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I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, (Isaiah 51:12 , English Standard Version ©2001)

How to express the function of "that" in the sentence in grammatical terms? A coordinating conjunction?

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1 Answer 1

"That" functions as a subordinating conjunction in the sentence:

Who are you?

is the main clause.

You are afraid of man who dies....

is the subordinate clause.

"That" doesn't function as a relative pronoun in this sentence but as a subordinating conjunction. It doesn't matter what part of speech it is but what it does in the sentence.

To function as a relative pronoun, it would have to replace a noun phrase in the sentence, e.g.:

This is the house that Jack built.

In this sentence, that is a relative pronoun that replaces the house:

Jack built that; Jack built the house.

The relative pronoun in "This is the house that Jack built" (that) also subordinates the dependent clause to the main clause. "That Jack built" isn't an independent clause unless "That" is the demonstrative pronoun "that" and the sentence is pronounced with heavy stress on "That". In that case, there should probably be a comma after "That": "That, Jack built" to indicate a slight pause, but it's not necessary.

It's not normal word order in most cases, but it's certainly possible and not even uncommon. Scenario: a wall with three paintings.

A: See those paintings? B: Yes. A: Well, this John did [pointing at first painting]. That Jack did [pointing at second painting]. And that I did [pointing at third painting]. Which do you like? B: Well, this I don't like, that I like, and that third one I don't like at all.

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A complementizer, not a conjunction. But complementizers are available only in modern parts of speech, not in the Elite Eight. –  John Lawler Apr 23 '13 at 14:58
    
"In linguistics (especially generative grammar), a complementizer (or complementiser) is a syntactic category (part of speech) roughly equivalent to the term subordinating conjunction in traditional grammar. For example, the word that is generally called a complementizer in English sentences like Mary believes that it is raining." I'm just using the terminology I found on the Net & that I remember from decades ago. I defer to your expertise, of course, because this is your field, but it seems to me that this is a terminological quagmire. –  user21497 Apr 23 '13 at 15:31
    
@JohnLawler: I was actually thinking of adding something like "Such that can replace that in who are you that you are afraid of man who dies", but I wasn't sure enough that it was true. Thank you for verifying it for me. –  user21497 Apr 23 '13 at 15:36
    
Not really. There's a small set of grammatical categories (POS) that are clearly necessary for English. As listed (p 12, fn 13 here), they are limited to N, V, P, A, Adv, their respective projections (clauses and phrases that act as N, V, P, A, Adv), and distinguishing N' (an N projection) from NP (which is not, like N', a phrase headed by an N, but rather is a different type, outside the X-Bar system – NP is the syntactic constituent type corresponding to the logical type Argument of Predicate). –  John Lawler Apr 23 '13 at 17:09
    
The various machinery to fit these categories into sentences (semantically bleached articles, determiners, quantifiers, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, etc.) are more or less shoveled in by selecting the V, N, A, or Adv that governs them. Think of them as the little screws and plugs that come in a plastic bag when you're assembling an IKEA chair. –  John Lawler Apr 23 '13 at 17:13

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