Compound sentences are made up of two or more independent clauses – clauses that can stand on their own.  Complex sentences combine dependent clauses, independent clauses, and/or phrases in varying ways to form sentences.  Embedding occurs when a phrase, clause, or sentence becomes part of another sentence, serving key grammatical roles.  Among other facts are:

  • Phrases and clauses are the most advanced method of language sophistication known to man.  With them a sentence can theoretically be made to communicate almost anything that can be thought  (Pinker, 1995).
  • “The range of structures that contribute to linguistic complexity, the vulnerability of these forms to contextual constraints, and the low freqency of occurrence of some structures present a considerable assessment challenge.”  (Gummersall and Strong, 1999).
  • The preceding sentence is an excellent example of how complex sentences can be used to advance many ideas at the same time, while increasing the level of processing required to interpret the overall sentence, particularly when one or more of the ideas themselves may require some degree of advanced understanding.  (That last sentence was another good example.)
  • Use and understanding of complex sentence structure is a critical and often overlooked aspect of communicative development.