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  1. #1
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    Question pure manner adverb?

    Dear all,
    I am currently preparing a PhD-thesis in linguistics that mainly deals with a class of certain adverbs in Russian and Polish, and I wonder, if some mechanisms that exist in these languages can be applied to other languages as well.
    That is why I would like to ask some native speakers of English, if a construction like (1) is correct or not:
    (1) John shouted at the children angrily, but actually he was not angry at all.
    Analogous constructions would be possible in Russian, Polish, and German, where the adverb (angrily) would be interpreted as a pure manner adverb so that the sentence in (1) would have a reading like John shouted at them in an angry manner, i.e. When he shouted at them, John only pretended to be angry. I am aware of the fact that probably no native speaker of English would use a construction like (1) to express this - rather, what I am interested in is, whether such a construction is acceptable / gramatically correct or not.
    Another question is, if the word order somehow affects the correctness of this construction. So, is there a difference in the acceptability of (1) and (2)?
    (2) John angrily shouted at the children, but actually he was not angry at all.
    And, a last question, what about (3)?
    (3) *John angrily read the review of his book, but actually he was not angry at all.
    I've read that a construction like (3) is not acceptable in English (indicated by *), because it is not possible to imagine a pure manner reading of the adverb in this sentence, i.e. one cannot imagine that John only read the review of his book in an angry manner (without actually being angry) or that he pretended to read it in an angry manner. Is this true?
    Thank you very much in advance!

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Hello Punkache, welcome to Using English!

    I understand your question in the following way. Can this sentence:

    1. John shouted at the children angrily, but actually...

    be interpreted thus in English:

    2. John shouted at the children in an angry fashion, but actually...

    rather than thus:

    3. John shouted at the children in anger, but actually...

    In this instance, my answer would be "no"; nor would word order affect the interpretation.

    There may be other adjectives that can be used in this way, though; at the moment I can't think of any, but perhaps another member can!

    All the best,

    MrP

  3. #3
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Hello MrPedantic,
    thank you for your answer. Yes, my question was if
    (1) John shouted at the children angrily, but actually he was not angry at all.
    is understood as He shouted at them in an angry fashion, but... or if it is completely senseless (which would be the case, if you say that angrily must be interpreted as in anger; a sentence like John shouted at the children in anger, but he was not angry at all contradicts itself).
    As I wrote, in some other languages, such constructions are possible and the adverbs in these constructions can interpreted in a way that they contain only information about the fashion/manner in which the event took place, but no information about the entity the subject refers to. These constructions surely sound somewhat weird and one probably would not actually use them, but, nevertheless, a sentence like (1) would be correct in Polish or German.
    When you write that angrily in (1) cannot be interpreted as providing only information about the manner/fashion in which the event took place, but that it necessarily also contains information about John's psychological state, do you mean that it is really not possible at all, under no circumstances? Or do you rather mean that such an interpretation seems very weird (but there might be some contexts in which you can imagine that such an interpretation is possible)?
    Best regards,
    punkache

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by punkache View Post
    When you write that angrily in (1) cannot be interpreted as providing only information about the manner/fashion in which the event took place, but that it necessarily also contains information about John's psychological state, do you mean that it is really not possible at all, under no circumstances? Or do you rather mean that such an interpretation seems very weird (but there might be some contexts in which you can imagine that such an interpretation is possible)?
    Hello Punkache,

    On reflection, there might be occasions where context neutralises the "psychological" information. For instance, suppose you caught a 10-year-old relative in the act of drawing suggestive pictures in condensation. You might say:

    "I caught little Johnny drawing some very strange pictures on the steamed-up bathroom mirror yesterday."
    "Really? What did you say?"
    "I looked very stern, and spoke to him very angrily, and told him he must never do it again."

    Here, the context (the conversation as a whole) shows that the first speaker doesn't take the drawing of suggestive pictures very seriously; he was only feigning anger.

