TWO KINDS OF IN­COM­PLETE CON­STRUC­TIONS

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES -

mar would in­sist that both words must be in­cluded to make the sen­tence com­plete.

We can say that all the fore­go­ing are lighter er­rors that vi­o­late the qual­ity of com­plete­ness. To the graver er­ror that vi­o­latescom­plete­ness we shall now turn.

Read the fol­low­ing sen­tence and tell me how well it sits with you. “There is change tak­ing place here, there and ev­ery­where you go in Swazi­land th­ese days but one can’t quite get to put a fin­ger on who or how it is be­ing man­aged, if at all.” This is the first sen­tence of a per­sonal com­ment with the ti­tle, HOW ARE WE MAN­AG­ING ALL TH­ESE CHANGES? – Times of Swazi­land, Oc­to­ber 9, 2017.

If you ask me, I will tell you that the sen­tence does not sit prop­erly with me. And if you ask me why, I will point to the part of the sen­tence which reads: “put a fin­ger on who or how it is be­ing man­aged.”

The prob­lem with that con­struc­tion re­volves around the pro­noun, “who.”

Ac­tu­ally, there are two prob­lems with the word. The first prob­lem is not re­lated to our main busi­ness here, to­day, that is, com­plete­ness; but it has to do with gen­eral gram­mat­i­cal cor­rect­ness. The pro­noun, “who,” is in the nom­i­na­tive or sub­jec­tive case. This is wrong, per se, in the con­text we find it in that sen­tence. Cor­rectly writ­ten, it should be in the ob­jec­tive case, “whom,” as in, “put a fin­ger on whom.”

How­ever, here and now, let me re­peat, that is not the per­ti­nent prob­lem with the pro­noun, “who.” For us to see the prob­lem, prop­erly, we need to look at the pro­noun in the con­text of the con­struc­tion, “who or how it is be­ing man­aged.”

Quickly, this is what you can do to see the in­com­plete­ness in ques­tion. Com­pare the two el­e­ments that have been joined by the co­or­di­nat­ing con­junc­tion, “or,” that is, “who” and “how it is be­ing man­aged.” When you do this, you will see from their size and com­po­si­tion that some­thing is miss­ing from the first el­e­ment.

To cut a long story short, let us sup­ply what is miss­ing, that is, the thing that is caus­ing the in­com­plete­ness. Here it is in cap­i­tal let­ters: “who IS MAN­AG­ING IT (the change) and how it is be­ing man­aged.” Now, we can re­vise the sen­tence, thus: “There is change tak­ing place here, there and ev­ery­where you go in Swazi­land th­ese days, but one can’t quite get to put a fin­ger on who is man­ag­ing the change or how it is be­ing man­aged, if at all.”

As you can see, the in­com­plete­ness we have rec­ti­fied here is much big­ger than that of just a word that is miss­ing from the other part of a cor­rel­a­tive con­junc­tion, such as, “not only…but also.” This is an er­ror that in­volves lack of proper de­vel­op­ment of a sub­stan­tial part of a sen­tence, a clause. It is an er­ror known as in­choate con­struc­tion.

The word “in­choate” means, “just be­gin­ning to form and there­fore not clear or de­vel­oped.” In­choate con­struc­tion is an er­ror more com­plex to dis­cern or de­tect, and more dif­fi­cult to cor­rect. That, of course, is why it is a graver er­ror than in­com­plete cor­rel­a­tive con­junc­tion, which is a tri­fle by com­par­i­son.

If you are a stick­ler for com­plete­ness, you will know that this sen­tence is man­i­festly in­choate: “Prophet Sa­muel Hadebe says there is no di­vided reli­gion than that of Chris­tian­ity.” This is the lead of a news story in the Times of Swazi­land, March 29, 2016, with the head­line, “No reli­gion di­vided than Chris­tian­ity.” You can say, of course, that the head­line is equally in­choate.

