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Loose, and Periodic Sentences. From a rhetorical point of view, sentences are loose, periodic, or balanced. I. loose sentence and periodic sentence
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From a rhetorical point of view, sentences are loose, periodic, or balanced. • I. loose sentence and periodic sentence • 1. A loose sentence puts the main idea before all supplementary information; in other words, it puts first things first, and lets the reader know what it is mainly about when he has read the first few words. The reverse arrangement makes a periodic sentence: the main idea is expressed at or near the end of it, and it is not grammatically complete until the end is reached. The reader does not know what it is mainly about until he finishes reading it.( A Handbook of Writing Ding Wangdao)
a. She decided to study English though she was interested in music.b. Although she was interested in music, she finally decided to study English. • The main idea of both sentences is the fact that she decided to study English. This idea is put at the beginning of the first sentence and at the end of the second, thus making one a loose sentence and the other a periodic one. Besides, the first part of the first sentence is complete in structure, but that of the second is only an adverbial clause and cannot be called a sentence without the second part.
2. The definition offered in the Webster’s New World Dictionary: • Loose sentence (p.798): a sentence in which the essential elements, in the main clause, come first, followed by subordinate parts, modifiers, etc., as in a compound sentence. • Periodic sentence (p.1005): a sentence in which the essential elements, in the main clause, are withheld until the end or separated as by modifiers or subordinate clauses.
a. She decided to study English though she was interested in music. • b. Although she was interested in music, she finally decided to study English.
3. The definition in English(book 6)given by Professor Yu Dayin: • Loose sentence: a loose sentence is one that may be brought to a grammatical close before the end is reached. • Periodic sentence: a periodic sentence is one that is not grammatically complete until the end is reached. For example, • You cannot make great progress in English without good study habits. • Without good study habits, you cannot make great progress in English.
A. You cannot make great progress in English without good study habits.B. Without good study habits, you cannot make great progress in English. • Sentence a and sentence b are semantically same, but different in structure. Sentence a is a loose sentence, but sentence b the periodic sentence. The main idea is put at the beginning of the first sentence followed by the supplement and explanation and at the end of the second sentence, thus making one a loose sentence and the other a periodic one.
4. Translated terms: loose sentence: 松句《英语修辞》p,44；松散句《大学英语》1993年第1期p.92；松句《英汉大词典》p.1053。 • Periodic sentence: 掉尾句《英语修辞》p,45; 掉尾句《大学英语》1993年第1期p.92；尾重句，圆周句《英汉大词典》p.1348。 • The popular translated terms are :loose sentence松散句Periodic sentence掉尾句
II. The difference between the two types of sentences • *Loose sentences are easier, simpler, more natural and direct; periodic sentences are more complex, emphatic, formal, or literary. • 1. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed-from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. His voice was deep, loud, and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it.
It seemed a necessity, and it was directed apparently as much at himself as at anybody else. He was spotlessly neat, appareled in immaculate white from shoes to hat, and in the various Eastern ports where he got his living as ship-chandler’s water-clerk he was very popular. • Most of the sentences are compound and compound-complex, and all of them, except the second half of the last sentence, are loose in structure.
2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. • ——Jane Austen • This is the sentence with which Jane Austen begins her Pride and Prejudice. It’s a periodic sentence because the last word being the most important, and because many words are piled up before the key word.
III. The methods of making loose sentences and periodic sentences • 1.Preposing or postposing the adverbial clause • (1)Loose( postposition): The world won’t end even if we fail again and again. • Periodic(preposition): Even if we fail again and again, the world won’t end. • (2)Loose( postposition):Bill had cleaned the room before Tom returned. • Periodic(preposition):Before Tom returned, Bill had cleaned the room.
2.Preposing or postposing the adverbial phrase • (1) Loose ( postposition):Bill started to write his composition early in the morning. • Periodic (preposition):Early in the morning, Bill started to write his composition. • (2) Loose ( postposition):We feel much honored to have you come to visit our country. • Periodic (preposition):To have you come to visit our country, we feel much honored.
