quelle que soit la catégorie, même si le phénomène en question est encore plus systématique s’agissant des temporelles.
Nous examinerons plusieurs critères pouvant motiver la place d’une subordonnée en since causale. Le plus déterminant d’entre eux s’avère être le fait que la place de la subordonnée a une influence sur l’élément mis en avant au sein de l’énoncé : il peut s’agir soit de la relation de cause à effet entre subordonnée et principale lorsque la subordonnée en since précède la principale, soit, dans le cas inverse, de l’effet lui-même. Néanmoins, une telle nuance n’est pas toujours très discriminante sur le plan sémantique, ce qui explique que l’on puisse en général envisager de déplacer la subordonnée causale sans pour autant altérer le sens général de l’énoncé. Quant aux temporelles, celles dont le rôle est avant tout d’apporter une détermination aspectuelle au groupe verbal de la principale interviennent en règle générale à la suite de cette dernière. En revanche, le fait qu’une subordonnée en since temporelle soit placée avant la principale indique la plupart du temps que la subordonnée en question n’est pas uniquement de nature aspectuelle : bien qu’elle soit avant tout temporelle, elle apporte également une justification au contenu de la principale qui rappelle les causales, provoquant ainsi un repérage de type mixte entre la subordonnée et la principale.
Nous prenons également en compte dans nos analyses le recours ou non à un signe de ponctuation entre la subordonnée et la principale, et tentons d’apporter des explications à ce phénomène.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 From the point of view of etymology, since has a temporal origin (it comes from Old English siϸϸan; (...)
  • 2 MC stands for ‘main clause’ or ‘matrix clause’.
  • 3 Indeed, ‘fronted’ does not necessarily mean ‘sentence initial’: a causal SC may for instance be coo (...)

1The since- clauses (hereafter SCs) in English fall into two main categories, the temporal SCs and the causal SCs1. An SC can be either fronted, that is placed before the main clause (hereafter MC2) on which it depends from a syntactic point of view, or postponed, that is placed after the latter, irrespective of the placement of the other clauses which can make up the sentence in which the SC is to be found3. The punctuation marks used between an SC and its MC, as well as their absence, also partake of the analysis of the placement of the SCs.

  • 4 I actually started off by sampling 500 examples, namely a corpus of a significant size. However, a (...)

2In this paper, I shall argue that the placement of an SC in relation to its corresponding MC is significant. In order to account for the different possible placements in the two categories of SCs, I shall examine several factors in turn. The hypotheses put forward in the present study are based on the analysis of a corpus of SCs comprising 526 attested examples4, which I have sampled from the one-hundred-million-word British National Corpus (BNC).

I. A comparison between the causal and the temporal SCs in my corpus regarding their placement

3At first glance, the two types of SCs may give the impression that they follow different syntactic rules according to the use which is made of since as a subordinator. The following textbook examples, for instance, seem to imply that a prototypical causal SC is expected to be fronted, while a typical temporal SC is more likely to be postponed:

(1) Since she’s my friend, she must have put in a good word for me. (Quirk et al. 1985: 1104)

(2) Since Mars has an elliptical orbit its distance from the sun varies considerably. (Huddleston and Pullum 2002: 731)

(3) She has been trying to make a living as a writer since her first novel was published. (Quirk et al. 1985: 536)

(4) Jill has sold over 200 policies since she joined the company. (Huddleston and Pullum 2002: 697)

4Similarly, as far as punctuation is concerned, it seems more likely to find a comma after a fronted causal SC, despite the counter-example in (2), whereas one does not expect the recourse to a punctuation mark between a postponed temporal SC and its MC. But let us now turn to the attested BNC examples which make up my corpus. First, the following chart illustrates the distribution of the different types of SCs in it:

A. Distribution of the SCs in a corpus comprising 526 examples.

A. Distribution of the SCs in a corpus comprising 526 examples.

5Beside a rather significant number of parsing errors present in the original corpus, the above pie chart evidences the fact that my sample incorporates many more examples of causal than of temporal SCs; this, however, can be explained by the predominantly written quality of the texts which make up the BNC (90% as against 10% of oral transcription – cf. Kennedy 1998: 50), and it is no deterrent to a comparative approach based on statistics, as is the case in the current paper. As for the placement of the SCs according to their category, the results found are presented in the following bar graph:

B. Placement of the SCs in my corpus according to their nature.

B. Placement of the SCs in my corpus according to their nature.

6The absolute values for the temporal SCs in this graph do not correspond to those in pie chart A. This is because there are two special cases among the temporal SCs, namely the it is... since... structure and its variations on the one hand (it's a long time since I felt like this), and, on the other hand, the case in which a temporal SC is not related to an MC but to a noun phrase instead (for the first time since..., the third government since...). In such cases, the placement of the SC is constrained, while the relationship between the SC and an MC is either absent (when the SC complements a noun phrase), or it is of a very different nature than in the examples examined in this paper (in the case of the it is... since... structure). Therefore, such examples have to be excluded from the scope of the present study, as they cannot compare fairly with the instances under consideration, and taking them into account would only corrupt the statistics given here.

7Graph B shows that, contrary to what one might have expected, a causal SC is even more likely to be placed after, rather than before, its related MC. In a few, very rare cases, the SC is interpolated within the MC, but there are only two examples of such causal SCs in my corpus.

  • 5 This happens to corroborate the statistics put forward by Quirk et al. on 38 examples of causal SCs (...)

