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Grammatical metaphor: Nominalization

Missing conjunctions

What happened to the connectors?

We’ve looked at how factual texts tend to nominalize processes and qualities. We also have looked at how they tend to use far fewer verbal groups.


Before we finish, let’s take a closer look at those verbal groups.


To get an idea for what we’re looking at, take these conversational snippets and highlight all the connectors (conjunctions).

Common connectors

The natives weren’t communicating very well, and the Europeans took over all their land and placed settlements everywhere.

The native Americans didn’t talk to each other much, so when they found out what the Europeans were doing it was already too late, and the settlers and conquerors were already taking over their land.

Now do the same for this written version.

Communications between the tribes of the New World were slow, and news of the Europeans’ barbarities rarely overtook the rapid spread of new conquests and settlements.

What do you notice?


You might notice that the written version uses fewer connectors compared to the conversational version.


Let’s try this comparison again. 

Most history books will tell you that, in the nineteenth century, workers in Europe began to have more choice because people started hiring and promoting each other for their skills and aptitude, instead of everyone being forced to do jobs based on what their families did, and because governments started to provide more and more public schools so that everyone had the opportunity to learn.


Do the same thing for this snippet.

Standard history texts will tell you that the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of a new era of choice for Europe’s workers, primarily due to the invention of meritocracy – rewarding people on the basis of their skills or aptitude – and the growth of public education.

So what do you see?


This time the written version has far fewer connectors than the spoken version.


Why is this happening? And why should we care?