Conjunction (part of speech)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Conjunction (from Latin coniunctio , connection ' ), also: connective word, joining word ; Junction is the term in grammar for a part of speech that creates syntactic connections between words, parts of sentences or sentences and at the same time expresses logical or grammatical relationships between the connected elements. Together with the prepositions , which serve a similar purpose in linguistic terms, conjunctions are also summarized as relators . In contrast to prepositions , conjunctions usually do not ruleCase of their additions.

A distinction is made primarily between co-ordinating conjunctions (e.g. and, but, because ) and subordinate conjunctions (also: conjunctions introducing subordinate clauses, e.g. that, because, whether ), which form two very different groups. In some theories, these two are also treated directly as different parts of speech, especially in grammar models , where the conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses are grouped under the term complementer .

Limitations and distinctions

Conjunction and junction in the sense of logic

The conjunction as part of speech in grammar must be distinguished from the term “conjunction” in the sense of logic , which describes an entire construction in which two sentences are connected with “and” and their truth values ​​are offset. A connecting element such as “and”, which falls under the term “conjunction” in the grammatical sense, is called “ junctor ” in logic .

However, the same term “junction” is occasionally used by grammarians to denote a more general class of connecting linguistic elements of which co-ordinating and subordinate conjunctions form a component.

Subordinate and co-ordinating conjunctions


Traditionally, conjunctions are divided into two main types:

  • co-ordinating (also: associating , coordinating , coordinative , paratactic ) conjunctions (example: and )
  • subordinating ( subordinating , hypotactic ) conjunctions (examples: because, that, whether ).

For the purpose of delimitation, subordinating conjunctions are sometimes also called subjunctions ; then the term “conjunction” becomes ambiguous: It can either have a broad meaning (as in the title of this article) or a narrower meaning of “coordinating (co-ordinating) conjunction” as opposed to “subjunction”. In order to avoid misunderstandings, the Duden grammar uses the neutral term junction as a generic term instead of conjunction (in the broader sense) .

Grammatical classification

The co-ordinating conjunctions stand between main clauses, subordinate clauses or parts of sentences and thus connect them with one another.

  • [You go away] and [I'm staying here].
  • I think [that she has finished her job] and [that he will be ready soon too].
  • We want to buy [apples] and [pears].

The subordinate conjunctions are introduced in a subordinate clause and thus integrate it into the superordinate clause. They are therefore part of the subordinate clause:

  • You're leaving [ while I stay here].
  • I think [ that she has finished her job].
  • We're here [ because we want to buy apples and pears].

The comparison particles (or adjuncts ) “like” and “as” form a special case, since these elements (in the meaning of comparison particles) do not introduce any subordinate clauses, but they are nevertheless followed by a single supplement like the subjunctions. Compare:

  • He looked especially [the drawings] [ as a very successful].
  • He considered [the drawings] to be [ very successful] in particular. (→  Postponement : "as" + "very successful" are postponed together)

In contrast, co-ordinating conjunctions form a syntactic unit from the preceding and the following expression:

  • He looked at ([the paintings] and [the drawings]).
  • ([The paintings] and [the drawings]) he looked at. (→  Shift sample : "A and B" is shifted together)
  • NOT: * [ And [the drawings]] he looked at the paintings.

(But see below in the chapter #Subordinate conjunctions in German at the end of the introductory section for a different behavior from the sentence-introducing and ).

Delimitation of prepositions

Although conjunctions and prepositions are sometimes difficult to distinguish and some words may have a double function, in principle the two parts of speech must be clearly differentiated from one another. Above all , prepositions rule a case , conjunctions do not. In the following example, the preposition triggers with dative rectification, whereas the conjunction and does not assign its own case, but leaves the accusative rectification of the verb bestellen unchanged:

  • He ordered acc [schnitzel] with Dat [an em mixed salad].
  • He ordered acc [schnitzel] and acc [a s mixed salad].

