English Language

What happens in your mind when you try to compose a sentence

Sam has an idea and he wants to put the idea into a sentence.


Sam’s idea is about A boy doing something to a ball

[S [Boy][KICK][ball]]

Sam realises that he needs to identify what each of the constituents of his sentence. So,

[S [Subject boy][Verbal kick][Object ball]]

Then it occurred to Sam that he needs to identify the elements in the constituents.

[S [Subject [NP [N boy]]][Verbal [VP [V kick]]][Object [NP [N ball]]]]

But wait!!!! His sentence lacks detail.

[S [Subject [NP [det the] [N boy]]][Verbal [VP [AuxV past] [V kick]]][Object [NP [det the] [N ball]]]]

Hmmm, thought Sam. Does the structure of his sentence look complete?

sam 1

Now Sam has a problem. The outcome of this sentence is, “The boy past kick the ball”, which does not look right to him.

At this point, Sam’s brain put Transformational  Generative Grammar aside and opened the file on traditional grammar. If Sam’s computer was the one doing this, this is where it hangs.

So, Sam realises that the [past] puts the verbal element into the past tense, and there being only one auxiliary element in the verb phrase means that the Auxiliary element disappears because the Main verb will now take on the Auxiliary function by adding to itself a suffix and become, “kicked”.

Thus, Sam now has the output of, “The boy kicked the ball”

That’s more than two hundred words over nearly a whole page for such a simple sentence, and Sam’s brain processed that in a split second.

As we finish, Sam’s brain begins to make up more stories about the boy and the ball.

We take our minds for granted without realising just how powerful that lump in our skull really it. This is just one small example.



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