Sentence

A sentence is a tree that consists of an independent clause or a sequence of clauses joined by conjunctions.

A sentence is a string that is accepted by a grammar of some language.

Contents

1   Etymology

from Latin sententia "thought, way of thinking, opinion; judgment, decision," also "a thought expressed; aphorism, saying," from sentientem, present participle of sentire "be of opinion, feel, perceive". Loss of first -i- in Latin by dissimilation.

2   Study

Syntax is a branch of grammar that studies the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. (Arrangement of words)

The word "syntax" comes from Greek syntaxis "a putting together or in order, arrangement, a grammatical construction," from stem of syntassein "put in order," from syn- "together" + tassein "arrange" (like "tactics").

3   Form

3.1   Syntactic structure

Sentences, as constituents, have a syntactic tree structure.

3.2   Prosodic structure

Sentences have prosodic structure. Notice the intonation break between cat and that.

This is the cat / that chased the rat

Prosodic structure is distinct from syntactic structure. We can see this clearly in the above by noting:

This is [the cat] that chased the rat -> * This is it that chased the rat

This is the [cat that chased the rat] -> This is the one

We conclude from these that cat combines with the relative clause, not with the, exhibiting a mismatch between syntactic and prosodic structure.

3.3   Semantic structure

The semantic structure corresponds to syntactic structure for many sentences.

Mismatches between syntactic structure and semantic structure are possible in the form of ambiguous sentences. For instance, "every student knows two languages" can mean either either students two the same two languages or they each know two.

mismatches between syntactic and morphological structure are common; we discuss some examples in more detail in Chapters 6 and 7.

4   Production

Sentences are constructed in multiple steps:

  1. Generate a `D-structure`_ (= underlying form = underlying representation) by combining the phrase structure rules with the lexicon. This is called "the base".

  2. Assign theta roles.

    Theta roles must be assigned within the same clause as the predicate that assigns them (this is called the locality condition on theta role assignment). For example:

    John :sub:i left

    * John :sub:i thinks [that left]

    Fail if the deep structure fails the theta criterion: the relation between arguments (i.e. DPs) and theta roles must be bijective.

  3. Generate an S-structure by applying transformation rules to the D-structure.

  4. Fail if the S-structure fails the extended projection principle, i.e. if the sentence does not have a subject.

The theta criterion and EPP are both referred to as "output constraints".

5   Recognition

Native speakers have an innate ability to recognize sentences of a language.

A grammaticality judgment task is a psychological experiment used to test subconscious knowledge. A judgment involves asking a native speaker to read a sentence and judge whether it is well-formed, marginally well-formed, or ill-formed.

There are several different kinds of grammatically judgments. An ill-formed sentences could be so for different reasons.


Also, via a grammar; a theory of language.

6   Properties

Sentences are either grammatical or ungrammatical.

Grammatical sentences may be prescriptively valid or invalid. If valid, they may be uncontroversially so, formally so (e.g. "To whom am I speaking?", i.e. something which must be taught), difficult to parse ("Cheese mice love stinks." or "I saw the man with the telescope."), semantically anomalous ("Blue is circular.").

Prescriptively invalid sentences may be either dialectical ("The car needs washed") or informal ("Me and John went to the store.").

7   Classification

Sentences may be classified based on their structure or function.

7.1   Structural classification

7.1.1   Simple sentences

A simple sentence is a sentence that consists of one independent clause.

Socrates is a man.

7.1.2   Complex sentences

A complex sentence is a sentence that consists of one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Alice said that Bob loves dogs.

The musician that wrote this song is Canadian.

I enjoyed the apple pie that you bought for me.

Jason bought our hybrid car, which will help him save on gas.

7.1.3   Compound sentences

A compound sentence is a sentence that consists of one or more independent clauses.

Socrates is a man and all men are mortal.

7.1.4   Complex-compound sentences

A complex-compound sentence is a sentence that consists of one or more independent clauses, at least one of which has at least one dependent clause.

The dog lived in the garden, but the cat, which was smarter, lived inside the house.

7.1.5   Cleft sentence

A cleft sentence is a complex sentence that that could be rewritten as a simple sentence. Clefts typically put a particular constituent into focus. This focusing is often accompanied by a special intonation.

It is a man that Socrates is.

It is Socrates that is a man.

We can often divide ordinary sentences into two parts: a part that contains background information that is presupposed, the ground, and a part that is intended to be particularly informative, the focus. This focus-ground partition is known as the information structure of a sentence.

