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Thread: modification

  1. #1
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default modification

    The sentence:

    His music is not impossible to understand on the basic level for a Russian or French person.

    About "for a Russian or French person", which does it modify, "the basic level" or "impossible"?

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    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: modification

    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    The sentence:

    His music is not impossible to understand on the basic level for a Russian or French person.

    About "for a Russian or French person", which does it modify, "the basic level" or "impossible"?
    This is an interesting problem. It is not uncommon to run into difficulties with serial prepositional phrases and other modifiers.

    I would say that logically the phrase modifies "impossible" and that it is, therefore, misplaced in the sentence.

    I would prefer His music is not impossible for a Russian or French person
    to understand on the basic level.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: modification

    You could also shove 'on the basic level' to the start of the sentence.

  4. #4
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: modification

    Thank you, teachers!

  5. #5
    wunaide Guest

    Default Re: modification


    The sentence:

    His music is not impossible to understand on the basic level for a Russian or French person.

    About "for a Russian or French person", which does it modify, "the basic level" or "impossible"?
    The phrase "for a Russian or French person" does not modify anything and is not part of any modifying element.

    Modification is used to specify the characteristics of a "Thing". (Note that the word Thing refers to the functional element of the clause and not to the physical entity or entities designated by the specific nomenclature.)

    For example, in the following (Imperative) clauses, the Thing is "books", which has been shown having undergone progressively more modification. This type of modification is known as Premodification (pre - before the "thing") and is done according to the conventional ordering of the various categories of Premodifier in English.

    Give me the books!
    Premodification of books using the deictic the

    Give me the two books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two

    Give me the two red books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two + the epithet red

    Give me the two red English books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two + the epithet red + the classifier English

    As can be seen above, Premodification results in expansion of the Nominal Group (the books becomes the two red English books).

    A characteristic of English is that one can also postmodify Nominal Groups. This is done by addition of an embedded clause from which "that" may or may not be ellipted.

    For example, in the Clause Complex

    Give me the two big red English books (that) I lent you yesterday!

    the Embedded Clause "(that) I lent you yesterday" postmodifies the Nominal Group "the two red English books" (which of course also contains the already mentions predomifications).

    (Why do we refer to this as an "Embedded Clause? - because the Verbal Group it contains has no relevance to any "action" or "event", and is concerned only with modification. This might be something that is very important for students to take note of. Compare the function of the Verbal Group (lent) in the two clauses I lent you books yesterday with give me the books that I lent you yesterday. The first refers directly to an "action" or "event"; the second does not.)


    I refer back to the original sentence:

    His music is not impossible to understand on the basic level for a Russian or French person.

    This is a single clause and involves an A is B type construction (A Relational Attributive Clause - an R.A. Clause -for the pedantic such as myself). More meaning can be imbued into the clause by providing "circumstances" under which the proposition governed by the Verbal Group holds true. In this case, the Circumstances are on the basic level and for a Russian or French person.

    That is

    A (His music)
    is
    B ( not impossible to understand; B in this case also contains embedding)
    + The Circumstances (on the basic level; for a Russian or French person).

    Thus for a Russian or French person and on the basic level are functionally equivalent in the sentence, and give information about the Verbal Group is.

    (To check this try:

    His music is - on the basic level, for a Russian or French person - not impossible to understand.

    Here you can quite clearly see the role of the Circumstance(s), which is to provide information relating to the Verbal Group. Although this is probably more representative of spoken rather than written English, the functional relationships are clear.)

    Another writer might prefer a structurally different approach. For example in the offering

    His music is not impossible for a Russian or French person
    to understand on the basic level.


    there are two clauses.


    1. His music is not impossible for a Russian or French person
    Finite Independent R.A. (A is B) Clause
    (The Circumstance for a Russian or French Person gives information about the Verbal Group is.)

    2. to understand on the basic level.
    Nonfinite Clause
    (The Circumstance on the basic level gives information about the Verbal Group to understand.)

    It's for the reader and/or writer to decide which particular arrangement renders the highest degree of clarity.
    Last edited by wunaide; 03-Nov-2004 at 03:10.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: modification

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    You could also shove 'on the basic level' to the start of the sentence.
    That is also good.

