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Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House…until one day they locked him inside.

This quote was taken from an article about an African man who, in 1906, was locked in a zoo as part of an ethnological exhibition. In editing an essay I wrote, my professor noted next to this quote "Anything about Adam's language in that sentence of interest?" (She mentioned in person that the author crafts sentences like this a lot).

I think because the author ended with "they locked him inside", it made for a sentence that hit on the emotional sensibilities of the reader, because you didn't really see that coming. But I don't know if there is a name for constructing sentences like this (my professor said there probably is but she doesn't specialize in composition and rhetoric so she wouldn't know).

The ellipsis I used in my essay to omit some of the writing. The original quote reads: Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House, where he had been sleeping since his arrival, until one day they locked him inside.

  • If your professor asked you to think about it, and you didn't come up with an answer, why not ask your professor what he intended? We are less likely to know than he. – GEdgar Dec 12 '13 at 14:58
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The first clause has an object control construction. Compare:

They encouraged him to enter the monkey house.
They promised him to enter the monkey house.

The in the object control construction, it is the object of encourage that is the implied subject of enter. In the subject control construction, it is the subject of promise that is the implied subject of enter.

The second clause has a zero-anaphoric pronominal object (i.e., "the Monkey house" is the implied object of inside).

Also notice that the referent of They in the second clause is not "Zookeepers". It is "Monkeys", even though that noun phrase appears nowhere in the sentence.

  • -1 I don't agree that the monkeys locked him in, 'they' has to refer to the only subject of the sentence, which is 'zookeepers'. Also, your first sentence might well be technically correct but its meaning is not at all clear to the uninitiated. Can you explain it further? – Mynamite Dec 11 '13 at 23:50
  • @Mynamite consider the following: "Thomas and Marvin always encouraged Carmen to visit the mannequin factory...until one day they came to life." Do you mean to argue that they perforce has to refer to Thomas and Marvin? – jlovegren Dec 11 '13 at 23:57
  • I tend to agree with @jlovegren on this point. To my way of thinking this is close to the classic form of the syntactically ambiguous sentence. Mynamite, Yes Monkey is captialised to help 'group' it with House, and form the noun as an overall house. But it's only a hint and so my mind still isn't completely unambiguous. I don't think it's a -1 affair, personally. – shermy Dec 12 '13 at 1:25
  • Is there any other verb besides promise that governs a "subject control construction"? – John Lawler Dec 12 '13 at 3:49
  • +1 Thank you for the edit. I read the OP's sentence as meaning the zookeepers were playing a trick on their colleague - we would need the full context to know if it was zookeepers or monkeys. I agree your mannequin example would have to refer to the mannequins, I just think it's an awkward construction and I wouldn't write it that way myself. – Mynamite Dec 13 '13 at 0:38
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It is simply a compound sentence - essentially, two semantically linked sentences joined using a coordinator.

Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House. One day they locked him inside.

Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House until one day they locked him inside.

'Until' means 'up to the time / occasion that', but sometimes, as here, connotes a sense of inevitability. This is made more obvious by the ellipsis:

Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House . . . until one day they locked him inside.

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I believe what you're looking for is the type of category of sentence, rather than an exact name of the analysis of the formation. Guessing this, grammatically, this is a case of sentential ambiguity: specifically, syntactical ambiguity.

It's an ambiguous sentence. As another respondent observers, the monkeys may have been responsible for locking the unfortunate individual in the Monkey House. The ambiguity also might be deliberate.

It might not be a grammatical construct you're looking for per se, as I'm not aware of anything so specific existing in terminology to cover 'a twist' if that's you're intention in asking (it's a compound sentence, yes, and more in grammatical terms as others have answered, but that may not meaningfully describe what is special about the sentence for the reasons you may ask).

However, in creative writing parlance, this sentence is an example of "the twist at the end". It does 'turn' on one sentence too - that may have a special name (which I will endeavour to find).

But I should point out your suggested sentence having 'less drama' or what creative writers (academic) call psychic distance, is also in part down to the omission of an idea (in a word) until:

"They locked him inside of the monkey house, where they had encouraged him to spend more of his time."

You see, without until, there is no sense of mystery in why the he was no longer to spend time in the Monkey House. The original quote begs the question: what happened to make him no longer go in the Monkey House? - suggesting something terrible happened to him in there.

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“Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House/…until/one day they locked him inside.”

There is indeed something interesting about the sentence construction. This is a compound sentence, but the two independent clauses are joined by a preposition (until) instead of a coordinating conjunction.

Add the right coordinating conjunction and the sentence finally makes sense:

“Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House, but one day they locked him inside.”

“Zookeepers encouraged him to spend more time in the Monkey House, so one day they locked him inside.”

The ellipsis marks, used to indicate a pause, only added to the confusion. Commas are so much better…

  • Until is in fact used as a coordinating conjunction here, not as a preposition. – choster Dec 13 '13 at 22:23

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