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    #1

    "At least" as adverb modifying nouns

    For whatever reason, I do not see "at least" among lists of adverbs that can modify pronouns or nouns. But I think it can modify both nouns and VERY OBVIOUSLY pronouns and probably should be placed, like "only," close to what it limits.

    My question is whether "at least" modifies the nouns in situation A). B) is a slam dunk.

    In the situation below, I would argue "at least" actually limits "Jessica and Molly" but not the verb.

    A) Which of them earned degrees?

    At least Jessica and Molly earned them.

    It does not seem "earned" is being limited at all here.

    ------

    I see no difference between that and this:

    B) At least some of the men have beards.

    "At least" is modifying indefinite pronoun "some," not "have."

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    #2

    Re: "At least" as adverb modifying nouns

    Sorryk, kiddo -

    It's an adverb phrase, telling to what extent.

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    #3

    Re: "At least" as adverb modifying nouns

    I would really appreciate a response on this.


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    #4

    Re: "At least" as adverb modifying nouns

    An interesting question, but, despite appearances, an adverb can, by definition, never directly modify a substantive (i.e. noun or pronoun). Adverbs are a complex category of modifier, and the scope of their modification can range from the highly specific - relating directly to the verb phrase (adverbial adjuncts) - or extremely general, applying perhaps to an entire sentence (adverbial disjuncts). Modifiers such as 'at least', falling roughly halfway in between the two extremes cited above, are often classified as adverbial subjuncts, so called essentially on account of their split syntactic allegiance to the verb phrase (to which they are consequently considered to be merely 'subjoined', hence the name) on the one hand, and, on the other, to some other clause element, which constitutes the specific focus of the restriction that they denote (which may be a substantive). Full details, if you have the time and inclination to peruse them, are to be found in the chapter 'Syntax and Semantics of the Adverbial' in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (R. Quirk et al.).
    Last edited by philo2009; 29-Mar-2009 at 12:46.

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