Writer's Clinic VI: Connecting Sentences
Even those Koreans whose sentence-level mastery of English grammar is quite strong make frequent mistakes when they begin to connect sentences. This is an extremely important area of written English because it is the connections between sentences which convey the larger relationships among ideas, that is, the logic of a composition. Consider this example, from a student's review of a journal article:
The author's style is awkward and his language is vague. In addition, his information is very well organized.
Considered as two individual sentences, this example is excellent English; the sentences are grammatically accurate and clear. But in terms of the overall meaning, there is clearly a problem. The writer has connected two sentences with the phrase, 'in addition'. I suspect that the writer thought this was an appropriate connecting phrase because the second sentence gives 'additional' information, related to the information in the first sentence. But this is not a complete understanding of the use of 'in addition'. In fact, we use 'in addition' to connect two sentences which give support to the same statement, claim, evaluation, or judgment. In other words, 'in addition' is generally used to introduce not just additional information, but additional support for some claim, either stated or implied.
But looking at this problem sentence, you will note that the first sentence gives an essentially negative evaluation of the article while the second sentence presents a positive evaluation of one aspect of the article. Thus, instead of supporting the claim made by the first sentence, the second sentence actually contradicts it, or at any rate offers a reservation or qualification. There are many ways of expressing this logical relationship between the two ideas, and there are subtle differences of emphasis. You could write:
1a) Although the author's style is awkward and his language vague, his information is very well organized.
1b) Despite his awkward style and vague language, the author organizes his information very well.
Both of these versions present an essentially positive evaluation which is somewhat qualified by some negative information. In other words, they concede a negative point, but emphasize the positive evaluation. As you can see, we use 'although' with a subject-verb clause or 'despite' with a noun phrase to introduce a concession, which qualifies but does not fully negate our main claim. 'Even though' can be used in the same way, as can 'Granted that', 'Admitting that', and many other 'concessive' expressions.
1c) Granted that [Admitting that] the author's style is awkward and his language vague, he nonetheless organizes his information very well.
But consider these versions:
1d) Although he organizes his information very well, the author's style is awkward and his language vague.
1e) Despite his good organization of the information, the author's style is awkward and his language vague.
You might think that ld and le convey the same idea as 1a, 1b, and 1c, but this is not really the case. 1a, 1b, and 1c concede a negative point while making an essentially positive evaluation. But ld and le concede a positive Dint while making an essentially negative evaluation. Can you see the difference? More to the point, can you feel the difference? The idea introduced with the concessive expression is felt to be the modification, mitigation, reservation, or qualification of the essential idea, which is resented in the independent clause. You can see that this is an important principle since ultimately it is the overall judgment which you are trying to convey. It is a reasonably straightforward principle, but there are other, more subtle distinctions between different concessive patterns. ompare these two versions:
1a) Although the author's style is awkward and his language vague, his formation is very well organized.
1f) The information is very well organized, although the author's style is awkward and his language vague.
In both of these examples, the negative point is conceded while the essentially positive evaluation is presented. But there is a subtle difference in emphasis. To my ear, and that of most native English speakers, he negative point receives more emphasis in version lf. This is probably because it comes last in the sentence. In other words, even though he introduces it as a concession, by presenting it last, the author leaves it as he final idea in the reader's mind. So, as a general rule, I would say that lacing a concession early in the sentence tends to reduce its impact, while saving it for the end of a sentence tends to give it extra emphasis. Subtle, perhaps, but rhetorically useful.
Of course the most common way of connecting two sentences making opposing r contrasting statements is with a 'disjunctive' expression such as 'but' or however':
1g) The author's style is awkward and his language vague, but his information is very well organized.
1h) The author's style is awkward and his language vague. However, his information is well organized.
With disjunctives like 'but' and 'however', neither the negative nor the positive statement is considered the essential idea. One is not the main idea and the other a qualifying concession. Rather, they are regarded as saving more or less equal weight. However, that 'more or less' is crucial. Look back at versions 1g and 1h and then consider these two versions:
1i) The author organizes his information very well. But, his style is awkward and his language vague.
1j) The author ornanizes his information very well. However, his style is awkward and his language vague.
You might think that versions 1i and 1j convey the same meaning as versions 1g and 1h, but again, there is a subtle but definite difference in emphasis. By placing the negative evaluation last, versions 1g and 1j emphasize it, while 1g and 1h put emphasis on the positive evaluation by placing it last. Again, as a general rule, the writer leaves the statement he wishes to emphasize as the last statement in the reader's mind.