8If it turns out to be more common for both the causal and the temporal SCs to be postponed, this seems to be even more typical of the temporal SCs, however, as there are nearly two and a half as many examples of postponed, as opposed to fronted, temporal SCs, with the latter being clearly a minority among the temporal SCs. As far as the causal SCs are concerned, postponing is more frequent5 there too, but the fronting of the subordinate still accounts for a fair share of such examples.

9In any case, the conclusion to be drawn at this stage is that the position of the SC with respect to its MC is impossible to predict from its nature only, as the two possibilities are well represented in each of the categories (except perhaps for the case of the fronted temporal SCs, which seems indeed to be less frequent than any other combination, but is nonetheless clearly attested). As a result, other criteria have to be examined for each of the two categories.

II. Accounting for the placement and the punctuation of the causal SCs

II.1. A few actual constraints on the placement of a causal SC

  • 6 It must be specified that an adverb of the reinforcement type can occur before a fronted SC, but th (...)
  • 7 See Guillaume (2011) for similar remarks concerning especially and the if- clauses.

10In order to determine the possible reasons for fronting rather than postponing a causal SC, and vice versa, I shall start by examining a few instances in which actual contextual or semantic constraints bear on the placement of the SC. They are, however, far from accounting for all the examples. In actual fact, there are only very few cases in which reversing the order of the clauses is not possible when a causal SC is used. One of them is the presence of adverbs of the reinforcement type, such as especially or particularly, whenever they bear on the causal SC6: they make the postponing of the SC relative to the MC compulsory. Indeed, the effect of an adverb such as especially is to signal explicitly that the content of the MC would have been verified even if the content of the subordinate had not been true, or had not been realised7: the SC thus reinforces the MC, but is clearly not its sole trigger. As a result, it cannot precede the MC, and has to be postponed:

(5) BMC153 Quite properly the film credits would give precise details of the recordings used, with a separate credit for music composed specifically for that particular film. It's a frequent irritation however that British television companies aren't obliged to give the credit that is so manifestly due, especially since, in the last few years, the quality and range of recorded music for dramas and documentaries has become as almost diverse as that used in European cinema over the last few decades.

11In the example above, the subordinator since is preceded by the adverb especially, which would not be possible should the MC follow the SC:

(5’) → *Especially since, in the last few years, the quality and range of recorded music for dramas and documentaries has become as almost diverse as that used in European cinema over the last few decades, it's a frequent irritation Ø that British television companies aren't obliged to give the credit that is so manifestly due.

12The same remark applies to the following examples:

(6) B2L547 The bodies supervised by such boards are likely to be dominated by the bureaucrats who run them, rather than nominees who supervise them, particularly since they will be able to hide behind all the defences of professional expertise with organizations which are larger than almost all the departments within individual local governments with which councillors will be familiar.

(7) EDF484 In the following year, 1417, Henry returned to Normandy. Harfleur had taught him a lesson: he must be properly prepared for siege warfare, all the more so since he now planned a conquest which could only be achieved through sieges and the show of effective military might.

  • 8 All the examples used here were retrieved from the BNC with the ‘maximum scope’ option, that is wit (...)

13In other examples, the position of the subordinate can be explained by narrative structure or textual cohesion8, as in:

(8) HP02155 ‘What's this new town to be called?’ Nora asked. ‘We had a competition for a name in the London office last week. Chambers suggested-Learlington, as an anagram of Nora Telling. One of the clerks thought of Middleton, since it's midway between Middlesborough and Stockton. But I won the prize.’

(9) CKR225 Among several other flaws in Anselm's election and investiture, there was one which neither Anselm nor anyone else mentioned at the time, but was later to be held against him by the papal legate: on a strict view, his election - in addition to all its other legal defects — had been schismatic, since the king and all the others who took part, with the sole exception of Anselm himself, were schismatics, for they had not recognized Urban II as the legitimate pope although he had now been pope for five years.

14In (8), it is of course much more effective for the name Middleton to come first, in the same manner as Learlington, too, preceded the justification for its being put forward. In (9), the SC is located with respect to a for- clause, which is itself qualified by an although- clause that comes afterwards: fronting the SC would make it necessary to front the for- and the although- clauses as well, thus delaying the MC for far too long, whereas it gives an explanation for what is said at the beginning of the sentence.

15In other examples still, the postponing of the SC can be explained by the fact that its content does not only give a justification for the fronted MC, it also clearly provides a link with what follows:

(10) AHA1035 Grand and messy, too, are the novels, neither dry nor little, of Christina Stead, whom Angela Carter acknowledges as a writer of ‘sure and unmistakable stature’. The two essays on Stead are among the best here, since they fulfil the reviewer's prime dutythey make you want to read the books as soon as possible, in the light of the genuine enthusiasm they convey.

(11) ASK568 But assuming for the moment that we can do better than fight over the trough, how do we do it? This is best answered by asking what the desired goal is. Some may say that it is efficiency or effectiveness. But although these are attractive and apparently straightforward goals, they are, of course, only half an answer, since they beg the central question: efficient to what end, effective in producing what?

16And yet, as was said before, such specificities only account for a very small minority of the examples: other criteria have to be taken into account.

