Do Sentences Have Feelings?

When I studied Latin during my freshmen year of college, I was astonished to learn that our English word sentence derived from the Latin sententia, which means feeling, thought, opinion, vote, judgment, determination, will, and–of course–sentence.

Saying that sententia means sentence, which is a grammatical unit of one or more words that expresses a declaration, a question, or an exclamation, does not tell a curious mind much at all. However, when one thinks of a grammatical sentence as a feeling, a thought, or even someone’s will, which is to say one’s desire or volition, a curious mind may wish to know more. After all, what does a sentence have to do with feelings?

As a frosh, I had never thought of a grammatical sentence as having anything to do with feelings, thoughts, or wills. Mistakenly, I had imagined sentences as the conglomeration of the eight parts of speech (i.e., nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections), at best.

Parents, caregivers, or teachers may never have realized that teaching children how to write a sentence is not entirely a matter of learning the rules of grammar. Teaching children how to write sentences must include encouraging them how to feel and access their thoughts and feelings, their opinions and wills. Sentences already belong to each of us; they grow inside of us and spring forth into a world of communication or obfuscation, depending on the motive of one’s will.

Sentences express our desires and our wills. They are vehicles that carry our opinions and judgments. Sentences that do not seem to express any feelings or desires are repressed, for one reason or another.

So, yes! Sentences have feelings. These feelings are our feelings. Of course, children have their own feelings, thoughts, determinations, and wills, which means they are full of sentences.

Teaching children how to write good sentences–never forget that a report, a dissertation, or even a book is no more than a skilled, complex collection of sentences–entails teaching them the logical structure of sensible grammatical relationships between words. Without any understanding of the eight parts of speech and their respective jobs or functions within any given sentence, children will never express themselves clearly or effectively in writing.

Beyond the mere order of words, the structural or conceptual relationship among words makes sentences meaningful or sensible. If words were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, then the puzzle would not be complete unless the pieces were in their proper places.

When children learn how to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions with words in the proper place, they will have begun to write and will be on the road to writing well.