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For example, in this sentence where the subject is qualified by a clause:

The assumption that a new airport will for sure make Tudor a flight hub is highly dubious.

I thought we could move highly dubious to the head of the sentence but I forgot the general rules.

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"Highly dubious is the assumption that a new airport will for sure make Tudor a flight hub!" — I think it's called the Master Yoda Rule. –  RegDwigнt Aug 30 '10 at 2:55
    
Yeah, I am talking about this. –  ablmf Aug 30 '10 at 3:28
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Two thoughts, depending on what you are actually thinking of

Thought 1: heavy CP shift?

Maybe you don't mean moving all the way to the front of the sentence, but just farther left?

The assumption is highly dubious [that a new airport will for sure make Tudor a flight hub].

Theoretically, this is known as a "heavy CP shift" (the CP is the chunk that I bracketed). This is basically the same thing as the more common heavy NP shift. The "heaviness" is the length of the constituent chunk of words; if the phrase gets too long, it is possible to "shift" it to the right. This makes it easier to parse the sentence. There is no set rule to how long the phrase must be, but the longer it gets, the stronger the "urge" to do the shift. The shifting is constrained by constituency, so we can't just shift some portion of a phrase or shift into the middle of another phrase, we can only shift proper chunks.

Thought 2: focus?

You can move "highly dubious" to the very front of the entire sentence, but this is not done because the other portion is too long; rather, it is done if you want to focus the "highly dubious" element of the sentence. Basically, this is done in order to say that a certain element is new information or something you want to give particular attention to.

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"You can move "highly dubious" to the very front of the entire sentence," - OK, please show me a grammatical English sentence with the above meaning and the words "highly dubious" as the first two words. –  delete Aug 30 '10 at 4:04
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Ok, it basically means setting up the context so the focus is natural, and hopefully getting you to give it the right intonation in your mind. Let's say I have an old crappy car rusting on my lawn for years. I say, "The assumption that this thing can make it across the country is highly dubious." In response you say, "Highly dubious is the assumption that this car will run at all." –  Kosmonaut Aug 30 '10 at 11:51
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I don't know what the rules are, but you could say

It is a highly dubious assumption that a new airport ...

I don't think you can move "highly dubious" to the very front of the sentence:

* Highly dubious is the assumption that a new airport ...

(* here means the sentence is "highly dubious".)

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