Propositions and Grammar

The rules of grammar tell us how to put words together, just as a blueprint tells us how to assemble a building. A mastery of grammar allows us to formulate a thought clearly, no matter how complex or subtle it is, and to express the thought in a way that allows other people to share and appreciate it.

The grammatical structure of a sentence affects the proposition that this sentence conveys.

1. Two different grammatical structures can be equivalent, just as two words can be synonymous.

Example:

Jane did better than Tom on the test.
Tom did worse than Jane on the test.

Logically, these two propositions are equivalent; they assert the same proposition.

2. A single sentence can assert more than a single proposition.

The statement "We live in a red house near the lake" contains the following information:

We live in a house.
The house is red.
The house is near the lake.

Each of these is a proposition asserted by the sentence, and the speaker is saying that each proposition is true.

3. A sentence does not always assert every proposition that it expresses.

The statement "The re-election of the president depends on whether the economy improves by November" expesses, but does not assert, the proposition that the economy will improve by November. It is only saying that the president's re-election depends on whether it turns out to be true.


Comprehension Questions
1 Are the following two grammatical structures equivalent?

Some masters are surpassed by their disciples.
Some disciples are surpassed by their masters.

a) Yes
b) No
2 Are the following two grammatical structures equivalent?

Some masters are surpassed by their disciples.
Some disciples surpass their masters.

a) Yes
b) No

Conjunctions

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