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Russet leaves were swept by past winds in heaps.

(Original sentence: "Russet leaves, swept by past winds in heaps."— Jane Eyre)

‘In heaps’ can be called as a ‘positional’ complement for verb phrase (were swept), yet it’s not an argument for the verb phrase. And if we regarded the verb phrase as a copular, ‘in heaps’ could be called as a semantic complement for the subject (russet leaves). So ‘in heaps’ may be called as a subject complement. Is this a possible view?

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It's a resultative phrase. It describes the results of sweeping; into would also be correct. I don't understand the rest of your terminology; it's probably peculiar to your English textbook. There is a lot of variation in terminology, because many authors merely copy others, and lots of authors don't understand English grammar. –  John Lawler Feb 18 '13 at 3:33
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Those are not terms that will be useful outside a very small set of people who've used the same textbook. Unless one has a test to determine whether Constituent X has Property Y or not, names are useless. –  John Lawler Feb 18 '13 at 4:39
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Sorting out the terminology is a big problem, all right. I try to use mine consistently, and explain what I mean by example; that's about the best one can do. The fact is that everybody makes up their own terminology, because everybody makes up their own language. What you think of as a Noun Phrase is no doubt different in many ways from what I think of as a Noun Phrase, because how you think and talk is different from the way I think and talk. About anything, not just language. –  John Lawler Feb 18 '13 at 16:21
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I'm not sure I even understand this question, but I still think it's Too Localised. It seems to be asking us whether it's reasonable to categorise a specific usage according to some classification framework that's neither well-established nor clearly defined. –  FumbleFingers Feb 18 '13 at 21:17
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I think I vaguely recall the term "subject complement" as being what one called predicate adjectives and NPs after be. Things like a doctor in Bill's a doctor. I believe the theory was that it couldn't be a direct object because be is intransitive (which is true); and that it had to be something like an object because it was a noun (which is not true). Since it was therefore (officially, at least) in the Nominative Case, it was variously called a "predicate nominative" or a "subject complement", and there was a slanted object-like line for it in sentence diagramming. –  John Lawler Feb 19 '13 at 21:02

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Many might see it simply as an Adverbial, or, in functional grammar terms, a Circumstance.

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