Research article
Issue: № 4 (20), 2019


The article discusses the problems associated with the concept of "complicated sentence", which still remain not fully resolved, just as the term itself needs a more clear and objective qualification. An integrated approach to the consideration of the designated phenomenon, accounting for semantic and structural indicators is relevant and quite fruitful. The wide coverage of the material is new: in the field of view of the author are both traditional and non-traditional complicated models of simple sentences, and their consideration from the standpoint of the expression of objective-modal meanings. The author comes to the conclusion that the modal perspective of all the presented constructions is also complex and sometimes diverse, which confirms the structural complexity of the considered polypropositive mono-predictive simple sentences.


When it comes to describing syntactic phenomena of the modern Russian language, various scientific directions and concepts undeniably and unanimously put forward the sentence as its main syntactic unit.

The connection of a given syntactic unit with objective reality is the guiding, indispensable, and necessary condition of its formation and functioning. Accordingly, the connection of the utterance with reality, the evaluative component of this reality, objectively and subjectively presented in the sentence, is constantly in the field of view of researchers. As V.A.Beloshapkova notes, “the speaker cannot manifest themselves in the sentence only as an observer of the world or as an ordinary thinking subject” [4, P.777] and singles out “mandatory subjective meanings,” which include “1) predictivity, i.e., reality - unreality and time; 2) target setting (interrogative - non-interrogative); 3) persuasiveness, i.e., reliability - unreliability” [4, P.777]. Her idea that “the grammatical structure of the Russian language forces the speaker to equip every grammatically designed sentence with these meanings” is quite productive [4, P.777]. Thus, these subjective meanings acquire a completely objective colouring within the framework of the utterance. We will describe the notions of reality - unreality as objective and modal meanings, as they constitute the obligatory minimum of those subjective (modus) meanings that define an utterance as a unit of speech.

V.A. Plungian reflects upon the complexity and ambiguity of the “semantic zone of verbal modality” and considers two aspects of this notion: “This is, first of all, the speaker’s attitude to the situation (or “evaluation”) and, secondly, the status of the situation in relation to the real world (or “unreality”) [3, P.309]. Thus, the proposition (a kind of the “state of affairs,” according to T. V. Shmeleva [5, P.131], designed by the “modal frame,” according to A. Wierzbicka [1, P.68], is the essence of the sentence.

We also rely on the ideas related to the expression of predicativity in a sentence. In our understanding, predicativity is the grammatical meaning of a sentence, which has its expression, in particular, in categories of syntactic modality, syntactic time, and syntactic person. Predicativity is expressed by the principal parts of the sentence: The forest is rustling; The forest is calm. Presented syntagmatic relation (between the subject and its attribute) is a predicative relation; therefore, it is characterized by the presence of its own modality and tenses, and also includes an indication of the syntactic person. The predicative relation is characteristic only of the combination of the principal parts of the sentence – the subject and the predicate, and can be expressed and found only in the sentence.


Along with the main predicative value of predication, additional predicative value can be represented in a sentence (and only in a sentence). For example, The book read by me the day before shocked me. The main predicative meaning is expressed by the principal parts: the book shocked me; the additional one is implicitly presented and can be transformed (expanded) into a separate sentence: I read the book the day before. Compare: The book, which I read the day before, shocked me. As a young man, he wrote poetry: he wrote poetry (the main utterance, the main predicative meaning), he was a young man (the utterance is additional, the predicative meaning is additional) – When he was a young man, he wrote poetry. Compare the same phenomenon in the sentence I listened to the nightingale singing: I listened; the nightingale was singing.

Both main and additional predicativity can only be expressed in the sentence. In turn, an additional predicative meaning is always expressed against the background of the main one.

A sentence with similar characteristics has recently been classified as complicated. The term “complicated sentence” is used not only in science but also in the practice of language teaching. However, there are many questions concerning the theory and practical use of such structures. One of the main issues is related to the boundaries of complications. It is widely thought that two approaches are possible here: grammatical (V. Hrabe, A.F. Priyatkina, A.A. Kamynina, etc.), and semantic (P. Adamek, N.D. Arutyunova, M.A. Kormilitsyna, etc.) We believe that an integrated approach is the most efficient in this case. From the standpoint of semantics, these are sentences with two or more events, two or more situations, and the so-called “state of affairs.” In other words, this is a polypropositive simple sentence. Structurally, this is an expression of basic meanings, including predicative ones, by those components of a sentence that we designate as complicating. Such a grammatical indicator can be recognized as the ability to express an additional predictive meaning, the ability to represent more than one modality and valuation, which is characteristic of a simple elementary sentence, but rather two or more. Sentences that meet these requirements can be classified as complicated. A complicated sentence is a sentence with one predicative centre expressing two or more events, whereas each of them is characterized by its own modality and tense, its modal perspective.

