Author Topic: Links between sentences  (Read 1988 times)

Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Links between sentences
« on: August 10, 2015, 02:35:43 PM »
Hi there

I'm hoping I'm posting in the correct forum.

So, for most of my life I've had this crazy idea about sentence flow, and I don't know where it has come from. I know language/grammar rules change all the time, so maybe when I was at school, I was taught something different  :-\

I recently came across something like this: "You might have noticed a new face in the Marketing department. Jon Bridges is interning with us as he is interested in this area of work."

I thought that the second sentence would have to "agree" with the first sentence.  I was asking myself "what is 'this' area of work?". Of course, the area was Marketing. But, the writer hadn't talked about Marketing as a noun in the first sentence. The only reference to it was in "Marketing team". Common sense told me that Marketing was "this area of work", but I felt the need to clarify that. This is how I thought the second sentence should've been written: "Jon Bridges is interning with us as he is interested in our area of work." I  just added "our" to show that the area of interest was the work the Marketing team carried out.

I've been told that the original sentences are absolutely fine. So, where on earth did I get my crazy idea from? Was the "rule" about sentence flow old fashioned, or did I just fall asleep during class and dream up something absolutely ridiculous?

Maybe someone on here can shed some light.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 02:42:36 PM by IntrepidExplorerCanada »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2015, 03:26:38 PM »
This is more of a style question than a linguistics question. Both sentences are ok, of course-- English speakers wrote them and they generally seem to convey the ideas intended. One may be better in a particular context or based on a particular convention, but one isn't "better English" than the other. As for whether you may have been taught (or otherwise found) rules for how to link sentences, it's likely they were guidelines rather than real rules, to help struggling writers, more than to tell you something you can't do. A good rule with that is to be aware of conventions, suggestions, "rules", etc., and then only deviate from them if you have a good reason. If so, go for it. Don't start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, or...) unless you want to. But if you want to, go ahead. You probably have a reason for doing it. You might be points taken off if someone conservative is grading your essay, so be aware of any conventions you should be following (and who your audience is).

As for this specifically, I can't really comment on it from a linguistics perspective. This is at the level of discourse and implies a relationship between the two sentences (within the domain of Pragmatics); it does not state such a relationship explicitly, not in either example sentence.

What you are describing might be related to the idea of "tail-head linkage" found frequently in discourse structures for some languages where one sentence is related to the next explicitly by repeating or referring to some part of the previous sentence. Something like "I arrive. After I arrived, I did something else." -- not very elegant in English, and varies by language, but the idea is that it is all explicitly connected. That isn't quite what's going on here but could be interesting for you at least.
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Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 11:00:43 PM »
Thank you so much for getting back to me.

I guess there isn't a rule as such then. Just my imagination.  :-\ That worries me a lot.

Is it possible that some would read "this area of work" as the particular industry in which the company is? I know what I'm uncomfortable with - I think that "marketing team" has been defined as a type of work, when marketing is actually the type of work, if that makes sense.

I'll do some reading on tail-head linkage. Perhaps that's where my thinking has come from.  :-\

I'm a native speaker of English, and I can't even tell when a sentence is right or wrong. I've no idea how people who study English as a second language manage to write fluently. (See - I just did it again. I didn't know if I should write "manage to write fluently in English" or just "manage to write fluently").
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 11:56:03 PM by IntrepidExplorerCanada »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2015, 12:23:17 AM »
The idea of "right or wrong" in linguistics is very different from what you were taught in school. Basically, we are interested in how people speak, so if a native speaker says it, it's "right", and then we try to understand how it works.

Very generally, I would suggest looking into some background reading on Pragmatics. How do we interpret beyond the literal meaning of the words? That's the field that deals with it, and you'll probably get more out of that, to begin, than something as specific as tail-head linkage, though that might also interest you later.
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Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2015, 12:55:09 PM »
Thank you. I'll definitely look into Pragmatics.  :)

Offline Daniel

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2015, 02:01:54 PM »
Good luck and let us know if you have more questions.

As for whether you were taught a rule, it's very possible because most "rules" like that are made up (by the teacher, someone who taught them, etc.). A few are traditional but still usually we're made arbitrarily based on someone's opinion. You'll find a significant difference between the approaches called prescriptive and descriptive. Something you can read more about if you want.
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Offline Copernicus

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2015, 09:32:35 PM »
Intrepid, there are a number of approaches to discourse processing that try to address the problem you raise.  The problem is that the information needed to process the linguistic signal exists outside of that signal.  Back in the 1980s, Roger Schank famously pioneered an approach to natural language processing in computers that introduced non-linguistic information.  However, even back in the 1970s, many linguists and philosophers had become preoccupied with the problem of integrating presuppositions with linguistic semantics.  So you have approaches to NLP like FrameNet, which attempt to link words and phrases to practical knowledge about the world.

Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2015, 11:26:20 AM »
Good luck and let us know if you have more questions.

