I'd like to transform complex sentences into one set of simple sentences. I can't find any solution, so I want to study formation of complex sentences.

What are the most comprehensive and most appropriate papers/books I could study from? Please explain why you're suggesting a certain paper.

  • 1
    Amit, I have fixed your question a bit, so it could attract better answers. :)
    – Alenanno
    Mar 12, 2012 at 14:30
  • To the answerers: When you answer, please keep in mind the 6 guidelines about bad subjective and good subjective
    – Alenanno
    Mar 12, 2012 at 14:34
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    This is a question that is deeply related to extracting the binding rules of the ADVERB and ADJECTIVE components of a sentence. I have a preliminary attempt to do this, but I haven't coded it or even tested it by hand extensively yet, so I can't be sure it works. Once you know the binding of the ADJECTIVES and ADVERBs, you can produce the list of sentences mechanically, by making a sentence with each binding separately. I am sure that people in a linguistic school have their own methods, but these methods are full of philosophical cruft that gets in the way of the practical parsing.
    – Ron Maimon
    Mar 13, 2012 at 7:14
  • @RonMaimon: THANKS...But i can't understand this binding rules between ADVERB and ADJECTIVE..can u explain me with an example?
    – Amit
    Mar 13, 2012 at 15:45
  • +1 for philosophical cruft. But don't forget that ADVERB and ADJECTIVE are just as theory-dependent, or implementation-dependent, and are not about English per se but rather what you want to do with it. That's cool, as long as it doesn't get crufty.
    – jlawler
    Mar 13, 2012 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


It looks like you'll have to learn enough English syntax to do what you need. What you'll certainly need is lists of transformations ("rules, processes, constructions, alternations," etc), how they are constrained, and what their boundary conditions are. Then you'll have to figure out (or build software to figure out) which ones have operated in the complex sentences (hint: suspect infinitives) and then unwind them. Some information will be useful and some won't.

Here's a few to start, in increasing order of length and breadth of coverage:

  • A list, revised 2010 by Haj Ross, of the ¡TOP ONE HUNDRED PLUS TRANSFORMATIONS OF 1999! for your inspection of and additions to. This is very short; just a list to keep track of which example has which name.

  • A book, by Beth Levin (1993 English Verb Classes and Alternations), on governed cyclic rules, with both a verb index and a verb class index.

  • Another book, by Jim McCawley (1998 The Syntactic Phenomena of English, 2d ed) is a college-level textbook that's very clear and uses a consistent system throughout to explain the terms and issues. It's not simple; this is about the level of DiffEQ. But it's better than the other alternatives.

  • May I ask if you meant DiffEQ as Differential Equations? How does this relate to syntax? I'm guessing this as a simile to analogise the level of difficulty?
    – user5306
    Sep 28, 2015 at 0:00
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    Yes, correct on all points. It's a full-year college course of about that degree of difficulty -- in the U.S, typically third- or fourth-year after quite a lot of analysis -- or linguistics -- classes. Very useful, but complex and full of new concepts and new techniques to be mastered.
    – jlawler
    Sep 28, 2015 at 1:51

Two books dealing with human performance on complex sentences are:

  • Grammatical competence and parsing performance by Bradley L. Pritchett. A linguistics oriented book that looks at parse trees.

  • Understanding complex sentences, Native speaker variation in syntactic competence by Ngoni Chipere. An experimental based book that considers the performance impact of human memory characteristics.

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