Do clause chaining languages have complement clauses? If so, what syntactic roles can they play? If not, what structures do clause chaining languages have that are commonly translated into English as complement clauses?

I've found a fair amount of information about clause-chaining on the web, but almost no information about complement clauses, or structures that are commonly translated into English as complement clauses, that occur in clause-chaining languages.

In this article, for example, I was able to find only one reference to one possible complement clause. http://www.sil.org/silewp/2010/silewp2010-001.pdf

  • There seems to be less need for complements in clause-chaining languages. This is very reminiscent of Dan Everett's work on Pirahã, though that's an extreme, with no subordinate clauses at all.
    – jlawler
    Jun 14, 2012 at 3:02
  • I would have thought clause-chaining would make adverbial clauses less necessary, rather than complements. Anyway, Yimas has both complement clauses and clause-chaining, so there's one example. And 'complement clauses' by the usual definition are clauses that take the syntactic role of core argument. Jun 14, 2012 at 23:57
  • looking in Aikhenvald & Dixon's 'Complementation: a cross-linguistic typology' I see the statement [p. 39] that: 'Just occasionally, clause-chaining can function as a complementation strategy'—Motuna (Trans-New Guina) is given as an example. Jun 15, 2012 at 0:15

1 Answer 1


In the Role and Reference grammar framework, clause chaining is usually analyzed as a type of cosubordination (a type of clause linkage where two non-finite clauses are both embedded in a matrix clause). Cosubordination exists alongside the more familiar clause-linking prototypes coordination and subordination. Complementization is a type of subordination construction where the verb of a finite matrix clause takes as one of its arguments a subordinate clause. Situating clause-chaining and complementization within the more general typology of clause-linkage, we see that these are instantiations of general clause-linkage strategies, all of which are well-attested cross-linguistically. For a language to have both clause-chaining and complementization then should not be unusual or surprising, then.

Chechen (see Good 2003 for a thorough presentation) has both clause-chaining as well as subordination, so it will probably fit the bill.

  • Careful--complement clauses with "that" in English, as in "I know that he was here," don't have to be non-finite. Apart from that, though, you've provided some hot leads. Jun 18, 2012 at 2:25
  • @JamesGrossmann thanks for pointing that out. Let me correct the post.
    – user483
    Jun 18, 2012 at 3:00

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