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Posts Tagged ‘sentences

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”*…

 

What is a sentence? But that is such a formal question. How about, what is a sentence for? Less formal, perhaps, but obviously impossible to answer, for sheer variety. There may be some human purposes that don’t find their way into sentences, but writers keep trying, and for any limit we experience there may be a sentence in waiting and a writer to try it…

I’ll propose one purpose that all sentences have in common. The purpose of a sentence is to end. If this is a property of all sentences, any ought to do for an example, but here is one particularly determined to be done with itself:

1 The world is everything that is the case.

It comes from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as translated from German into English by C. K. Ogden in 1922…

From the first of the Paris Review’s eight-part series, Life Sentence, the literary critic, scholar, and poet Jeff Dolven takes apart and puts back together one beloved or bedeviling sentence every week.  Tom Toro illustrates each sentence Dolven chooses.

[TotH to John Stedman]

* H.L. Mencken

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As we pause to parse prose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that the celebration of the crafter of so very many elegant sentences, Martin Luther King, was made official, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday.  Reagan had opposed the holiday, citing its cost, joining southern Republicans like Jesse Helms, who were more naked in their reasoning; but the enabling legislation had passed by a veto-proof margin.

 source

 

Diacritical Diagrams…

The curious art of diagramming sentences was invented 165 years ago by S.W. Clark, a schoolmaster in Homer, N.Y.  His book, published in 1847, was called A Practical Grammar: In which Words, Phrases, and Sentences Are Classified According to Their Offices and Their Various Relations to One Another. His goal was to simplify the teaching of English grammar. It was more than 300 pages long, contained information on such things as unipersonal verbs and “rhetorico-grammatical figures,” and provided a long section on Prosody, which he defined as “that part of the Science of Language which treats of utterance.”

It may have been unwieldy, but this formidable tome was also quite revolutionary: out of the general murk of its tiny print, incessant repetitions, maze of definitions and uplifting examples emerged the profoundly innovative, dazzlingly ingenious and rather whimsical idea of analyzing sentences by turning them into pictures…

The full story– and lots of nifty diagrams– at Kitty Burns Florey’s “A Picture of Language”  in the New York Times‘ Opinionator blog…

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As we map our mumblings, we might pause to think some celebratory thoughts:  today is Juneteenth.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862 (effective January 1, 1863), word was slow to spread.  On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, who’d arrived  in Galveston, Texas, with 2,000 federal troops  to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves, read “General Order No. 3” from a local balcony:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Former slaves in Galveston celebrated in the streets; Juneteenth observances began across Texas the following year– and are now recognized as State Holidays by 41 states.

 Ashton Villa in Glaveston, from whose front balcony the Emancipation Proclamation was read on June 19, 1865 (source)

 Juneteenth celebration in Austin, c.1900 (source)

Written by LW

June 19, 2012 at 1:01 am

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