Problems of demarcation between prepositions and subjunctions arise above all from the possibility that prepositions can also take subordinate clauses as their complement: grammatically, the difference would then remain that prepositions in these cases would come before a subordinate clause, but subordinate conjunctions within the subordinate clause; but this is often not visible externally:

He works without [ that he gets money for it].
He works without [To get money for it].
He works without [Pay].

In the above examples, without is consistently represented as a preposition, as it is often used in linguistic literature. Often, however, the connection without it is also viewed as a single, compound conjunction (for example in Duden grammar).

Delimitation of question pronouns

A distinction should be made between conjunctions and question and relative pronouns introducing sentences, or question and relative adverbs , because they can form larger syntactic units (i.e., phrases ). In the field model of the German sentence they occupy the "Vorfeld" in both the main clause and the subordinate clause, whereas the position of the subordinate conjunction is the "left bracket" (or the position of the complementer ), as shown in the last example below:

Apron left bracket midfield right bracket Nachfeld
Whom have you called?
With whose parents have you telephoned?
...whom - you called
... with his parents - you have phoned
- if someone called.

(For larger syntactic units in a sentence-introducing function, as in the second and fourth example, see under Pied Piper Construction .)

Differentiation of adverbs

The determination of content-related connections between clauses does not always have to be done through conjunctions (such as the conjunction “because”, which establishes a substantive connection between the subordinate clause and the main clause). Instead, such connections can also be designated by certain adverbs that are not sentence-introducing conjunctions, but normal clauses . This type of adverb is called a conjunctive adverb . Conjunctional adverbs can be recognized by the fact that they fit into the field model like any other sentence element, e.g. B. May be in front of a verb second sentence or be in the middle:

  • " Because the weather is beautiful ... (I go on foot)." (Conjunction; the verb appears at the end of the sentence)
  • "The weather is beautiful, so I go on foot." (Conjunctional adverb in advance; the verb appears in the second position)
  • "The weather is beautiful, (and) I therefore go on foot." (Conjunctive adverb in the middle)

Words of different parts of speech such as adverbs, particles and conjunctions, which have related functions in terms of content, can be summarized under the term “ connectors ”.

Coordinating conjunctions in German

Frequent and uncontroversial examples of co-ordinating conjunctions in German are: and, or, but, because, but, but, as well, that is. Multipart conjunctions form a special group that form correlative pairs such as either ... or, both ... and, neither ... nor. Some components of such pairs can also show the behavior of adverbs (for example by occupying the first position in the main clause).

Coordinating conjunctions can connect units of different sizes:

  1. Sentences : [He is famous], and [the women admire him].
  2. Parts of the sentence : [His money] and [his brilliant position] arouse admiration.
  3. Clause parts: for the [large corporations] and [banks]
  4. Words: for the large [corporations] and [banks] - (emphasis on the adjective: "large banks" would be meant here)
  5. Word parts ( morphemes ): [purchase] and [sale] (here with a hyphen , not with a hyphen )

Coordinating conjunctions do not create a completely symmetrical connection between the two parts. While and acts symmetrically on the level of meaning in some ways (both connected parts have logically the same function), this does not apply to cases such as or but . On the grammatical level, all related conjunctions behave asymmetrically, insofar as they belong more closely to the second part than to the first. This can be seen from the fact that a sentence can begin with such a conjunction; the first part can only be found in the (con-) text:

In the field model of the German sentence there is such an occurrence of and in the “left outer field” of the sentence.

Meaning types

Semantic category co-ordinating conjunctions (examples) Example sentences
additive (series) and so, neither - nor, not only - but also Neither he nor his daughter were woken by the noise.
adversative (opposite) but She asked him, but he was clueless.
disjunctive (alternative) either ... or You can either tidy up your room or put away the paper.
explicit (explanation) this means He is known nationally, which means that he is known throughout the country.
causal (reason) because ( colloquial : because) He is happy because he is going to get married soon.
concessional (granting) albeit, albeit It's a sad, albeit illuminating, day.
comparative (comparison) as how He likes his car better than his wife.

