It didn't take very long for me to get bored with just lining up all the
glyphs in a word-for-word translation of English. I decided instead that I
would try something different and visually break every sentence up into its
components and then rearrange them somehow.
Let's have two parts of speech: Things and Relationships.
Let's decree that all sentences will describe two Things connected by a
Relationship. The first thing we need to do when translating a sentence is to
decide what two Things, and what Relationship. We'll isolate the Things inside
(parentheses) and place the Relationship between them.
- All happy families are alike. = (families all happy) are (alike)
- Giant rats ate New York. = (rats giant) ate (New York)
- I don't know, and I don't care. = (I don't know) and (I don't care)
- If you don't shut up, I will shoot you. = (you don't shut up) then (I will
As you can see, a Thing is not always a noun (New York). It can also be an
adjective (alike) or a full sentence (You don't shut up.). A Relationship can
be a verb (ate), a conjuction (and) or a logical expression (if/then).
- Obviously, this won't work with intransitive verbs because there is no
direct object: The big white dog ran.
- It won't work when the subject is a pronoun either, because subject
pronouns are incorporated into the verb: He chased the girl's cat.
- In these cases, we will leave the sentence unbalanced and open-ended: (dog
big white) ran. chased (cat girl's).
If an element applies to the sentence as a whole rather than to an
individual component, we'll either place it alone before the first parenthesis,
or isolate it with [brackets] in an unbalanced sentence.
- Yes, we have no bananas. = [yes] we have (no bananas)
- Yesterday, Steve's mom drank a whole bottle of elderberry wine. = yesterday
(mom Steve's) drank (bottle whole of wine elderberry)
- I think Lurlene's baby is the ugliest thing I've ever seen. = I think (baby
Lurlene's) is (thing ugliest I've seen ever)
- Put the gun down, Earl. = [Earl] put down (gun)
- I said, "Put the gun down, Earl." = I said (Earl put down gun)
- Obviously you've mistaken me for someone who gives a damn. = [obviously]
you've mistaken ((me) as (someone who gives a damn))
As you see in the last example, when we build complex clauses, we also break
those down into two Things connected by a Relationship as well. In that last
case the Things are "me" and "someone who gives a
damn", and the Relationship is "as".
- She said she thought Lurlene's baby is the ugliest thing she'd ever seen. =
she said (she thought ((Lurlene's baby) is (the ugliest thing she'd ever seen)))
- You're dreaming if you think I'm going to put the gun down. = (you dream)
if (you think (I will put down gun))
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Last updated December 2005
Copyright © 2005 Matthew White