3. Preposing or postposing the ppl(participle) phrase • (1) Loose ( postposition): She came up shouldering a spade. • Periodic (preposition):Shouldering a spade, she came up. • (2) Loose ( postposition): He came back, utterly exhausted. • Periodic (preposition): Utterly exhausted, he came back.
4. Preposing or postposing the prepositional phrase • (1) Loose (postposition):Tom was cutting a piece of metal with great care. • Periodic (preposition):With great care, Tom was cutting a piece of metal. • (2) Loose (postposition): This was done without my knowledge and without my consent. • Periodic (preposition):Without my knowledge and without my consent, this was done.
5. Preposing or postposing the apposition • (1) Loose (postposition): Tom became fond of Bill, a cheerful, hard-working apprentice. • Periodic (preposition): A cheerful, hard-working apprentice, Tom became fond of Bill. • (2) Loose (postposition): He read all kinds of books, ancient and modern, Chinese and foreign. • Periodic (preposition): Ancient and modern, Chinese and foreign, he read all kinds of books.
6. Preposing or postposing the adjective or adjective phrase • (1) Loose (postposition): She took down what he said, conscientious and eager. • Periodic (preposition): Conscientious and eager, she took down what he said. • (2) Loose (postposition): Bill was cleaning the lathe full of energy. • Periodic (preposition): Full of energy, Bill was cleaning the lathe.
IV. The rhetoric function of loose sentence and periodic sentence 1. loose sentence • (1) loose sentence gives prominence to emphases and comes straight to the point: • She was offered a professional contract after winning the Olympic gold medal for figure skating, according to the newspaper reports.
The most valuable information--she was offered a professional contract--appears at the beginning of the sentence and the other information follows, which is in accordance with our thinking practice. For example, • The moral imperative to “get involved” is applicable in the tiniest and the largest of our daily considerations, in everything from helping a neighbor all the way to caring about the state of the world.
Loose sentences fit writing in a flat way most. Stephen Leacok, the Canadian writer, described a mother’s hard work in a ten-year-old boy’s stain. He adopted many loose sentences which implies the boy lingering between the mature and the naïve mind and sets off the mother’s endless hard work:
Well, we had the loveliest day up among the hills that you could possibly imagine, and Father caught such big specimens that he felt sure that Mother couldn’t have landed them anyway, if she had been fishing for them, and Will and I fished too, though we didn’t get so many as Father, and the two girls met quite a lot of people that they knew as we drove along, and there were some young men friends of theirs that they met along the stream and talked to, and so we all had a splendid time.
2. periodic sentence • causes anticipation and suspense in readers because the important information readers are eager to know is postposed at the end of the sentence. • Though Jim Thorpe had brought great glory to his nation, though thousands of people cheered him upon his return to the United Stages and attended banquets and a New York parade in his honor, he was not a citizen.
The two though….concessive clauses push Jim Thorpe’s personal achievements and the craze from the American people towards him to the climax. When readers finish reading the two clauses, they will desire to wait for the answer being disclosed; however, the writer only uses five words-he was not a citizen (而他却不是一个美国公民)-to bring to a sudden end to the sentence. During the course, readers follow the anticipation-suspense-suddenness track and this is the charm of periodic sentences. Please compare:
There was a lamp burning on the table in the empty room and a little cat lying near the lamp.(loose) • On the table burned a lamp in the empty room, and near it lay a little cat.(periodic) • The key words—a lamp and a little cat—are withheld at the end of the sentence b, so the suspense and anticipation comes up.
periodic sentences can focus on expressing the sadness and happiness of the writer and strengthen the power of the words. • The one absolute, unselfish friend a man may have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. • ( A Tribute to the Dog--George Graham West • The writer uses three parallel construction sentences and three repeated ones push the noble personality of this friend up to the top. However, the answer is—only three words—is his dog.