    That said, there's nothing in the phrase "I spoke to him very angrily" to suggest "feigned anger"; the reader must infer it.

    All the best,

    MrP

  5. #5
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Thank you very much for these helpful comments!
    Do you others all agree or does anyone have a different view?

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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by punkache
    ... what I am interested in is, whether such a construction is acceptable / gramatically correct or not.
    All three are acceptable and grammatically correct, given context, as Mr P notes.


    Semantics, well, that's different. With adverb placement, scope is a factor. Place the adverb close to the verb, (2), and the manner in which John shouted becomes the primary focus.
    (2a) John angrily shouted at the children.

    Add in a subodinate clause negating the manner, and the semantic result is contradiction: we are not all that convinced John wasn't angry at the time. That is, the reader/listener might be thinking, Why place focus on angrily shouted then negate it? It's a contradiction. And that's how it reads:
    (2b) John angrily shouted at the children, but actually he was not angry at all. (Really?)
    The subordiante clause, even though it states the opposite of what the main clause states, serves to support the idea that John was angry at the time. Topic is paramount--be careful of phrase-level or sentence-level stress, also called emphasis. It functions the same way; e.g., John shouted angrily ...; John shouted at the children angrily. Both adverbs, irrespective of position, both are in non-topic slots, function as topic holders.


    Let's now look at non-topic positions. Place an adverb away from its verb, especially in a non-topic position (1), and unemphasized, and the semantics change somewhat.
    (1) John shouted at the children, angrily, but actually he was not angry at all.
    The adverb sits at the end of the main clause. Thus: primary focus is on what John did (John shouted at the children); secondary focus is on how John did it (John did it angrily). The result, the meaning housed in the subordinate clause is a tad more believable now. It's possible that John was indeed not angry at the time. In other words, the closer the adverb is to its verb, the closer related the two; the more distant the adverb from its verb, the more room for interpretation.


    Note on the ungrammaticality of (3), first, it's (potentially) semantically awkward, not ungrammatical. Use this symbol ?,
    (3) ?John angrily read the review of his book, but actually he was not angry at all.
    Second, I don't know the argument or context in which the author was using that sentence, so for the time being, it's not possible for me to say whether or not (3) is semantically unacceptable. Context plays a major role. In the meantime, what I can offer you is this. If John is reading the review aloud, then yes, I can imagine him doing it, pretending to be angry. Why not? Actors often get directions like that from their directors. If, on the other hand, John is reading the review to himself, the meaning I get is similar to the one in (2b). It's a contradition.

    In short, place an adverb in focus, next to its verb, and no matter what follows to negate it, it serves only to negate itself, as in (2b).

    What are your thoughts?

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    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    The adverb sits at the end of the main clause. Thus: primary focus is on what John did (John shouted at the children); secondary focus is on how John did it (John did it angrily). The result, the meaning housed in the subordinate clause is a tad more believable now.
    <thumbs up>

    MrP

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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    Yes, focus is indeed a good idea. I did not yet consider the impact of focus on my Polish and Russian examples, but I think I soon am going to do this systematically.
    As you were asking about the context in which such constructions were discussed: The main impulses for me to bother you with these questions come from a PhD-thesis on "Oriented adverbs" (you can find it at http://w210.ub.uni-tuebingen.de/dbt/...oriadverbs.pdf) and even more from an article in a linguistic periodical. If you are interested:Schultze-Berndt, E. & N.P. Himmelmann 2004: Depictive secondary predicates in crosslinguistic perspective. In: Linguistic Typology 8, 59-131
    Thanks a lot for the inspiration!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: pure manner adverb?

    You're most welcome, punkache, and thank you for the links; however, the second I read the words "Oriented adverbs" I knew you were dealing with semantic scope. It's basic linguistics, you know--well, at least the North American kind.

    All the best, and good luck with your arguments. If you need further help, no matter how simple or stupid you may think the question might be, please ask, ask, and ask again.

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