II.2. The use of punctuation

17Whenever an SC is used as an adverbial of reason, its content is presented as a justification or as an explanation for the state or the action described in the MC. Adverbial SCs can thus be said to provide a locator for their MCs, namely they help determine the latter (cf Groussier and Rivière 1996: 177; 178). As far as clausal determination is concerned, Quirk et al. happen to draw a parallel between certain adverbial clauses and the relatives (1985: 1075-7). The latter are traditionally separated into two sub-groups: while some relatives are determinative and cannot be dispensed with because they are essential in the definition and / or the identification of their antecedent, others simply provide supplementary information, which is not decisive. In the same manner:

18The semantic analogy with modification in the noun phrase is that the restrictive adverbial restricts the situation in the matrix clause to the circumstances described by the adverbial. The nonrestrictive adverbial, on the other hand, makes a separate assertion, supplying additional information. (Quirk et al. 1985: 1076)

19Whereas such a distinction cannot really account for the placement of a causal SC, as the fronted and the postponed causal SCs from my corpus seem on the whole to provide equally important information regarding the content of the MC, this distinction can, on the other hand, shed some light on the use of punctuation between an MC and a causal SC.

20Many of the causal SCs accommodate an explicit punctuation mark between the SC and the MC, and it is a comma in an overwhelming majority of the cases, with only very few cases in which another mark is used (for instance, a dash, or a hyphen, or again an ellipsis). The next most frequent possibility after the use of a comma is to find no explicit punctuation mark between the clauses.

21As far as the fronted causal SCs are concerned, this option accounts for 20% of the category, while the recourse to a comma is nearly four times as frequent and concerns almost 80% of the examples. In the case of the postponed SCs, although a clear majority of them are separated from their MC by a comma, the absence of punctuation altogether is more frequent than in the fronted ones: 35,5% of the postponed SCs are not introduced by a punctuation mark, as against about 60 % of them which take a comma.

22What is the effect, however, of the absence of a punctuation mark between the SC and the MC? In quite a few examples, whether the SC is fronted or postponed, it feels as if a comma could be inserted without causing any change in the rhythm of the sentence given that, should they be read aloud, an oral break would certainly be required in-between the two clauses. Therefore, not only would the addition of a comma not alter the meaning of the sentence, but it would also be beneficial in terms of clarity.

23Nevertheless, the absence of punctuation can also be considered as meaningful in certain cases. In the following example of a fronted SC, for instance, the addition of a comma in-between the SC and the MC would also necessitate the placement of one in-between the coordinating conjunction and the SC. It is possible to do this of course, but the result is that the SC then appears to stand out as an autonomous element of the sentence, which was not the case in the original sentence:

(12) BN6196 Both girls were keen cyclists and since they lived near the road they could get out and about.

(12’) → BN6196 Both girls were keen cyclists and, since they lived near the road, they could get out and about.

24Whenever an SC is between commas, the latter may have more or less the same effect as with the relative clauses: as far as the relatives are concerned, the presence of punctuation clearly signals that the relative clause is non-restrictive rather than restrictive, and, as a result, that the antecedent and the relative are less dependent on each other, both from a syntactic and from a semantic point of view. In the same manner, the presence of one or more commas in order to pinpoint the syntactic boundaries of an SC can confer greater autonomy to the subordinate with respect to the MC, despite its subordinate status from a syntactic point of view.

25Conversely, some examples show a greater dependence between the MC and the SC, which can justify the absence of a comma. Thus, in the first two following examples, the MC is elliptical, while, in the third one, the word children in the SC provides an echo to the use of the adjective childish in the MC:

(13) FEV974 The cricket periodically tests the size of its acoustic horn and adjusts it until it resonates at the frequency produced by its wings — a remarkable feat since it can only gauge the efficiency of its amplifier by detecting the changes in pressure waves within the chamber.

(14) J52587 As they speed towards a moving insect, the pitch of their cries is constantly changing, continuously hunting for just the pitch needed to keep the returning echoes at a fixed pitch. This ingenious trick keeps the echo at the pitch to which their ears are maximally sensitive — important since the echoes are so faint.

(15) ARG898 I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't care about these little games and trifling details of life, for God wants us to practise on them in this world; but I would like to see us not so strained and frantic in our concern about them. Let's play our childish games since we are children; but at the same time, let's not take them too seriously.

26In such examples, the intermission of a comma would not be wrong, but it does not seem justified, and would slightly change the perception of the sentence as a whole. Indeed, it would attract more attention to the SC than in the original sentence, in which the SC appears to be tacked onto the MC. The absence of punctuation seems rather meaningful in such cases.

II.3. Different types of presupposition

  • 9 I wish to thank J.-M. Merle for suggesting this phrase, but remain responsible for the use made of (...)
  • 10 ‘une « franchise », un laissez-passer linguistique’.

27The specificity of since as a causal subordinator must also be taken into consideration, as it might provide certain indications concerning the placement of a causal SC with respect to its MC. Indeed, several linguists have made the point that, in contrast with because, for instance, since indicates that the clausal content is not negotiable9, because it is presented as primarily non-polemical (cf. De Cola-Sekali 1991: 69; see also Deléchelle 1993: 188-9 or again Leroux 2012). M. De Cola-Sekali goes as far as calling since a “linguistic immunity, an exemption10” (1991: 69; my translation), that is a subordinator which can be used to present any content for the SC as a valid one. Of course, there is no guarantee that this really is the case, and the recourse to causal since can also turn out to be a ploy to manipulate the addressee.

