The <i>instrumental</i> use of verbless sentences in writing and rewriting

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We sought to determine the role of verbless sentences across the writing process. We compared two corpora: a longitudinal corpus of social reports and a transversal corpus of diary entries and letters. An examination of successive draft reports revealed that verbless sentences were present in incipient versions, but subsequently grew into verbal sentences or even paragraphs. They served as reminders condensed syntactic and semantic content intended to be expanded into full text. Similarly, verbless sentences contained in the diary entries were swiftly worked up into full sentences in letters relating the same events as the diary. We hypothesize the existence of a pragmatic constraint differentiating between self-addressed texts (incipient versions, personal diaries) and other-addressed texts (final reports, letters).


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