Intonation_ generally conveys the information structure in spoken language. A syntactic frame consisting of "it", a form of the copula "to be", and the subordinating conjunction "that", fitted with the focus and ground, indicates the information structure of a sentence in written language, where intonation is difficult to represent.

There are various types of cleft constructions:

  1. It-cleft: It is a man that Socrates is.
  2. Wh-cleft/pseudo-cleft: What you need is a warm bath.
  3. Revesed wh-cleft/invert pseudo-cleft: A fiat is what he wanted to buy.
  4. All-cleft: All he wanted to buy was a Fiat.
  5. Inferential cleft: It is not that he loves her. It's just that he has a way with her that is different.
  6. There-cleft: And then there's a new house he wanted to build.
  7. If-because cleft: If he wants to be an actor it's because he wants to be famous.

7.2   Functional classification

7.2.1   Interrogative Sentence

An interrogative sentence is a sentence that expresses a question.

7.2.2   Declarative Sentence

A declarative sentence is a sentence that expresses an assertive, commissive, or declaration.

7.2.3   Imperative Sentence

An imperative sentence is a sentence that expresses a directive.

7.2.4   Exclamatory Sentence

An exclamatory sentence is a sentence that expresses an expressive.

8   Representation

A sentence that is preceded by a * is ungrammatical.

A sentence that is preceded by a % is a dialectical variant (there is some variation in judgment across speaker).

A sentence that is preceded by a # is semantically ill-formed.

9   Style

9.1   ?

The point of entry to this facade is the create_engine call, from which connection and configuration information is assembled.

The create_engine call is point of entry to this facade, from which connection and configuration information is assembled.

Another:

This change in attribute access proved to be a great improvement

Another:

It may appear, above, that our placement of "id = Column()" directly achieves the class instrumentation, but this is not the case.

First of all, what does "it" refer to?

Our placement of "id = Column()" may appear, above, to directly achieve the class instrumentation, but this is not the case.

As one sentence:

Our placement of "id = Column()" does not directly achieve the class instrumentation.

9.2   Prefer simple sentences

Complex sentences (and especially complex-compound sentences) are difficult to parse. Consider the following example from Bringhurst 1992 and its rewritten form:

If, for example, the type size is 10 pt, the measure might be around 300 pt.

The measure might be around 300 pt if the type size is 10 pt for example.

These sentences can be difficult to rewrite when they contain a complementizer. For example:

In active sentences, the predicate has an external theta role and a theme and the external theta role is the topic.

The predicate has an external theta role and a theme in active sentences, and the external theta role is the topic.

Predicates in active sentences have an external theta role and a theme, and the external theta role is the topic.

I am not certain how to rewrite this one:

Modals differ so significantly from verbs, both morphologically and syntactically, that they are considered to be a distinct syntactic category.

We consider modals to be a distinct syntactic category since they significantly differ both morphologically and syntactically from verbs.

9.3   Avoid passive voice

The passive voice can drop the subjects, which may cause information to be lost. For example consider the following passive sentence:

Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text-size.

We discover it is missing its subject when we rewrite in the active voice:

? widely regard anything from 45 to 75 characters as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text-size.

9.4   Parallelism

Parallel ideas are easier to grasp when expressed in parallel grammatical form. Words should be balanced with words, phrases with phrases, and clauses with clauses.

For example:

A kiss can be a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point.

This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force.

In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.

~ Abused children commonly exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: withdrawal, rebelliousness, restlessness, and they are depressed.

9.6   bad

The central features that distinguishes REST from other network-based styles is its emphasis on a uniform interface between components.

Avoid interjecting phrases withing sentences. (Use footnotes instead.)

I learned that one of the greatest sources of problem in our society arises from people having loads of wrong theories in their heads -- often theories that are critical of others -- that they won't test by speaking to the relevant people about them.

Avoid redundancy:

People have many wrong beliefs in their head. -> People have many wrong beliefs.

Avoid negating:

Examples are not always appropriate. -> Sometimes examples are inappropriate.

10   Equivalence

There are two kind of equivalence:

  1. Dynamic equivalence
  2. Formal equivalence.

Dynamic equivalence or "sense for sense translation" translates the meaning of phrases or whole sentences.

Formal equivalence or "word-for-word" translation translates the meaning of individual words.

The two terms were coined by Eugene Nada as way to describe ways of translating the Bible.

11   References

[1]Chomsky 1957
[2]Carnie 2001
[3]Sportiche Koopman Stabler 2013

Valid use of focusing?

If you have a cat with a gene for brown eyes, its children will also have its gene for brown eyes.

Without focusing you'd write:

The children of a cat with a gene for brown eyes will also have their parent's gene for brown eyes.