Sunday, April 13, 2008

Original Sentences

As I was out to pizza with a friend of mine, an interesting conversation/question arose about original sentences.

The question is as follows:
Considering all the sentences in daily conversation, are there more original sentences (sentences which have never been arranged in such a way before) or sentences which have been said before.

Arguing for the side that there are more original sentences in everyday speech consider the following.
1) There are many ways could I say this sentence. There are many ways can this sentence be formed? The formation of this sentence can be done in many ways. The formation of this sentence can be done in a lot of ways. This sentence can be formed in numerous ways...
(One thought that follows: All these sentences convey the same idea. We were not discussing the probability of whether ideas were unique, but rather if the structure of the sentences were.)
2) Think of all the synonyms. It only takes one synonym for one of the words to make the sentence original.
3) Consider context. Most of the things we say are in context of a conversation, meaning the sentence could be referring to the sentence which came before it. Also, maybe the person we are talking to. We talk to kids differently than adults; Coworkers differently than bosses...etc...
4) Language. While there are many people in the world, they speak different languages. Therefore it is less likely that someone speaking the same language would say the same thing you would. Also, think dialects (soda/pop), think slang (changes over time)...
5) Personality - bias. People relate differently to different ideas and conversations.

Arguing for the opposite side
1) All the people who lived ever...throughout all time.
2) The shorter the sentence, the more likely it would have been said.
3) Commands - Habits.
4) There may only be limited ways to say certain things.

I am sure there are many more ideas out there for both sides of the argument, and I am curious to hear what you all can think of. Let me know. Also maybe weigh in and chose a side?
(I think there are more original sentences than non-original ones)

Let me know.


Rabbi K. said...

Really origional sayings are copyrighted by those who make a living making them up. Same goes for song lyrics. I suspect that most sentences have long histories because we use so few words in ordinary language and conventions demand that we say them always the same way.

Ashira said...

another thing to consider is that the words people tend to use changes over time. Think, for example, of the words "gay" and "straight" or the expression "the bomb" or current use of the word "awesome."

Since language is so *organic* and new words are invented constantly, I think it is likely that there are more original sentences in spoken language than sentences that have already been said.