A minor issue?
Function and structure in French minor sentences
‘Minor sentences’ is one of the many terms used in the literature to refer to a phenomenon usually relegated to an obscure paragraph of the grammar book, or treated principally as a spoken discourse feature. These forms are also referred to as sentence fragments, incomplete sentences, verbless sentences, and nominal sentences, to name but a few of the terms found. Despite the marginal status attributed to the forms, more detailed study is warranted. Minor sentences occur frequently in the written language, and perform important communicative functions in a range of contexts. The term is used to refer to apparently complete phrases which do not conform to canonical sentence structure. Typically, they lack a subject noun phrase, or a finite verb, i.e. one of the two ‘essential’ elements of the sentence. In this paper, we begin with an overview of English and French grammar book and discourse analysis approaches. We then discuss previous studies of minor sentence contexts, French recipes and newspaper headlines, before turning to a corpus consisting of public signs and notices, headlines, advertising slogans, and crossword clues, in an effort to determine whether certain minor sentence types can be associated with particular (written) discourse functions.
Keywords: minor sentences, verbless sentences, nominal sentences, discourse functions, corpus
Published online: 25 June 2009
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