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The present paper outlines a historical change in Hungarian syntax by focusing on participial constructions and their clausal equivalents in ten different Hungarian translations of the Bible. The first part investigates the relative frequency of the relevant structures and, relying upon statistical data, it characterises the process of a shift from analytic to synthetic constructions. Then we analyse secondary semantic differences among the various structures (participial constructions, subordinate clauses and coordinate clauses) and propose that in the case of subordination the semantic relationship between the matrix sentence and the dependent clause is expressed in an explicit manner. However, if the meaning of the related participial construction is complex (combining features of temporal, causal, and instrumental relationships), a subordinate clause can express only one of these, and the other features are not represented in it. Coordination, on the other hand, especially asyndetic (conjunctionless) coordination and that involving the conjunctions és, s ‘and’, is more capable of embracing several shades of meaning. Thus, in terms of their semantic properties, coordinate clauses are more similar to participial constructions than subordinate clauses are. Finally, the paper raises some general ideas with respect to the theoretical background of this kind of shift in sentence construction. The framework of the study is what is called “traditional grammar”, but it also introduces some terms of functional grammar.

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