V. Balanced sentence • When a sentence contains two or more parts of the same form and grammatical function, it is one with parallel construction: • Let us be ruthless in our criticism, cruel to personal vanities, indifferent to age, rank or experience if these stand in our way. --Norman Berthune
It does not do to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead. One’s thoughts must be directed to the future, and to things about which there is something to be done. --Bertrand Russell • The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and men must be proclaimed and denounced. --Frederick Douglass
Such parallel sentences are emphatic and forceful. When a sentence contains two parallel clauses similar in structure but contrasted in meaning, it is a balanced sentence. • On hearing the news, he was angered, and I was saddened. • In Plato’s opinion man was made for philosophy; in Bacon’s opinion philosophy was made for man. --Thomas Babington Macaulay
In a word, a balanced sentence is one in which sentence elements (words, phrases, clauses) of equal importance are set off against each other. Thus it is particularly effective for comparisons and contrasts, as well as for emphatic statements. Study the following examples: • The President wanted an increase in taxes to reduce the national debt; the Congress wanted a reduction in taxes to stimulate business.
Thus, good sentences are more than grammatically correct. They are varied in length in word order, and in their rhetorical patterns. As you read essays, consider the sentence structure of each selection. And as you write your own essays, apply the techniques for attaining sentence variety that we have discussed.
Short and Long Sentence • Short sentences are usually emphatic, whereas long sentences are cable of expressing complex ideas with precision, because it may contain many modifiers. Short sentences are suitable for the presentation of important facts and ideas, and long sentences for the explanation of views and theories, or the description of things with many details.
Look at the following passage which makes good use of short sentences: • Our city is on the threshold of a great era. Of this we can be sure. We must be willing to work—and to spend in order to fulfill the promise of the future. We need a large police force for public protection. We need a modernized fire department. We need an enlarged library. We need to improve our water supply. For all these needs there is but one solution. We must see that the bond issue is approved by the voters in the November election.
Here each short sentence puts forward an important suggestion. If the points were grouped into two or three longer sentences, there would not be the force and clarity of these short sentences.
The following passage describes how a man saved a drowning girl: • He crouched a little, spreading his hands under the water and moving them round, trying to feel for her. The dead cold pond swayed upon his chest. He moved again, a little deeper, and again, with his hands underneath, he felt all around under the water. And he touched her clothing. But it evaded his fingers. He made a desperate effort to grasp it….
He laid her down on the bank. She was quite unconscious and running with water. He made the water come from her mouth, he worked to restore her. He did not have to work very long before he could feel the breathing begin again in her; she was breathing naturally. He worked a little longer. He could feel her live beneath his hands; she was coming back. He wiped her face, wrapped her in his overcoat, looked round into the dim, dark gray world, then lifted her and staggered down the bank and across the fields.
The many short sentences in the above passage vividly describe the man’s rapid movements and make the reader feel the tension the man was experiencing at the moment. • Long sentences are common in legal, political and theoretical writing, which depends on modification for accuracy.
Art, in the sense here intended—that is, the genetic term subsuming painting, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, literature, drama, and film—may be defined as the practice of creating perceptible forms expressive of human feeling. I say “perceptible” rather than “sensuous” forms because some works of art are given to imagination rather than to the outward senses. A novel, for instance, usually is read silently with the eye, but is not made for vision, as a painting is; and though sound plays a vital part in poetry, words even in poetry are not essentially sonorous structures like music…..
The writer is trying to define such abstract term as “art” and “feeling”, and it is necessary for her to use so many words to make the definitions accurate and prevent misunderstanding. • In fiction long sentences are sometimes used to describe a person, a thing or a scene.
Mrs. Chalmers was kind of fat and her hair was pretty blond and her complexion was soft and pink and she always looked as though she had been in the beauty parlor all afternoon. She always said “My, you’re getting to be a big boy” to Peter when she met him in the elevator, in a soft voice, as though she was just about to laugh. She must have said that fifty times by now. She had a good, strong smell of perfume on her all the time, too.
Mr. Chalmers wore pince-nez glasses most of the time and he was getting bald and he worked late at his office a good many evenings of the week. When he met Peter in the elevator he would say, “ It’s getting colder,” or “ It’s getting warmer,” and that was all, so Peter had no point abut him, except that he looked like the principal of a school. -- Irwin Shaw
Of the five sentences in the above passage four are long, and they give detailed descriptions of the tow characters. Were they broken into many short sentences, the contrast between the normal Chalmers couple and the couple on that particular occasion would not be so striking.
Various sentence structures have been discussed. The basic principle is that the structure should fit the idea being expressed. In other words, the idea determines the choice of the structure, not the other way round.