Re: Sentence Adverbs

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Thu Aug 13 1998 - 17:40:22 EDT

Larry Swain wrote:
> Maybe this will help: if you actually are diagramming the sentence, the
> sentence adverbial would go in front of the subject.
> Like this: (which is an off the cuff example so probably not the best,
> but perhaps you'll get the idea)
> Practically, to use a lexicon is best.
> Practically/to use/is/best
> \
> lexicon
> \
> a
> Not the best example, but I hope it helps. Further, it has been argued
> that a sentence adverbial could be read as modifying the verb since that
> carries the main idea of the sentence, but I like the other way better.


If a sentence adverb you give as an example above clearly limits the semantic
value of the verbal idea in the sentence. I suppose that it is a waste of time
to argue about whether it limits only the verb or the whole clause.

Smyth (2840, 1094b) discusses sentence adverbs in a manner that leaves me
wondering how or if they differ from particles. The subject of particles seems
to be a very murky one, the definitions vary substantially depending on who's
grammar you are reading.

For the sake of argument let us say that an adverb will always limit the
semantic substance of a clause, where as a particle is used more to form the
architecture of the sentence. The adverb changes the sense, where as a
particle provides relational information about how elements in a clause work
together syntactically.

Perhaps this is forcing a unjustifiably restrictive definition on the term
particle. I know that J. D. Denniston defines particles in a manner which
includes both semantic and structural kinds of functions. If a particle can
"intensify" some element in the clause then one would be justified in saying
that the semantic value of the clause has been modified by the particle, not
just the architecture.

My thinking on this is clearly muddled. Anyone want to give a clear definition
of what a particle is and how it differs from a sentence adverb?

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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