Lesson #212: Garden Path Sentences

I actually already knew what garden path sentences are, I just didn’t know there’s an term for them.

Garden path sentences are sentences that one starts out reading one way, but when faced with a word that doesn’t fit the assumed syntax or tone of the sentence, is forced to backtrack to deduce the meaning of it. For example: “while Anna dressed the baby spit up on the bed.” Or “the horse raced past the barn fell.” These sentences are almost always read, since the inflection of spoken word allows for language to be correctly understood the first time (unless of course you hear “what do you do when a girl starts stripping” when what was said was, “what do you do when your nose starts dripping.”)*

Why they’re called garden path sentences is apparently a take on the expression “to be led down the garden path”, i.e. to be misled.

There’s a very interesting article about this here.

*True story. In fairness, the question was asked, in English, by a Dutch girl and (mis)heard by a Swedish guy.

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