This book is a cross-linguistic examination of the different grammatical means languages employ to represent a general set of semantic relations between clauses. The investigations focus on ways of combining clauses other than through relative and complement clause constructions. These span a number of types of semantic linking. Three, for example, describe varieties of consequence -- cause, result, and purpose -- which may be illustrated in English by, respectively: Because John has been studying German for years, he speaks it well; John has been studying German for years, thus he speaks it well; and John has been studying German for years, in order that he should speak it well. Syntactic descriptions of languages provide a grammatical analysis of clause types.
The chapters in this book add the further dimension of semantics, generally in the form of focal and supporting clauses, the former referring to the central activity or state of the biclausal linking; and the latter to the clause attached to it. The supporting clause may set out the temporal milieu for the focal clause or specify a condition or presupposition for it or a preliminary statement of it, as in Although John has been studying German for years (the supporting clause), he does not speak it well (the focal clause). Professor Dixon's extensive opening discussion is followed by fourteen case studies of languages ranging from Korean and Kham to Iquito and Ojibwe. The book's concluding synthesis is provided by Professor Aikhenvald.