Function of selected co-ordinating conjunctions


The conjunction and has several meanings. On the one hand, it describes the case of the logical conjunction, i.e. that two or more connected statements all apply.

In connection with nouns, on the other hand, a different meaning often appears, in which and combines several individuals into a group, i.e., in a sense, creates a collective individual:

  • Peter and Karl carried the piano down.

What is meant here is a case in which neither of the two has ever carried a piano on their own, but where only the group that consists of the two together could manage it. However, and between nouns can also appear as a shortened form of a “logical and ”, in which the full content of the two connected statements must be developed and supplemented by the listener.

  • Peter and Karl have already saved a person's life once.
  • Peter and Karl have already saved someone's life once.

In these two examples the content is to be reconstructed as:

  • [Peter has already saved a person's life] and [Karl has already saved a person's life].

This reading of and between nouns, in which Peter and Karl do not have to form a group, is called "distributive" (the statement is "distributed" between Peter and Karl). When using the conjunction as well , this reading is mandatory; this means that no group reading is possible.

Another common meaning variant is that the connection of two statements with and is interpreted as a chronological order:

  • She married and had a child.
  • She had a child and got married.

In some contexts, as above, this interpretation seems relatively compelling; however, it is usually not viewed as a separate word meaning of and , but rather as an inference in context; H. a conversational implicature .


The word or is primarily used to formulate alternatives:

  • Do you want strawberry ice cream or vanilla ice cream? A or B?

With this question the listener is faced with a choice: to choose either one or the other; in logic one would speak of “exclusive or”.

The phrase “inclusive or” (that is, the listener would be offered the choice of both strawberry and vanilla ice cream as a third option ) should be phrased differently:

  • Would you like strawberry or vanilla ice cream, or both?
  • Would you like strawberry and / or vanilla ice cream?

In connection with an overriding negation or prohibition, the meaning can arise that all possibilities are out of the question ( here it is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke : all of this is forbidden.)

Some other uses of the word or also have pragmatic functions, such as:

  • that a certain consequence is to be expected ( disappear or something will happen! )
  • that no objection is expected ( something will happen soon. Or don't you think so ? , rhetorical )
  • that there is also an unnamed other possibility or that the statement is meant vaguely ( 10 days ago or so )
  • that approval is actually expected ( you're coming with me, aren't you?, simulated rhetorically)

but, but

but (in contrastive meaning) and but separate two parts of a pair of opposites, but they are not the same meaning. but expresses that the speaker considers the two parts of the pair of opposites to be absolutely incompatible: if B is true, A cannot possibly be true.

Exemplary pair of opposites:

  • A: The house is not big.
  • B: The house is cozy.

Sentences with but or rather :

  • The house is not big, but it is cozy.
  • The house is not big, it is cozy.

The first sentence states that the house may not be big, but still cozy. The speaker expresses that there is still something positive to be said about the house; for him, it is also possible that a house will be both large and cozy.

The second sentence expresses that the house is not big, but rather cozy. By choosing but , the speaker communicates that for him there is an absolute opposition between a large and a cozy house: for him, a cozy house can by no means be big; if B is true (cosiness of the house), A (bigness of the house) is excluded.

In the above example, it is the speaker's subjective attitude that decides whether to use but or but . In most cases, the choice is dictated by logic:

  • Outside, it's not warm, but cold.
  • I don't want to go to the cinema, I want to stay at home.

Since being warm and cold here belong to the same category (temperature), the use of but is mandatory. In principle, it is also not possible to both go out and stay at home; it has a “revising” effect on the focussed part of the sentence: It replaces the “wrong” statement (it is warm) with the “true” one (it is cold) .

but can only come after a negative prefix; when reversing this sentence, however, the following would apply:

  • It's cold outside, but not warm.

