Longest English sentence
There have been several claims for the longest sentence in the English language, usually with claims that revolve around the longest printed sentence, because there is no limit on the possible length of a written English sentence.
At least one linguistics textbook concludes that, in theory, "there is no longest English sentence." A sentence can be made arbitrarily long by successive iterations, such as Someone thinks that someone thinks that someone thinks that..., or by combining shorter clauses in various ways.
- The mouse ran away
- The mouse that the cat bit ran away
- The mouse that the cat that the dog that the man frightened chased bit ran away
The ability to embed structures within larger ones is called recursion. This also highlights the difference between linguistic performance and linguistic competence, because the language can support more variation than can reasonably be created or recorded.
Exceptionally long sentences in printEdit
- Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club appears to hold the record at 13,955 words. It was inspired by Bohumil Hrabal's Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age: a Czech language novel written in one long sentence.
- A sentence often claimed to be the longest sentence ever written is in Molly Bloom's soliloquy in the James Joyce novel Ulysses (1922), which contains a "sentence" of 3,687 words.
- One of the longest sentences in American literature is in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! (1936). The sentence is composed of 1,288 words (in the 1951 Random House version).
- Solar Bones by Mike McCormack is written as one sentence. It won the 2016 Goldsmith's prize for experimental fiction, was longlisted for the Booker in 2017 and won the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award.
- Steven E. Weisler; Slavoljub P. Milekic; Slavko Milekic (2000). Theory of Language. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-73125-6.
- Stephen Crain; Diane Lillo-Martin (1999). An Introduction to Linguistic Theory and Language Acquisition. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-19536-8.
- Christiansen, Morten H.; Chater, Nick (1999). "Toward a Connectionist Model of Recursion in Human Linguistic Performance". Cognitive Science. 23 (2): 157–205. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog2302_2.
- Thomas R. Shultz (2003). Computational Developmental Psychology. p. 236. ISBN 9780132288064.
- Carnie, Andrew (2013). Syntax: A Generative Introduction (third ed.). Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-470-65531-3.
- Jones, Rebecca (3 October 2014). "Longest Sentence". Today. BBC. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
- Publishers Weekly: "Solar Bones"
- Quartz: "One of this year’s Booker Prize nominees is just a 1,000-page-long sentence" 26 July, 2019