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I am trying to get to the bottom of Thai constructions which I can only gloss along the lines of:

(1) Because of the fact that her friends helped her escape prevented the soldiers from catching her;

(2) Because she was angry, she therefore refused to return it to him (where therefore just refers back to the fact that she was angry).

One explanation that occurs to me is that the words glossed as because and therefore do not express a relationship between clauses (and therefore are not conjunctions). Instead, they express the roles involved in a causative relationship, or in other words flag their respective clauses as causes or consequences. This makes it easy to infer the relationship without actually encoding it, which means that while you can just flag the cause and leave it to whoever you are speaking to to link it to the consequence via a process of causation, it is also open to you - while still flagging the cause - to use a causative construction to express the process itself (as in 1) or to flag the consequence separately (as in 2). Logically you may also be able to flag the cause, use a causative construction and flag the consequence, but I haven’t yet found out whether that’s the case.

If that’s the right analysis, I don’t know what to call the words glossed as because and therefore. Would they be prepositions? If so, are there any other instances of the object of a preposition doing double duty as the subject of a verb, which seems to be what is happening in (1)?


Since this has been bumped I'd like to update the Q:

On the back of BillJ's comment I discovered CEGL and the arguments that H&P make for regarding words like because as prepositions. As interesting as that is, it doesn't solve the basic problem in (1), which is that the verb prevented needs to take the complement of because as its subject if the sentence is going to make sense, and EN does not permit that - in EN the subject can only be the whole PP... so the real question is, what linguistic mechanisms could enable the verb to take just the complement of the preposition as its subject?

The recovery of the subject from within a dependent clause looks to me a bit like raising, and there is another similarity in that the connection between the derived subject and the verb seems less direct than in the expanded version, as can be seen by comparing:

Because of the fact that her friends helped her, that prevented the soliders from catching her

Because of the fact that her friends helped her, the soliders were prevented from catching her

For me the first of these is marginal but the second is OK - the difference seems to be that in the second version, the direct relationship between the (understood) subject and verb is broken. That seems to parallel the fact that in a raised object construction, the direct relationship between verb and object is broken.

As for (2), therefore is a connective adverb and it just seems to be one of its peculiarities that it cannot take a subordinated element as antecedent - compare nevertheless in, although he was tired, he nevertheless went on working, where the antecedent is just he was tired.

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  • "Because" is a preposition, but "therefore" is an adverb used as a 'connective'.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 8:43
  • Is this เพราะว่า (phro-wa) and เพราะฉะนั้น (phro-cha-nan)?
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 10:17
  • @Michaelyus the original was ด้วยความที่พวกม้าช่วยแก้วเอาไว้ ทำให้นายทหารไม่สามารถเอาว่าวคืนมาได้ (from the folk tale แก้วหน้าม้า). I was baffled by this construction and investigated it with a teacher (although she really teaches conversation - she's not a grammar nerd). For her it was perfectly natural to substitute เพราะ or เพราะว่า for the bit I've translated as because. The word I used to test whether you could put in therefore was จึง.
    – user23078
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 11:29

2 Answers 2

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There is a special name for this kind of part of speech, they are called Conjunctional Adverbs or Conjunctive Adverbs¹. In a broader classification of part of speech, they are subsumed under Adverbs (see, e.g., this list of symbols from Apertium).

¹I deliberately linked the German Wikipedia here, because their account is superior the English one.

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  • thanks - so therefore and nevertheless would both be categorised as conjunctive adverbs - but in that case, why is because he was tired, he therefore left early ungrammatical, when although he was tired, he nevertheless went on working is OK?
    – user23078
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 10:55
  • I don't know, and I even do not feel the ungrammaticality of the first sentence (but I am not a native speaker of English). Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:10
  • Well it's always possible it's just me...
    – user23078
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:12
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That reminds me of a structure that comes up a lot in English that I can't quite understand syntactically.

Just because I need a bit of space sometimes doesn't mean I don't love you.

Of course, it can also be said with "... sometimes, that doesn't ...", which is much easier to analyse conventionally, but when the "that" is missing, it really doesn't feel like the speaker has just omitted it. "Just because" seems to introduce a subject clause, rather than a causal clause in this structure. I suppose you could could substitute it with "the fact that" and the functional difference between "the fact that" and "just because" is that the latter highlights insignificance (with "just") and ... non-causality!? I can only think of this structure in English with a negative main clause, usually with "doesn't mean".

It seems very similar to the Thai examples you gave, except that the Thai one has a positive main clause and is about causality rather than lack of causality.

It sounds like Thai uses a complementiser (or whatever the clause nominalising structure is there) that marks it as a cause without assigning it the role of a causal adjunct, meaning that the cause clause can be the subject of its matrix clause.

Or alternatively, from the little I know about Thai, I know that it's a contextual pro-drop language (as opposed to languages like Spanish and Turkish, where most of the information of dropped pronouns can be seen elsewhere). Could all that's happening here be that the actual subject, the equivalent of "that" is dropped?

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