Additional predicativity in the structure of a simple sentence of the modern Russian language is made out of speech patterns. These are, as a rule, various types of isolation, homogeneous parts of the sentence, introductory and inserted structures. For example: Among those young men sent abroad by Peter the Great for the acquisition of knowledge essential to a country in the process of reorganization was his godson, the Moor Ibrahim (A.S. Pushkin); Lonely days have come, now sad and thoughtful, like owls living in the loopholes of the castle, then poisonous and black, like snakes nesting in its basements (N. S. Gumilyov); ... Change one dawn. In a hurry, giving the night half an hour ... (A.S. Pushkin); All of these structures express an additional statement. At the same time, they complicate the structure of a simple sentence. Their presence indicates a complication of a simple sentence. Such sentences are called complicated or polypropositive mono-predicative simple sentences.

In addition, a simple sentence can be complicated by special structures (many of them qualified as turns), which also contain additional predictions and express an additional statement. In such cases, a special complicated simple sentence model is implemented. Lekant P.A. [2, P. 72] identifies the most productive of them:

1) sentences with a target infinitive: He came to the city to join the university (compare.: He came to the city in order to join the university); ... he is going home to get dressed ... (A.S. Pushkin);

2) sentences with an object infinitive: Students asked the teacher to repeat the definition (Students wanted the teacher to repeat the definition); He persuaded the medical doctor to stay for ten minutes ... (K.M.Simonov);

3) sentences with parts of double dependence (or a predicative definition (appendix): As a girl, she was cute and playful; I remembered him young;

4) sentences with freely connected prepositional and case structures determining secondary parts: Negotiations took place in the atmosphere of secrecy; After a long ordeal, Grigory got on a medical train (M.A. Sholokhov); among this group, we distinguish sentences with deverbative turns (turns from the deverbative) and postverbal (noun with dependent word forms): ... I love the lush nature of wilting, In scarlet and gold-clad forests, In their canopy of the wind, noise and fresh breath, And the heavens are covered with a hazy wavy And a rare ray of the sun, and the first frosts, And a distant gray-haired winter threat. (Compare: the nature wilts in lush); With what grave emotion, I enjoy the breath of spring Blowing right into my face! (A.S. Pushkin).

The event is in the core of the semantics of all the above complicating structures (both traditionally distinguished in scientific and educational practice, and non-traditional), while their potential ability to express predicative relationships is the basis for using them as complicating means of a simple sentence.

Being included in the composition of a simple sentence, these structures become the basis for the expression of additional content, an additional statement, along with the main one, which is represented by the main parts (subject and predicate in a two-member sentence or the main part of a one-member sentence), and are the core of additional prediction (highlighted against the main, represented by the predicative centre of a simple sentence).

In a simple elementary sentence, there is one modality and tense: the objective and modal meaning of reality: Up above the sea’s grey flatland, the wind is gathering the clouds; or objective modality of unreality. Let the tempest come strike harder! (A.M.Gorky) A simple, complicated sentence is characterized by at least two modalities and tenses: the main predicate and the additional predicate, which is determined by the main one. The correlation of two modalities is carried out, as a rule, through its main predicate – the verb (causative verb). It is influenced by its lexical meaning and grammatical form. The semantic content of the whole sentence, as well as the semantics of word forms that turns enter into various semantic relationships with, also has influence. However, this influence is to some extent indirect. Consider the following sentence. In case of an attack, lock the gates and withdraw the soldiers (A.S. Pushkin). The main predicate - lock, withdraw - an incentive modality of unreality, an additional predicate - in case of an attack - a condition. Thus, in this case, the complicating turnover is characterized by its own modal value; it can express a modal value different from the modal value of the main predicate. The autonomy and independence of the additional predicate in terms of expressing modal values also manifests itself in the form of the main predicate that changes, while the modality of the additional predicate does not change: In case of an attack (if they attack) you (lock) the gate and withdraw (have withdrawn) the soldiers.

Therefore, in a simple, complicated sentence, the presence of two modalities and tenses (interconnected) and the relative independence of the modality of the additional predicate are noted. Thus, the objective and modal value of the main and additional predicates can be either the same or different. Here are some specific examples.

