Clause types

Aus MelaTAMP

Wechseln zu: Navigation, Suche

This page explains the values associated with the category clause – see also the tagset.

  • The tags for main clause subtypes are assertion, question, directive and other.
  • The tags embedded clause subtypes are proposition (complement clauses), event, e.question, conditional, temporal, adverbial and attributive.

Main clauses

This section describes different clause types. Clause types are classified according to the speech act they are canonically assigned to. For example, a question is a clause type that is typically used as a request for information; and imperative is a clause type that is canonically used as a request for a certain action. However, the same clause type can be used to perform a variety of speech acts. For example, the assertion "the window is open, it is awfully cold" can easily be taken as a request to close the window, or for permission for doing so, rather than an action-neutral piece of information.

We tag clause types irrespective of their pragmatic impact. This means that a sentence like Would it kill you to open the window? is a question, irrespective of its directive force. You have eaten enough! is an assertion, despite the exclamation mark and the obvious intent to evoke an action.


An assertive main clause provides a piece of information that the recipient can then agree or disagree with. Assertive main clauses are always finite. They can refer to various temporal and modal domains. Some examples from English:

  1. Mary had a little lamb.
  2. It might be raining in London.
  3. It will rain tomorrow.

Some examples from Daakaka, with different markers highlighted:

mwe liye an bosi
REAL take 3S.POSS copra.chisel
"He took his copra chisel." (Daakaka.0139)
yene ka na -p sekan myane ngok
now MOD 1S -POT shake.hands with 2S
"now I will shake hands with you" (Daakaka.0350)

Assertive clauses can be negated:

nge to pesis yen booli lee, nge ma pesis yen bweang ane leevyo
3S REAL.NEG lay.egg in hole tree 3S REAL lay.egg in TRANS tree.fern
It doesn't lay its eggs into a hole in a tree, it lays them into the hairy parts of the treefern. (Daakaka.0578)

Note that in a complex sentence such as a conditional or temporal clause, the matrix clause is also to be classified as an assertion. This would, for example, apply to the bracketed clause in if it was dark [we wouldn't be able to see you].


A question is a clause type canonically associated with a request for information. Questions can be further divided into polarity questions, content questions and alternative questions. A polarity question can be answered by yes or no and equivalent expressions:

ko -m kuowilye Wamili?
2S -REAL know NAME
do you know Wamili? (DAA.4139)
  • A polarity question can be positive, as above, or negative:
mwe ka, ka to ongane na na -m ka-ka?
REAL say 2D NEG hear COMP 1S -REAL REDUP-say
He said, did you not hear what I said? (DAA.4515)
  • A content question is characterized by an interrogative word such as who or when.
mwe nok te ka, e, ko -m edi wotop en -tak arve?
REAL finish DISC say hey 2S -REAL take breadfruit DET.DEM -DEM.PROX where
then he said, hey where did you get that breadfruit from? (DAA.1208)
Ko -m penin seaa ada vis sa [ada wet kuku sewe] te ka da -p gene yuk?
2S -REAL roast.PL RES.every 1D.IN banana TOP 1D.IN only.then grate what DISC MOD 1D.IN -IRR make laplap
You have roasted all our bananas, [what are we going to grate] to make laplap? (DAA..5316)
  • An alternative question explicitly names two or more alternative answers to choose from as in Would you like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?


Directives are clauses which are canonically used to express a request for someone to do something. They may minimally consist of only an infinite verb as in Come!, but may have a more complex form as in the following example:

naana ko -p gene apyang tuswa
mother 2S -IRR make fire one
Mother, make a fire! (DAA.0325)

Directives are typically requests to a second person, even though the subject may be a first or third person:

Ko -p pwer, a nye na -p vyan.
2S -IRR stay and 1S 1S -IRR go
you stay here and I will go.' (lit. "and me, let me go") (DAA.5324)

Directives can be affirmative as well as negative. Negative directives are also called prohibitives. An example is given below:

Mwelip, saka ko -n vyan etes
NAME MOD.NEG 2S -NEG.POT go at.the.sea
Mwelip, don't go to the sea (DAA.3403)

Other main clauses

  • Optatives: these clauses express a wish for something to happen that is not a request to someone specific as in May the force be with you!.
  • Expressives: these clauses express a strong, subjective feeling as in What a beautiful day! or Such a shame!.


Embedded clauses

Complement clauses

Complement clauses are embedded clauses that function as the argument of a subordinating verb, such as want, think, say or know.


