Grammar question

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Humus, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. Humus

    Humus Crazy coder
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    Generally speaking English text seems to lean towards a greater amount of commas used than Swedish text (my native language). Usually comma placement in English text doesn't disturb me, although occasionally I run into cases where it just looks odd. Here's a form I haven't been able to google up any sensible grammatical explanation for the commas:

    If I were to read this out load, I would never pause before or after "perhaps". That just feels awkward. I also don't feel it helps reading either. I feel this sentence both sounds and reads the best in one straight go.

    Another example:

    Same thing here, although reading this out loud I think a pause after "then" is fine, but not before. I would also accept the latter comma for readability. But I would still prefer no commas at all. This style seems to occur primarily in formal text, such as some academic literature. I tend to think it's used by those people that write paragraph-length sentences.

    Anyway, is there a grammatical rule that explains the use of comma here? Is this form more (or less) correct than omitting them?
     
  2. Mariner

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    Probably a parenthesis:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenthesis_(rhetoric)

    Believe it or not, I was never taught anything about English grammar at school. I think I must have been caught in the period where the thought amongst teachers was that grammar wasn't important. I'm not certain about this being parenthesis, but it almost certainly is!

    The first comma indicates a pause, as does the second. Think of the commas as brackets - or dashes - if you like. ;)

    All are valid uses.
     
  3. Zaphod

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    Apply the "nonessential" test. Read the sentence without the comma-separated part. Is it still a complete sentence? If yes, then there should be commas.

    I believe the same use is appropriate in Swedish, but the way of using commas to denote extraneous information is, perhaps, somewhat archaic. I.e. "Jag sprang, tyvärr, inte fort nog att vinna."
     
  4. Arwin

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    It´s been a while, but basically it goes like this: if it qualifies something that goes before, you put it between commas, otherwise you typically don't.

    Basically like the 4th point in here: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

    I still have Strunk and White around here somewhere. ;) In fact, I just turned around and it's right behind me (third edition), even though I haven't touched it since I put it there in the cupboard. Looking it up in there, it suggests that if the parenthesis is just a single word and hardly interrupts the flow of the sentence, you can safely omit the commas. Same if the sentence isn't really parenthetical, or it's hard to decide whether it really is, then only use commas when the text is otherwise hard to read. In these cases always use both or none though, not just one.
     
  5. Gerry

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    It can certainly be read out loud with a pause in, probably more for dramatic effect than anything else. I probably wouldn't read it that way, as you say, so the commas do feel a little superfluous.

    I'd have shoved a comma after "liberty" to be honest.

    "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded ...
     
  6. nightshade

    nightshade Wookies love cookies!
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    Yea I think it's to do with inducing a dramatic effect.
    Even I'd have read it like
    However I see no issues with reading this as it is:

    But then English is a strange language to begin with
    http://www.christadelphianbooks.org/agora/bible_books/jff08.html
     
    #6 nightshade, Sep 11, 2012
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  7. banksie

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    It is an aside, so non-essential text that is related to the main point of the sentence but isn't directly a part.

    Generally they get used to indicate personal opinion or an upcoming tangentally related topic that you will come back to potentially in a future paragraph. You can use parenthesis for the same effect.
     
  8. UniversalTruth

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    @Humus

    :grin: Slightly off but you have an interesting language, and awesome women and music. :grin: There, in Sweden. :p



    :grin:
     
  9. Humus

    Humus Crazy coder
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    I've read about the non-essential test, but while the test works for all examples, I can find a lot of other things I could randomly drop to still have a complete sentence. The word "all" for instance. So why not (other than that it looks and sounds completely ridiculous):

    Of, all, the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded ...

    Not just somewhat archaic. Horribly archaic. ;) Although I would accept parentheses there if necessary.
    "Jag sprang (tyvärr) inte fort nog att vinna."

    Yeah, that's how I would do it too.
     
  10. Mariner

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    As the parenthesis is a rhetorical device, I think you probably need to be a native speaker of English (or somebody who has spent a lot of time living alongside and conversing with native speakers), to see when the usage is correct or not.

    Isn't the English language fun?
     
  11. Arwin

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    Because 'all' qualifies 'the enmies to public liberty' by saying not one, or most, but all of them. This is not parenthetical, but qualifying (or in this case, quantifying). This makes it part of the noun phrase (of which enemies is the chief noun). It's also an important part of the logical construct 'of the complete collection of y, x is ... .

    But yeah, as mentioned, a comma after liberty is more important (dependency clause), and renders the other one superfluous altogether.
     
  12. Humus

    Humus Crazy coder
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    Heh, well, it's not any worse that any other language to be honest, except maybe the connection between spelling and pronunciation, because English has nearly none. ;) But English grammar is still far simpler than for instance German. Swedish is supposedly simpler than German (but I'm not in the best position to judge). But we still have lots of weirdness. All nouns are either masculine or feminine. There's no logic, you just have to learn for every word. The masculine words are the same between singular and plural, whereas the feminine have several different plural endings.

    Feminine:
    Bil (car), bilar (cars)
    Dator (computer), datorer (computers)
    Klocka (clock), klockor (clocks)
    Masculine:
    Bord (table or tables, you have to infer from context)

    I understand what you mean, but on the other hand, this might be why I'll never be a linguist, but I feel that by the same standard, the word "perhaps" could be considered essential also. I mean, if we read that line without the word "all", it is still by default understood that we're not talking about any subset. It's less clear, but carries the same meaning, at least to me. I suppose within a particular context the word "all" might be completely essential to not be ambiguous. But if we look at the word "perhaps", dropping it out of this sentence would actually change the meaning. The statement goes from a suggestion to a definitive statement. To me, the word "perhaps" feels more essential than "all".

