Periodic Structure

In literature, the concept of a periodic structure refers to a particular placement of sentence elements such as the main clause of the sentence and/or its predicate are purposely held off and placed at the end instead of at the beginning or their conventional positions. In such placements, the crux of the sentence’s meaning does not become clear to the reader until they reach the last part. While undeniably confusing at first, a periodic structure lends a flair of drama and romanticism to a sentence and is greatly used in poetry.

Instead of writing, “brokenhearted and forlorn she waited till the end of her days for his return” one may write, “for his return, brokenhearted and forlorn, waited she till the end of her days”.

7 thoughts on “Periodic Structure”

  1. This would be better written
    like this, I think:
    “for his return, brokenhearted and forlorn, till the end of her days she waited.”
    since the predicate here is really only ‘waited’.
    Am I correct on this?

    1. No. The simple predicate is “waited,” but the complete predicate includes all other complementary information. “Waited she” sounds awkward outside of a poetic setting, though. (The definition does make note of that.)

  2. Reminds me of German
    Often in the German langauge, (past perfect, future tense, past imperfect, modal verbs, etc.) you won’t find ou the action until the end of the sentance.
    In example, in the present tense, you could say, “Ich fliege nach Deutschland” (Literally translated: I fly to Germany). In the future tense, it would be “Ich werde nach Deutschland fliegen” (Literally translated: I will to Germany fly). I could give more examples just like that for the tenses mentioned earlier, but they’re generally the same.

      1. Here are some examples of periodic sentences from another site.

        “In the almost incredibly brief time which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can across
        the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe
        fell in love.” (P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh, 1915)

        “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all
        men, that is genius.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 1841)

        “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I
        have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (I Cor. 13, KJB)

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