Inspecting verbal groups for clues

Let’s take another pass at this snippet and the conversational retellings, but this time let’s find all the verbal groups (including standalone verbs) and see what comes out of it.

The natives weren’t communicating very well, and the Europeans took over all their land and placed settlements everywhere.

Okay. Let’s think about this.

Verbal groups normally refer to processes. Do all the verbal groups refer to processes here?

What do you think?

Now let's highlight the verbal groups in this next example.

The native Americans didn’t talk to each other much, so when they found out what the Europeans were doing it was already too late, and the settlers and conquerors were already taking over their land.

Again, ask yourself this question: do all the verbal groups refer to processes?

Now let's highlight the verbal groups in the original snippet.

Note that a process can be turned into a thing by simply adding a pointer. For instance, anger is a process, but his anger is a thing.

Communications between the tribes of the New World were slow, and news of the Europeans’ barbarities rarely overtook the rapid spread of new conquests and settlements.

Do the verbal groups refer to processes? Yes!

Hold on, if the verbal groups are doing what they normally do, why did we go through all this work to examine them?

Before we answer that, compare the verbal groups in the snippet vs the retellings. Are there any simple and obvious differences? 

If you compare the snippet to the examples, there are two obvious differences.

  • The original snippet has the fewest verbal groups, each with exactly one verb.
  • The conversational versions have more verbal groups, with more verbs inside each group.

You can see that when we talk, we use way more verbal groups.

Which makes sense: we tend to talk in stories, and stories are made up of people taking action on other people and things.

But what’s strange is that in the written version, the nominal groups are much larger than normal and they refer to processes, while the verbal groups are small and simple.