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6 Sentences

In the last chapter, we saw how words are combined to yield phrases with new meanings. But so far we have only looked at words or word combinations that refer to things. People also talk about situations, about the states that things are in (I feel nauseous, this book is a gem) and about events involving things (I tripped, I read the book you lent me). To do this, they put words together in phrases such as the book you lent me and combine these with other phrases to make sentences. In doing so, they relate the parts, or roles, of the situation they are describing with the roles in the sentence used to describe it. As with the other aspects of language we have studied, each language has conventions for how these two kinds of roles are associated with one another and for how the sentence roles themselves are marked. Many of these conventions are tied to verbs, which organize the structure and the meaning of sentences. In this chapter, we'll see how different subtypes of verbs behave and how the properties of verbs and sentences vary across languages. We'll also see how sentences not only describe actual situations in the world but also allow speakers to get information about these situations (did you read that book I lent you?) or to cause them to happen (please return that book I lent you). When you're done with this chapter, you should have a better idea what sentences are, how they work, and how they allow us to talk about what's going on in the world around us.

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