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The Gap-Sentence Link


There is a peculiar type of connection of sentences which for want of a term we shall call the gap-sentence link (GSL). The connection is not immediately apparent and it requires a certain mental effort to grasp the interrelation between the parts of the utterance, in other words, to bridge the semantic gap. Here is an example:

"She and that fellow ought to be the sufferers, and they were in Italy." (Galsworthy)

In this sentence the second part, which is hooked on to the first by the conjunction and, seems to be unmotivated or, in other words, the whole sentence seems to be logically incoherent. But this is only the first impression. After a more careful supralinear semantic analysis it becomes clear that the exact logical variant of the utterance would be:

'Those who ought to suffer were enjoying themselves in Italy (where well-to-do English people go for holydays).'

Consequently, GSL is a way of connecting two sentences seemingly unconnected and leaving it to the reader's perspicacity to grasp the idea implied, but not worded. Generally speaking, every detail of the situation need not be stated. Some must remain for the reader to divine.

As in many other cases, the device of GSL is deeply rooted in the norms of the spoken language. The omissions are justified because the situation easily prompts what has not been said. The proper intonation also helps in deciphering the communication. It is also natural in conversation to add a phrase to a statement made, a phrase which will point to uncertainty or lack of knowledge or to the unpredictability of the possible issue, etc., as in:

"She says nothing, but it is clear that she is harping on this engagement, and—goodness knows what." (Galsworthy)

In writing, where the situation is explained by the writer and the intonation is only guessed at, such breaks in the utterance are regarded as stylistic devices. The gap-sentence link requires a certain mental effort to embrace the unexpressed additional information.

The gap-sentence link is generally indicated by and or but. There is no asyndetic GSL, inasmuch as connection by asyndeton can be carried out only by semantic ties easily and immediately perceived. These ties are, as it were, substitutes for the formal grammatical means of connection. The gap-sentence link has no immediate semantic connections, therefore it requires formal indications of connection. It demands an obvious break in the semantic texture of the utterance and forms an "unexpected semantic leap."

The possibility of filling in the semantic gap depends largely on associations awakened by the two sentences linked cumulatively. In the following utterance the connection between the two sentences needs no comment.

"It was an afternoon to dream. And she took out Jon's letters." (Galsworthy)

While maintaining the unity of the utterance syntactically the author leaves the interpretation of the link between the two sentences to the mind of the reader. It is the imaginative mind only that can decode a message expressed by a stylistic device. Nowhere do the conjunctions and and but acquire such varied expressive shades of meaning as in GSL constructions. It is these nuances that cause the peculiar intonation with which and or but are pronounced. Thus in the following sentence the


conjunction and is made very conspicuous by the intonation signaled by the dash:

"The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as a family, this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family importance, and—the sniff." (Galsworthy)

The GSL and—the sniff is motivated. Its association with 'an exaggeration of family importance' is apparent. However, so strong is the emotive meaning of the word sniff that it overshadows the preceding words which are used in their primary, exact, logical meanings. Hence the dash after and to add special significance to the cumulative effect. This example shows that GSL can be accompanied by semantic gaps wider or narrower as the case may be. In this example the gap is very narrow and therefore the missing link is easily restored. But sometimes the gap is so wide that it requires a deep supralinear semantic analysis to get at the implied meaning. Thus in the following example from Byron's maiden speech:

"And here I must remark with what alacrity you are accustomed to fly to the succour of your distressed allies, leaving the distressed of your own country to the care of Providence or—the parish."

Here the GSL, maintained by or and followed by the dash, which indicates a rather long pause, implies that the parish, which was supposed to care for impoverished workers, was unable to do so.

By its intrinsic nature the conjunction but can justify the apparently unmotivated coupling of two unconnected statements. Thus, in the following passage GSL is maintained by and backed up by but.

“It was not Capetown, where people only frowned when they saw a black boy and a white girl. But here... And he loved her.” (Abrahams)

The gap-sentence link as a stylistic device is based on the peculiarities of the spoken language and is therefore most frequently used in represented speech. It is GSL alongside other characteristics that moulds the device of unuttered represented speech.

The gap-sentence link has various functions. It may serve to signal the introduction of inner represented speech; it may be used to indicate a subjective evaluation of the facts; it may introduce an effect resulting from a cause which has already had verbal expression. In all these functions GSL displays an unexpected coupling of ideas. Even the cause-and-effect relations, logical as they are, when embodied in GSL structures are not so obvious.

In contra-distinction to the logical segmentation of the utterance, which leaves no room for personal interpretation of the interdependence of the component parts, GSL aims at stirring up in the reader's mind the suppositions, associations and conditions under which the sentence uttered can really exist.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 6367

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