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In our treatment of parenthetical clauses, we will follow the lines set down for treatment of parentheses in a simple sentence: we will distinguish parenthetical clauses from inserted clauses and state that their function is the same as that of parentheses in a simple sentence.
The relation between parenthetical and subordinate clauses gives rise to some discussion. The traditional view held by most grammarians was that parentheses are not parts of a simple sentence but are outside it, and in a similar way parenthetical clauses were held not to be an organic part of a complex sentence and, consequently, not to be subordinate clauses but to be outside the structure of the sentence. In the same way that we have abandoned this view with reference to parentheses in a simple sentence, and recognised them as parts of the sentence, we will abandon the traditional view with regard to parenthetical clauses, and we will treat them as subordinate clauses of a special kind. This view is confirmed by the fact that the same conjunction as which we found introducing attributive, temporal, causal, and other types of clauses, can also introduce a parenthetical clause of a very familiar type exemplified by the following sentence: Catherine endeavoured to persuade her, as she was herself persuaded, that her father and mother would never oppose their son's wishes. (J. AUSTEN) The clause introduced by the conjunction that is here subordinated to the main clause, and at the same time it is also subordinated to the as-clause, which is apparently a kind of parenthetical clause (having also a shade of meaning of comparison). In this way it is at the same time a first-degree subordinate clause from one viewpoint, and a second-degree clause from another.
The following example is also instructive: Hope, if it was Hope, had not heard him, and the chances of their ever meeting again were as slight as they were unimportant to him. (BUECHNER) Let
Parenthetical Clauses 305
us consider what will be changed if the if-clause is dropped. What will be actually lost is the information that he was not quite certain whether it was Hope after all. If it was not she, he could not assert that she had not heard him. So this if-clause curiously vacillates between a conditional and a parenthetical clause, and of course no choice between the two is here possible on grammatical, or, indeed, on any other grounds.
There appears to be no reason to deny that a parenthetical clause of this kind is a subordinate clause. If this view is endorsed there is every reason to suppose that a sentence consisting of a main and a parenthetical clause is a usual kind of complex sentence.
Parenthetical clauses introduced without any conjunction do not belong here and they will be considered in the chapter on asyndetic composite sentences.