1. Yes, direct object of the main verb.
2. I would call that an adverbial phrase.
Interested in Language
A softer attitude can reduce the intensity of bad feelings and confrontations, especially on controversial issues.
1) Is "the intensity of bad feelings and confrontations" a noun phrase functioning as direct object in this sentence?
2) Help me in understanding what phrase is "especially on controversial issues" ?
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
Great question, Elitez:
First, let's do what my teachers taught me when analyzing a sentence: simplify it.
Let's work on "A softer attitude can reduce the intensity of confrontations, especially on controversial issues."
Do you see what I think I see?
If I understand Professor Quirk's huge book, "especially [confrontations] on conversial issues" is a noun phrase that is in apposition with "confrontations."
Professor Quirk gives this sentence: "We want to invite a number of friends, especially Joan and Betty."
He (and his colleagues) say that "an explicit indicator" [such as "especially"] shows "that the particularization [pointing to Joan and Betty] has been chosen because it is in some way prominent." [That is, "We" really, really want Joan and Betty to come to our party above all our other friends.]
By the way, let's change your sentence to the passive.
We get: "The intensity of confrontations, especially [confrontations] on controversial issues, can be reduced by a softer attitude."
In my opinion (opinion), it seems pretty clear that "especially [confrontations] on controversial issues" is in apposition [a relationship] with "confrontations."
Finally, here's a sentence that I copied in my notebook several years. (Sorry that I did not note the source): "I asked him about the discrepancy [difference] between his approach and the White House's [approach], especially on the soda tax."
In my opinion, "especially on the soda tax" is in apposition with "discrepancy."
Let's try the passive "test": "The discrepancy, especially [the discrepancy] on the soda tax, between his approach and the White House's was asked of him by me."
Credit: IF my idea is essentially correct, most credit goes to Quirk and his three colleagues in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985), page 1316. Credit also goes to a result on the Web (which I forgot to write down) that a prepositional phrase can be an appositive because there is an understood subject. Fof example, "especially on controversial topics" must have the understood noun "confrontations" as the subject. So "especially [confrontations] on controversial topics" is, therefore, a noun phrase in apposition with the "confrontations" that actually appears in your sentence.
Last edited by TheParser; 21-Nov-2015 at 17:08.
In the sentence I have posted "especially" is an adverb(adverb of degree) so can a noun phrase start with an adverb? Can anyone please explain this?
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
I am replying to address only your general question: Can an adverb come before a noun phrase?
The answer is absolutely YES.
There's the example that I cited in post #3: "We want to invite a number of friends, especially Joan and Betty."
Here are some more examples from the same book (and same page):
a. "The book contains some fascinating passages, notably an account of their trip to North Africa."
b. "The children like the animals, particularly the monkeys."
P.S. It's not really important, but I just thought that you would like to know that some grammarians do not consider such adverbs to be those of degree. They prefer to use the term adverbs of particularization.
especially confrontations on controversial topics
especially on controversial topics
on controversial topics
None of those is a noun phrase. Quirk et al do not claim that any of them are. The following two are noun phrases:
confrontations on controversial topics
If you are referring to 'especially confrontations on controversial topics', then the head word is 'especially', an adverb. It is, therefore, in my opinion, an adverb phrase.