Coordination & Subordination


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Coordination and subordination are processes used by languages to combine units to make other units.  They are part of the basic efficiency of language through which simple units like phrases and the simple sentence are re-cycled to make longer and perhaps more complex units.

Before we talk about the methods and purposes of coordination and subordination, please look over the following sets of examples.  What kinds of grammar items are being coordinated?  What kinds of words are used to create the units?  What kinds of grammar items are being subordinated?  How do coordination and subordination interact?
 

Coordination in a Sociology Textbook Chapter

1. The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds and offers a fresh look at familiar worlds.

2. Sociologists consider people's jobs, income, education, gender, age, and race.

3. Growing up male or female influences not only our aspirations, but also how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others in dating and marriage and at work.

4. We often think and talk about people's behaviors.

5. Today instantaneous communications connect us with remote areas of the globe, and a vast economic system connects us not only with Canada and Mexico but also Belgium, Taiwan, and Indonesia.


 
Subordination in a Sociology Textbook Chapter

6. Political scientists are especially interested in how people attain ruling positions in their society, how they maintain those positions, and the consequences of their activites for those who are governed.

7. Economists want to know what goods are being produced at what rate and at what cost, and how those goods are distributed.

8. The chief concern of anthropologists is to understand culture.

9. Sociologists also study how people govern one another.

10. By this, Weber meant that a sociologist's values should not affect his or her social research.

11. A classic example of an early woman sociologist is Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), who was born into a wealthy English family.

12. Transplanted to U.S. soil in the late nineteenth century, sociology first took root at the University of Chicago and at Atlanta University, then an all-black school.

13. At first sociology in the United States was dominated by the department at the University of Chicago, founded by Albion Small (1854-1926), who also founded the American Journal of Sociology, and was its editor from 1895 to 1925.

14. While the above changes in marriage expectations were taking place, another significant social change was under way.
 

Purposes & Methods of Coordination

In Chapter 8, the Longman Student Grammar provides an overview of coordination and subordination, defining terms and showing the kinds of words that are used in the two processes and the kinds of things that can be combined.  I recommend that chapter to you as an excellent starting place for baseline information about this important linguistic process. 

In this section of the lecture, I'd like to focus on three of the topics that they introduce: (1) the similarities and differences between coordination and subordination, (2) the syntactic features of central coordinators, and (3) the uses and meanings of the central coordinators, especially and.


Similarities & Differences

Coordination and subordination can have similar meanings (but and although are quite a like, for example, in their "concession" meaning), but they are syntactically different processes used to create sentences (and utterances) with difference structures.  Coordination is a process for putting units of various types into parallel relationships--multiple units are combined on the same level of the sentence. Using the central coordinating conjunctions and, but, and or, we can put together many different kinds of combinations--packages of nouns, verbs, adjectives, predicates, and whole clauses.

Syntactic Features of Central Coordinators

As we've seen all semester, a grammatical category (like coordination and coordinating conjunctions) is often made up of units that are alike in sharing all the features of that category but also having members that are not competely alike in their syntax and/or meaning.  For example, all the various subcategories of the modal auxiliaries--have to meaning something like must some of the time but having different grammar in verb phrases.  The central coordinators are the coordinating conjunctions that have the most complete set of coordinating features.  These central coordinators are and, but, and or.  Other coordinating conjunctions have some of the functions of these three but not all of them. 

Here are the identifying features of the central coordinators.   Try making examples for each of these using and and for to see differences in the uses of for. For example, for doesn't link smaller units and functions only at the clause level. 
 
 

Identifying Features of Central Coordinators in Clause Combinations

1. They have to come at the beginning of the second clause (in a compound sentence).

2. The clauses they connect are in sequence--in time or consequence or cause-effect--and cannot be switched without changing meaning

3. Another conjunction can't be combined in front of them.

4. They can be used to link units smaller than clauses.

5. They can link subordinate clauses.

6. They can link more than 2 clauses.


Uses & Meanings of And

The most often used coordinating conjunctiont, and, is open to a wide variety of meanings that are clarified by context and by the addition of other words such as adverbials to clarify the meaning between the two clauses that are combined with and.  Grammar reference books often list the many different meanings of the word in slightly different terms. The point, however, is that the word and is very flexible and gains much of its meaning from context.
 