  • 11 However, they also say the same of the because- clauses, which is more surprising and debatable.
  • 12 « AS, au même titre que SINCE, s’appuie sur du déjà repéré dont il confirme la réalité » (1991 : 26 (...)

28Because the content of the SC is presented by the speaker as undisputed, it is also often described as presupposed, for instance by B. Dancygier and E. Sweetser, who characterise the causal SCs as “representing ‘factual’ or presupposed information11” (2000: 126). J.-R. Lapaire and W. Rotgé explain for their part that since explicitly signals that the content of the subordinate is already known to the speakers, that is that it was previously identified, in the same manner as the content of an as- causal clause12 (1991: 268).

29The concept of presupposition (which, in the case of the causal SCs, does not only imply presupposed existence, but also actuality: the state of affairs described in a causal SC is supposed to be presented in an accurate manner by the speaker) may provide yet another angle on the problem of the placement of an SC. Indeed, the causal SCs are undoubtedly all presented as given information, in the acceptation given to this term by M.A.K. Halliday:

  • 13 Halliday uses an initial capital letter for Given and New, because he considers them to be function (...)

30We can now see more clearly what the terms Given13 and New actually mean. The significant variable is: information that is presented by the speaker as recoverable (Given) or not recoverable (New) to the listener. What is treated as recoverable may be so because it has been mentioned before; but that is not the only possibility. It may be something that is in the situation, like I and you; or in the air, so to speak; or something that is not around at all but that the speaker wants to present as Given for rhetorical purposes. The meaning is: this is not news. Likewise, what is treated as non-recoverable may be something that has not been mentioned; but it may be something unexpected, whether previously mentioned or not. The meaning is: attend to this; this is news. (1985: 277)

  • 14 See also Lapaire and Rotgé’s comment on the fact that both causal and temporal SCs work as the orig (...)

31Nevertheless, it is possible to put forward a distinction between two types of presupposition, which may help account for the two possible placements of a causal SC with respect to its MC. The analysis of my corpus points to the fact that, whenever the subordinate is fronted, it is presented by the speaker as an unquestionable starting-point14, which ought to be known and accepted by anyone, and from which the content of the MC should be deduced. Whenever the SC is postponed, however, it is presented as just as much taken for granted, but, at the same time, the speaker seems to leave a little more room for the possibility that the addressee may not have been aware of this fact, although he or she ought to have been, or at least that they needed to be reminded of it, as in the following example:

(16) A751212 After several days on this schedule they will be going to bed and getting up at their chosen time, one that gives them enough sleep during the weekdays. They must now stick strictly to a 24-hour life-style — no late nights — or they will have to begin treatment all over again. This is not a cure, since the underlying problem has not been tackled. Indeed, the exact cause of the problem is not clear, though possible explanations include:

• A body clock that runs slower than average;
• Poorly developed means by which time-cues are passed to the clock;
• A body clock that is insensitive to normal time-cues.

32The SC in (16) provides a transition with what follows (namely, a list of the possible causes of the illness, which supports the idea contained in the SC that there is an underlying problem in need of treatment), thus justifying to some extent the postponing of the SC by textual organisation (cf. II.1). Still, the supplementary explanation given afterwards also shows that the content of the subordinate, although it is presented as indisputable, needs nevertheless to be explained to the layman. Yet, the difference is so subtle that this would certainly not prevent a reversal in the order of the clauses:

(16’) → Since the underlying problem has not been tackled, this is not a cure. Indeed, the exact cause of the problem is not clear, though possible explanations include: (...).

33The change is acceptable, both from a syntactic and from a semantic point of view. However, on closer examination, it may be said to render just a little less natural the transition with what follows, as well as the recourse to the adverb indeed, but even this remains open to debate. Let us take another example:

(17) CEK6760 There can be few places where you can indulge yourself so cheaply as the chateaux of France's Western Loire. Whether you choose a chateau hotel or stay in stately homes where families take in guests, splendour is the word and we found it at the majestic Chateau de Noirieux in Briollay, Anjou. It was hardly necessary to open my bulging suitcase since almost everything was provided, including bathrobe, slippers, hairdryer and toiletries.

34The postponing of the causal SC in (17) is probably due to the fact that the speaker does not expect the addressee to know all the details of the lavish welcome provided at the Château de Noirieux. It also leaves room at the end of the sentence for enumerating all the items provided there.

35Should the postponing of the SC really correspond to occasions on which the speaker makes room for the possibility that the content of the SC was not so obvious to the addressee as the recourse to since as a subordinator might have suggested, postponed SCs could then appear to be a little less authoritative, a little more friendly even, than fronted ones. But this is only an illusion. Indeed, by allowing for the possibility that the addressee might need to be told about this information, instead of taking for granted that they know already, the speaker is in an even better position to dictate their opinion to the addressee. As a result, postponed SCs may be a way to manipulate the addressee even more than fronted ones:

(18) A8F640 The film, set on the beaches, in the bars and discos and in the shabby tourist rooms of downtown Acapulco, is distinguished by a central performance from Jackie Burroughs (also one of the directors) that is an astonishing tour de force of which it is impossible to speak too highly. That it is sustained almost to the point of embarrassment is exactly what is so good about it, since discomfort is the name of this film's particular game.

