Re: Sentence Adverbs

From: Mary L B Pendergraft (
Date: Thu Aug 13 1998 - 18:35:59 EDT

At 02:40 PM 8/13/98 -0700, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote in response
to Larry Swain's example of a "sentence adverb"

>Smyth (2840, 1094b) discusses sentence adverbs in a manner that leaves me
>wondering how or if they differ from particles. The subject of particles
>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
>of what a particle is and how it differs from a sentence adverb?

Well, I can't say much about a sentence adverb, and I surely won't say that
your thinking is muddled. But I can say a few things about particles and
hope that my remarks make things somewhat clearer.

Particles in some ways are a luxury. As you've said, NT Greek does just
fine with very few of them. So, if I understand your comment about the
architecture of a sentence, a particle doesn't play the same kind of role a
noun and a finite verb do, for instance. Rather, a particle colors the
tone of the sentence--distinguishing an ironic question, a genuine request
for information, and a surprised reaction, for instance. Or the little
particle TOI acts somewhat like "y'know"--the interlocutor is reminded to
pay attention, and is drawn into a sentence that may or may not have a
logical, grammatical place for him.

Now, the first particles you're likely to learn, MEN and DE, do in many
cases indicate a balance or opposition among parts of the sentence, but
that isn't the only role a particle can play.


Mary Pendergraft
Associate Professor of Classical Languages
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem NC 27109-7343
336-758-5331 (NOTE: this is a new number)

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