 
And Meanings
Or
Meanings in Compound Sentences
time sequence (2nd clause comes after the 1st clause) He opened the door, and then we entered the restaurant.
result (2nd clause results from the 1st clause) He dropped the plate of pasta on my lap, and I let out a cry of pain and horror.
contrast (2nd clause is in contrast to the 1st clause) My sister orders tea, and I always take coffee.
concession (1st clause concedes something while 2nd clause gives the actuality or truth) The restaurant owners want to serve good food, and yet they never quite get everything right.
condition (1st clause is a condition for the 2nd clause) They have to learn to make better coffee, and then I'll be happier.
similarity (2nd clause makes a point similar to that of the 1st clause) Italian food requires fresh vegetables, and similarly Southern food at its best depends on fresh ingredients.
"pure" addition (2nd clause adds something to the 1st clause) They serve pasta, and they also have a nice range of pizzas.
explanation (2nd clause comments on or explains the 1st clause) They have only one choice to stay in business--and that's to improve both food and service immediately.
   
   


Coordination & Subordination in Academic Writing

On the whole, coordination and subordination play different roles in academic writing as we can see when we look back at the examples given at the beginning of this section of the lecture for Session 14. 

Coordination tends to work at the phrase evel.  Few compound sentences are used in comparison to the overwhelming dominance by complex sentences.  Indeed, it is probable that there are more simple sentences than true compound sentences.  However, coordination is widely used for combining elements within sentences--compound subjects or verbs or predicates, for example.

Subordination tends to appear at the clause level with the use of a variety of subordinate clauses to add additional content to the core independent clause.  Any sample of academic writing shows this feature--most of the sentences will be complex sentences with a few simple sentences (or very short complex sentences) used for stylistic variation. 

To practice recognizing coordination and subordination in context, analyze the sentences I've gathered from my sociology textbook.  What is being coordinated?  What kinds of subordinate clauses are used? How do coordination and subordination interact? After you've done your analysis, click here to see mine.  Here are the sentences again:
 

Coordination in a Sociology Textbook Chapter

1. The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds and offers a fresh look at familiar worlds.

2. Sociologists consider people's jobs, income, education, gender, age, and race.

3. Growing up male or female influences not only our aspirations, but also how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others in dating and marriage and at work.

4. We often think and talk about people's behaviors.

5. Today instantaneous communications connect us with remote areas of the globe, and a vast economic system connects us not only with Canada and Mexico but also Belgium, Taiwan, and Indonesia.


 
Subordination in a Sociology Textbook Chapter

6. Political scientists are especially interested in how people attain ruling positions in their society, how they maintain those positions, and the consequences of their activites for those who are governed.

7. Economists want to know what goods are being produced at what rate and at what cost, and how those goods are distributed.

8. The chief concern of anthropologists is to understand culture.

9. Sociologists also study how people govern one another.

10. By this, Weber meant that a sociologist's values should not affect his or her social research.

11. A classic example of an early woman sociologist is Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), who was born into a wealthy English family.

12. Transplanted to U.S. soil in the late nineteenth century, sociology first took root at the University of Chicago and at Atlanta University, then an all-black school.

13. At first sociology in the United States was dominated by the department at the University of Chicago, founded by Albion Small (1854-1926), who also founded the American Journal of Sociology, and was its editor from 1895 to 1925.

14. While the above changes in marriage expectations were taking place, another significant social change was under way.
 


Please email me your questions or comments. Thanks.


References

        Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited.

        Celce-Murcia, M. & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher's course.  (2nd ed.)  Boston: Heinle & Heinle.