As long as we are talking about subtle distinctions of emphasis, look again at examples 1g through 1j, all of which use the disjunctives, 'but' or 'however'. You'll note that I've used 'but' to connect contrasting ideas within one sentence, while I've used 'however' as a connection between two different sentences. You might think that this difference is simply one of sentence form, that is, grammar. However, there is a subtle difference of emphasis, or rather, of force. To the native-speaker's ear, those versions using 'but' within one sentence distribute the kwilphasis fairly equally, while those using 'however' to link two sentences put more emphasis, or force on the final idea. Thus, the negative evaluation in lj gets more emphasis than in li, and the positive evaluation in lh is more forceful than in lg. I don't know the precise linguistic/psychological mechanism that produces this effect, but by giving an entire sentence to one idea, the 'However...' structure seems to strengthen the force of that idea.
In these examples, 'however' operates as a sentence conjunction. That is, it is placed at the beginning of one sentence to show its logical connection to the previous sentence. Many problems in the English written by Koreans involve the improper use of certain words as sentence conjunctions. Consider these two examples, taken from the writing of my advanced students:
Korean calligraphy includes both hangul and Chinese characters. Only I'll describe Chinese characters.
I didn't intend to hurt his feeling. Only I wanted to correct his misunderstanding.
In both of these examples, the word, 'only', is being used as a sentence conjunction. It is clear enough what the writers are
trying to convey, but, unfortunately, 'only' is not used as a sentence conjunction in English. As a general rule, when 'only' is meant to restrict the full meaning of a sentence, we place it between the subject and the verb. This simply rule leads to these corrected versions:
Korean calligraphy includes both hangal and Chinese characters. I'll only describe Chinese characters.
I didn't intend to hurt his feelings2. I only wanted to correct his misunderstanding.
Koreans using English often say: xxx- 'to hurt one's feeling'. The proper idiom in English, however, is: ok- 'to hurt one's feelings'.
In fact, there is considerable flexibility in the placement of 'only'. It would, for example, be perfectly correct to rewrite #2 as:
2b) Korean calligraphy includes both hangul and Chinese characters. I'll describe only Chinese characters.
However, since the general rule is to place 'only' between the subject and the verb, I suggest that you play it safe and stick to that pattern. In any case, it is incorrect to use 'only' as a sentence conjunction.
Now consider these two examples, again taken from writing produced by advanced-level students:
The author didn't propose any solutions. Just he analyzed the problem.
I never studied guitar. Just I developed my own technique.
In these two example, 'just' is used as a sentence conjunction. Again, the meanings are clear enough, but unfortunately we do not use 'just' as a sentence conjunction in English. As with 'only', 'just' is generally placed between the subject and the verb. These two problem examples should be corrected as:
The author didn't propose any solutions. He just analyzed the problem.
I never studied guitar. I just developed my own technique.
As you can see, the problem and the solution, indeed the whole grammatical picture is the same for 'only' and for 'just'. This isn't so surprising when you realize that the meaning of 'just' in 3a and 4a is basically the same as 'only'. Anyhow, the important point is: Don't use 'only' or 'just' as sentence conjunctions.
However, there is a phrase using 'just' whi.ch can function as a sentence conjunction: 'It's just that...' Native speakers sometimes use this expression when they want to prevent or correct a possible misunderstanding, or when they want to make a polite excuse. Here are some examples:
a) I'm sorry I'm not able to go to your party tonight. It's just that I'm too tired.
b) I wouldn't ordinarily ask you to lend me money like this. It's just that my pay-check has been delayed and there's nobody else to turn to.
c) I'm sorry to leave so soon. It's not that I'm not enjoying the party. It's just that I have to wake up early tomorrow, so I'd better get to bed soon.
As you can see, in all these cases, the phrase, 'it's just that...' is used as a sentence conjunction to mean, 'the only reason is that....'. It is important to note that this phrase is very conversational and informal. It is not commonly used in written English.
Now consider these typical problems:
She treats me like a mother. Even she feeds me rice from her own bowl.
She has a wonderful talent for foreign languages. Even she can speak Swahili.
My brother doesn't believe in frivolous entertainment. Even he doesn't go to movies.
By now you should be able to guess the problem. 'Even' is just like 'only' and 'just'; Koreans use it as a sentence conjunction, but it is not used that way in standard English. You should be able to correct these example problems as:
She treats me like a mother. She even feeds me rice from her own bowl.
She has a wonderful talent for foreign languages. She can even speak Swahili.
My brother doesn't believe in frivolous entertainment. He doesn't even CIO to movies.
As these examples show, the basic pattern for 'even' is the same as for 'just' and 'only': it is placed between the subject and the verb. However, as you can see from 6a and 7a, if there is a modal or auxiliary verb, we place 'even' between that 'helping' verb and the main verb.
In next month's column we'll look at some more problems that crop up when Koreans connect sentences in written English.