36In the former example, the SC clearly contains a personal opinion held by the speaker. As such, it may be thought to work better at the end of the sentence, because it allows for the possibility that the addressee was not aware of what is presented as a fact by the speaker. The content of a postponed SC is in general less conspicuous, and therefore even less questionable, than that of a fronted SC The speaker’s manipulative stance is then even stronger than with a fronted SC, because the apparent open-mindedness towards the addressee is only used here in order to disguise an extremely subjective opinion on the part of the speaker as seemingly neutral information.

II.4. Position of a causal SC and shift of emphasis

37The difficulty in accounting for the placement of a causal SC may eventually be explained by the fact that the two possible placements of the subordinate correspond in reality to a shift of emphasis on the constituents of the causal relationship, whose effect is not clearly perceptible, because it brings about a very similar result, as we shall see.

  • 15 Such prominence may be defined as weakly contrastive: it is not as strong as if another component a (...)

38Although emphasis is often associated with phonology, I take it here to mean that one element in particular of the relationship between the causal SC and its MC is given semantic prominence15 by the speaker: it may be either the relationship itself, or the MC, but never the SC.

39Indeed, whenever the SC comes first, it is the cause and effect relationship which is highlighted. The SC itself can never be the focal point in the sentence: the presence of since has a backgrounding effect on the semantics of the SC. Because the content of the SC is presented as presupposed, taken for granted, it is, to some extent, inconspicuous, and cannot therefore become the focus of attention. Consequently, even when it is fronted, the SC does not really attract attention to itself, but rather to the fact that the conclusion drawn from it in the following MC supposedly rests on solid grounds; it has at least the appearance of a sound deduction. The fronting of the SC gives the impression that a scientific reasoning is under construction in the sentence, with the exposition of facts first, followed by a deduction from these facts. In such cases, the SC clearly provides an anchor for the MC. Indeed, the fact that the content of the SC is presented as an undisputed starting-point makes the category of fronted causal SCs particularly compatible with scientific texts in varied domains, a genre which is amply represented in this part of the corpus:

(19) H9S1173 Since the optics of the microscope are arranged for white light, where each wavelength is brought to a slightly different focus, optimum resolution in monochrome photographs is obtained by employing a medium density green filter (selecting a wavelength in the middle of the range).

(20) J8694 But is this a general rule about metaphor, abstractable from the context of discussing Proust? I will discuss this in section 4 below. The disruptive rhetorical structure in this case turns out to be the undecidability between inside and outside worlds within the figure of metaphor. Since metaphor co-operates in this passage with the inner world of repose, its internal reliance upon the literal denotation of an outside world actually subverts its own function. To illustrate the point, de Man considers, among others, Proust's image of the iridescent foundation, which 'aims at the most demanding of reconciliations, that of motion and stasis' (1979: 68).

(21) ASL1175 Since the nucleus of each cell contains the same genetic information, it is the reciprocal communication between nucleus and cytoplasm during development that determines which proteins are made. There is a further implication of the experiment. Nuclear transplantation provides a way of creating clones of identical toads. Since the nuclei from one animal contain identical genetic information, all the animals that develop from grafting nuclei taken from one toad into enucleated eggs will be identical.

40Such examples are very numerous in my corpus, and relate to various scientific fields. They all exemplify academic writing, and display the characteristics of the genre (e.g. the technical terms, the cross-section references, or again the parenthetical references to other scholars’ work. Not only is the subordinate fronted, but it is also sentence initial, and followed by a comma. The simple present is used in a majority of such examples, as it is apt to describe general truths (cf. Culioli 1999 : 138-41).

41Conversely, whenever the MC is fronted and followed by the SC, it is the result, namely the MC itself, which becomes prominent. The fact that it is given a posteriori justification also reinforces it to some extent. This explains why the category of the postponed causal MCs is made up of many examples taken from scientific texts, too:

(22) EES662 Semantic information may be used for a variety of linguistic purposes. A good example is that of word sense disambiguation, since it is relevant to many NLP applications. Word sense disambiguation may be seen as a knowledge-intensive problem.

(23) EWA1177 The frequency of such clauses is not surprising, since they express some proposition or thought which is related, by the main clause, to the person experiencing it. These constructions are the stuff of James's psychological elaboration, since he is concerned not so much with the relation between persons and persons, or between persons and things, as between persons and psychological states and events. The use of infinitive clauses is particularly remarkable: James has thirteen of these, whereas Conrad and Lawrence have only three between them.

  • 16 Notice that the MC in this example does not contain a verb phrase.

(24) A6S633 The gens for Morgan is a grouping within which marriage is communal and where children and wives are pooled. It is a group based on matrilineal descent, which means that one belongs to the group because one's mother belonged to it and not because of the identity of the father16, since this cannot be known.

42Whether the speaker chooses to put the main emphasis on the cause and result relationship between two clauses (which corresponds in my hypothesis to the fronting of the SC), or on the result itself (which corresponds to the fronting of the MC), does not make so great a difference, because the causal relation in turn enhances the result, which is itself reinforced whenever it is presented as justified. This explains why the difference is so elusive, and also why a majority of the examples quoted could undergo a reversal in the order of the clauses which would not deeply affect their meaning.

43Therefore, the two strategies (whether the speaker wants to attract attention to the MC by fronting it, or by putting the justification first) boil down almost to the same semantic effect in practice. Although there are two distinct mechanisms which can be set in motion by the speaker, the properties of since as a causal subordinator, and mostly the backgrounding effect that it has on the content of the subordinate, will always result in drawing attention to the MC rather than to the SC.

