The English Sentence

  • William R. Elkins


Up until now we have used the word sentence without attempting to define it. Reviewing what we know about the sentence, we can say that it has a characteristic IC structure, N-V, even when it has undergone transformation. In addition, the sentence is marked by an intonation pattern which allows the speaker-listener to sense its beginning and end and to feel that in some sense it constitutes a unit. The most common intonation pattern is 2-3-1, and there are a relatively small number of transformed intonation patterns. A formal definition, then, might read like this: a sentence is a linguistic unit consisting of sound and meaning symbols that follow the structural pattern N-V and produce an intonation pattern satisfactory to the speaker-listener.


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Suggested Readings

  1. Chomsky, Noam, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, 1965, “Aspects of Deep Structure”, pp.65–106.Google Scholar
  2. Chomsky, Noam, Also in Chomsky: Selected Readings, ed. J. P. B. Allen and Paul Van Buren, 1971, pp. 55–68.Google Scholar
  3. Chomsky, Noam, Syntactic Structures, 1957, Chapter 8, “The Explanatory Power of Linguistic Theory”, pp. 85–91.Google Scholar
  4. Harris, Zellig S., “Discourse Analysis”, Language, 28 (1952), 1–30.Google Scholar
  5. Harris, Zellig S., “Discourse Analysis”, Also in The Structure of Language: Readings in the Philosophy of Language, ed. Jerry A. Fodor and Jerrold J. Katz, 1964, pp.355–383Google Scholar
  6. Hughes, John P., The Science of Language, 1962, Chapter 9, “Complex Syntactic Structures”, pp. 183–193.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Elkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Kansas State Teachers CollegeUSA

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