[Grammar] Sporadic reference

toloue_man

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I was reading my grammar book that I run into this page. I am TOTALLY confused and I can't understand this page. What does sporadic mean here? Is the word "institution" used in its literal meaning here as in there are many financial institutions in New York? What does "the theatre" mean when it refers to an institution? Can you please explain this usage to me? Many thanks in advance.

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jutfrank

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The whole text is an explicit explanation of what sporadic reference is.

The word 'institution' has a purely cultural sense. The idea is that with sporadic reference, the theatre is not a particular building made of bricks, which you can go in, and which has a stage and a curtain, and seats inside. It is rather a cultural institution. Simply speaking, an institution is really nothing but an agreed set of cultural practices, not real in a material sense, but rather a shared fiction.

This is hard to understand, so let me know if that makes sense to you.

Why are you reading such difficult academic material? Are you studying linguistics?
 

toloue_man

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The whole text is an explicit explanation of what sporadic reference is.

The word 'institution' has a purely cultural sense. The idea is that with sporadic reference, the theatre is not a particular building made of bricks, which you can go in, and which has a stage and a curtain, and seats inside. It is rather a cultural institution. Simply speaking, an institution is really nothing but an agreed set of cultural practices, not real in a material sense, but rather a shared fiction.

This is hard to understand, so let me know if that makes sense to you.

Why are you reading such difficult academic material? Are you studying linguistics?


Thank you but your reply didn't help me. Can you explain more? Can you at least define "institution" and "sporadic" for me? I really need to understand this. This might be explicit to you as a teacher and a native speaker of English. I am reading this to learn how to use "the". I need to enhance my grammar.
 

toloue_man

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Always tell us the title and author of any book you quote from, please.

[h=2]A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language[/h]Book by Geoffrey Leech, Randolph Quirk, and Sidney Greenbaum
 

jutfrank

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Can you at least define "institution" and "sporadic" for me?

First of all, you don't need to know what 'sporadic' means. You just need to know what sporadic reference is. It's a very technical term.

When we utter a phrase that contains a definite article, such as the theatre, it can have two very different kinds of reference (situational and sporadic). Another way to say that is that the word theatre has two very different meanings when it is followed by the.

1) the theatre refers to one particular building. This building is material in that it is made of bricks. It takes up space in the town. You can go inside it. When the zombie apocalypse comes, it will still exist, even though nobody will use it. It will still exist even after all humans have died. Eventually the walls will collapse and it will disappear.

2) the theatre refers to an institution. Institutions are not material. They have no size or shape because they do not exist in the physical world. The society that we live in is structured not by bricks, but by institutions. Banks are institutions, and so are universities, governments, and religions. If there was a zombie apocalypse, almost all of these would cease to exist because they are just ways to understand how our human society is structured. No society, no institutions.

If I'm talking about my personal interests and I say I love the theatre. I try to go to the theatre once a month, I'm not talking about a particular building. I'm talking about the theatre as an institution. It's probable that the particular building I go to is different each time, but the institution is the same.

Is that clear now?

By the way, studying that book is really not a good way to improve your grammar.
 
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toloue_man

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Is "the" used in its generic sense in this usage such as the followings?

I play the piano.
The whales are the largest mammals.
Who invented the TV?

Why don't we say I go to a theatre?
 
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Tarheel

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Try:

I was reading my grammar book when I came across this page.
 

Tdol

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Why don't we say I go to a theatre?

You could say I went to a theatre in the West End- there are many theatres in this part of London, so it is a non-specific reference. Generally, though, this is not the case.
 

Tarheel

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Thank you, but your reply didn't help me. Could you explain more? Could you at least define "institution" and "sporadic" for me? I really need to understand this. This might be easy for you as a teacher and a native speaker of English. I am reading this to learn how to use "the". I need to improve my grammar.

Most of us understand these things implicitly but not explicity. That is, we use the language, but we don't study it. (Similarly, we might know how to use a computer without knowing much about how it works.)
 

GoesStation

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Your text uses sporadic in a technical way that doesn't match its usual definition, which is intermittent or occasional. Hardly anyone knows the meaning your author uses.
 

Tarheel

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I lived for seventy years without knowing the term sporadic reference. Do I need to learn it now?
:)
 
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