I. Sentences with homogeneous parts. These structures differ in varying degrees of complexity:

1.sentences with homogeneous principal parts (first of all, predicates – there are various approaches to determining their status) are characterized by multi-events: sentences like Boys and girls were singing, and dancing represent four events Girls were singing, girls were dancing, boys were singing, boys were dancing – all of them characterized by the same modal characteristic, while they all express real actions. Events can be characterized by an unreal objective modality and express what is desirable If girls and boys sang and danced or Let girls and boys sing and dance Therefore, when expressing connectivity, joining, linking and gradation (or comparatively gradational relations) between homogeneous predicates: Boys were not only singing but also dancing or Girls were singing, as well as dancing, all actions are presented as real.

When it comes to expressing dividing relations - or relations of mutual exclusion - only one event is recognized as real, as only one thing is possible and real in the listed actions: Girls were either singing, or dancing, or reciting; Boys were either smiling, or frowning, or were serious. It should be noted that there are no special grammatical indicators of unreality here.

When expressing an opposing relationship, it is possible to express two or more real events: Girls were not singing, but dancing or Boys were not singing, but they danced well - instead of one event, another one happens, one action replaces the other or compensates for it. In general, the second event is real, the first is denied, and accordingly, it can be thought of as not taking place in reality. In sentences He sang in the choir, but he would rather dance in an ensemble, that is, in structures with an opposing relationship between predicates, when one action occurs, and the other one is thought of as desirable, it is possible to use a real event and a desirable event in a row.

Thus, variations are possible here, which, in our opinion, confirms the complexity of the structures under consideration.

2. sentences with homogeneous definitions constitute a special group of complicated sentences: being potentially predicative, the definition can convey the values of additional predication: One small, golden cloud melted in the sky (A.M. Gorky) - Compare: A cloud melted in the sky. It was small, or the cloud was golden. In this case, the real modality of the main predicate and the real modality of the additional one match. Let’s try to consider the basic unreal modality: If one small, golden cloud melted in the sky or Let one small golden cloud melt in the sky - Let one cloud melt in the sky, it is a small, golden cloud. In this case, the additional modal perspective still remains real. Thus, here the real modality of the main predicate is possible – the real modality of the additional predicate or the unreal modality of the main predicate is the real modality of the additional one. Consequently, the modal perspective of a potential predicate expressed by homogeneous definitions remains unchanged when the modal value of the main one changes.

II. Sentences with isolated secondary parts, as linguistic material shows, do not have a wide variety of options in terms of modal meanings. Any isolated part expresses this or that real event in one way or another. And again, betrayed by idleness. Languishing in spiritual emptiness. He sat down ... (A.S. Pushkin): he sat down - a real modality (the main predicate); betrayed (is betrayed) by idleness - a real modality (first additional predicate); languishing in spiritual emptiness - a real modality (second additional predicate).

1.It should be noted that participles have very specific grammatical indicators: temporal characteristic, drawn up by the suffixes (trasliteration from the Russian language) –ashch (yushch) / –ashch (–yushch) and –em (-om) / –im for the present tense and –vsh (-sh ) and –nn _enn / -yenn); -t for the past, which structurally conveys the reality of the action indicated. Accordingly, separate definitions expressed by participial and adjective turns, for any value of the main predicate, convey real modality: There is a book on the table I have not yet read - real modality of the main predicate - real modality of the additional predicate, or If there was a book on the table I had not yet read / Let there be a book on the table that I haven’t read - for any value of the unreality of the main action, a separate structure independently expresses the reality of the event indicated. Separate sentences convey the same real modality: Irina’s mother, Tatyana Fedorovna, was strict but fair and If Irina’s mother, Tatyana Fedorovna, was strict but fair - for any modal value of the main predicate, a separate sentence, where both a definition and a second name of the subject remain real.

2. A separate adverbial, by virtue of its grammatical nature, is a carrier of real modal and objective meaning: Having learned the material, we went to the test or If, having learned the material, we went to the test; Making notes, he made a summary of the book and Let him make the summary of the book, making notes - the action of the participle is more closely compared with the participle than the main action of the verb - the predicate (here the grammatical meaning of simultaneity and sequence is more important), however, in these cases, the event represented by the participle as single, and with dependent words are thought more or less as real, taking place in reality.

3. Separate restrictive and isolating structures mainly express a modal perspective of reality: Except for Katya, no one came - No one came, Katya came and If, except for Katya, no one came - Katya did come, that is, at any turn of events Katya is thought of as someone who came, she is, as it were, excluded from the action expressed by the main predicate. Compare: In addition to Katya, two more girls came, and if, apart from Katya, two more girls would have come: with the expansion of the sentence (both girls and Katya came) in the second case, the action of the girls is characterized as unreal (possible or desirable), but Katya’s action is still presented as real: Katya came.

