The most striking aspect of linguistic competence is what we may call the 'creativity of language,' that is, the speaker's ability to produce new sentences, sentences that are immediately UNDERSTOOD by other speakers although they bear no physical resemblance to sentences which are 'familiar.
It's quite literally true that we are star dust, in the highest exalted way one can use that phrase. ...I bask in the majesty of the cosmos. I use words, compose sentences that sound like the sentences I hear out of people that had revelation of Jesus, who go on their pilgrimages to Mecca.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
If you directly try to write about an idea, it will never be what you imagined. But if you're imagining through the building of sentences, through the characters, and paying attention to avoid ease and comfort yet still thinking about making the sentences work, you will get a shot at some real interesting stuff.
I think the written word is probably the best medium of communication because you have time to reflect, you have time to choose your words, to get your sentences exactly right. Whereas when you're being interviewed, say, you have to talk on the fly, you have to improvise, you can change sentences around, and they're not exactly right.
Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. Syntactic investigation of a given language has as its goal the construction of a grammar that can be viewed as a device of some sort for producing the sentences of the language under analysis.
When I was writing the first few books, what I would do is write a bunch of sentences and then go back and expand and explode those sentences, pack as much into them as I could, so they'd kind of be like popcorn kernels popping... all this stuff in there to make the writing dense, and beautiful for its density.
William T. Vollmann
How many times have you opened a book, read the first few sentences and made a snap decision about whether to buy it? When it's your book that's coming under this casual-but-critical scrutiny, you want the reader to be instantly hooked. The way to accomplish this is to create compelling opening sentences.
[On George H.W. Bush:] A man who wishes to lead the Western world should be able to find the right words, string them together in coherent sentences, and steer them to an intelligible conclusion. His sentences have the stuttering start of an old car on a cold morning. They never run smoothly. The only speech part that he has mastered completely is the non sequitur.
A lot of writers fall in love with their sentences or their construction of sentences, and sometimes that's great, but not everybody is Gabriel Garcia Marquez or James Joyce. A lot of people like to pretend that they are, and they wind up not giving people a good read or enlightening them.
I hope that my ideas attract a lively dialogue, even if my sentences are simple. Simple sentences have always served me well. And I don't use semicolons. It's hard to read anyway, especially for high school kids. Also, I avoid irony, too. I don't like people saying one thing and meaning the other.
Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don't always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive... Virtually every page is a cliffhanger-you've got to force them to turn it."~
The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes. Then there is the business of surprise. I never know what is coming next. The phrase that sounds in the head changes when it appears on the page. Then I start probing it with a pen, finding new meanings. Sometimes I burst out laughing at what is happening as I twist and turn sentences. Strange business, all in all. One never gets to the end of it. That's why I go on, I suppose. To see what the next sentences I write will be.
Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don't always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive.... Virtually every page is a cliffhanger--you've got to force them to turn it."~
In her book The Writing Life (1989), Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, "Do you think I could be a writer?" "'Well, ' the writer said, 'do you like sentences?'" The student is surprised by the question, but Dillard knows exactly what was meant. He was being told, she explains, that "if he likes sentences he could begin, " and she remembers a similar conversation with a painter friend. "I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, 'I like the smell of paint.'" The point, made implicitly (Dillard does not belabour it), is that you don't begin with a grand conception, either of the great American novel or masterpiece that will hang in the Louvre. You begin with a feel for the nitty-gritty material of the medium, paint in one case, sentences in the other.
Reading activates and exercises the mind. Reading forces the mind to discriminate. From the beginning, readers have to recognize letters printed on the page, make them into words, the words into sentences, and the sentences into concepts. Reading pushes us to use our imagination and makes us more creatively inclined.
To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that languages are human creations.~ The suggestion that truth~ is out there is a legacy of an age in which the world was seen as the creation of a being who had a language his own.
If you stop to think about it, you'll have to admit that all the stories in the world consist essentially of twenty-six letters. The letters are always the same, only the arrangement varies. From letters words are formed, from words sentences, from sentences chapters, and from chapters stories.
I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I'm frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.
