2. THE FUNCTION OF WORD ORDER AND PARALLEL STRUCTURE

Word order means in English. That is, one of the important ways we secure meaning in English is by putting words in a certain order. Consider the following sentences.

  • The dog chases the cat.
  • The cat chases the dog.
  • Blowing down the chimney, the wind chilled the girl.
  • The wind chilled the girl blowing down the chimney.
  • He also longs for great success abroad in the field of dramatic music.
  • He longs for great success also abroad in the field of dramatic music.
  • He longs for great success abroad also in the field of dramatic music.

You can easily see that each member of a group means differently, but the only difference in each case is a different word order. On the other hand, consider these Latin sentences:

  • Puer amat puellam.
  • Puellam amat puer.
  • Puellam puer amat.
  • Amat puer puellam.

In each, the order is different, but each means “the boy loves the girl,” because Latin is an inflected language and doesn’t depend on word order to convey meaning.

Parallel Structure: Model and Exercise

Ideas presented in parallel structures are understood as parallel in importance. For instance, in

Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra is rich in melodies, fresh in invention, lucid in texture

three ideas of equal importance are placed in the adjective-plus- prepositional phrase structures. Learn to use the powerful structure to your advantage.

Exercise: Do these statements mean the same thing? What is parallel in each? Do you see that shifting the parallels radically changes the meaning? Diagram the core structures of both sentences.

Among Dvorak’s greatest symphonies, his Seventh Symphony in D Minor holds a special position of being, in content, the darkest and most passionate and shows only a few traces of the composer’s folk Czech characteristics.

Among Dvorak’s greatest symphonies, his Seventh Symphony in D Minor holds a special position of being, in content, the darkest and most passionate and showing only a few traces of the composer’s folk Czech characteristics.