  7. #7
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: modification

    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    Thank you, teachers!
    You're welcome, Taka.

  8. #8
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: modification

    Quote Originally Posted by wunaide
    The phrase "for a Russian or French person" does not modify anything and is not part of any modifying element.

    Modification is used to specify the characteristics of a "Thing". (Note that the word Thing refers to the functional element of the clause and not to the physical entity or entities designated by the specific nomenclature.)

    For example, in the following (Imperative) clauses, the Thing is "books", which has been shown having undergone progressively more modification. This type of modification is known as Premodification (pre - before the "thing") and is done according to the conventional ordering of the various categories of Premodifier in English.

    Give me the books!
    Premodification of books using the deictic the

    Give me the two books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two

    Give me the two red books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two + the epithet red

    Give me the two red English books!
    ...using the deictic the + the numerative two + the epithet red + the classifier English

    As can be seen above, Premodification results in expansion of the Nominal Group (the books becomes the two red English books).

    A characteristic of English is that one can also postmodify Nominal Groups. This is done by addition of an embedded clause from which "that" may or may not be ellipted.

    For example, in the Clause Complex

    Give me the two big red English books (that) I lent you yesterday!

    the Embedded Clause "(that) I lent you yesterday" postmodifies the Nominal Group "the two red English books" (which of course also contains the already mentions predomifications).

    (Why do we refer to this as an "Embedded Clause? - because the Verbal Group it contains has no relevance to any "action" or "event", and is concerned only with modification. This might be something that is very important for students to take note of. Compare the function of the Verbal Group (lent) in the two clauses I lent you books yesterday with give me the books that I lent you yesterday. The first refers directly to an "action" or "event"; the second does not.)


    I refer back to the original sentence:

    His music is not impossible to understand on the basic level for a Russian or French person.

    This is a single clause and involves an A is B type construction (A Relational Attributive Clause - an R.A. Clause -for the pedantic such as myself). More meaning can be imbued into the clause by providing "circumstances" under which the proposition governed by the Verbal Group holds true. In this case, the Circumstances are on the basic level and for a Russian or French person.

    That is

    A (His music)
    is
    B ( not impossible to understand; B in this case also contains embedding)
    + The Circumstances (on the basic level; for a Russian or French person).

    Thus for a Russian or French person and on the basic level are functionally equivalent in the sentence, and give information about the Verbal Group is.

    (To check this try:

    His music is - on the basic level, for a Russian or French person - not impossible to understand.

    Here you can quite clearly see the role of the Circumstance(s), which is to provide information relating to the Verbal Group. Although this is probably more representative of spoken rather than written English, the functional relationships are clear.)

    Another writer might prefer a structurally different approach. For example in the offering



    there are two clauses.


    1. His music is not impossible for a Russian or French person
    Finite Independent R.A. (A is B) Clause
    (The Circumstance for a Russian or French Person gives information about the Verbal Group is.)

    2. to understand on the basic level.
    Nonfinite Clause
    (The Circumstance on the basic level gives information about the Verbal Group to understand.)

    It's for the reader and/or writer to decide which particular arrangement renders the highest degree of clarity.
    That is an interesting and detailed analysis. I'm not sure why you toook issue with the word "modifier". By definition, prepositional phreases are modifiers. You have used the words "gives information about" and that is one function of a modifier.

    I live in a house on a hill. "On a hill" gives information about/modifies "House".

    I agree that "on the basic level" is connected to "to understand". As an infinitive, "to understand" can take adverbial modifiers and I would consider "on the basic level" to be an adverbial modifier of "to understand".

    You seem to be making a case that "for a Russian or French person" modifies the linking verb "is". I think, however, that it is more logical to see the prepositional phrase as limiting the range of what is "not impossible". In that sense, I would describe the phrase as modifying "impossible". Others, of course, will see things a bit differently.

    Also, I agree that some people see "to understand on a basic level" as a non-finite clause. Others would call it an infinitive phrase.

  9. #9
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: modification

    I totally agree with Mike.

    (By the way, Mike, could you answer this trivial question?)
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/sh...5275#post45275

  10. #10
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    Default Re: modification

    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    I totally agree with Mike.

    (By the way, Mike, could you answer this trivial question?)
    http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/sh...5275#post45275
    It has been done.

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