Sentence (linguistics)


Sentence (linguistics)

In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it. A sentence can include words grouped meaningfully to express a statement, question, exclamation, request, command or suggestion.[1]

A sentence can also be defined in orthographic terms alone, i.e. as simply that which is contained between a capital letter and a full stop.[2] This is arguably more accurate than definitions which conflate orthography and grammar, given the variety of structures which are possible between the capital letter and a full stop. For instance, the opening of Charles Dickens' well known novel, Bleak House, begins with the following three sentences:

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather.

The first sentence involves one single word, a proper noun. The second sentence has only a non-finite verb. The third is a single nominal group. Only an orthographic definition can hope to encompass this variation.

As with all language expressions, sentences may contain both function and content words, and contain properties distinct to natural language, such as characteristic intonation and timing patterns.

Sentences are generally characterized in most languages by the presence of a finite verb, e.g. "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog".

Contents

Components of a sentence

Clauses

A clause consists of a subject and a predicate. The subject is typically a noun phrase, though other kinds of phrases (such as gerund phrases) work as well, and some languages allow subjects to be omitted. The predicate is a finite verb phrase: a finite verb together with zero or more objects, zero or more complements, and zero or more adverbials.

There are two types of clauses: independent and subordinate (dependent). An independent clause demonstrates a complete thought; it is a complete sentence: for example, "I am sad." A subordinate clause is not a complete sentence: for example, "because I have no friends."

See also copula for the consequences of the verb to be on the theory of sentence structure.

Complete sentences

A simple complete sentence consists of a single clause (subject and predicate). Other complete sentences consist of two or more clauses (see below).

Classification

By structure

One traditional scheme for classifying English sentences is by the number and types of finite clauses:

By purpose

Sentences can also be classified based on their purpose:

  • A declarative sentence or declaration, the most common type, commonly makes a statement: "I have to go to work."
  • An interrogative sentence or question is commonly used to request information — "Do I have to go to work?" — but sometimes not; see rhetorical question.
  • An exclamatory sentence or exclamation is generally a more emphatic form of statement expressing emotion: "I have to go to work!"
  • An imperative sentence or command tells someone to do something (and if done strongly may be considered both imperative and exclamatory): "Go to work." or "Go to work!"

Major and minor sentences

A major sentence is a regular sentence; it has a subject and a predicate. For example: "I have a ball." In this sentence one can change the persons: "We have a ball." However, a minor sentence is an irregular type of sentence. It does not contain a finite verb. For example, "Mary!" "Yes." "Coffee." etc. Other examples of minor sentences are headings (e.g. the heading of this entry), stereotyped expressions ("Hello!"), emotional expressions ("Wow!"), proverbs, etc. This can also include nominal sentences like "The more, the merrier". These do not contain verbs in order to intensify the meaning around the nouns and are normally found in poetry and catchphrases.[3]

Sentences that comprise a single word are called word sentences, and the words themselves sentence words.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ "'Sentence' - Definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sentence. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  2. ^ Halliday, M.A.K. and Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. 2004. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Arnold: p6.
  3. ^ Exploring Language: Sentences
  4. ^ Jan Noordegraaf (2001). "J. M. Hoogvliet as a teacher and theoretician". In Marcel Bax, C. Jan-Wouter Zwart, and A. J. van Essen. Reflections on Language and Language Learning. John Benjamins B.V.. pp. 24. ISBN 9027225842. 

External links



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