As for whether you were taught a rule, it's very possible because most "rules" like that are made up (by the teacher, someone who taught them, etc.). A few are traditional but still usually we're made arbitrarily based on someone's opinion. You'll find a significant difference between the approaches called prescriptive and descriptive. Something you can read more about if you want.

Thank you so much. I will definitely do some more reading when I have some free time. Yesterday I considered doing a course in linguistics, but I'm not sure my brain could take all the info in!

Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2015, 11:29:53 AM »
Intrepid, there are a number of approaches to discourse processing that try to address the problem you raise.  The problem is that the information needed to process the linguistic signal exists outside of that signal.  Back in the 1980s, Roger Schank famously pioneered an approach to natural language processing in computers that introduced non-linguistic information.  However, even back in the 1970s, many linguists and philosophers had become preoccupied with the problem of integrating presuppositions with linguistic semantics.  So you have approaches to NLP like FrameNet, which attempt to link words and phrases to practical knowledge about the world.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I just wish I could comprehend what you have said. I'm sorry - it's been a long time since I was did any sort of studying. My brain is a little out of practice. Maybe if I read your post later on, I'll understand it (fingers crossed)! Sometimes I wonder how on earth I made it through uni!

Offline Copernicus

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2015, 01:13:23 PM »
Sorry, Intrepid.  I thought you might have already been exposed to some training in linguistics.  It's best to start with an introductory text to the subject, but you might enjoy some things that philosophers have written about conversational meaning, e.g. JL Austin's How to Do Things with Words

Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2015, 02:17:56 PM »
Sorry, Intrepid.  I thought you might have already been exposed to some training in linguistics.  It's best to start with an introductory text to the subject, but you might enjoy some things that philosophers have written about conversational meaning, e.g. JL Austin's How to Do Things with Words.

Don't be sorry. I'm glad that people have taken the time to respond to my post. :) I'm embarrassed that I can't get my head around the linking of the sentences I mentioned in my first post. Of course, I understood exactly what the writer meant as soon as I read it, but I still can't get my head around the fact that the area of work is implied when it hasn't been named in the first sentence. But, if that's considered correct, then it's correct, and I just have to accept that. I hope that I never have to edit someone's else's writing!

Offline Copernicus

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2015, 05:45:43 PM »
Maybe it would help to look at it this way.  (Bear with me.)  The brain has roughly 100 billion neurons, which is an almost inconceivable number.  It is a giant network of entangled nerves that can quickly block or open up connections with other nerve bundles.  Human and animal thought processes work by setting up associations between bodily sensations and activities.  That is, the brain acts as a very complex guidance system for moving the body around in a chaotic, semi-predictable environment.

So human thought or cognition is fundamentally associative and grounded in experiences.  A word "meaning" is really a very complex bundle of associations.  So, for example, if someone mentions a "marketing team", that activates all sorts of connections more or less related to your "marketing team" experiences--e.g. a place of business, an office building, a job, meetings, cubicles, work areas, and so forth.  That is a consequence of the way our brains are fundamentally structured--as massive associative networks.  So it is easy to understand why a reference to "this area of work" would make sense in such a conversation. 

I mentioned Roger Schank, an artificial intelligence researcher, earlier, because he developed a very crude way of getting a computer to extract information from conversation by giving the program a list of associations that it could match with words and phrases in sentences.  The program would then be able to answer questions about the conversation that did not actually appear as explicit information in the sentences it had read.  That is, it could make inferences of the sort that were puzzling you in the OP.

Since the time when Schank did that work in the 1980s, a lot of work on extracting information from text has been done to augment that basic idea.  So-called "dialog processing" of that sort makes it possible for you to have rudimentary, sometimes very frustrating, voice interactions with computers over the telephone.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2015, 05:48:23 PM by Copernicus »

Offline IntrepidExplorerCanada

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Re: Links between sentences
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2015, 01:44:16 PM »
Wow - thank you for that :) I read that with great interest, and I understand what you wrote. The human brain is so fascinating. The posts I've seen on this forum have actually made me want to study linguistics!

I don't know why on earth I was so confused about the second sentence now. To get a better understanding of why it was correct, I decided to look up "work" in the Cambridge dictionary. One of the definitions is "an activity, such as a job, that a person uses physical or mental effort to do, usually for money". I simply replaced "work" with "activity" and wahey I understood why "area of work" works. If I replace "work" with "employment", in my head that also works. I just needed a synonym to help me understand what was going on. Strange how my brain works :-/

Offline linguistone

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Re: Links between words.
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2016, 12:09:20 PM »
I love the language called English, but have a problem with word order within a sentence. The subject is the whole explanation of the thread to me. I speak and pay no attention to how I arrange my words when speaking, but do when writing. The word wikipedia comes to mind. If a certain word needs explaining that I understand within the sentence.

But I can't go own after four or five sentences I cannot see no order in the words within the sentence, which leads me to say, if I have this problem when writing, should I find another hobby? Why am I so interested in (order) in words within the sentence? I do have a problem with, does the writer understand what I wrote, I am over inquisitive on this? linguistone/pauljames@brmemc.net