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I just recently learned about predicative adjunct which is present in the following sentence by the "ready to race" adjectival phrase. I wonder whether the phrase that functions as a predicative adjunct is actually part of the predicand, or the sentence?

John, ready to race, started the car.

I'm asking whether "ready to race" should be considered part of the subject "John" or whether it's a phrase that interrupts the flow of the sentence.

I'm comparing this with the following sentence, which has a relative clause:

John, who was ready to race, started the car.

which, as far as I know, considers the relative clause "who was ready to race" as part of the noun "John".

More technically, if we're discussing in Penn Treebank parse tree format, would it be parsed as the following first option or the second?

(S
  (NP (NNP John)
    (, ,)
    (ADJP (JJ ready)
      (S
        (VP (TO to)
          (VB race))))
    (, ,))
  (VP (VBD started)
    (NP (DT the) (NN car)))
  (. .))
(S
  (NP (NNP John))
  (, ,)
  (ADJP (JJ ready)
    (S
      (VP (TO to)
        (VB race))))
  (, ,)
  (VP (VBD started)
    (NP (DT the) (NN car)))
  (. .))
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    It's just a nonrestrictive relative clause ("John, who was ready to race"), reduced with Whiz-Deletion. In terms of parsing, it modifies the noun John, just like the nonrestrictive relative does. Losing a dummy subject and auxiliary hardly qualifies for a new question-begging name, though if you wanna call these "predicative adjuncts", feel free. But you're gonna hafta explain the term every time you use it, because nobody will identify precisely this structure with the name. – John Lawler Sep 1 '14 at 4:26
  • I see, so it's a non-restrictive relative clause with a deletion. So it means it behaves the same as a non-restrictive relative clause, right? – justhalf Sep 1 '14 at 4:33
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    @Kris: So, any examples come to mind? – justhalf Sep 1 '14 at 8:18
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    The snag with the whiz-deletion analysis is that the 'absolute adjectival phrase' can be fronted (Ready to race, John started the car. // Happy with his lolly, Billy didn't see John's exhaust drop off.) A 'being / be deletion' would work here. But I still call them absolute adjective phrases (and they can consist of a single long word: Flabbergasted, John walked back to the pits). – Edwin Ashworth Sep 1 '14 at 8:48
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    When its complementizers, subjects, and auxiliaries get deleted, there is less structure to bind verb phrases to the nouns their clause modifies, and they can float like adverb phrases. That's how adverb phrases are formed, in fact. Don't forget, this is a non-restrictive relative, which is already parenthetical, like adverbs, and it can niche in many of the usual adverbial places. Sentence-initial is prime for this, of course. – John Lawler Sep 1 '14 at 16:16
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James McCawley, in his book on English grammar The Syntactic Phenomena of English, argues that such appositive constructions, though they go next to noun phrases, are not part of those phrases. He calls them "adposits". He gives a variety of evidence, not much of which I can recall at the moment, but one thing I think is that the NP plus adposit cannot act as antecedent for a pronoun (as you would expect if the adposit really were part of the NP that it occurs next to). And he argues that adposits are not even a part of the sentence whose words they occur amidst. He would have agreed with your characterization that the phrase interrupts the flow of the sentence, since he remarks that the pitch of the last word preceding the adposit is continued by the next word following the adposit. That is, the intonation of the sentence is as you would expect it to be if the adposit were not present.

The constituent structure of adposits, McCawley argues, requires discontinuous constituents, and so it cannot be represented in a parsing diagram like the one you give.

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    +1 A great post, thank you for that (would be better if you can get the actual quote from the book, though). But regarding the argument for interruption based on the intonation, actually it has the same intonation pattern as "John, who was ready to race, started the car." So I think it doesn't follow necessarily from the intonational pattern alone. I think this is a case of whiz-deletion as mentioned by Edwin Ashworth. – justhalf Jan 20 '15 at 5:23
  • justhalf, McCawley's theory covers all appositive constructions, including the non-restrictive relative of your example, and irrespective of whether WHIZ is involved. – Greg Lee Jan 22 '15 at 1:28
  • My point is precisely because I think non restrictive clause like "John, who was ready to race, started the car" can be regarded as part of the subject noun. So even if adposit covers both cases, there must be something that distinguish them, namely, I believe, the whiz deletion. – justhalf Jan 22 '15 at 13:59
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    Well, a nonrestrictive is not part of the subject noun phrase, IMO, whether you think so or not. – Greg Lee Jan 22 '15 at 14:36
  • Right. As Greg points out in his answer, it's not really part of the constituent, but rather sideband presupposed material. I'm not crazy about the "adposit" term, but "predicative adjunct" is a really useless description that I would never interpret as describing these examples. – John Lawler Jan 25 '15 at 0:44

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