Kamis, 06 September 2018

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The Definition of a Sentence

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The Definition of a Sentence


One of the most basic of all writing skills is the skill of composing sentences. Without it, no writer can lay claim to competency, let alone excellence. Experienced writers know better. They realize that good, effective, pleasing sentences do not just happen; they must be designed by the writer. Skill in composing sentences demands, first, an understanding of the basic sentence patterns and of the ways these patterns can be expanded and combined, and then skill in using the patterns to convey thoughts clearly and accurately.

Sentences according to Mark Lester (2004:45): “Sentences are the only groups of words that can stand alone to express complete thoughts. The key idea here is standing alone.”
A sentence according to Alice Oshima and Ann Hogue (1999:155): “A sentence is a group of words that you use to communicate your ideas. Every sentence is formed from one or more clauses and expresses a complete thought.”

Another definition of a sentence is uttered by Glenn Leggett (1985:4): “A sentence is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate and that is not introduced by a connecting word such as although, because, when, or where that makes it dependent upon another group of words to complete its meaning.” She is studying and what is she studying are sentences. But although she is studying is not a sentence because the word although makes the whole word group depend upon something else for completion, as in the statement Although she is still studying, she will finish soon.

Based on quotations above, it can be concluded that a sentence is a group of words that you use to communicate your ideas and that is not introduced by a connecting word such as although, because, when, or where.

Sentence Structure

The most important thing about sentences as units in a particular context is that they divide ideas the way you want them divide and seem complete to your readers. Once you’ve decided that your sentences do that, you can begin to look at the internal structure of individual sentences. At the most basic level, sentence structure is conditioned by our seemingly innate syntactical expectations. Syntax refers to the order of words, the sense they make because of their placement in a sequence.
Few of us have been taught syntax directly: it’s naturally embedded in language as we learn it. For instance no native English speaker would construct a sentence like:

    Vote the I in Presidential did elections.

Rather, the necessary syntax for the same seven words as a declarative sentence is:

    I did vote in the Presidential elections.

As a question, the necessary syntax would be:

    Did I vote the Presidential elections?

Ours is a language in which syntax—word order—plays a crucial role in meaning, in sense making. Not all languages create meaning in this way. Latin is generally cited as an example of those languages which rely for meaning more on word form than on syntax.
    Canis momordit hominem. “The dog bit the man.”
    Hominem momordit canis. “The dog bit the man.”

It’s the ending on can- (the root word for dog and the source of our word canine) which determines whether it’s the subject of the verb or the object of the verb. It doesn’t matter where the word is placed in the sentence. In English, of course, when the words are reversed, meaning is altered.
    Canis momordit hominem. “The dog bit the man.”
    Canem momordit homo. “The man bit the dog.”

In this pair, the words are in the same order; we translate each correctly by relying on the endings of the words for dog and man.
    The basic, recurrent word order in English is
or, in other words,
    Actor—Action—Object/Receiver of Action

The Three Signals of Sentence Structure in the English Language

Sounds combine to create the form words and the structure words in the English language. Those words then combine to make phrases and sentences.

Look now at these numbered words:

1.    climb    2. fast        3. plane

What kind of words are they? Each has clear meaning in itself, but you would have difficulty in combining them into a good sentence.

Look now at a sentence based upon those words:
     The planes climbed very fast.

What has happened to plane? to climb? What structure words have been inserted? What has happened to the order of the form words?

Three signals of sentence structure, as you can see, have made that sentence possible:
1.    Affixes:    the suffix –s added to plane
                       The suffix –ed added to climb
2.    Structure words: the and very
3.    Word position:    the noun planes put into the subject position
                                  The verb climbed put into the predicate position
 As conveyed above that sentences are not dependent on some previous context or question to fill in grammatically significant missing pieces. For example, the following is a sentence because it can stand alone as a grammatically complete unit:

    I would like a pizza with anchovies and pineapple.
We must be careful to distinguish sentences from fragments, which are only pieces of sentences. The problem is that, in context, fragments can be perfectly meaningful and grammatical. However, their meaningfulness and grammaticality is not their own. It borrowed from other sentences. Here is an example of such a fragment in a dialogue:

    Waiter:        What would you like?
    Customer:    A pizza with anchovies and pineapple.

