Friday, July 18, 2008

subordinating conjunctions and dependent markers

Recently, the OWL received an inquiry regarding the difference between "subordinating conjunctions" and "dependent markers" and whether one is favored over another. For a little context, the OWL favors "dependent marker word" over "subordinating conjunction." Here is my response to the inquiry. Please feel free to comment, criticize, or add.

There really is no reason to favor one name for this class of words over another. I think the general trend is toward"dependent markers" just for the sake of clarity. "Dependent markers" create dependent clauses, just as independent markers lead to independent clauses. Though probably more technically correct, calling these two classes of words"subordinating conjunctions" and "conjunctive adverbs" (respectively) does not express their function in a sentence as concretely. Though I can't pinpoint the source of the terms "independent and dependent markers," I imagine they were implemented as a teaching tool and have since caught on.


Andrea Duff said...

Hi Brady, Owls and (other)Possums

I'm not quite clear about these terms. How might we see these in academic writing?

As my primary school teacher used to say - could you put these in a sentence?


Virginia Hussin said...

I agree that the term ‘dependent marker’ is a little bit easier to understand than ‘subordinating conjunction’. Of course, the term ‘subordinating conjunctions’ is useful if you’re discussing the corollary, that is, ‘coordinating conjunctions’. However, in general, when working with (mainly EAL) students, I avoid using either term.

Most students know that a conjunction is a joining word. Therefore, when assisting students with their writing you can explore how conjunctions operate in sentences for example, to join two dependent clauses/sentences or to join a main clause/sentence to a dependent clause (i. e. one that cannot stand alone and still make sense).

What do students out there in grammarland think?


Brady Spangenberg said...

Part of the reason I posted this is because I am interested in finding ways to talk about grammar that are less intimidating to students and teachers alike yet still accurate. I think it is fair to say that during the past twenty years, we in the US have more or less forgotten about how to talk about grammar. The standard reply to any grammar question seems to be: "Well, I just know/feel it's right, but I can't explain why." I am interested in thinking about new or different ways of bringing students and teachers back into the discourse about grammar. Is there a better way, such as Virginia's example of starting with conjunctions as joining words, to talk about these terms that makes more sense and will hopefully be more useful?

In the context of academic writing, one could argue that it is not necessary to know the difference between dependent markers (although, because, since) and independent markers (however, therefore, consequently). But is it still possible to talk effectively about the argumentation of a paper without looking at the transition words between the various points? For example, while the word "therefore" highlights a conclusion drawn from the previous sentence or argument, the word "because" provides evidence for that previous argument. A little grammar knowledge may go a long way toward shoring up the argumentation structure of a paper.