III. Placement and punctuation of the temporal SCs

44The separation between fronting and postponing is much clearer for the temporal SCs than for the causal subordinates. Out of the 90 examples of temporal SCs in my corpus (not taking into account the two special cases mentioned in I), more than two thirds are postponed, that is 64 postponed items as against 26 which are fronted.

45At the level of punctuation, there is also a clear-cut separation between the two categories, as more than 85% of the postponed temporal SCs are not preceded by a punctuation mark, while the proportion is reversed in the fronted temporal SCs, a majority of which (that is more than 65%) are followed by a comma.

III.1. Placement and punctuation of the postponed temporal SCs

46This category is the most represented in the whole sample of temporal SCs. Typical examples are as follows:

(25) HL4368 The 'plan of action' stated that 'we could soon be witnessing a dramatic exodus exceeding even that of August-September 1990' [see p. 37697]. A report in the Middle East International (MEI) of Feb. 22 said, however, that only 14,300 people had been evacuated through Jordan since the war began, although they did not include an unknown number of Jordanians and Palestinians who failed to register at camps on the border.

(26) CEM1897 Jimmy Merchant and Herman Santiago, both 52, had their song stolen by promoters who got massive royalties from versions by Diana Ross, The Beach Boys and Joni Mitchell. New York cabbie Jimmy said: ‘It's been a long, awful struggle that we've been fighting since we were kids.

(27) A2861 Sri Lankan troops went on the offensive at first light yesterday after left-wing rebels defied a six-day government ceasefire and burnt dozens of vehicles and buildings, killing 61 people, Reuter reports. A government spokesman said 59 post offices, 53 other buildings, 75 vehicles and a rubber factory had been set ablaze since security forces stopped searches, ambushes and raids against the People's Liberation Front (JVP) last Wednesday.

47In examples like these, the SC provides a locator for the MC, in the form of a temporal starting-point which justifies the aspectual choice made in the MC. None of the SCs quoted above is preceded by a comma: this can be accounted for by the fact that the SC is in reality part and parcel of the verb phrase of the MC, for which it provides determinative information. In general, such temporal SCs can hardly be dispensed with, in the same manner as they cannot stand on their own; in this respect, the link of mutual dependency between a temporal SC and its related MC is much stronger than in the case of the causal SCs, and it is exemplified in the frequent absence of punctuation between them. Indeed, such temporal SCs provide new, as opposed to given, information (cf. Halliday 1985: 277), and their content is not presupposed.

48As for the few examples of this category which are followed by a comma in my corpus (or even a full stop in one case), most of them are not significant as far as punctuation is concerned, on the ground that it is in reality factors which are external to the use of the SC which account for the presence of the punctuation mark:

(28) APR2005 And we, of course, live in a very small part of the building, and only downstairs, because of my disability. We do try to have general repairs done. The roof’s sound, and there's a carpenter who sees to the floors. But no one's touched that room to my knowledge, since I came here as a bride in 1929.

(29) ABS1317 ‘He told me he didn't think he could be the Nelson Algren of his generation,’ Vanderford says. ‘I didn't think he had another book in him. He made it seem as if he had gone to New Orleans drunk, got sober and wrote a book. But he had been working on that first novel for at least ten years, ever since I've known him. It's all he ever did.’

49In (28) there would, in all likelihood, be no comma, should the aside to my knowledge not be there. Strictly speaking, this phrase should be preceded as well as followed by a comma, and not only followed by it as is the case here. Still, even in the absence of the first comma, though it ought to have been there, the use of the punctuation mark after the aside can be justified by it rather than by the presence of the SC. As for the second example, it is of course the presence of two, rather than one, aspectual temporal complements, namely one for- complement and one SC, which makes it necessary to materialise a break between the two by resorting to a comma. As a result, the use of the progressive past perfect in the MC is located in respect of its duration (at least ten years), which is itself related to another state of affairs (since I’ve known him).

III.2. Placement and punctuation of the fronted temporal SCs

50It should be noted first of all that the temporal SCs in this category depart from the standard temporal SCs in two ways: not only are they fronted instead of postponed, but two thirds of them, that is a very clear majority, are preceded by a comma, unlike most of the postponed temporal SCs. The presence of a comma testifies to a greater autonomy of the clause, which makes it more difficult to see it primarily as part of the verb clause of the MC, as was the case for the previous category. Indeed, if these examples are undeniably temporal, they also bear some resemblance to the causal SCs, and not only because of their position in the sentence:

(30) C9M2427 Ever since the Dutch version of Guitarist appeared on the shelves in Holland, the English version has been withdrawn. We Dutch get a magazine approximately one quarter the size of the British Guitarist, with translations of the English reviews, but through the translation we lose the individuality and humour of the original article.

(31) HH39068 I was extremely interested to read your special issue on Cancer (NI 198). Since my wife was diagnosed with the illness, I have been researching alternative cures during which time I have come into contact with the ‘Association stop au cancer’ (…).

(32) HH310487 That was the terrible thing about wolves: you could never tell where they were because they were always in disguise. Thank goodness for sheep, thought the three little piggies as they trotted along in the sunshine. The money they had to pay the sheep for the Cuddly Woolly Protection Racket did seem a lot. But it was worth it to keep the wolves from the door. Since they had started paying ‘interest’, they no longer woke up in the middle of the night squealing with fright from nightmares.