Subordinate conjunctions in German

Syntactic and semantic types of conjunctions

Subordinate clauses that are introduced with conjunctions can take on all kinds of clause functions: They can be the subject or object of a verb, or adverbial . Conjunctions that mark subject or object sentences are above all that (from Middle High German daz , since the 16th century more often that or that ) and whether . The conjunction marks whether the feature that a subordinate clause is an (indirect) question, whereas that mainly marks statements.

There are many specialized conjunctions for subordinate clauses in the function of adverbial determinations , depending on their precise meaning:

  • temporal :
    • at the same time: while, while, while, as well as, as often, as, how
    • prematurely: after, as, if, as soon as, as well as, since [the]
    • afterwards: until, before, before, (rarely :) than when
  • modal :
    • instrumental (modal i. E. S.): by
    • restrictive / adversative (to identify the restriction and the contrast): (in) as far, (in) as far as, so much, during, whereas
    • comparative : as if, as if, as if
  • causal :
    • causal i. e. S .: because, there, especially, well, that (in the sense of how )
    • consecutive (characterizing sequence): so or so that, as that, that
    • conditional (characterizing condition): if, if, in case, if, so far, so
    • concessionary (conceding): although, although, whether, although, although, although, if also, if, although, regardless, nevertheless
    • final (aiming, aiming): with that, in order to, on that

Conjunctions in infinite subordinate clauses

Some German infinitive constructions have the status of independent subordinate clauses , e.g. B. as an object of a verb (first example) or as a final clause (second example). This infinitive must always the particles to have and can in Nachfeld are the set, thus after a verb in the end position:

  • The policeman asked Otto to show his ID.
  • Donald was silent so as not to embarrass himself further.

Since these are subordinate clauses, the clause introductory part is to be classified in the second example as a conjunction for infinitive clauses. Other subordinate conjunctions such as that, whether can only appear with finite subordinate clauses, but not with infinitives; thus a connection is shown systematically that conjunctions can rule the feature finite / infinite in a subordinate clause . Even the appearance of the particles to be in all Infinitivsätzen then explained as an effect of the Directorate by the conjunction (see. The concept of Statusrektion ). For mere infinite subordinate clauses as in the first example above, it is then assumed that they are basically also conjunction clauses, but that an abstract, unspoken conjunction is present.

For a similar example in English see below .

The special case of using because

  • The conjunction because changes relatively quickly historically. The original sense is temporal (“as long as”, “meanwhile”). In the 19th century the causal use predominated and later because only causal was used. In brothers! let us be funny, because the spring lasts from Günther it still means “as long as (how)”.
  • Today's causal meaning includes both the cause-effect relationship and a justification. The cause-effect relationship is not to be understood in a strictly scientific sense.
  • In the default language, the conjunction is because only used as a subordinating conjunction. The street is wet because it's raining outside.
  • In colloquial language it is used more and more as a secondary conjunction: The street is wet because - it is raining twine. As long as there is not an epistemic because acts (s. Next paragraph), you can instead the standard language Conjunction for use without that meaning changes.
  • The epistemic because in the course of a language change in the spoken language replaces the conjunction because in sentences like Agnes certainly still works; because - her car is in the parking lot . This sentence is illogical if correctly formulated with a verb in the end position: Agnes is probably still working because her car is in the parking lot . Because the car in the parking lot is not the reason that Agnes is still working. The first sentence, however, refers here epistemically to the speaker's level of knowledge. Roughly: I know that Agnes is still working because her car is always in the parking lot. So the sentence answers the question of how the speaker knows that Agnes is still working.

Conjunctions in other languages

Languages ​​in general

In many SOV languages , subordinate clauses must precede the “main clauses” (superordinate clauses). Correspondences to the subordinating conjunctions at the beginning of the sentence, as they have in the Indo-European languages, are then sentence-closing conjunctions, as in Japanese, or suffixes that are attached to the verb and are therefore not separate words.