What the customer said is a fragment. The fragment makes sense only in the context of the dialogue. The fragment is a piece of telegraphic shorthand that borrows the rest of its meaning and grammar from the waiter’s question. What the customer is really saying is this:

    [I would like] a pizza with anchovies and pineapple.

Sentences never need to borrow from surrounding sentences to be grammatically complete.

 Sentences also have a distinctive structure: they contain both a subject noun phrase and a verb phrase (or predicate, in traditional terms). In the example sentence just given, there is a subject noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase:

subject NP    verb phrase
I would like a pizza with anchovies and pineapple.

The fragment a pizza with anchovies and pineapple lacks both a subject and a complete verb phrase.

Sentences are generally classified in two ways, one by types (purpose) and one by the number of independent or dependent clauses.

Sentences Classified by Purpose

Sentences are used in four different ways. Up to this point, we have only looked at sentences used to make statements. But there are other ways to use sentences, for example, to ask questions, to issue commands, or to make exclamations. We will now examine in turn each of the four possible uses.

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Declarative Sentences. In a declarative sentence the subject and predicate have normal word order. Declarative sentences are used for making statements. Declarative sentences are always punctuated with periods and drops in pitch in speech. Here are some examples:

    This is a declarative sentence.
    Declarative sentences can be positive or negative.
 Even if they contain dependent clauses, declarative sentences are always punctuated with a period.

Interrogative Sentences. In an interrogative sentence the subject and auxiliary are often reversed. Interrogative sentences are used for asking questions. Interrogative sentences must be punctuated with question marks. Most interrogative-word questions end with a fall in pitch. Here are some examples:

    Do you know what an interrogative sentence is?
    No, what are they?
    Why did you ask?

Imperative Sentences. Imperative sentences are used to issue commands. In an imperative sentence, only the predicate is expressed. The simple form of the verb is used, regardless of person or tense. Imperative sentences are not defined by their punctuation but by their grammar. Imperative sentences must have an understood you as the subject. They may be punctuated with either periods or exclamation points in writing and drops in pitch in speech. Here are some examples:

    Go away.
    Cut it out!
    Stop it.

Each of these examples has an implied you as the subject:

    You go away.
    You cut it out!
    You stop it.

Exclamatory Sentences. Exclamatory sentences are actually declarative sentences that are punctuated with exclamation points for emphasis. Here are some examples:

    I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!
    This is really an exclamatory sentence!
    Sally has no cavities!
    What a good dinner that was!

Declarative and interrogative sentences are easy to recognize, but imperative and exclamatory sentences can be confusing because both can be punctuated with exclamation points. A mnemonic trick is to remember that exclamatory sentences can only be punctuated with exclamation points. The other thing to remember is that imperatives must have an understood you as the subject.

Clausal Sentence Classification

A clause can be either of two types of structures:

1.    Independent clause (or main clause), which can stand alone
2.    Dependent clause (or subordinate clause), which is a clause that cannot stand alone and must be attached to or included within an independent clause

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A sentence must contain at least one independent clause, but, in addition, a sentence may also contain one or more dependent clauses. We can think of a sentence as having this formula:

Sentence = independent clause + (dependent clauses)

The parentheses around dependent clauses indicate that dependent clauses are optional.
Here is an example of a sentence containing a dependent clause (in italics) modifying the independent clause:

    Louise takes her lunch whenever she has to attend a noon presentation.

The clause whenever she has to attend a noon presentation is an adverb clause that modifies the verb takes.

The independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence, but the dependent clause cannot:

    Independent clause:     Louise takes her lunch.
    Dependent clause:  X  Whenever she has to attend a noon presentation.
Despite differences in their ability to stand alone, clauses (both independent and dependent) are set apart from all other grammatical structures by one key characteristic: clauses must have subject-verb agreement. Here are the subjects (in bold) and the verbs (in italics) from the preceding example:

    Independent clause:     Louise takes her lunch.
    Dependent clause:   X Whenever she has to attend a noon presentation.

In the independent clause, the verb takes agrees with its subject Louise, and in the dependent clause, the verb has agrees with its subject she.  
The number of main or subordinate clauses in a sentence determines its classification: simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex.

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Simple Sentence

The simple sentence is a natural way to express a single idea that is not too long or too complicated.
A simple sentence is one independent clause or has a single main clause.