51It is striking when reading these examples, which are good representatives of their category, that the SC does not simply provide a temporal starting-point for what is described in the MC, as a temporal SC should, but it also clearly spells out a cause for the effect given in the MC. In (30) for instance, it is clear that the publication of a Dutch version of the magazine is both the cause and, by way of consequence, the starting-point of the unavailability of the English version. The same can be said of the next two examples.

  • 17 J.-J. Franckel comes to a similar conclusion regarding a few invented examples of the use of the Fr (...)

52There is no doubt that such examples are no longer aspectual only; they are a blend of the aspectual and the causal uses of the SCs. I shall refer to them as ‘mixed’ examples, thus taking up the term that M. De Cola-Sekali uses for such examples, in which she sees a mixture of a temporal and of an explanatory relationship between the two clauses17 (1992: 144; 154).

53The almost systematic presence of a comma after such SCs is another feature which is reminiscent of the behaviour of the causal SCs, which are preceded or followed by a punctuation mark in a majority of the cases, irrespective of their position in the sentence (cf. II.2).

  • 18 As a result, they do not qualify as examples of a hybrid use of since as a subordinator; see Guilla (...)

54Although the examples above may be said to be slightly ambiguous between a causal and a temporal interpretation, they can be identified without doubt as temporal SCs18. In (30), the presence of the adverb ever is only compatible with a temporal use of since. As for (31), the use of the present perfect progressive in the MC is almost exclusively found in connection with a temporal SC, while it is rather unlikely with a causal one (cf. De Cola-Sekali 1992 and Guillaume 2012). Finally, in (32), it is the presence of no longer in the verb phrase of the MC which makes the temporal interpretation clearly prevalent.

55Such examples can, however, no longer be said to provide purely ‘new’ information in Halliday’s acceptation of the term (1985: 277). This is one more argument which goes against the idea that causal and temporal types of SCs have opposite characteristics.

56If many instances of fronted temporal SCs are examples of mixed location, partly temporal, partly causal, there are also some examples which do not exhibit such features. The fronting can then in general be accounted for by the fact that the situation described in the MC is contrasted with a previous situation, described in the SC. As a consequence, a special focus is needed on the temporal SC, by contrast with the MC that follows, thus justifying the fronting of the SC:

(33) ARR291 Since Chapter 10 was written, the American political scientist Robert Axelrod (working partly in collaboration with W. D. Hamilton, whose name has cropped up on so many pages of this book), has taken the idea of reciprocal altruism on in exciting new directions.

(34) ALV1445 Since our article appeared, a group of experts convened by the EC has concluded that ‘Although clay minerals have been widely used since the Chernobyl accident, the Prussian Blue compounds have been found to be more effective and easier to administer’.

(35) He had not noticed her and had gone on his way. For a moment she was worried that if he recognized her he might discover her story. But she soon saw he did not remember her at all. Since she had seen him in Marlott, his face had grown more thoughtful. He now had a young man's moustache and beard.

57All these examples emphasise a departure from a past situation, an evolution, rather than the continuation of a state or action, as most of the temporal SCs do (see the examples from the previous section); D.S. Brée refers to a similar example as an instance of ‘comparison’ (1986: 5). This evolution from one state of affairs to another is reflected in the syntax of the sentence as a whole, by means of the fronting of the SC and, consequently, of the postponing of the MC. Notice that all the SCs in examples (33) to (35) are followed by a comma.

IV. Conclusion

58Contrary to the impression conveyed by certain textbook examples, which are supposed to be typical of each category, the placement of an SC can absolutely not be predicted by taking its nature only into account (namely, whether it is temporal or causal). The question of the placement of a causal SC, in particular, is a difficult one, except for the very few cases in which syntactic constraints or the semantic context can be resorted to in order to justify the placement of the subordinate. Indeed, most causal SCs turn out to play a fairly determinative role in respect of their related MCs, even if postponed SCs which are separated from their MCs by a punctuation mark such as a comma can sometimes be described as being less closely connected to their MCs than the other types. Things become clearer, however, if one also takes into account the fact that a different sentence position of the SC does not attract attention to the same elements. Because since supposedly signals that the content of the subordinate is already known, it has a backgrounding effect on this content; as a result, whenever the SC is fronted, it is not the SC which is emphasised, but rather the cause and effect relationship between the two clauses. Whenever the SC is postponed, on the other hand, it is the content of the MC which is prominent. The difference between the two situations is often quite subtle, which explains why the difference in placement is difficult to characterise.

59Unlike the causal SCs, the temporal SCs show a certain regularity regarding their placement within the sentence and the absence of a punctuation mark. A typical temporal SC is postponed (this concerns more than two thirds of the cases in my sample) and is not separated from its MC by a punctuation mark. These two facts testify to a greater mutual dependency between the two clauses than in the case of the causal SCs. Indeed, such a temporal SC can be considered as part and parcel of the verb phrase of the MC, for which it provides determining aspectual information. As for the fronted temporal SCs, which still account for almost one third of the corpus, they fall into two clear sub-groups. In some instances, the fronted temporal SC not only provides a starting-point for the state or the action described in the MC, but it also describes to some extent a reason why this should be taking place; in such a case, they bear some resemblance to the causal SCs (all the more so as they are followed by a comma), and can thus be described as providing a ‘mixed’ type of location for the MC. Nevertheless, such SCs remain primarily temporal. In other, even less common examples, the fronting of the temporal SC can be accounted for by a contrast, or rather an evolution, from the former situation described in the SC; it therefore makes sense to front the SC, in order to underline the opposition, and also to start with the past state of affairs and go on to conclude the sentence by evoking the new one.

