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XXXIV. Elliptical sentences

By "elliptical sentences" we mean sentences with one or more of their parts left out, which can be unambiguously inferred from the context. We will apply this term to any sentence of this kind, no matter what part or parts of it have been left out.

The main sphere of elliptical sentences is of course dialogue: it is here that one or more parts of a sentence are left out because they are either to be supplied from the preceding sentence (belonging to another speaker) or may be easily dispensed with. We take a few examples of elliptical sentences from contemporary dramatic works: Charlie.Have you asked her yet? Captain Jinks.Not often enough. It is clear here that the answer means: 'I have, but not often enough'. Aurelia.And by the way, before I forget it, I hope you'll come to supper to-night here. Will you? After the opera. Captain Jinks.Delighted! It is also clear here that Aurelia's second sentence means: 'Will you come to supper to-night?' and that the captain's answer means: 'I shall be delighted to come'. Whatever is understood from the preceding context is omitted, and only the words containing the rheme are actually pronounced. The same is found, for example, in the following bit of dialogue: Matthew.Why, my dear you have a very sad expression! Cynthia.Why not? Matthew. Ifeel as if I were of no use in the world when 1 see sadness on a young face. Only sinners should feel sad. You have committed no sin! Cynthia.Yes, I have! Cynthia's first sentence obviously means: 'Why should I not have a sad expression?' and her second, 'Yes, I have committed a sin!' Similarly, in other cases everything but the words representing the rheme may be omitted.

In one-axis sentence only one axis or its part is explicitly expressed, the other one being non-presented in the outer structure of the sentence.: Who will meet us at the airport? – Mary.

The response utterance is one-axis sentence with the subject-axis expressed and the predicate-axis implied: Mary will meet us at the airport. Both the non-expression of the predicate and its actual implication in the sub-text are obligatory, since the complete two-axis construction renders its own connotations: And what is your opinion of me? – Hard as nails, absolutely ruthless, a born intriguer.

The response utterance is a one-axis sentence with the predicate-axis expressed (partially, by its predicative unit) and the subject-axis (together with the link-verb of the predicative) implied – You are hard as nails.

I thought he might have said something to you about it”. – Not a word.”

The response utterance is a one-axis sentence with the predicate-axis partially expressed (by the object) and the subject-axis together with the verbal part of the predicate-axis implied – He said not a word to me.

Glad to see you after all those years!

The sentence is a one-axis unit with the predicate-axis expressed and the subject-axis implied as a form of familiarity – I am glad to see you…

Alongside with the demonstrated free one-axis sentences, i.e. sentences with a direct contextual axis-implication, there are one-axis sentences without a contextual implication of this kind; in other words, their absent axis cannot be restored with the same ease and, above all, semantic accuracy:

Monsieur Le Sueur was a man of action. He went straight up to Lisette and smacked her hard on her right cheek with his left hand and then smacked her hard on the left cheek with his right hand. “Brute,” screamed Lisette.

The one-axis sentence used by the heroine does imply the you-subject and can, by association, be expanded into the two-axis one “You are a brute”, but then the spontaneous “scream-style” of the utterance in the context (a cry of indignation) will be distorted.

I’m quite miserable enough already. – Why? Because you’re going away from Mrs Jennett? – No. ‘ From me, then? No answer for a long time. Dick dared not look at her.

The one-axis sentence ‘No answer for a long time’ in the narrative is assosiated by variant lingual relations with the two-axis sentence “there was no answer…”


Date: 2015-12-24; view: 92

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