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How the following variations fragments?

The comet has recently changed direction towards Jupiter, this development leading scientists to wonder about the composition of the object.

The comet has recently changed direction towards Jupiter, this leading scientists to wonder on the composition of the object.

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The entire sentences you give are both complete sentences, not fragments.

However, there is no finite verb in either of the clauses which you boldface, only a present participle; consequently these are not, by themselves, full clauses but (as traditional grammar calls them) 'fragments'. They are subordinate clauses which cannot stand on their own. Consequently no conjunction is required here, and there is no comma splice.

Formally they are absolute clauses: because they have no finite verb they are taken to be subordinate to their head clauses, but because they have their own subjects (this development and this) they cannot be taken to modify a specific constituent of their head clauses; consequently they are taken to be 'supplements' providing additional information.

Incidentally, we do not say wonder on, only wonder about.

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  • what about the verb change? doesn't that verb and the subject comet make the two clauses sentences? – user8959 Aug 24 '14 at 17:17
  • The clauses whose subjects are comet are independent; they are headed by finite verbs (has). But the clauses headed by leading are subordinate, because leading is a gerund/participle, not a finite verb. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 24 '14 at 17:21
  • in that case would the following, "The comet has recently changed direction toward Jupiter, a development leading scientists to wonder about the composition of the object" be also a fragment? – user8959 Aug 24 '14 at 17:21
  • @Ben We seem to be talking about different things. Both of your quotations (and the rewrite in your comment) are complete sentences as they stand: they consist of a full independent clause plus a subordinate clause - the subordinate clause are what you have boldfaced, and what what my answer addresses). By themselves these subordinate clauses may in traditional terms be called 'fragments'. I will rewrite to clarify this. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 24 '14 at 17:26
  • Would you prefer sentence A or sentence B? A: The comet has recently changed direction towards Jupiter, this development leading scientists to wonder about the composition of the object. or B: "The comet has recently changed direction toward Jupiter, a development leading scientists to wonder about the composition of the object" ? – user8959 Aug 24 '14 at 17:33

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