These sentences harbor huge potential // disasters.

I haven’t the time to write much today – I’m presently at my grandmother’s, which means a vast change to some aspects of my summer circadian rhythm.  That noted, I was formulating blatant solutions to several linguistics puzzles earlier today; one of the aforementioned problems was dealing with the phenomena surrounding so-termed “garden path” sentences.  Aptly named, these phrases can often be found in secluded, desolate regions of thought, quick to lead you to the abyssal depths of a particularly dense, wild, and Ixodoidea-ridden patch of misunderstanding.

Garden path sentences, then, are those sentences that may be split at one place or another, and thus be made to harbor drastically different meanings.  The title is an obvious example – without reading the component following the forward slashes, one would think that I was praising these devious little custodians of confusion.

Can you think of some good ones?

I don’t want to live // in vain.

My heart beats // for no man.

Fortunately, the war is near // to its end.

These are fabulous for installing anticlimax – note, let’s say, my first example.  If one plays around with nouns that can be made adjectives or verbs, then these attain an entirely advanced level of deliciously intricate uncertainty.  Observe – this is an example from a 2007 N.A.C.L.O. puzzle:

“Fat people eat // accumulates in their bodies.”

Alternatively, omit some articles or conjunctions, and you’ll have taken a step forwards on the road far less travelled by.

Additionally, speaking of garden paths, I’ve noted something rather fun as a result of observations made in my backyard (iff you find “fun” and “linguistics” to be analogous).  Limax, the Latin for “slug”, is what I’ll reprehensibly term a “phonetic anagram” of the Czech word for “slug” – slimák.

This entry was posted in English Language, Literature, & My Writing, Etymology & Linguistics. Bookmark the permalink.

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