    The wind blew.

Note that a sentence remains a simple sentence even though the subject, the verb, or both are compounded.

    The cat and the dog fought.
    The dog barked and growled.
    The cat and the dog snarled and fought.

Compound Sentence

The compound sentence serves you well when you have two related ideas of equal importance.
A compound sentence has two or more main clauses.
The wind blew, and the leaves fell.
A compound sentence is two or more independent clauses joined together. There are three ways to join the clauses:

1.    With a coordinator                I enjoy tennis, but I hate golf.
2.    With a conjunctive adverb    I enjoy tennis; however, I hate golf.
3.    With a semicolon                  I enjoy tennis; I hate golf.

Notice that in the first sentence, there is a comma after the first independent clause. Notice the punctuation in the second sentence: a semicolon follows the first independent clause, and a comma follows the conjunctive adverb. Also, just like the FUN BOYS coordinators, conjunctive adverbs express relationship between the clauses. Notice the third sentence. This kind of compound sentence is possible only when the two independent clauses are closely related in meaning. If they aren’t closely related, they should be written as two simple sentences, each ending with a period.

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has one main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

     When the wind blew, the leaves fell.

Sometimes, however, you need to combine into one sentence several ideas of unequal importance. The complex sentence is the one to use when you wish to show the relationship between those unequal parts.

Relating to complex sentence, Mellie John et al. (1973:458) gives definition as follow: “A complex sentence is one that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent (subordinate) clause. Every dependent clause in the sentence will be used as a part of speech; that is, as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.”

I was in England when the coronation took place. (adverb clause)
I do not know when the bulletin was released. (noun clause)
The money came at a time when I needed it most. (adjective clause)

Note in the three sentences above that the same word (when) may introduce each kind of dependent clause.

Another definition about complex sentence is uttered by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero (1981:172):
A complex sentence is a sentence with two or more complete thoughts (each containing a subject and a predicate), only one of which is grammatically independent. The other one or more thoughts are subordinate to the independent one; that is, they are made dependent on the other thought for their full meaning by being introduced by such words as if, although, when, after, and because. Use a complex sentence when the relationships between your thoughts are best expressed in a subordinate/independent structure.

For example:

Multiple Sentences / Complex Sentences

MS: He didn’t get the job. He made a very poor impression on the interview.
CS:  He didn’t get the job because he made a very poor impression on the interview.

MS: The twins were sleeping soundly. Tim quietly got up, tiptoed to the kitchen, and ate the rest of the cake.
CS: While the twins were sleeping soundly, Tim quietly got up, tiptoed to the kitchen, and ate the rest of the cake.
MS: I don’t consider him a really good teacher. I can’t, however, cite a single bad quality in his teaching. 

CS: I don’t consider him a really good teacher although I can’t cite a single bad quality in his teaching.

Further more about complex sentence is uttered by Alice Oshima and Ann Hogue (1999:160):
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one (or more) dependent clause(s). In a complex sentence, one idea is generally more important than the other one. The more important idea is placed in the independent clause, and the less important idea is placed in the dependent clause.

Compound-complex Sentence

A compound-complex sentence is a combination of two or more independent clauses and one (or more) dependent clauses. Many combinations are possible, and their punctuation requires careful attention.

1.    I wanted to travel after I graduated from college; however, I had to go to work immediately.
2.    After I graduated from college, I wanted to travel, but I had to go to work immediately.
3.    I wanted to travel after I graduated from college, but I had to go to work immediately because I had to support my family.
4.    I couldn’t decide where I should work or what I should do, so I did nothing.

•    Punctuate the compound part of a compound-complex sentence like a compound-sentence; that is, use a semi colon/comma combination (sentence 1), or put a comma before a coordinator joining two clauses (sentence 2, 3, and 4).
•    Punctuate the complex part like a complex sentence. With adverb clauses, put a comma after a dependent adverb clause (sentence 2) but not before them (sentence 3). With noun clauses, use no commas (sentence 4).

The independent clause in all four classes of sentences may take the form of a statement (declarative sentence), question (interrogative sentence), request (imperative sentence), and an exclamation (exclamatory sentence).

For completing this article here you can watch  my video with the same topic.


Happy reading!

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