English Absolute Clauses in Fiction: The Unaugmented Absolutes in Harry Potter

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Chayapol Khaphaeng
Nirada Chitrakara


This study investigates reasons for the frequency of English absolute clauses in fiction with the focus on the interplay between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of unaugmented absolute clauses. The data were gathered from the first two books of the Harry Potter series. The findings of this study reveal that three aspects of linguistics play an interrelated role behind the frequency of absolute clauses. That is, syntactically and pragmatically, the absolute clauses are likely to abide by Economy and Cooperative Principles respectively to produce a concise, clear, and informative structure. Semantically, the clauses are linked to the matrix clauses via coreferences, with the majority of the subjects being part-whole coreferences. The absolutes in the data are considered weak adverbials, the semantic relations with little shared knowledge (Kortmann, 2013), which are easy to process. These absolutes tend to appear in the final position, which is believed to reflect the information structure of topic-comment.  The interplay between the above factors results in the economical but informative structure that keeps readers’ attention.

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