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Re: Sentences (was Re: Polysynthesis & Oligosynthesis)

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Monday, August 26, 2002, 1:43
On Sun, Aug 25, 2002 at 11:11:35AM -0400, Christopher Wright wrote:
> >Is the reply "a whole sentence [expressed] with just a verb"? If so, > >why? If not, why not? What's a sentence? > > I defined it as "a coherent sequence of words (at least one) whose core > argument is a verb". Now, I'm not sure. What about languages without a > copula? Are their phrases that would include a copula not sentences? What > about languages with a copula? Are their sentences that include copulae > no longer sentences because their equivalents in other languages are not?
[snip] Requiring verbs in a sentence is very English. Many languages don't require verbs to form a grammatically correct sentence. The various Chinese languages are like that, so is Malay, which, although not zero-copula, tends to drop the copula from time to time. Now as far as *conlangs* go... the Ebisedian "sentence" is a rather odd beast. It can be (1) the traditional sentence with a verb as a core argument, or it can be (2) a sequence of nouns in various case inflections describing a static state of things, or it can (3) consist of a single locative noun-phrase. For (2) to make sense, the combination of noun cases must be meaningful; in (3), it is a so-called "nominator" sentence, which acts like a title or topic. The only common thing between the three is that they must form a coherent thought. If isolated from semantics, an Ebisedian sentence can be just an arbitrary collection of random words and still be "grammatically correct", although completely meaningless. From this, I propose that a "sentence" in the most general sense should be described as a grammatically-correct sequence of words which acts as a unit to convey a coherent thought. (Or something along those lines.) But different languages have different criteria for deciding what constitutes a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, or even a compound sentence (such as joining sentences with semicolons, etc.). I don't think there's any universal rule that can address such criteria, other than what I proposed---that a sentence must convey a coherent unit of thought. T -- Winners never quit, quitters never win. But those who never quit AND never win are idiots.