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Prepositional Phrases Ed McCorduck English 402--Grammar SUNY Cortland

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1 Prepositional Phrases Ed McCorduck English 402--Grammar SUNY Cortland

2 prepositional phrase (PP) – a phrase (see slide 2 of the “Descriptive Grammar of English” chapter 2 lecture) whose head(word) is a member of the form class preposition (see the “Form Classes” chapter 2 lecture) the head preposition (P) “governs” a following noun phrase (NP) slide 2: definition of a prepositional phrase English 402: Grammar

3 exx (head Ns like this) in the house P NP to Grandma P NP (cf. to her/*to she) P NP at high noon P NP slide 3: examples of prepositional phrases English 402: Grammar through the dense, dark, creepy woods P NP for a bigger share of the loot P NP

4 When PPs function as adverbials, they are (normally) movable ex Columbus sailed the ocean blue in PP (adv of time) In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. slide 4: movability of PPs functioning as adverbials English 402: Grammar

5 slide 5: Reed-Kellogg diagrams of sentences with movable adverbial PPs English 402: Grammar In Reed-Kellogg diagrams, prepositional adverbials are all diagrammed with the PPs in predicate position, i.e., after the vertical subject/predicate dividing line, and always connected to the main verb, NOT to any objects or complements. Thus, the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the sentence Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 is as follows:

6 slide 6: example of a Reed-Kellogg diagram of a sentence with an adverbial PP English 402: Grammar

7 Notice that the only difference between the diagram for this sentence and that for Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 is that the i of the preposition in is capitalized to indicate that the whole PP of which it is the head and first word of occurs at the beginning of the surface sentence. slide 7: example of a Reed-Kellogg diagram of a sentence with a fronted adverbial PP English 402: Grammar And here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the sentence In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue:

8 When PPs function as adverbials, there may be more than one adverbial PP in a sentence ex Professor Plum did it with a blunderbuss in the conservatory at midnight. slide 8: multiple adverbial PPs in sentences English 402: Grammar

9 with a blunderbuss – adverbial of “instrument,” a.k.a. instrumental PP in the conservatory – adverbial of location PP at midnight – adverbial of time PP slide 9: example of multiple adverbial PPs in a sentence English 402: Grammar

10 slide 10: Reed-Kellogg diagrams of sentences with multiple adverbial PPs English 402: Grammar In Reed-Kellogg diagrams, multiple adverbials are all also diagrammed with the PPs in predicate position, i.e., after the vertical subject/predicate dividing line, and again always connected to the main verb, NOT to any objects or complements (in addition, their relative order doesn’t matter, though it’s generally are the same as the adverbials appear in the surface sentence). For example, the following is the diagram of the sentence Professor Plum did it with a blunderbuss in the conservatory at midnight:

11 slide 11: example of a Reed-Kellogg diagram of a sentence with multiple adverbial PPs English 402: Grammar

12 When PPs function as adverbials, the PPs may be modified exx He accosted me nearly in a frenzy. PP (adv of manner) She smacked him right upside the head. PP (adv of location) slide 12: modification of adverbial PPs in sentences English 402: Grammar

13 Similar to what we saw with exclamatory sentences (see the chapter 4 “Exclamatory Sentences” lecture), in Reed- Kellogg diagrams if the prepositional phrase is modified, its modifier will be connected via a special structure to the slanted line on which is placed the head of the modified PP. For example, here is the diagram of the sentence She smacked him right upside the head, and note how the PP modifier right is handled: slide 13: special rule for Reed-Kellogg diagrams with modified adverbial PPs English 402: Grammar

14 slide 14: example of a Reed-Kellogg diagram with a modified adverbial PP English 402: Grammar

15 Finally, care should be taken in the analysis of prepositional phrases since these can often display structural ambiguity; that is, a PP in a sentence could be analyzed a having more than one function and thus the entire containing sentence could have more than one interpretation or meaning. slide 15: PPs and structural ambiguity English 402: Grammar

16 Consider, for example, the sentence The wretch in the dungeon is miserable where the PP in the dungeon unambiguously postmodifies the wretch, and hence the PP in the dungeon is actually part of the larger noun phrase (NP) the wretch in the dungeon which itself serves as the subject of this sentence. slide 16: example of unambiguous use of a PP to postmodify a noun English 402: Grammar

17 Consider now the sentence The wretch is languishing in the dungeon where the PP in the dungeon now unambiguously serves as an adverbial (of place) for the entire, Pattern VI sentence (and thus in a Reed-Kellogg diagram would be placed below the main horizontal line on the right [predicate] side of the subject/predicate vertical dividing line). slide 17: example of unambiguous use of a PP as an adverbial English 402: Grammar

18 Finally, consider the sentence The wretch is plotting a murder in the dungeon. In this case, the PP in the dungeon could be interpreted either as postmodifying the noun murder in the larger NP a murder in the dungeon (i.e., “the wretch” intends the murder to take place in the dungeon) or as an adverbial for the whole sentence, i.e., structurally not part of the NP a murder but rather meaning that the murder is not (necessarily) intended to take place within the dungeon but only that the planning of the murder is being conducted there. slide 18: example of a structurally ambiguous PP English 402: Grammar

19 slide 19: Reed-Kellogg diagram of one interpretation of a structurally ambiguous sentence English 402: Grammar To help illustrate the source for the ambiguity of The wretch is plotting a murder in the dungeon, here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of the sentence with the intended meaning that the murder is being specifically planned to take place in the dungeon, i.e., where the PP in the dungeon is a constituent in the larger, dir obj NP a murder in the dungeon:

20 slide 20: Reed-Kellogg diagram of the other interpretation of this ambiguous sentence English 402: Grammar And here is the Reed-Kellogg diagram of The wretch is plotting a murder in the dungeon where the meaning is only that the planning is what’s happening in the dungeon, i.e., in which the PP in the dungeon functions as an adverbial:


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