I too love everything that flows: rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences. I love the amniotic fluid when it spills out of the bag. I love the kidney with it's painful gall-stones, it's gravel and what-not; I love the urine that pours out scalding and the clap that runs endlessly; I love the words of hysterics and the sentences that flow on like dysentery and mirror all the sick images of the soul...
Ve¢n Uoc decided that she too would get to know the book inside out. And something miraculous happened when they were about a quarter of the way through reading it. After weeks of ploughing and hesitating, something clicked; she stopped stumbling over the unknown words and long sentences. Words magically started to reveal meaning, most of the time anyway, through context. And the sentences themselves stopped being obstacles and started telling a story. Her eyes were racing ahead; she was comprehending the shape and rhythm of the language.
The words are strung together, with their own special grammar-the laws of quantum theory-to form sentences, which are molecules. Soon we have books, entire libraries, made out of molecular "sentences." The universe is like a library in which the words are atoms. Just look at what has been written with these hundred words! Our own bodies are books in that library, specified by the organization of molecules-but the universe and literature are organizations of identical, interchangeable objects; they are information systems.
This was the time when all we could talk about was sentences, sentences-nothing else stirred us. Whatever happened in those days, whatever befell our regard, Clea and I couldn't rest until it had been converted into what we told ourselves were astonishingly unprecedented and charming sentences: 'Esther's cleavage is something to be noticed' or 'You can't have a contemporary prison without contemporary furniture' or 'I envision an art which will make criticism itself seem like a cognitive symptom, one which its sufferers define to themselves as taste but is in fact nothing of the sort' or 'I said I want my eggs scrambled not destroyed.' At the explosion of such a sequence from our green young lips, we'd rashly scribble it on the wall of our apartment with a filthy wax pencil, or type it twenty-five times on the same sheet of paper and then photocopy the paper twenty-five times and then slice each page into twenty-five slices on the paper cutter in the photocopy shop and then scatter the resultant six hundred and twenty-five slips of paper throughout the streets of our city, fortunes without cookies.
Chester nods all the way through this, but does not rudely interrupt Randy as a younger nerd would. Your younger nerd takes offense quickly when someone near him begins to utter declarative sentences, because he reads into it an ssertion that he, the nerd, does not already know the information being imparted. But your older nerd has more self-confidence, and besides, understands that frequently people need to think out loud. And highly advanced nerds will furthermore understand that uttering declarative sentences whose contents are already known to all present is part of the social process of making conversation and therefore should not be construed as aggression under any circumstances.
People don't talk like this, theytalklikethis. Syllables, words, sentences run together like a watercolor left in the rain. To understand what anyone is saying to us we must separate these noises into words and the words into sentences so that we might in our turn issue a stream of mixed sounds in response. If what we say is suitably apt and amusing, the listener will show his delight by emitting a series of uncontrolled high-pitched noises, accompanied by sharp intakes of breath of the sort normally associated with a seizure or heart failure. And by these means we converse. Talking, when you think about it, is a very strange business indeed.
He liked to start sentences with okay, so. It was a habit he had picked up from the engineers. He thought it made him sound smarter, thought it made him sound like them, those code jockeys, standing by the coffee machine, talking faster than he could think, talking not so much in sentences as in data structures, dense clumps of logic with the occasional inside joke. He liked to stand near them, pretending to stir sugar into his coffee, listening in on them as if they were speaking a different language. A language of knowing something, a language of being an expert at something. A language of being something more than an hourly unit.
Noise has one advantage. It drowns out words. And suddenly he realized that all his life he had done nothing but talk, write, lecture, concoct sentences, search for formulations and amend them, so in the end no words were precise, their meanings were obliterated, their content lost, they turned into trash, chaff dust, sand; prowling through his brain, tearing at his head. they were his insomnia, his illness. And what he yearned for at that moment, vaguely, but with all his might, was unbounded music, absolute sound, a pleasant and happy all-encompassing, over-poering, window-rattling din to engulf, once and for all, the pain, the futility, the vanity of words. Music was the negation of sentences, music was the anti-word!