As we do once in a while, let us re­v­erse our reg­u­lar or­der of busi­ness on MTE by re­vis­ing the sen­tence, first, and then ex­plain­ing the er­ror which we have tried to cor­rect. That sen­tence may be re­vised, thus: “Prophet Sa­muel Hadebe says there is no RELI­GION that is MORE DI­VIDED than Chris­tian­ity (is).”

The con­junc­tion, “than,” is used to in­tro­duce the sec­ond part of a com­par­i­son. This means that it used to con­nect el­e­ments that have ad­jec­tives which are in the com­par­a­tive case, for ex­am­ple, “He is younger than I am,” “She is more in­tel­li­gent than I am,” etc.

In the sen­tence un­der re­view, the first part of the con­struc­tion has an ad­jec­tive that is in the pos­i­tive case, “di­vided,” not in the com­par­a­tive case, “more di­vided.” This de­fect makes the sen­tence lack syn­tac­tic clar­ity be­cause it is not fully de­vel­oped. Be­sides, the ad­jec­tive, “di­vided,” is not prop­erly placed in the sen­tence. It should come be­fore the con­junc­tive phrase, “more than,” not be­fore the el­e­ment that it is com­par­ing with an­other, in this case, “reli­gion.”

“The se­cret of cre­at­ing value for self and oth­ers” is the ti­tle of an ar­ti­cle in the Sun­day Ob­server of March 8, 2015. Its open­ing sen­tence has a prob­lem of in­com­plete­ness that is not as easy to iso­late as the one in the pre­vi­ous sen­tence which we have just cor­rected. It reads, thus: “We wake up each morn­ing to do what we do in or­der to solve our and other peo­ple’s prob­lems, and that is the fun­da­men­tal ra­tionale be­hind the work­ing class.”

Look closely at this con­struc­tion: “solve our and other peo­ple’s prob­lems.”

If you can­not see it, I am sure you can feel it! You can feel that some­thing needs to be added im­me­di­ately to the phrase, “solve our” to make it com­plete. That’s true: It should be, “solve our prob­lems.” And that whole con­struc­tion may be rewrit­ten, thus: “solve our prob­lems and those of other peo­ple.”

The sec­ond part of the sen­tence has yet an­other kind of in­com­plete­ness, one that is less ob­vi­ous and more sub­tle than the one we have just mended. Let us high­light the el­e­ment that we have used to com­plete the con­struc­tion in the re­vised sen­tence in or­der for you to see the er­ror clearly: “We wake up each morn­ing to do what we do in or­der to solve our prob­lems and those of other peo­ple, and that is the fun­da­men­tal ra­tionale be­hind the ETHOS OF the work­ing class.”

Talk­ing about “the fun­da­men­tal ra­tionale of the work­ing class” leaves some­thing out, and that “some­thing” is what we have tried to sup­ply with “ethos.” The sen­tence may not be per­fect, now, but it can­not be said to suf­fer from the de­fi­ciency of in­com­plete­ness, be­cause it is no longer in­choate.

Our last take on in­com­plete con­struc­tions is what may be de­scribed as a combo: a com­bi­na­tion of the two er­rors un­der our spot­light, to­day, to wit, the in­com­plete cor­rel­a­tive con­junc­tion and the in­choate con­struc­tion.

It comes from a news story with the head­line, “I am not a sub­ject but a cit­i­zen of Swazi­land – Mario,” Times of Swazi­land, Fe­bru­ary 20, 2017. The third para­graph of the story reads, thus: “Mare was in Swazi­land last Au­gust dur­ing the Umh­langa cer­e­mony and not only did he in­ter­view Ma­suku, but His Majesty King Mswati III and lo­cals.”

Re­vised ver­sion with cor­rec­tions in CAP­I­TAL l ett ers: “Mare was in Swazi­land last Au­gust dur­ing the Umh­langa cer­e­mony, and not only did he in­ter­view Ma­suku, but HE ALSO IN­TER­VIEWED His Majesty King Mswati III and lo­cals.”

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