Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2013 May 31

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May 31[edit]

complex sentence[edit]

Is the following a complex sentence:

Wearing a mask, the thief stole a diamond tiara. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Afroskyblue (talkcontribs) 07:30, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

I think that depends on what your course, teacher, or textbook defines as a complex sentence. Let us know what definition your using - or provide some confirmed examples - and we may be able to help. AlexTiefling (talk) 07:33, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
I think there's a fairly standard definition of a complex sentence, which the OP's example certainly fits. It contains the dependent clause "Wearing a mask" (dependent because it could not stand as a sentence by itself), and the independent clause "the thief stole a diamond tiara" (this can be a sentence). A complex sentence requires an independent clause (tick) and at least one dependent clause (tick). -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 07:41, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
"Wearing a mask" isn't a dependent clause, though, because it contains neither a subject nor a finite verb. It's just an adjective phrase, so the sentence consists solely of an independent clause and is thus not a complex sentence. Angr (talk) 08:51, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
"Non-finite dependent clauses: Dependent clauses may be headed by an infinitive or other non-finite verb form, which in linguistics is called deranked. In these cases, the subject of the dependent clause may take a non-nominative form". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 11:36, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
What are you quoting from? It's because of anomalies like this that i asked the OP what standard they were working to. AlexTiefling (talk) 12:51, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
He's quoting from our own article Dependent clause#Non-finite dependent clauses. But if you consider nonfinite clauses able to render a sentence complex, you have to call sentences like "Kids like to play on computers" and "He is the man to beat" complex sentences too, which I don't think is in the spirit of the simple/complex distinction. Angr (talk) 13:01, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Or "I can swim". But to me, the sentence in the original question is complex in spirit. (Why? Can't say, to be honest - because the dependent "clause" is an optional modifier, perhaps?) But as you say, it all depends on what definitions are being used (and linguistics is a field that seems to abhor standard definitions). Victor Yus (talk) 13:13, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
But "The mask-wearing thief stole a diamond tiara" also has an optional modifier, and that doesn't "feel" complex, does it? I have to say, though, that the concept of simple vs. complex is one I only know from English class in school (between about the ages of 9 and 14). When I was studying theoretical linguistics (including syntax) as a graduate student, it wasn't a distinction people ever discussed. We spoke of embedded clauses rather than dependent clauses, but didn't feel the need to divide the universe of sentences into those with them and those without them. I think my 8th-grade English teacher would say "Wearing a mask, the thief stole a diamond tiara" is a simple sentence, not a complex one, while my 1st-year-in-grad-school syntax professor would say it's a sentence with an AP in the Spec of IP or something of that sort, which always made my eyes glaze over and made me start daydreaming about phonology instead. Angr (talk) 13:33, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I agree that (as such things are usually defined in elementary and secondary education) the OP's sentence is a simple sentence. "The thief, who was wearing a mask, stole a diamond tiara," on the other hand, is complex. Deor (talk) 14:34, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
"Wearing a mask" in "Wearing a mask, the thief stole a diamond tiara" is what some people would call a Nominative absolute... -- AnonMoos (talk) 14:49, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
And those people would be wrong. It's not an absolute because it modifies "the thief". See Absolute construction. Furthermore, there's no nominative in it. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 18:58, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
I'm sure "small clause in apposition to the subject" or whatever would be more descriptive, but "Nominative absolute" has been used as a shorthand term... AnonMoos (talk) 01:51, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Certainly not by anyone who knows what a nominative absolute is. By the way, it's called a "participle phrase". See Participle. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 02:00, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Whether you like it or not, the term is in use... AnonMoos (talk) 05:51, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
AnonMoos, the term "nominative absolute" is usually applied to a participial phrase in which the participle doesn't modify any word in the main clause of the sentence but rather has a subject and predicate of its own, as in "The thief having worn a mask, no one was able to give a description of his face". It functions like a Latin ablative absolute. Deor (talk) 09:07, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
The fact that it does not modify any word in the main clause is essential to the definition of "absolute'. If it modifies a word in the main clause, it isn't an absolute, and anyone calling it that is just plain wrong. Another essential part of the definition is that it has to contain a nominative noun or pronoun. There isn't one here, so it can't be a nominative absolute. And no, the term is not in use for this type of construction among anyone who has the slightest idea what an absolute is. It is in use, of course, for actual absolute constructions. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 09:34, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure it's completely clearcut, though, what's modifying what. In languages like Russian this "wearing..." phrase would be expressed with what tends to be called an adverbial participle, implying that (at least in those languages) it's syntactically an adverb phrase modifying the verb (phrase), not an adjective phrase modifying a noun (phrase). And in English too we can use such phrases in the absence of an explicit subject ("do it wearing a mask!", "it's nice to sleep wearing a mask"), implying that they attach rather to the verb than to the subject, at least syntatically. Victor Yus (talk) 09:57, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

Pronunciation change moving from noun to adjective[edit]

I pronounce controversy con-TRO-versy, but controversial con-tro-VER-sial.

Can you think of any examples of words that also change emphasis as they move to different parts of speech, so I can win an argument?

Thanks — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:40, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Tons of words shift stress when a suffix is added. Súicide/suicídal and cómmerce/commércial are two more using the same suffix as your example; árgument/arguméntative is one using a different suffix. There are probably literally hundreds if not thousands of examples. Angr (talk) 14:45, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Suicide/suicidal doesn't satisfy this definition where I come from. HiLo48 (talk) 22:36, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
One short one with large pronunciation difference and no spelling difference is "minute"/"minute"... AnonMoos (talk) 14:46, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
See also Initial-stress-derived noun. Lesgles (talk) 16:01, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The noun "origin" corresponds to the adjective "original".
Wavelength (talk) 16:25, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
My favourite example of shifting stress is PHOtograph - photOGraphy/photOGrapher - photogrAPHic. (Incidentally, many people get upset at your pronunciation of 'controversy', and would insist on CONtroversy.) AndrewWTaylor (talk) 17:08, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The noun "Corinth" corresponds to the adjective "Corinthian".
Wavelength (talk) 18:50, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Tons of -Ologys become -olOgicals. Even ge-ne-Alogy becomes ge-ne-a-lOgical. And -Opathys become -opAthics. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:43, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
  • A lot of the above examples, genealogical, Corinthian, can be explained by the stress wanting to be no further left than the antepenult. μηδείς (talk) 22:54, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The noun "sacrilege" corresponds to the adjective "sacrilegious" (which rhymes with "religious" and "prestigious").
Wavelength (talk) 04:43, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
In my idiolect, nothing can rhyme with both religious and prestigious since they don't rhyme with each other; sacrilegious can rhyme with one or the other, but not with both. Angr (talk) 17:46, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Here are some additional examples.
  • "bureaucrat" and "bureaucracy"—"bureaucratic"
  • "ridicule"—"ridiculous"
  • "outrage" (from French "outre")—"outrageous"
  • "climate"—"climatic"
  • "climax"—"climactic"
  • "nonsense"—"nonsensical"
  • "therapy"—"therapeutic"
Wavelength (talk) 16:05, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
And, in certain dialects of American English, "insure"—"insurance". Evanh2008 (talk|contribs) 07:09, 2 June 2013 (UTC)