Complement clauses can express a proposition, as in the following example:

ka te sikya webung lim te mwe kuowilye na vis mw- i myen
MOD DIST touch day five DISC REAL know COMP banana REAL- COP ripe
when four days had passed, he knew that the bananas were ripe. (DAA.4777)

Non-finite or future-oriented non-veridical complement clauses are also tagged as propositions:

mwe ka na -m dimyane ka na w- esi
REAL say 1S -REAL want MOD 1S IRR- see
she said, I want to see her (DAA.3816)


Some subordinating verbs take questions as complement clauses:

na to kuowilye dom sewe sa myaop mwe t'op
1S NEG know year what TOP volcano REAL break
I don't know in which year the volcano erupted (DAA.0923)

Note that an embedded question may contain a complementizer:

mwe nok te ma dimyane ka we kuowilye na si sa bwe tee- teepuon apyang en -te
REAL finish DISC REAL want MOD IRR know COMP who TOP CONT REDUP- guard fire DEM -DEM.MD
then he wanted to know who was guarding this fire. (DAA.3599)

Also note that Daakaka has a specific TAMP-marker for embedded polarity clauses:

da=p vyan tee-esi s-ok karton yan plen ka doo me
1D=POT go look-try CL3-1S.POSS package on plane MOD.COMP DOO come
let's see whether or not a package for me has arrived on the plane

Adverbial clauses

An adverbial clause modifies the event or proposition expressed by the main clause. Within this category, we want to label temporal clauses, conditional clauses and purpose clauses specifically. Other adverbial clauses simply receive the value adverbial.

Temporal clauses

The label conditional is reserved for the protasis (antecedent) of conditional sentences. The apodosis (consequent) can be labelled as an assertion. A temporal clause describes the moment or period of time during which the event expressed by the main clause takes place. A temporal clause can be episodic and refer to only a single event:

[bili na ya -m du pweli map,] te vyanten swa mwe nii pwer yen booli lee
time COMP 3P -REAL stay bake T.chestnut DISC man one REAL hide stay in hole tree
When they were baking chestnuts, someone was hiding in the hole of a tree (DAA.0163)

Temporal clauses can also be generic and refer to a series of potentially recurring events:

[ka ko -t unun or,] te ko -m tilya ye -tye te tung -ane
MOD 2S - DIST place DISC 2S - REAL take leaf DISC -TRANS
When you clear the bush, you take the leaves and put them on fire (DAA.2846)

In addition to the TAMP markers heading a temporal clause, we also want to pay attention to the complementizer. In Daakaka, there are two main structures for temporal clauses. One structure involves the complementizer ka in combination with the distal marker, as in DAA.2846 above.

[bili na luu -sye te mwelili ngabak] te ya -m takote
time COMP root -3S.POSS DIST be.small still DISC 3P -REAL cut.loose
When the roots are still small, they cut them (DAA.2895)

Conditional clauses

The label conditional is reserved for the protasis (antecedent) of conditional sentences. The apodosis (consequent) can be labelled as an assertion. Conditional clauses come with various temporal, aspectual and modal properties. In the Western tradition, conditional clauses are typically divided into indicative and counterfactual ones. I would suggest to replace the term indicative with possible for our purposes, since we are not dealing with indicative-subjunctive systems here. An example for a possible conditional would be the following sentence:

madai ku dup- lau kabo ye wane si unui - he- mate -go
lest/otherwise 2SG.SUBJ DUP- go will/then 3SG.SUBJ say 3PL.SUBJ catch - CAUS- dead/die -2SG.OBJ
"if you keep on going (to them)", he said, "they will get hold of you and kill you", (Saliba.BudoiNualele_01CY_0523)

In a counterfactual conditional, the speaker assumes that the proposition expressed in the antecedent is false in the actual world. The temporal orientation of counterfactual conditionals is typically towards the past or present, as in the following example:

[aga hesau ya ginauli kabo ku kita] na nige hesau ya ginauli
if a 1SG.SUBJ make will/then 2SG.SUBJ see and.then NEG a 1SG.SUBJ make
If I had made one you could see it, but I didn't make one. (Saliba.Nogi_01AQ_0097)


Other clauses which are neither complements nor attributes will be labeled as adverbial. This comprises, for example, causal clauses such as because it was late and concessive clauses such as even though it was dark.

Note that this category also includes purpose clauses. Purpose clauses indicate the purpose or goal of an action. In many languages, purpose clauses are relatively unmarked, they may come without a complementiser and without a finite verb form (I went to Mary's office [to ask her for advice]). They differ from event complement clauses such as I wanted to ask for her advice in that the verb does not require a complement.

Attributive clauses

Relative clauses modifying a noun phrase, as in the dog [that bit me], will be labelled as attributive.