III. Sentences with an object and target infinitives are characterized by the peculiarity of the conveyed modal values. By virtue of its etymological, derivational and grammatical specificity, the infinitive always expresses a potential action; an action detached from the temporal and personal characteristics. Accordingly, for any objective and modal value of the main predicate, structures with an infinitive express an exclusively unrealistic modal perspective; otherwise it cannot take place. Students asked the teacher to repeat the definition; ... He settled down with the laudable aim to make his own another’s mind (A.S. Pushkin) - with the real modality of the main predicate in both sentences, and object (compare to repeat - both in terms of meaning and formal indicators there is no data concerning the reality of this event, it is possible, but its accomplishment is not confirmed), and the target one (to make his own another’s mind - an event possible in the future, but again it is presented only as a potential one, there are no indicators of its performance at any level) and infinitives represent the unreal modality. Consider another example. Come to study! - the main predicate expresses an unreal modality, while the additional predicate expresses the inherent unreal modality.

IV. Sentences consisting of parts with double-dependency are also interesting in terms of expressing objective and modal meanings. In general, there is a rather close relationship between the main and additional predicates: We walked barefoot, angry (A.A.Tarkovsky). However, upon careful analysis, we note that in this case, additional predicativity has relative independence: Remember me young and beautiful - this is the expression of will with the help of the main predicate (unreal modal and objective value) while the reality of the additional one - I am young and beautiful - is thought of as taking place in reality, as “state of affairs.”

V.A diverse and peculiar intersection of modality can be traced in the sentences with freely connected prepositional and case structures that determine secondary parts and, in particular, sentences with deverbatives (verbal nouns, recognized as carriers of an additional predicative meaning). Here are some specific examples.

a. Real modality of the main predicate - real modality of the additional predicate: There was a continuous ringing on the platform which signaled the train’s departure (A.I. Kuprin) - Compare: it signaled that the train was departing (departed) - all events were real: The ringing rang out (main predicate), The ringing signaled (the first additional predicate) that the train is departing (departed) (the second additional predicate).

b. Unreal modality of the main predicate - unreal modality of the additional predicate: With diligence and skill, it would still be possible to fish in distant rivers, to find the beast in taiga serfdom (V.P. Astafyev); ... In case of his consent, agree upon a convenient time for him today or tomorrow (M.F. Shatrov). Formal indicators are important in this case (in particular, prepositions “pri,” (transliteration from Russian) as they specify semantic relations and linking the deverbative turn with the sentence it is included into) Moreover, the values of unreality are different: the condition drawn by an additional predicate is the possibility of an event indicated by the main predicate in the first sentence and the condition expressed in the additional predicate - the expression of will via the main predicate in the second sentence.

c.Real modality of the main predicate - unreal modality of the additional predicate: If there is a character, the school educates well (A.M. Gorky). Given the general real modality expressed in the above examples, turns under study can be called a potential action, the implementation of which is possible, advisable or desirable, and necessary from the point of view of the subject expressing will.

d. Unreal modality of the main predicate - real modality of the additional predicate: But may my grandson hear Your noise of welcome (A.S. Pushkin) - Compare: You make a welcoming noise. Let my grandson hear it. Despite the general unreal modal meaning of the sentence (the value of the expression of will - the incentive is expressed), turns under study represent a definite, real event (trees also make a friendly noise). But he would have been simply thrown out of the door and probably would have been beaten if it were not for Sashka’s patronage (A.I. Kuprin).


Conducted research allows us to make the following conclusions.

1. A sentence with special semantic meaning (the expression of at least two events) and a specific structural (grammatical) complexity (the expression of the values necessary for the sentence that also occurs at least twice) is called complicated. Only sentences with designated characteristics can be classified as complicated.

2. Indicated criteria seem objective and correct when it comes to determining the concept of a “complicated sentence.”

3. In sentences with traditional complicating components and in sentences with specific complicated models, at least two objective and modal meanings of reality — unreality — are expressed, which is confirmed by the language material and testifies to the diversity of the modal perspectives of these sentences.

4. All complicating constructions, both traditional and non-traditional, are characterized by relative independence and autonomy in the expression of values mandatory for a sentence. The modality of the main predicate and modality itself do not always coincide and can represent different estimated values.

5. In many cases, there are quite objective indicators, including formal ones: prepositions, conjunctions, particles, the arrangement of components in the utterance, and even suffixes (in the first place, for participles).


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