Re: Sentence Adverbs

From: Larry Swain (
Date: Fri Aug 14 1998 - 02:50:07 EDT

> 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.
Well, let me state first that the example I gave was an attempt to answer
the question of how the animal is commonly diagrammed to help a fellow
list member make sense of it, not a discussion of the grammatical role of
the sentence. Perhaps I went too far in reporting that some working in
composition theory take such expansive adverbs and diagram them as part of
the verbal structure clouded rather than clarified. As to whether such
as discussion is a "waste of time" is to cast aspersions, unnecessarily in
my not so humble opinion, on the discussions of grammatical structures.

Further, I do think that discussing such things does in fact help us to
In an attempt to clarify, if we take a sentence adverbial and
then reconstruct its deep structure we end up with three other
possibilites which express the same semantic idea: Practically
<i>speaking</i>, or In a practical way, or in practice. The latter two
being prepositional phrases would result in a much diffeent diagram than
the one I offered, and the first one similar-except that Speaking , the
participle, would be on the main line while the adverb practically would
modify it. So the question is if the semantic, deep structure, is the
same, when we reflect on the surface structure construction, is it the
same also, should it be the same? I. E. in the example is "practically"
an adverb which in some way describes the whole sentence, or is it rather
a prepositional or adjectival phrase delimiting another major portion
of the sentence, such as the verb.

Hope that helps somewhat. I see that Mary has addressed the issue of
particles in her usual excellent manner. The only thing I'll add is that
some particles (MEN, DE, GAR etc) have a conjunctive value (frequently
anyway) and other particles have adverbial senses etc....that is they
don't quite fit as a class in the traditional parts of speech but they
often function in a way that can be described by one of those traditional

Larry Swain

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