Sentence Architecture

Jeanne Fahnestock

in Rhetorical Style

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199764129
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918928 | DOI:
Sentence Architecture

Show Summary Details


In antiquity, the basics of predication and modification were covered by the grammarians, who trained students in basic literacy before they moved on to the teacher of rhetoric. The rhetoricians covered the further arts of constructing sentences to create special prosodic effects and to emphasize (foreground) key elements in an argument. Speakers have all the resources of the voice available to create emphasis. In writing, emphasis can be achieved in part by placing words at the end of clauses or sentences, before a pause, or by putting them in a main clause or using them as subjects or verbs. Inversions of normal word order (anastrophe or hyperbaton) may enhance emphasis. The overall architecture of a sentence can also be described in terms of how modifiers are placed in relation to the main sentence elements. Modifiers can branch left, postponing the main predication, or right, trailing it. Modifiers can also interrupt the sentence. Taking the placement of modifiers into account, rhetoricians since antiquity have distinguished loose sentences, which add detail after a complete predication, from periodic sentences, which become grammatically complete at the end. These variations in sentence architecture (or really in how sentences are experienced linearly by listeners or readers) have consequences for the manipulation of meaning in an argument, and rhetoricians such as Vico and Blair could be quite specific on such matters of sentence-level composition The optimal architecture for a sentence is iconic form, when the parts of a sentence are ordered in a way that reinforces or epitomizes the meaning.

Keywords: emphasis; hyperbaton; anastrophe; right branching; left branching; loose and periodic sentences; Blair; Vico; iconic form

Chapter.  9592 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.