The graphematic sentence

Autor(en): Schmidt, Karsten
Stichwörter: GERMAN; Language & Linguistics; Linguistics
Erscheinungsdatum: 2016
Volumen: 44
Ausgabe: 2
Startseite: 215
Seitenende: 256
The starting point of this paper is the question how the graphematic sentence, i.e. the written sentence, can be defined. The answer seems to be clear: a graphematic sentence begins with a sentence-initial capital letter and is concluded by a sentence-final punctuation mark such as the full stop or the question mark. However, this definition is problematic since it requires an underlying (syntactic) definition of the sentence in general. Yet within linguistics there is no commonly accepted definition of the sentence (cf. section 1). Language users (linguists among them), however, seem to have a clear idea of what a sentence is. In the paper I argue that this seemingly contradictory situation could be explained on the following two assumptions. (a) The widespread clear intuition about the existence of a linguistic category called `sentence' mainly derives from the influence of the written language on concepts of language in general. (b) Yet this influence has never really been taken into consideration for sentence definitions within modern linguistics due to the fact that written language has for long time been neglected as an object of linguistic research (cf. section 2). The main part of the paper (section 3) is concerned with a definition of the graphematic sentence without recourse to syntactic structures. It reveals that in German the graphematic sentence is a clearly recognizable unit within the writing system and therefore seems to be predestined for being the conceptional model for the idea of what a sentence is. Based on the punctuation theory of Bredel (2008, 2011) I argue that punctuation marks do not indicate sentences but rather constitute them. Finally I discuss how the graphematic analysis presented here can constitute the basis for empirical approaches towards a linguistic reconstruction of the widespread idea of what a sentence is (cf. section 4).
ISSN: 03013294
DOI: 10.1515/zgl-2016-0011

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