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Aspects of subordinative composite sentences in the period I oracle bone inscriptions Chow, Kwok-ching


Three types of subordinative composite sentence in the O.B.I., i.e., 'cause and effect', 'conditional' and 'simultaneous-successive', are investigated. Since there are no formal connective markers, the logical relationship between two clauses can only be determined on the basis of semantic considerations, the tui-chen pair, the practice of abbreviation and the larger context. A major type of 'cause and effect' sentence is the sentence of the pattern 'wu + V… pu/fu ...' where the second clause represents some undesirable effect or situation. A consideration of the general positive versus negative pattern of the O.B.I. and the practice of abbreviation has led us to adopt the analysis 'cause and effect' for this sentence type. We may interpret sentences in which ch'i appears as conditional. Nevertheless, rather than a pure subordinate marker, the word ch'i is interpreted as a modal conveying the sense of uncertainty, a usage well illustrated in the classics. Also, the theory that treats ch'i as a marker of an embedded sentence has been refuted. The apodoses of 'conditional' and 'simultaneous-successive' sentences may represent an intended result or an undesirable consequence/situation. In most cases, these two types of apodoses can be easily distinguished. But in the case of raining, we have to rely on the idiomatic expressions 'yu vii (wang yu) ' and 'kou yu (pu kou yii) ' in drawing the distinction. In divining about the appropriateness of a proposed activity, the 'conditional' and 'cause and effect' sentences both serve the same purpose. But an activity whose consequence is of greater gravity seems to motivate the employment of the latter. The ritual-sacrificial verbs can be roughly divided into two categories, type A and type B. Type A verbs represent major ritual-sacrificial activities requiring the accompaniment of ritual-sacrificial activities represented by type B verbs which can be placed either in front of or after the type A verbs. The latter case constitutes a conditional or simultaneous-successive sentence, while the former constitutes either a composite sentence incorporating a 'to clause' or a simultaneous-successive sentence.

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