Publication details [#66732]

Thompson, Sandra A. 2019. Understanding ‘clause’ as an emergent ‘unit’ in everyday conversation. Studies in Language 43 (2) : 254–280.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Linguists generally assume ‘clause’ to be a basic unit for the analysis of grammatical structure. Data from natural conversations, however, suggests that ‘clause’ may not be grammaticized to the same extent across languages. Understanding ‘clause’ as a predicate (plus any arguments, inferred or expressed), this paper can show that participants do indeed organize their talk around ‘clauses’. It argues that English-speaking participants in everyday interaction do indeed orient to clausal units as so defined, by building their turns around predicates, and that these turns do key interactional work. The data further reveal that these units must be understood as emergent structures, recurrent patterns in a given language that emerge from humans pursuing their ordinary interactional business of communicating information, needs, identities, attitudes, and desires.