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Bibliographie

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DELECHELLE, Gérard. 1993. “Connecteurs et relations inter-énoncés.” Séminaire pratique de linguistique anglaise. J.-R. Lapaire and W. Rotgé eds.: 173-94. Toulouse (France): PU du Mirail.

FRANCKEL, Jean-Jacques. 1993. “Depuis.” Types de procès et repères temporels. Cahiers de Recherche tome 6. J. Bouscaren, ed.: 141-154. Gap (France): Ophrys.

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GUILLAUME, Bénédicte. 2011. « Will dans les subordonnées en if. » CORELA. 9.2. http://corela.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=2298

---. 2012. “From ambiguity to deceptiveness: the case of hybrid since- subordinates in English.” E-rea. 9.2. http://erea.revues.org/2396

HALLIDAY, M.A.K. 1985. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold.

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KENNEDY, Graeme D. 1998. An Introduction to Corpus Linguistics. Harlow (UK): Longman.

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LATTES, Tony. 2005. “Sequitur et non-sequitur: SINCE et alii.” Anglophonia-Sigma. 18: 229-43.

LECERCLE, Jean-Jacques. 1990. The Violence of Language. London: Routledge.

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Corpus

British National Corpus. 2000. World edition. The Humanities Computing Unit of Oxford University.

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Notes

1 From the point of view of etymology, since has a temporal origin (it comes from Old English siϸϸan; Molencki 2007: 104). It then progressively acquired a causal meaning from the stage of Middle English onwards (2007: 110).

2 MC stands for ‘main clause’ or ‘matrix clause’.

3 Indeed, ‘fronted’ does not necessarily mean ‘sentence initial’: a causal SC may for instance be coordinated with another syntactic unit, or be part, along with the MC, of a subordinate clause introduced by that.

4 I actually started off by sampling 500 examples, namely a corpus of a significant size. However, a corpus of this size can still be handled by one person only, which enabled me to parse and tag it myself. In the course of this process, however, I found other relevant examples in the extracts examined, which had not been taken into account by the BNC search engine, and decided to include them in my sample, which explains why 526 is not a round number. Besides, the study of various aspects of this sample in relation to the SCs also serves as the basis for a monograph, yet to be published.

5 This happens to corroborate the statistics put forward by Quirk et al. on 38 examples of causal SCs taken in samples from the written LOB corpus and the spoken London-Lund corpus, in which 14 examples are initial, while 23 are final and only one is medial (1985: 1107).

6 It must be specified that an adverb of the reinforcement type can occur before a fronted SC, but then it will necessarily bear on the MC, not on the SC.

7 See Guillaume (2011) for similar remarks concerning especially and the if- clauses.

8 All the examples used here were retrieved from the BNC with the ‘maximum scope’ option, that is with as much context as the software will allow, while I am responsible for selecting only part of the extract whenever quoting the whole of it did not seem relevant.

9 I wish to thank J.-M. Merle for suggesting this phrase, but remain responsible for the use made of it in this paper.

10 ‘une « franchise », un laissez-passer linguistique’.

11 However, they also say the same of the because- clauses, which is more surprising and debatable.

12 « AS, au même titre que SINCE, s’appuie sur du déjà repéré dont il confirme la réalité » (1991 : 268).

13 Halliday uses an initial capital letter for Given and New, because he considers them to be functions (1985: 31; 38). I do not take up this specific punctuation, however.

14 See also Lapaire and Rotgé’s comment on the fact that both causal and temporal SCs work as the origin for what takes place in the MC, whether it is a temporal starting-point or a causal origin (1991: 267).

15 Such prominence may be defined as weakly contrastive: it is not as strong as if another component altogether had been expected in its place (as is the case in It was John who opened the door, not Paul!, for instance).

16 Notice that the MC in this example does not contain a verb phrase.

17 J.-J. Franckel comes to a similar conclusion regarding a few invented examples of the use of the French preposition depuis introducing a fronted noun phrase (1993: 148-9).

18 As a result, they do not qualify as examples of a hybrid use of since as a subordinator; see Guillaume (2012) for a definition of this term and for examples of this remarkable category.

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Table des illustrations

Titre A. Distribution of the SCs in a corpus comprising 526 examples.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/3476/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 41k
Titre B. Placement of the SCs in my corpus according to their nature.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/3476/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 25k
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Référence électronique

Bénédicte GUILLAUME, « Clause order in sentences containing a since- subordinate », E-rea [En ligne], 11.1 | 2013, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2013, consulté le 16 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/3476 ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.3476

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Auteur

Bénédicte GUILLAUME

Bénédicte Guillaume, agrégée de l’Université, Docteur en linguistique anglaise, est maître de conférences au département d’anglais de l’UFR LASH de l’Université de Nice – Sophia Antipolis et membre de l’UMR 7320 Bases, Corpus, Langage. Elle est l’auteur de plusieurs articles ainsi que d’un ouvrage sur les question tags de l’anglais (éditions Ophrys), et a travaillé plus particulièrement ces dernières années sur certains problèmes concernant les subordonnées en anglais (choix des temps et de la modalité, ambiguïté et hybridité au niveau des catégories) dans le cadre d’une approche énonciative.

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