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Clause chaining is here characterized by the possibility of long sequences of foreground clauses with operator dependence. Foreground clauses—those which assert the “mainline” information of their discourse genre—have “quasi-coordinate” properties. In the Mbyá dialect of Guaraní, background clauses which occur as part of chains are not quasi-coordinate, nor do they have operator dependence or occur in long sequences. They have one of two syntactic functions: peripheral subordination (a type of embedding) or ad-clausal modification. Clauses within chains can be linked by switch reference or by adverbial conjunctions such as ‘purpose’, ‘sequence’ or ‘simultaneity’; those with adverbial conjunctions always have one of the background functions, but those with switch reference can have foreground function or either background function. In their sentential and discourse contexts, the functions of chained clauses manifest distinct properties in such areas as external distribution, assertion, and scope effects.