    But then again, I'm notoriously poor at interpreting grammar. I understand nouns and verbs, but don't talk to me about stuff like adverbs, because I still don't really understand what they are. ;)
     
  13. zed

    zed
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    say the following aloud
    ough ough ough ough

    yes english is a terrible language
    I was recently looking into learning anopther language
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban
    but couldnt spare the time, but far superior to english.
    heres my favorite english sentence of why it sux eg in pronunciation
    plough through tough dough
     
  14. nightshade

    nightshade Wookies love cookies!
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    Still better than French though, I'm having a God awful time learning what to pronounce and what not to. Sometimes (for the same word) they just will and sometimes they won't, why ? Cause that's just how it is...no explanation at all.
     
    #14 nightshade, Sep 13, 2012
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  15. Blazkowicz

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    English pronunciation is probably much harder, how to explain the difference between lease and beard, fool and blood (leaving me unable to really know how you say "flood"). it even has a very specific vowel for "cup".

    French, you have to remember that eau is "oh", oi is "wa", ai is "eh", unless there are one or two following 'l' involved, sure (or the i is accented as ï, giving its usual pronunciation back). 'c' is like 's' when it's before a 'e' or 'i', and like a 'k' beore a, o or u.
    It's a lot more consistent, though I'm completely partial and can handwave the special words because everyone knows them. usually common words with letters that are silent for no reason as in "gars", "cul" or "fusil".
    You should get mad at the crazy verbs, or "les accords du passé composé".

    /edit : verbs, crazy or non crazy come a long way to figuring this out, bearing so much silent letter in -ais, -ait, -ous, -ent, -ends etc.. I remember that in primary (elementary) school we spent like half the time on them.
    A nice joke sentence in Franch is : "Les poules du couvent couvent"
     
    #15 Blazkowicz, Sep 14, 2012
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  16. Blazkowicz

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    Placement of commas is there to manipulate your reader's reading, like virtual breath in your internal monologue. Or to emphasize or de-emphasize things ; by the way I've just used a dot instead of a comma, and a semi-colon because I seriously like it sometimes.

    This can be midly infuriating if you feel like controlling the rythm instead but nothing is perfect and good punctuation can be a mark of a really really good skiller writer.

    No matter the weirdness this singles out the "perhaps", and it's the way the author could convey that. The word could be safely omitted from the sentence yet it implies that there could be an equally bad, or worse, or unsatisfying situation such a living in an orwellian world such as nice combinaison of THX 1138 and Soylent Green.

    The word almost disappears there.

    I believe this looks bad. an equivalent of "DISREGARD THAT, I SUCK COCKS". I often write stuff then replaces parenthesis characters with commas, because it looks better, paces better or was something worthy in the first place (parenthesis are better for near useless additional information or side rants).
     
  17. Mariner

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    Ours is very much a mongrel language, hence the strange variations in pronunciation from word to word, regardless of how they are spelled.

    For the record, 'flood' should be pronounced as 'blood'. i.e. 'blud'

    To complicate things further, there is of course local dialect to consider as well as the vagaries of Received Pronunciation. The Queen, the upper social classes and most people from the South of England, for example, would pronounce the word cup almost as if it was spelled, 'cap'.

    Another good one is the word castle. Most people from the North of England would pronounce it "cas-ul". Southerners and posh people pronounce it 'car-sul'! One of my friends from school moved to our area from the South when about 11 years old and we took great pleasure in teasing him for the manner in which he pronounced some words!

    The Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish all have their own very unique dialects as well. It must be extremely difficult for foreigners to understand some of these accents - it's difficult enough for native speakers at times!

    I'd imagine the situation must be similar in other countries though the UK does have a huge variation in dialects for such a small Island.
     
  18. nightshade

    nightshade Wookies love cookies!
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    You're from Toulouse, lovely city...my girlfriend is from Toulouse :p
    I would like to do my internship there next year (that is if I am able to find any in the software industry)

    I was born and raised in India (my tutors were british) but I lived in London for a long time (so my accent has a southern influence which people here often mention) and am currently living in Liverpool, it took me a while to get used to scouse and I think this accent butchers the English language. I'd say of all the dialects and accents in UK the Geordie dialect and Scottish are the hardest for me to understand. Also something that has always amused me is that eventhough Manchester and Liverpool are so close to each other, their accents are completely different.
     
    #18 nightshade, Sep 14, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2012
  19. Blazkowicz

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    here the language is so formal and "top-down" that accents matter a lot less, different voices and different use of language and maybe leftover words from regional languages depending on the place, but basic pronunciation is the same (you may have trouble with some old people. sometimes though it may be because they lack teeth..). most people would probably say they have no accent. sort of like mainstream american english maybe.



    btw the thread was about punctuation and here I don't see meaningful difference between English and French. German would be peculiar with "Das Schtrümblüng, der vierze anglabt Rarhtassdt verblaundet" with verb at the end. Here in this thread a word between commas was seen as really archaïc but in other languages we maybe don't know it's archaic.
     
  20. Arwin

    Arwin Now Officially a Top 10 Poster
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    You tell me, but when I was a kid on holiday in France, I was on a camping in the south of France where I met a bunch of kids from Paris, and I understood about 25% of what they said (vs, say, 70% for 'locals'). It got a little bit better, as I stayed with them long enough for them to congratulate me with a 'nuit blanche', but still ... ;)
     
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