17: Rethinking the synthetic grammar: ‘linear’ sentences – from subject to enactor

As discussed previously, ‘linear’ sentences have a progressive dynamic within the sentence; each sentence part – each with its own function within the sentence – simply adds to the information in the previous part. What function a sentence part has in a sentence is, in English, indicated largely by its position in the sentence, of course.

Here, we are going to focus on what is generally the starting-off point in declarative, or positive statement, sentences. This is conventionally called the subject. But, here, I want to experiment with calling this functional part of the sentence the enactor. Why? Well, I will summarise the reasons for this subsequently. But, for now, let’s just focus on the enactor as a term that describes the sentence part that is conventionally called the ‘subject’. I’ll experiment here by offering a text-book-like description of the enactor to see how it feels.

The enactor

The enactor in a sentence is often the person that does something, or did something or is going to do something:

DianaE works for a computer company. (Diana = the enactor)

SheE studied computing at college. (She = the enactor)

SheE is going to work in the US soon.

The enactor in a sentence can also be a person that thinks or feels something or has something:

NaomiE hopes to work as a volunteer in Africa. (Naomi = the enactor)

SheE loves travelling and working abroad.

Naomi’s partnerE does not want her to go abroad.

Her partnerE has a well-paid job in marketing.

The enactor of a sentence can also be the thing that does, did or will do something or has something:

This tableE wobbles a bit. (This table = the enactor)

The governmentE lost popular support.

The hotelE has six restaurants.

The enactor of a sentence can be two or more people or things:

The singersE need a break. (The singers = the enactor)

These violinsE come from Italy.


Well, as a piece of explanatory text, that seems to work okay, and the term seems comfortable and natural in that context of use. But that’s just my view. It could be said that something that is inanimate and incapable of action through its own volition, such as a table or a hotel, can’t really be said to be an enactor as that implies action and volition. But, I don’t think that is necessarily the case, as I plan to reason next.

David Lott

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