Longest English sentence
There have been several claims for the longest sentence in the English language, usually with claims that revolve around the longest printed sentence. There is no absolute limit on the length of a written English sentence. A sentence can be made as long as time allows with concatenating clauses using grammatical conjunctions such as and. Sentences can also be extended indefinitely by the addition of modifiers and modifier clauses, such as
- The mouse that the cat that the dog chased ....
or of successive extensions of the form
- Someone thinks that someone thinks that someone thinks that...,
This ability to embed structures iteratively within larger ones is called recursion. This also highlights the difference between linguistic performance and linguistic competence, because the language can support more variation than can reasonably be created or recorded. Human language grammars are phrase-generation systems so in their simplest forms, they must have infinite output. The deeper, more recursive structures reflect similarities among linguistic constituents and operations, but a listener can understand these structures without going into a deeper analysis. At least one linguistics textbook concludes that "there is no longest English sentence".
- 1,288 words - The Guinness Book of World Records has an entry for what it claims is the longest sentence in English, from William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom!.
- 4,391 words - The last section of James Joyce's Ulysses, Molly Bloom's soliloquy.
- 13,955 words - Jonathan Coe's 2001 novel The Rotters' Club contains a 13,955-word sentence.
- Elaine Rich (2007). Automata, Computability and Complexity: Theory and Applications. Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-228806-0.
- Stephen Crain, Diane Lillo-Martin (1999). An Introduction to Linguistic Theory and Language Acquisition. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-19536-X.
- Carnie, Andrew (2013). Syntax: A Generative Introduction - Third Edition. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 33.
- Stabler, Edward P., Recursion in grammar and performance, http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/stabler/Stabler10-Recurs.pdf revised 2011-10-06 10:06
- Steven E. Weisler, Slavoljub P. Milekic, Slavko Milekic (2000). Theory of Language. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-73125-8.
- "Sacks' muscle memories", The Guardian, 1 December 2007
- Sanderson, Mark (2005-05-29). "Literary life". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-05-11.