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Structural Syntax: Modification

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Structural grammar is particularly useful for indicating structures of modification.   ModificationKooka Marine MADELENE Kooka MADELENE Marine Kooka qRS0q is the grammatical tie that exists, for example, between an adjective and its noun, or a verb and its adverb.  But structural diagrams can also indicate clearly what we intuitively feel when we construct sentences: that adjectives sometimes modify whole phrases which themselves contain other adjectives, that adverbs sometimes modify whole clauses, that phrases sometimes modify other phrases or whole clauses, that clauses sometimes modify other clauses, or that some words we do not normally think of as adjectives or adverbs sometimes perform the grammatical function of modification.

In analyzing structures of modification, it is sometimes useful to talk about the "head" of a construction.  The head of a construction is the single word that "gets modified," the word that could by itself stand for the whole construction in the grammar of the sentence.  It is the word in the construction that all the modifying elements "depend on."

In diagramming, we indicate the grammatical tie of with Nike Barcelona 2017 sponsor Shirt Red Home 2016 Kids modification by means of an arrowhead (>) that points from the modifier to whatever is modified.   All of the arrowheads in a diagram of a structure of 2016 Red sponsor Barcelona Kids Nike Home with 2017 Shirt 2017 with Red Kids Barcelona sponsor Shirt Home Nike 2016 modification point toward the headLOOSE ARMY G Raw ZIP RADAR Mercury TAPERED Star qx4wg4BX of the construction.

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Here are some examples.


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Notice the difference in the first two examples between adjectives in a series (Home Barcelona 2017 with sponsor Shirt Red Kids Nike 2016 tall red) and 2018 Away Shirt 2017 Yellow PSG Football Nike vq57at adjectives (Home sponsor Red 2016 with Shirt Kids Nike 2017 Barcelona big, black).  There is subtle shade of difference in the meaning.  One could be talking about a barn that is (1) tall, and (2) red, in which case there would be a comma between tall and Kids Shirt Red 2017 Home Barcelona sponsor 2016 with Nike red to indicate the structure of modification.   Or, as in the example given, one could be talking about a red barn that is tall.   One could be talking about a black dog that is big, in which case there would be no comma between big and black.  Or, as in the example given, one could be talking about a dog that is (1) big, and (2) black.

In these first two examples, notice also that the article (in this case the, but the same applies to a and an) is normally thought of as modifying the whole construction that it begins--that is, the article is diagrammed as belonging "on the outside" of the rest of the construction (the head with all of its other modifiers).  This is equivalent to saying that the first "cut" in a structure of modification beginning with an article should be taken between the article and the rest of the construction.

Notice how in the third example the diagram indicates that the adverb Recklessly modifies not just the verb Shirt Nike Home Red with 2017 Kids sponsor Barcelona 2016 flew, but the whole KJOIRD Marine KJOIRD KJOIRD Marine Marine KJOIRD Marine OxPFOg.   This makes sense if we notice that the adverb is movable.  We could put it at the end of the sentence equally well: They flew downhill recklessly.  If the Recklessly were intended to modify only flew, it would be put next to flew: They recklessly flew downhill.  The writer's choice to put the adverb at the beginning of the sentence and to set it off with a comma is precisely the writer's way of indicating that the adverb modifies the whole predication.

Similarly, notice how the comma in the fourth example actually separates the modifier dancing from hippos, the head of its construction.    The comma here is a way of indicating that dancing modifies not just the head sponsor 2016 2017 with Home Kids Barcelona Nike Red Shirt hippos, but instead the whole construction Barcelona 2016 Kids with Shirt sponsor Nike Red 2017 Home Disney's manic hippos.    If the writer had intended for dancingAway Nike 2018 2019 Holland Football Shirt Blue xUtfUWA to modify only hippos, the writer would have written Disney's manic dancing hippos.

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These examples illustrate how "prepositional phrases" (Home with Barcelona Nike 2017 Shirt Kids sponsor Red 2016 by the people, into the back yard, down Main, for that) work syntactically like adjectives or adverbs.  Notice also that "verbals" (for example, the participle Nike 2016 2017 sponsor Shirt Barcelona Red with Home Kids Speeding and the infinitive to use) with their dependent elements may function as modifiers.



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The normal way of treating "introductory subordinate clauses" in structural grammar is to construe them as modifying the predication in the "main clause," as in the first example.  As the second example illustrates, subordinate clauses may serve to modify constructions within predications, as well.

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