The Chain of Command
You have noticed that there is a very clear chain of command within a
sentence. The governor or commander-in-chief is the verb; all the other words
depend on it directly or indirectly. In general a word's function determines
its dependence: if X is subject of Y, then X depends on Y; if X modifies Y,
then X depends on Y. For instance, in Set #4.a 'foolish' modifies 'fads'
which is the direct object of 'forgets'; therefore, 'foolish' depends on
'fads' which depends on 'forgets' which depends on nothing because it is the
main verb. But the chain of command is not immutable or exclusive, it does
allow some rearrangements or substitutions. One such substitution is to put a
pronoun in for a noun. A pronoun operates like a variable in algebra and can
replace a noun in any of its relational functions, especially when the speaker
wants to index his reference in various ways. One specific type of this
systemic referencing is done by personal pronouns which index the three
persons and the two numbers (i.e., singular and plural): I, you, he-she-it;
we, you, they. Finally you have probably observed that some verbs assert an
activity that involves only the subject, while other verbs assert actions that
involve several parties; i.e., at least a subject and an object (direct
object in Set #4). The first type is called intransitive because it just
asserts an activity, while the second is transitive because it affects an
object. Now let us update our chart:
WORD FORM FUNCTION DEPENDS
Type Reference Relation on
1 Verb activity/action act, affect nothing
2 Noun object give/get action verb
3 Pronoun object replace noun verb
4 Adjective quality modify noun
5 Adverb quality (degree-) modify verb (&)
Now make up three sentences using all these word-types and label each word
above (by form) and below (by function). Keep clicking Label for a demo:
Also number each word to show its dependence, numbering the first main verb
as 1, the first word in the sentence that depends on it as 11, and so on:
11 12 1 131 13
We quickly forget foolish fads.
Now consider the next set of sentences:
Example Set #5 a. When fads fade into oblivion, we forget them.
b. When we save art, it saves us from triviality.
c. When scholars work on a project, they forsake leisure.
d. When Santa laughs at night, Rudolph hears him.
e. When a hawk comes, it chases little birds across the sky.
Do you notice any new patterns? Any new word-types? Any new form- or
function-types? Are the new word-types associated with the new structures or
patterns in any way? Does word-order or word-position help us to see or
define the new features more precisely? How do the new structures fit into
the sentence? Note your observations and suggestions here: