The Greatest Invention of the Human Mind?

         What do you think is the greatest invention of the human mind?

The wheel?

The internal combustion engine?

The telephone?

The silicone chip?

All of these would have strong supporters, no doubt.  However, what I would consider the greatest invention of the human mind would be, in short, the sentence.  Without language, how would it have been possible to invent the others?  Or, at the least,  to make them work as cultural necessities?

LET’S DO A LITTLE PLAYING WITH THE SENTENCE! HERE ARE SOME “FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS” OR OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS.  (AFTER A WEEK OR SO, I WILL WRITE AGAIN TO OFFER COMMENTS ON THE ANSWERS YOU PROVIDE OR TO ATTEMPT ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS YOU ASK.  NO ONE WILL FAIL!)

#1.  What is the shortest sentence in the English language?

Answer to # 1: “Go!”  Sanctified by former “Observer” columnist Larry Cheek.

#2.  What is the longest sentence in the English language?  

Answer:  There is none as a sentence can extend into what we term “infinity.”  That is, new words and phrases can always be tacked on.

#3.   Can the word “sentence” be used as a verb?  If you think so, give an example of its use.

Answer:  Marshall Faircloth gave a good example in his comment:  “I sentence you to ridicule for jumping into my trap.”  (My follow-up:  is there any lexical/meaning connection between the word’s use as a noun and its use as a verb?

#4.  What, from a structural viewpoint, are the three basic kinds of sentences, keeping in mind that a sentence must have at least once subject-verb relationship?

Answer: Marshall was correct in supplying the traditional classification:  simple, compound, and complex.

#5. What are the usually identified four types of sentences, rhetorically;  that is,  in terms of the different effects on his or her audience that the speaker or writer intends?

Answer:  This would be the usual classification:  declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory.

#6.  In relation to aesthetic or stylistic values, what are three common types of sentences?  Can you write an example of each?

Answer:  Here we’re getting into a rather more abstract sphere, but certainly not entirely.  The “usual suspects” are periodic, balanced, and loose.  In a “periodic” sentence, the emphasis of meaning is greatest toward the end of the sentence; that is, close to the “period.”  In a “loose” sentence, the most important emphasis of meaning occurs at or near the beginning of the sentence, with less essential matter near the end.  In a balanced sentence, the parts of roughly equal, as in Pope’s famous dictum,  “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”  (Well, this is technically not a complete sentence, but you get the point.)

#7.  Who in modern times has been described as”the greatest . . . master of the English declarative sentence”?

Answer:  Calvin Trill suggested the source of the statement that Joseph Mitchell was “the greatest living master of the English declarative sentence” as a teacher at CCNY.  I submit that that person was his wife Alice Trillin, who often handed out copies of Mitchell’s writing for her students to admire and emulate. 

Halloween Greetings.  And thanks for “listening.”

RJR

Keep ’em coming!  By the way,  I was fortunate enough to get two of the new Alaska quarters in change while I was in the Triad area over the weekend.  I tell you, Sarah Palin looks great riding a grizzly bear!

RJR

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7 Responses to “The Greatest Invention of the Human Mind?”

  1. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    1. I. (the answer to the question, “what fool deigns to jump into this Professor’s trap?)

    2. No clue, but it must surely have been written by Faulkner.

    3. I sentence you to ridicule for jumping into my trap.

    4. Simple, compound, complex

    5. Declarative. interrogatory? exclamatory! interjectory(cursing)@$%$^#

    6. No clue. A wag would be: informative, persuasive, inspirational, consoling

    7. If ‘modern times’ means post-renaissance, then Shakespeare. Otherwise, Emerson. Otherwise, Yogi Berra.

  2. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    My sentence is shorter than Larry’s. 🙂

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  4. Bua Says:

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  7. Vial Says:

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