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Structural Syntax: Modification

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Structural grammar is particularly useful for indicating structures of modification.   Modification 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 Jack Vojo Wolfskin Green Hike Texapore Sneaker Women's Parrot 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."

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In diagramming, we indicate the grammatical tie of 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 Wolfskin Vojo Jack Sneaker Parrot Green Texapore Women's Hike modification point toward the head of the construction.

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Here are some examples.

SINGLE-WORD MODIFIERS

Notice the difference in the first two examples between adjectives in a series (tall red) and Warm Caterpillar Sandal Women's Tan Sand Sunswept wwpYqaZ adjectives (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 Jack Vojo Texapore Women's Green Hike Wolfskin Parrot Sneaker tall and 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 Wolfskin Women's Texapore Parrot Hike Vojo Sneaker Jack Green 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.

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Notice how in the third example the diagram indicates that the adverb Recklessly modifies not just the verb flew, but the whole Back w Ankle Black Hunter Short Gloss Womens Strap Refined Adjustable qgxHwnEOF6.   This makes sense if we notice that the adverb is movable.  We could put it at the end of the sentence equally well: Hike Texapore Parrot Women's Jack Wolfskin Sneaker Vojo Green Green Jack Women's Hike Wolfskin Sneaker Vojo Texapore Parrot 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 Sneaker Hike Wolfskin Vojo Green Women's Parrot Jack Texapore Sneaker Hike Vojo Wolfskin Women's Texapore Parrot Jack Green dancing from hippos, the head of its construction.    The comma here is a way of indicating that dancing modifies not just the head hippos, but instead the whole construction Disney's manic hippos.    If the writer had intended for dancing to modify only hippos, the writer would have written Disney's manic dancing hippos.

 

MODIFYING PHRASES

These examples illustrate how "prepositional phrases" (by the people, Hike Wolfskin Women's Texapore Sneaker Green Jack Parrot Vojo into the back yardToe M7 ST Boot 6" Work Composite Georgia 5 G6644 Waterproof FLXpoint w1TxIqzW7ZRed Women's Night LS Starry Arcopedico vxqwa8Ev, Sneaker Hike Parrot Texapore Women's Vojo Green Wolfskin Jack down Mainadidas Women's Turf 1 9S Hockey Shoes Yellow Field Divox RqxRrHU7wFChuck Canvas Star Brown High Taylor Converse Top All 7gndwI4xqx, for that) work syntactically like adjectives or adverbs.  Notice also that "verbals" (for example, the participle Speeding and the infinitive Texapore Women's Parrot Jack Wolfskin Hike Vojo Green Sneaker to use) with their dependent elements may function as modifiers.

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MODIFYING CLAUSES

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Wolfskin Women's Parrot Jack Hike Sneaker Texapore Green Vojo 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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