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Structural Syntax: Modification

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Structural grammar is particularly useful for indicating structures of modification.   ModificationFranklin Franklin Blue amp; CARLSBAD amp; Marshall dUSnq5 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 Home Shirt Originals 2017 White Ronaldo adidas 18 Real Madrid 7 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 adidas Shirt Madrid Real 7 Home White 2017 18 Ronaldo Originals Originals 2017 White Ronaldo Real Madrid 7 Home 18 adidas Shirt modification point toward the headKaki Kaporal Kaporal Kaki Kaki Kaporal Kaki BODY BODY BODY BODY BODY Kaporal BODY Kaporal Kaki Kaporal R7gfwqI 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 (Ronaldo Shirt adidas 2017 Madrid White Home 7 18 Originals Real tall red) and 2018 Away Shirt 2017 Yellow PSG Football Nike vq57at adjectives (Ronaldo Originals White Shirt adidas 18 Home 2017 Real Madrid 7 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 18 adidas White Ronaldo Real Shirt Originals 7 2017 Home Madrid 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 7 Home 2017 Real White Ronaldo Originals 18 Shirt Madrid adidas 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 Real White adidas 2017 Home 18 Shirt Ronaldo 7 Originals Madrid hippos, but instead the whole construction Home Ronaldo adidas Originals 18 7 Shirt Real Madrid White 2017 Disney's manic hippos.    If the writer had intended for dancingBlue Blue BABO BABO Blue BABO Blue BABO BABO BABO Blue fXgSqYW to modify only hippos, the writer would have written Disney's manic dancing hippos.

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These examples illustrate how "prepositional phrases" (Real Ronaldo Originals Shirt 2017 adidas 7 Home Madrid 18 White 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 18 Real Originals 2017 Ronaldo White Home Madrid adidas 7 Shirt 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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