Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

Are there separate terms for these?

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Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#1  Postby Scott H » Nov 19, 2011 5:23 pm

What do you call a particular instance of a sentence, written or spoken, to distinguish it from the idealized form of the sentence which is considered a unique arrangement of abstract grammatical units? For example,

"The bird is yellow."

One can either refer to the appearance of these words on the computer screen as an instance of the sentence "The bird is yellow," or one can refer to that particular sentence as it exists in "abstract sentence space" (something like THE-BIRD-IS-YELLOW is what I mean here).

I thought about calling the former 'encodings,' but was wondering if there is any standard terminology for this distinction.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#2  Postby katja z » Nov 19, 2011 5:42 pm

The distinction between utterance or statement and enunciation seems to be the closest to what you're asking about. The original terms are "énoncé" and "énonciation" (the distinction comes from French linguistics). Utterance refers to what is said (the linguistic "product" itself), and enunciation refers to the act of producing it (saying or writing it) in a specific situation of communication.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#3  Postby Scott H » Nov 19, 2011 5:55 pm

I also thought of using 'utterance,' too. The problem is that this only refers to speech acts, not to written sentences.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#4  Postby Zwaarddijk » Nov 19, 2011 6:15 pm

katja z wrote:The distinction between utterance or statement and enunciation seems to be the closest to what you're asking about. The original terms are "énoncé" and "énonciation" (the distinction comes from French linguistics). Utterance refers to what is said (the linguistic "product" itself), and enunciation refers to the act of producing it (saying or writing it) in a specific situation of communication.


How much relevance is there even ascribed to single sentences out of context taken as utterances these days? "The bird is yellow" in one context has quite a distinct meaning, purpose and function than "The bird is yellow" in another context. Of course, this gets into pragmatics and such - I bet there are syntacticians who would not consider them distinct - such a syntactician is more likely to consider two readings of "fruit flies like bananas", to take a classical example, as distinct.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#5  Postby Scott H » Nov 19, 2011 6:29 pm

I'm doing this to attempt to write an analysis of the Liar Paradox.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#6  Postby katja z » Nov 19, 2011 6:33 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:
katja z wrote:The distinction between utterance or statement and enunciation seems to be the closest to what you're asking about. The original terms are "énoncé" and "énonciation" (the distinction comes from French linguistics). Utterance refers to what is said (the linguistic "product" itself), and enunciation refers to the act of producing it (saying or writing it) in a specific situation of communication.


How much relevance is there even ascribed to single sentences out of context taken as utterances these days? "The bird is yellow" in one context has quite a distinct meaning, purpose and function than "The bird is yellow" in another context. Of course, this gets into pragmatics and such - I bet there are syntacticians who would not consider them distinct - such a syntactician is more likely to consider two readings of "fruit flies like bananas", to take a classical example, as distinct.


Well, I think the question is, relevance for what? It's just a tool to separate out different levels of what's going on, linguistically. In particular, it is sometimes useful to distinguish between subject of utterance and subject of enunciation, for instance when analysing instances of irony.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#7  Postby Scott H » Nov 20, 2011 4:11 pm

I'm thinking "concrete sentence" and "abstract sentence." How does that sound to you?
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#8  Postby katja z » Nov 20, 2011 4:24 pm

Why not just use "sentence x" and "instance of sentence x". This should about cover it.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#9  Postby palindnilap » Dec 15, 2011 9:09 am

Zwaarddijk wrote:How much relevance is there even ascribed to single sentences out of context taken as utterances these days? "The bird is yellow" in one context has quite a distinct meaning, purpose and function than "The bird is yellow" in another context. Of course, this gets into pragmatics and such - I bet there are syntacticians who would not consider them distinct - such a syntactician is more likely to consider two readings of "fruit flies like bananas", to take a classical example, as distinct.


As a computer analyst I can tell you that the biggest source of error I encounter when discussing with customers about to-be information systems is when people use the same word both for a class and for its instances. These are two really different things, but everyday language seems to merge them all the time. The efficient way out that we have found when X points both to a class and to an instance is to drop the word X altogether, to word the class by Y and the instance by Z. It seems only reasonable that linguists would do the same.

E.g. in one's university, is Astrophysics II a course ? Or is it Astrophysics II 2012, given by prof. X ? Or is it the Astrophysics II course of January 15, 2012, at venue X and time T ? If all three are courses, trouble is on the way.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#10  Postby nunnington » Dec 22, 2011 3:36 pm

I think American and British linguistics has generally distinguished sentences and utterances. The utterance is a physical object, written or spoken, but the sentence is an abstract or idealized product of a grammar, where 'grammar' here refers to a system which enumerates (generates) different strings of elements (words or morphemes).

It's very similar to the difference between the phonetic and the phonemic, where the first refers to actual speech, and the second to the abstract analysis into phonemes. In fact, some linguists refer to 'emic' and 'etic' as general categories in the same way.

A related contrast is between competence and performance. But many of these distinctions have become 'loaded', in the sense that the Chomskyan paradigm gave them all certain specialized meanings, and then anti-Chomskyans and post-Chomskyans have disputed this, so no doubt it has become very complex and confusing.

For example 'propositions' are distinguished by some of the more philosophical linguists; I think Jerry Fodor was doing this, until he got into discussions about natural selection.
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#11  Postby Tursas » Dec 23, 2011 6:25 am

I would have thunk "syntaxeme", and googling it, it seems to have been used in this meaning at least once:
http://romip.ru/russir2009/slides/ls4s/lecture1.pdf

This would make a particular instance of a syntaxeme a ... what?
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#12  Postby Zwaarddijk » Dec 23, 2011 10:14 am

Tursas wrote:I would have thunk "syntaxeme", and googling it, it seems to have been used in this meaning at least once:
http://romip.ru/russir2009/slides/ls4s/lecture1.pdf

This would make a particular instance of a syntaxeme a ... what?

a syntagm? (although even that seems to mean something more abstract.)
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Re: Instance of sentence vs. purely idealized sentence

#13  Postby Scott H » Jan 02, 2012 5:25 pm

Even better, why don't we mark this as the distinction between 'sentence' and 'statement'? If a statement is defined as a "meaningful sentence," and the "meaninglessness" of the Liar statement is already challenged by the strengthened Liar ("This sentence is not true"), then in our resolution of the Liar paradox we could simply redefine the distinction.
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