In English

In English, in traditional grammar, a distinction is made between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions (English: coordinating conjunctions , also coordinators , and subordinating conjunctions , also subordinators ). The conjunctions of English that mark argument sentences and adverbial sentences roughly correspond to those of German. A special feature compared to German is that in English, relative clauses can be introduced with a conjunction (that) instead of a pronoun.

English also provides an example of a conjunction that introduces an infinitive subordinate clause (see above for examples in German), namely the for in constructions such as

  • [ For you to give up now] would be tragic.
" Giving up now would be tragic / If you gave up now, it would be tragic."

Here for a conjunction that allows SVO sentence with visible subject despite infinitive (the example should be distinguished from cases such as to give up now would be tragic for you - here's for a preposition). The usual analysis for this is that for is a conjunction that is exceptionally able to rule the case of the subject (although it is not a nominative). Rection has a common feature with the preposition for ; however, the behavior of this element for is clearly no longer that of a preposition, even if it emerged from a preposition.

In Spanish

Spanish knows two classes of relators or relational elements ; the preposition and the conjunction. Both are grammatical inflectionless relational words without a sentence component value. Their difference is evident on the syntactic level as relational members (see also constituents , clauses ) and in their semantic relationships. Conjunctions can connect words, groups of words and even sentences.

In Chinese

Conjunctions (Chinese 連詞 / 连词, Pinyin lián cí) are used in standard Chinese (Putonghua), as in other languages, to connect two sentences or parts of sentences and to relate them to one another.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: conjunction  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden. The grammar. 7th edition. 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 930 (because of the ambiguity of conjunction ).
  2. See the definitions in Hadumod Bußmann (ed.): Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 (conjunction) and Kürschner: Grammatical Compendium , 4th edition, 2003, ISBN 3-8252-1526-1 , p. 152.
  3. z. B. in the online grammar of the IDS
  4. Cf. Clément: Basic Linguistic Knowledge. 2nd Edition. 2000, p. 38; Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 (conjunction); Ulrich: Basic linguistic terms. 5th edition. 2002 (conjunction).
  5. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04048-3 , Rn. 930 ff.
  7. For example: Wolfgang Sternefeld: Syntax. A morphologically motivated generative description of German. Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2006, pp. 201-202.
  8. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009, p. 1049
  10. In addition to grading conjunctions ( canoonet )
  11. “The standard language incorrect is the increasing use of 'because' in the spoken colloquial language with the prefix of the finite verb”
    Der Große Duden, Vol. 3: Grammar of contemporary German. 5th edition. Mannheim u. a. 1995, p. 397.
  12. Eva Breindl: Additive connectors. In: Ursula Brauae, Eva Breindl (Hrsg.): Handbook of German connectors. Linguistic foundations of the description and syntactic features of the German sentence linkers (conjunctions, sentence adverbs and particles) . Walter De Gruyter, Berlin 2009.
  13. ^ Gerhard Truig : German dictionary. With a "Lexicon of German Language Teaching." New edition, obtained from Ursula Hermann, Gütersloh / Munich 1980 and 1991 (= reprint of the 2nd edition from 1986), p. 328 f.
  14. On the topic of this section as a whole, see Wolfgang Sternefeld: Syntax. A morphologically motivated generative description of German. 3. Edition. Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2009, Volume 1, pp. 197ff. (= Chapter III.5.2 Infinitive CPs ).
  15. Practice German. Zschr. 2009. Issue 215, p. 48.
  16. ^ Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey Pullum: The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 1182ff.
  17. ^ Helmut Berschin , Julio Fernández-Sevilla, Josef Felixberger: The Spanish language. Distribution, history, structure. 3. Edition. Georg Olms, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2005, ISBN 3-487-12814-4 , pp. 161, 251.