Greek Sentence Structure
Rleedy at bju.edu
Thu Jul 26 13:15:23 EDT 2001
Trevor, thanks for the reply.
Yes, there's a circularity here. If I may try to defend myself a
further step, I'd say that the rough difference between a sentence and
a paragraph is that a sentence is a unified collection of clauses
where a paragraph is a unified collection of sentences. The grammarian
is called upon to exercise a subjective judgment of what constitutes a
unit of a particular "size." He asks, "Where does this 'unit' round
itself off to a satisfying degree of completeness and then proceed to
the next?" I think that the sentence is a helpful unit in that it
supplies a usefully sized chunk larger than the phrase or clause and
smaller than the paragraph or discourse. It's not clear to me that
your logic would allow for the isolation of units of any size larger
than the word and shorter than the discourse.
As to whether we're talking about a scientific term, that may be just
the rub. Can we speak of a "quasi-scientific term?" I think of
"sentence" as a term that stands for a definite classification, so in
a sense it is scientific. But we again get into the question of just
how scientifically it is possible to analyze communication, and so I
back off from insisting that it is strictly scientific and therefore
must be precisely defined in order to be useful within my "science."
Bob Jones University
RLeedy at bju.edu
>>> Trevor Peterson <06PETERSON at cua.edu> 07/26/01 12:38PM >>>
>===== Original Message From Randy Leedy <Rleedy at bju.edu> =====
>Clay (and apparently others) suggest that because we cannot offer a
>rigorous definition of a sentence, we ought to abandon the term
>presumably, the basic concept which the term carries in most
>minds. Without having given much thought to the matter, I would
>that an attempted definition would at least roughly resemble the
>that it is a unit of thought consisting minimally of a subject
>placed under discussion) and a predicate (assertion or question
>the subject) and maximally of all coordinate and subordinate
>that cohere into a single unit of thought.
But doesn't this definition end up being somewhat circular? What is
of thought" in your definition but a sentence? Why couldn't we call
paragraph the same thing? (As a matter of fact, in many cases a
constitute a paragraph.) Why not a clause? Also, wouldn't we have
that this is a definition that applies to written, formal sentences
or colloquial (another dubious distinction)? In regular speech, or
this e-mail, there are numerous contextually implied constituents
have to be made explicit to fit the definition. This seems to form
circle, since actual sentences must be modified to fit the
Indeed, if it were not for the punctuation mark that we call a
doubt that we could even conceive of a sentence as such. I realize
recognize "defects" in your definition, but I think there are more
problems than what you specifically mentioned.
>The fact that we cannot construct a
>simple filter that mechanically separates into neat grammatical
>any particular discourse we may pass through it points only to the
>limitations of science (namely, in this case, grammar) to account
>what can in general terms easily enough be understood and
>as art. The fault perhaps lies in the scientist's misguided attempt
>quantify and classify the properties of art when he should rather
>simply recognize the limits of his methods.
But aren't we talking about a scientific term? What do we need with
or concept of sentence, except when it comes to discussing grammar?
it can be a handy way to refer to points on a page (second paragraph,
sentence), but surely we can find alternative means to do that. I
problem with your example of art or even with the notion that
artistic components to it. But even two semesters of Renaissance
enough for me to see that English writers, who have punctuation that
them to identify a sentence, when engaged in language as art, tip
their hat to
the sentence only as it suits them.
>To return now to my starting point, that
>assumption, in the mind of a hubrist (if I may formulate a word that
>have never heard before) can easily lead to the conclusion that
>something he cannot define does not exist.
What about a more practical a-sentence-ism that says, perhaps
exist, but they're inconsequential to my life? ;-) Seriously, I
that anyone here is bent on demolishing the existence of sentences as
they exist, fine; but until we can come up with a use for them, let's
complicate matters by trying to explain them.
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