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I'm wondering what the rule is as to where any commas or semicolons would go. (a) and (b) are showing the two sentences that are to be combined, and (a)+(b)[1,2] show the sentences in question.

(a): I like tea, especially chamomile tea.
(b): I like tea; however, I prefer coffee.

(a)+(b)[1]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea; however, I prefer coffee.
or,
(a)+(b)[2]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea, however, I prefer coffee.

It'd be great if it could be:
(a)+(b)[3]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea,; however, I prefer coffee.

I have a feeling that (a)+(b)[1] is correct; however, I'm not really sure what rule would govern that. Is there some precendence rule making a semicolon 'trump' a comma?

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    Yes, semi-colons trump commas. In general, the more pause and separation a punctuation mark indicates, the higher up it is in the hierarchy of trumps. An exclamation or question mark also trumps both a comma, semi-colon, or period. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 1 '14 at 12:48
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(a)+(b)[1]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea; however, I prefer coffee.

This is the most correct form. Another alternative is to move "especially chamomile tea" into parentheses:

I like tea (especially chamomile); however, I prefer coffee.

You can also move "however":

I like tea (especially chamomile); I, however, prefer coffee.

But the most condensed form is to replace "however, I" with "but":

I like tea (especially chamomile) but prefer coffee.

I like tea, especially chamomile, but prefer coffee.

But if you want to keep the original forms as much as possible, than (a)+(b)[1] is most correct.

(a)+(b)[2]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea, however, I prefer coffee.

This sentence is really hard to read because there are so many commas. It is also less correct because there is no conjunction between "I like tea" and "I prefer coffee". In informal speech, you can use "however" as a conjunction but I would caution against it in writing.

(a)+(b)[3]: I like tea, especially chamomile tea,; however, I prefer coffee.

This is incorrect. English does not use the punctuation pattern of ",;".

I have a feeling that (a)+(b)[1] is correct; however, I'm not really sure what rule would govern that. Is there some precendence rule making a semicolon 'trump' a comma?

The rule governs the combining of clauses without using a conjunction. You could use any of the following:

(1) I like tea and I like coffee

(2) I like tea but I prefer coffee

(3) I like tea; however, I prefer coffee

(4) I like tea; I prefer coffee

But you typically wouldn't use:

(5) I like tea, I prefer coffee

(6) I like tea, however, I prefer coffee

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Rules, schmools! How does a sentence scan? is my question. If it scans OK, then leave it be; if not, then fix it.

Personally, I stumble a bit when reading a sentence like (a)+(b)[2],

"I like tea, especially chamomile tea, however, I prefer coffee"

simply because the length of pause I take when the comma comes after tea causes me to read the sentence inaptly. A semi-colon, on the other hand, causes me to take a longer pause--perhaps just milliseconds longer, allowing me to read the sentence aptly.

Out of consideration of the reader, then, I recommend a semi-colon in your sentence, if only to prevent a reader from having to read the sentence twice. After all, don't we craft sentences for our audience and not ourself?

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