7

These ELU answers affirm, but do not explain, the decrease in written sentence length. So why?

To allow for comparison with modern dialects, I restrict this question to:

  1. writing in European languages (for those who desire specificity: Germanic and Italic),

  2. that have remained extensive and prevalent since the 1500s.
    (I picked this century, because Modern English started in roughly 1550, and Modern French officialised in the 1530s),

PS: Since posting this question, I have read some explications, but nonspecialist: 4, 5, and 6.

5
  • This refers only to written English, not the actual language, right? Jul 15, 2015 at 12:40
  • 2
    And I suggest that it's due largely to changes in punctuation practices in the English writing world. Jul 15, 2015 at 12:41
  • @GastonÜmlaut Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I ask about written language; but no, not only for English. As written in my OP, this question admits of any prevalent language starting from 1500s and still prominent now.
    – user5306
    Jul 15, 2015 at 14:20
  • 3
    I'm sure that there is an element of custom, or fashion: that was what was expected. This pertains between different languages as well: I love the works of Stanislaw Lem, as translated by Michael Kandel. When I tried to read some of them in the original, I found that though the wordplay was certainly there, the sentences were much longer than Kandel's English, which gave the writing a ponderous feel compared with the English. I guessed (though I don't know for sure) that this reflected a difference in literary custom in Polish and English.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 15, 2015 at 16:17
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    @Colin Fine: It could also reflect grammatical differences between the languages in question. All those cases and agreement rules that English lacks make it easier to parse and write long sentences than in more isolating languages. // Not to discount the role of fashion. It seems as if 19th century English prose style was guided by an unwritten rule, to wit: never put anything into a subsequent sentence that you can stuff into an embedded clause in this one. May 2, 2023 at 6:57

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