a query about sentences

Dan Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Fri Apr 11 06:07:45 UTC 2003


I have an article in the journal Pragmatics and Cognition, published
about 10 years ago entitled 'The sentential divide in language and
cognition', in which I argue that there is a qualitative difference
between studying sentences and their constituents vs. discourse. I give
a number of arguments for this and review a lot of functional work and
compare it with formal work in this regard. I think that the article is
a pretty useful survey.

I personally am less convinced by my own arguments these days, but the
article still does a not too bad job of laying out and defending a
particular point of view that, if nothing else, represents what many
think about the issues.



Dan Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Department of Linguistics
Arts Building
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL
Manchester, UK
dan.everett at man.ac.uk
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Dept. Fax and Phone: 44-161-275-3187

-----Original Message-----
From: FUNKNET -- Discussion of issues in Functional Linguistics
[mailto:FUNKNET at LISTSERV.RICE.EDU] On Behalf Of Johanna Rubba
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2003 1:10 AM
Subject: a query about sentences

Hi folks,

I'm participating in a discussion on another list about what the best
starting point for instruction in grammar (in the context of writing or
composition instruction) in K-12 schools is; the current debate is about
whether the sentence is a good starting point or not.

We've gotten into a discussion about the privileged status of the
sentence in both traditional grammar and generative syntax. One
participant has argued, for example, that the sentence is a basic-level
linguistic category (I guess THE basic-level linguistic category, since
he argues for starting there).

My notion is that a focus on the sentence is too neglectful of the role
of sentences in texts, and especially of the role of text-level
imperatives in determining the structure of sentences.

What are your opinions on the traditional privileging of the sentence as
the basic unit of language over larger or smaller units?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


Johanna Rubba   Associate Professor, Linguistics
English Department, California Polytechnic State University
One Grand Avenue  • San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Tel. (805)-756-2184  •  Fax: (805)-756-6374 • Dept. Phone.  756-2596 •
E-mail: jrubba at calpoly.edu •  Home page:

More information about the Funknet mailing list