***** NOT A TEACHER *****
(1) Congratulations! Your very first post at usingenglish.com is awesome.
(2) Most of us ordinary native speakers never pay attention to this matter.
(3) I think that I have found the answer to your last two questions. I have a book entitled Making Sense of Grammar by
Dr. John Clark Jordan. It was published in 1980 by Teachers College, Columbia University. (Pages 100 -101)
(a) Consider: "Hearing a step, I turned." Dr. Clark does not agree with most (high school-level?) books that teach us to
analyze "hearing a step" as modifying (referring) to "I." Just as you suggested, Dr. Clark asks this question:
"So what does Hearing a step, I turned mean? Was it when I heard a step, after I heard a step, because I heard a step,
that I turned?"
(b) Dr. Clark also agrees with you that native speakers often add a conjunction in order to make the meaning more "accurate"
(exact?). He says that "Crossing the street, I fell down" is often changed to "While crossing the street, I fell down" and "I
stopped at Macy's [department store] going to town" becomes "I stopped at Macy's when going to town."
(c) I found this in the first volume of Dr. George Oliver Curme's A Grammar of the English Language (page 210):
"Going downtown I met an old friend." Dr. Curme says that it equals "As I was going downtown, I met an old friend."
(d) And two experts, Mesdames Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, in their 1983 edition of The Grammar Book (pages 449 and 453)
published by Newbury House Publishers give these interesting examples (I have edited them a bit because of length):
"Laughing and unable to answer the teacher, Tom was sent to the office." The two scholars feel that this comes from
"Because Tom was laughing and unable ...." And the sentence "Torn beyond recognition, my mother's letter was delivered
to me" comes from "After my mother's letter had been torn beyond ...."
(e) The two scholars also give this interesting information:
"Listening to some soft music, I was able to fall asleep."
The scholars say that we can make that sentence less ambiguous this way:
"By listening to some ...." = cause-effect relationship.
"Whlle listening to some ...." = simultaneity [a big word for doing two things at the same time].
(4) I guess that "Walking down 15th Street, I still ran into Jake" could be interpreted as "Although I was walking down 15th
Street instead of 11th Street, I still had the misfortune to run into Jake."
I am sure that everyone here at usingenglish.com looks forward to more challenging (difficult) questions from you.
Have a nice day!
Interested in Language