A garden path sentence is one that is exceptionally hard for the reader to parse. English is especially prone to this because it is an analytical language and so many words can be many different parts of speech. I read that as a person reads a sentence, he builds up a likely meaning for each word and a meaning for the whole sentence word by word, then if a “disambiguating word” appears that changes the meaning, he switches to the new meaning and continues. When the disambiguating word is far away from the ambiguous word, the sentence can be very difficult to understand.
The classic garden path sentence, as far as I am aware, is “The horse raced past the barn fell.” The ambiguous word is raced and the disambiguating word is fell. For those who don’t think this is a perfectly grammatical sentence, the meaning is the same as “The horse [that was] raced past the barn fell.” Or perhaps more clearly using a different word, “The horse driven past the barn fell.”
Before I ask my question, since these things are so cool (to me, anyway), here are a few more examples:
- The old man the boats.
- While Anna dressed the baby spit up on the bed.
- The man returned to his house was happy.
- Fat people eat accumulates.
- She told me a little white lie will come back to haunt me.
- We painted the wall with cracks.
The Question – My Own Garden Path Sentence
After enjoying these and many other garden path sentences I read about, I invented one of my own. Recently I told it to a friend, but he didn’t really get my example garden path sentences (the horse, the old, and Anna) and argued that they and mine were not correct grammar. So I submit it to you for your analysis:
The men run through the arches screamed.
As explanation, the men were stabbed in the feet, possibly as a form of torture.
I swear I had several others I invented five to ten years ago, but I can’t remember them. Perhaps I will invent some new ones.
Is that sentence correct grammar? As well as the others?
Feel free to edit my grammar. No comment necessary.
Here is how the example sentences are grammatical:
The old man the boats.
The old [people] [man/serve on] the boats
While Anna dressed the baby spit up on the bed.
While Anna [got] dressed, the baby spit up on the bed.
The man returned to his house was happy.
The man [who was returned to his house] was happy.
Fat people eat accumulates.
[The fat that people eat] accumulates
She told me a little white lie will come back to haunt me.
She told me [that] [a little white lie will come back to haunt me].
We painted the wall with cracks.
We painted the wall [that has] cracks.