Re: Re[2]: Responsible use of Obviously

Subject: Re: Re[2]: Responsible use of Obviously
From: Michael Gos <GOS -at- DT3 -dot- DT -dot- UH -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1993 15:25:41 -0600

Karen asks:

Do you have some theoretical basis for your assumption that
the end of the sentence is where people look for things like figures?

The theory is called functional sentence perspective, but the theorist's
name escapes me (That was from those grad school days and I've been drunk
since then). Basically it says that in english sentences, the old info
occurs in the beginning of sentences (they tie in to what came before) and then
we add what is new. Example:

I went to the store. On the way, I saw my buddy with his wife.

Because we, as native speakers, are used to this pattern, whether we are
conciously aware of it or not, we tend to gloss over beginnings of sentences
and concentrate on the endings.

As a sidelight, mystery writers use this as a means of hiding clues from the
reader. (They put them in the beginnings of sentences.) Novelists often
use it to make you dislike or mistrust a character (His speeches feature
sentences that are opposite the norm, that is, new info first, then old.) We
don't know why, but as readers, we know we don't like the guy.

Michael Gos
University of Houston

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