Print

Print


On Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 2:54 PM, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> [snip]
>
> I'm not a linguist either, but it seems to me that part of the
> definition of a sentence is that it COMPLETES a thought. Isn't it a
> requirement, then, that the sentence have an end? And aren't infinite
> sentences forbidden by the rules of grammar? Is it "a sentence" before
> it has a full stop? Once it has a full stop, can it be infinite?
>

Since when does a sentence need to communicate a thought?  Again, I have no
linguistics training, but isn't the famous sentence "colorless green ideas
sleep furiously" still technically a "sentence"?

I would really call this whole discussion a question of definition, and
linguists should (and I assume have?) define "sentence" for themselves.
Personally I would define it in terms of grammar.  Something like:

S = NP + VP
NP = (M +) N (+ embedding word + S)
etc

Unless one added a specific rule banning infinite sentences, allowing
recursion allows infinite sentences if a sentence is defined in terms of a
recursive grammar.

[snip]

Speaking as an engineer, not as a mathematician, I would propose that
> a practical upper limit on sentence length should be a sentence than
> can be read and understood in a single 12-hour sitting. And don't
> forget that a sentence that takes 6 hours to read will probably take
> AT LEAST six MORE hours to disentangle and understand. At least!
>

Why not just require that they be finite?  It's certainly more elegant, and
doesn't require dealing with "but it should be 11 hours!  12 is much too
long!"

-Daniel