Longest English sentence

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There have been several claims for the longest sentence in the English language, usually with claims that revolve around the longest printed sentence. At least one linguistics textbook concludes that, in theory, "there is no longest English sentence."[1]

A sentence can be made arbitrarily long by successive iterations, such as "Someone thinks that someone thinks that someone thinks that...,"[2] or by combining shorter clauses in various ways.

For example, sentences can be extended by recursively embedding clauses one into another, such as [3][4]

"The mouse ran away"
"The mouse that the cat hit ran away"
...
"The mouse that the cat that the dog that the man frightened and chased ran away"

The ability to embed structures within larger ones is called recursion.[5] 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.[2]

Exceptionally long sentences in print[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steven E. Weisler; Slavoljub P. Milekic; Slavko Milekic (2000). Theory of Language. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-73125-6.
  2. ^ a b Stephen Crain; Diane Lillo-Martin (1999). An Introduction to Linguistic Theory and Language Acquisition. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-19536-8.
  3. ^ Christiansen, Morten H.; Chater, Nick (1999). "Toward a Connectionist Model of Recursion in Human Linguistic Performance". Cognitive Science. 23 (2): 157–205. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog2302_2.
  4. ^ Thomas R. Shultz (2003). Computational Developmental Psychology. p. 236. ISBN 9780132288064.
  5. ^ Carnie, Andrew (2013). Syntax: A Generative Introduction (third ed.). Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-470-65531-3.
  6. ^ a b c Jones, Rebecca (3 October 2014). "Longest Sentence". Today. BBC. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  7. ^ Publishers Weekly: "Solar Bones"
  8. ^ Quartz: "One of this year’s Booker Prize nominees is just a 1,000-page-long sentence" 26 July, 2019
  9. ^ Waugh, Austin (December 1884). An Accommodating Advertisement and an Awkward Accident . Tit-Bits – via Wikisource.