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Thread: REALLY dead?

  1. #1
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default REALLY dead?

    Martha: I hear that X died last week.

    Tom: Oh, no!!! Is he REALLY dead?

    (Regular order for diagramming: He is REALLY dead.)

    I think that some teachers would suggest that we diagram "really"

    as an adverb modifying "is." (I guess we definitely could not diagram

    it as modifying "dead" because one is either dead or not dead.)

    If I understand correctly a scholarly paper I read on the Web,

    it seems to suggest that "really" modifies the whole sentence. That is,

    "really" = it is a fact/ in reality, etc.

    For example, one sometimes hears this:

    Martha: I hear that X died last week.

    Tom: For real? (Is that a real, true fact?)

    I would appreciate your views.

    THANK YOU

  2. #2
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    Interesting.

    I think you could diagram it various ways.

  3. #3
    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    I think it's simpler to say "REALLY" modifies the (predicate) adjective "dead".

    Some might quarrel, pointing out that one cannot be unreally dead, but that's the whole point of the shocking news -- a la Chomsky, universal grammar trumps uncertain semantics jarred out of synch by the shock.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    it as modifying "dead" because one is either dead or not dead.)
    We do have things like half/nearly, etc, dead, though.

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    Interesting.

    I think you could diagram it various ways.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Editor Tdol, Teacher Antonson, Member Abaka,


    (1) How exciting to find other fans of really, which is really

    my favorite word, really!

    (2) My books do not say much about it, and I have found only one

    scholarly article on the Web. (There are some other scholarly articles,

    but they require payment. I am not that interested in the word!!!)

    (3) Briefly, I have learned two key points:

    (a) Most experts agree that it is often difficult (impossible) to

    know what really is really modifying.

    (b) I recently came across a "rule" that I have decided to follow:

    If really goes with the flow of the sentence, then analyze it as modifying an element in the sentence.

    If really interrupts the flow, then it can be said to modify the whole sentence. In other words, a so-called disjunct (sentence modifier).

    I give the credit for this wonderful "rule" to The AMA Handbook of Business Writing by Mr. Kevin Wilson.

    He gives this sentence:

    I don't really care. He says that really goes with the flow [when you say it aloud], so analyze it as modifying care.

    He does not give an example of interrupting, but he does say it is usually set off by a comma(s).

    Here is only my example:

    Tom: Mona and I are getting a divorce.

    Martha: Why?

    Tom: For the welfare of the children.

    Martha: I don't believe you. C'mon, Tom. We're friends. Tell me:

    What REALLY happened?

    In my opinion, there is a slight pause before and after really (oral

    commas). Thus, I believe it is an example of interrupting the flow.

    It is the same as: Really, what happened?


    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    P.S. Notice, however, how really goes with the flow here:

    George: What happened down the street yesterday? I hear there

    was a robbery.

    Tina: I was so busy cooking yesterday that I didn't pay attention to

    anything else, so I don't know what really happened down the street.

    (I would simply say that really goes with the flow. So it modifies happened.)

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    It is a tricky one. On balance, I think it would normally mean 'Is it true that he's dead., but I disagree with the notion that we cannot modify dead- while it is a binary thing, we do modify it for effect: They poisoned, stabbed, shot him, weighted the body and dropped it in the shark-infested sea- he's very dead, ad there are degrees as people fall sick and approach it, or have serious injuries etc. While the act of dying is clear, the approach or avoiding it give room for modification.

  7. #7
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: REALLY dead?

    I agree with you, Tidol.

    There is the matter of style. Syntax does not have to enslave a mind. It has been pointed out that a perfectly nonsensical sentence can be diagrammed.

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