Talk:English clause syntax

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Move some material back to verbs[edit]

I appreciate what's been done here to make a clear distinction between topics, but I think a lot of the material here ought to be moved back to English verbs. The information on verb tenses/aspects, even though they may be formed periphrastically, seems to belong in the verbs article (and that's where most people will be looking for it). The clause syntax article ought to focus on how clauses are built up from their components (of which the verb is one component). I can see the phrase-structural objection (that it's probably I was (drinking coffee) rather than I (was drinking) coffee), but given that we effectively present the material according to the second interpretation anyway, it would be better to put it in the article in which people expect to find it, and mention the more rigorous theoretical interpretation along the way. Victor Yus (talk) 07:16, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

I think the fact that the article is quite long means that it is worth having as a separate article. When some of this material has appeared in other articles, it has tended to list grammatical features and not to explain the interaction between the different features very well. For example, something like: "English has two tenses (non-past and past), and progressive and perfect constructions." See English_grammar#Verbs for the kind of thing I am talking about. English_verbs#Tenses.2C_aspects_and_moods (which I think you recently started) is another example. I think if this article was merged into other articles, it would probably not explain the subject as clearly and as in depth. (For example, describing perfect constructions, and progressive constructions, doesn't tell you about perfect progressive constructions. Is it "He has been speaking" or "He is having spoken"? Could you use "do-support" in this sentence? Could you make it passive?) If these sections were expanded to cover the subject thoroughly, I believe it would end up looking like this one. If readers can't access the information, it is a question of directing them to the information better.
It feels a bit like Wikipedia is going round in circles here. This article was created to put all the information on this subject in one place. It merged material from English grammar and English verbs. Then other editors came along and saw that these latter articles didn't say that much about the various grammatical constructions used in English so they started to expand those articles covering the information which was removed.
I strongly disagree with saying that strings of words like "was drinking" should be discussed under the verb section. They are not forms of verbs. I remember that one Wikipedia article used to present strings like these as "verb phrases", which was patently wrong. (They can be split up ("I was always drinking") or rearranged ("Was he drinking?"), so are not a fixed unit the way a single form of a verb is.) Just because editors will be looking for information about how English expresses tense or aspect in the "verb" article doesn't mean we should put it there. Using the same reasoning, we should cover other ways that English has of expressing tense or aspect in the "verbs" article, including nouns ("I will do it in the future") or adverbs ("He is always sleeping") that denote tense or aspect. Count Truthstein (talk) 10:45, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
What readers will be looking for in the verbs article are the ways English has of expressing things using verb forms. It can hardly be denied that the distinction in meaning between "drinks" and "is drinking" is a verb-related thing more than a clause-syntax-related thing (even if the second form is not technically "a verb" - for that matter it's not technically a unit of clause syntax either). Things about do-support and passivization and so on should probably be dealt with in detail in the syntax article, though it's inevitable that we'll want to mention such things at least in summary in the verbs article. That probably applies to most of this information in fact - it needs to be done in detail in one place (possibly we need more separate articles for that purpose) and summarized in several others. Victor Yus (talk) 11:43, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
That distinction is related more to clause syntax. (a) "He drinks" and "He is drinking" are both clauses (b) The difference between them is the syntax of the clause, i.e. the pattern of constituents in a clause. Which forms of verbs are used is subject to the particular syntactic construction being used. This is true of verbs as it is true of any other lexical class. You wouldn't expect the "noun" article or the "adverb" article to explain the full details of clause syntax just because nouns and adverbs are used in clauses. Verbs are a part of speech in English and that is what the "verbs" article should cover, not syntactic expressions used to express tense, aspect or anything else (just as you would not expect the verbs article to cover nouns or adverbs denoting the same, e.g. "future" or "always" in the examples I gave above). Count Truthstein (talk) 12:08, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
OK, I suppose if you put it like that, it makes some sense to keep the full detail about these issues on this page. Though there still needs to be some discussion of it on the verbs page, since it is clearly relevant to the topic of how the various verb forms that we talk about on that page are used. Victor Yus (talk) 07:33, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

I would still like to move the whole (rather misleadingly titled) "Clause patterns" section out to a separate article (not sure what title to give it so as to make it recognizable to the outside world without offending theoretical linguistic sensitivities - probably something deliberately vague like "Verb tense and aspect patterns in English"). At the moment this section, which is more about usage than syntax (the syntax is already covered), tends to dominate this article, which is still missing quite a lot of on-topic information about possible clause patterns. Victor Yus (talk) 07:32, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't know. It could be cut down (don't show all the possibilities explicitly) and merged with the sections above, such as the "Expression of aspect, voice and modality" section. The big problem is to describe what all these different combinations of grammatical features means. It is tricky to know what combinations have to be shown because sometimes the meaning comes from general rules, and sometimes it doesn't. At least with the article the way it is now, all the information is there, even if it repeats itself and is unwieldy. Count Truthstein (talk) 22:25, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
You removed an explanation of the passive voice in English. I don't know if it should be in this article or elsewhere, as it isn't essential, but if it's elsewhere the article should link to an explanation. Maybe the "Auxiliaries and their possible combinations" and "Expression of aspect, voice and modality" sections should be merged and an explanation of the passive could be put along with an explanation of the other auxiliary verbs ("have" etc.). I agree the article is better without all those terrible examples. I'm not sure if we'll need separate sections for each of the auxiliary verbs; maybe it can be explained with not much text so sections won't be necessary. Count Truthstein (talk) 22:45, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the article still needs quite a lot of work, and there are some important things still missing (elliptical clauses, for example). I would have thought the meaning of the passive voice would be explained in detail at the passive voice article, though I suppose it could be summarized here too. I'll try working on the article a bit more as I get the time. Victor Yus (talk) 11:37, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Back on the same topic as above, how about starting a new article called Tense–aspect–mood in English, combining the English-specific information from Tense–aspect–mood with the "Meanings of clauses with auxiliary verbs" mega-section from this article? Then the material would only need to be summarized here, and some balance would be restored to this article? Victor Yus (talk) 12:18, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

The English section in Tense-aspect-mood could be merged into other articles on English including this one. If the long section in this article is to get its own article, I think it should continue to talk about the meaning of combinations of features, the construction of which is predictable and is explained (among other places) in this article at English_clause_syntax#Clauses_with_auxiliary_verbs. In other words, it should still be structured along syntactic lines. The alternative is to treat each semantic category separately (e.g., have one section for tense/time reference, and therein describe all the ways English expresses time reference). (I've thought before about making an article on "English semantics" which would be like this, but it could verge into being original research.) I'd suggest a title like "Meanings of clause patterns in English" or "English clause semantics" for the article you're proposing (if it's worth having a separate article). I think the "tense-aspect-mood" is used in some linguistic theories but is not universally used, as a look through the references for that page and academic papers will demonstrate. You could try asking elsewhere for opinions from editors on how it should all be organized. Count Truthstein (talk) 20:18, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
I think for accessibility, it would be good for such an article should have "tense" somewhere in its title (since then everyone will have a pretty good idea what it's about). It isn't so much about the meanings of clause patterns in general, just about certain specific combinations of auxiliaries, specifically those used to express tense/aspect/mood meanings. I don't think there's any term used universally to talk about these things, so I think TAM is as good as any other. Victor Yus (talk) 14:45, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

==Error It is not true that 'The construction "It will have been being written" is never used.' Anyway a statement like that needs a reference. [ - noy signed in] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:27, 20 June 2014 (UTC)