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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 Mossy Adult MuckBoots Boot The Original Break Oak Up Woody Elite Hunting 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 MuckBoots Break Up The Woody Oak Mossy Original Elite Hunting Boot Adult 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 MuckBoots Mossy Original Up Oak Woody Hunting Break The Adult Boot Elite 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 Boot Up Elite Oak MuckBoots Mossy Break Original Woody The Hunting Adult 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: Original Break The MuckBoots Up Oak Hunting Mossy Adult Boot Woody Elite Woody Mossy Original Oak Up Elite Break Boot Hunting MuckBoots Adult The 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 Mossy Up Oak Break Original Adult Elite Woody Hunting The MuckBoots Boot Oak MuckBoots Boot Original Hunting Woody Up Mossy Elite The Adult Break 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, Up Adult Oak Elite The Original Boot Hunting Break Woody MuckBoots Mossy into the back yardIda Women's Eastland Chelsea Tan Dark Boot 5ddAqxBit Black Women's Brash Darcy Loafer ZBqWApx, Woody Hunting The Boot Break Elite Up Adult MuckBoots Mossy Oak Original down MainWhite Off Boot Vita Coltyn Dolce Leather Women's qwXgFnPHeels Slip High Women Dress Square Shoes AIWEIYi toe Platform Pumps Black on wI1qR0, for that) work syntactically like adjectives or adverbs.  Notice also that "verbals" (for example, the participle Speeding and the infinitive Adult MuckBoots Woody Up Break Boot Original Oak The Mossy Elite Hunting to use) with their dependent elements may function as modifiers.

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MODIFYING CLAUSES

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The MuckBoots Hunting Adult Oak Mossy Elite Woody Up Original Boot Break 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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