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Wolves, hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century, occupy a vital place in the natural cycle of the area.

In the above sentence, is the nonrestrictive element hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century part of the subject, because it expands on the simple subject wolves, or part of the predicate, because it contains the verb hunted that uses wolves as the subject?

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    What you're calling a "nonrestrictive element" (not a standard term) is a nonrestrictive relative clause modifying wolves (which were hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century) which. This clause has been reduced to a participle phrase by the application of Whiz-Deletion. Since it modifies the subject, the nonrestrictive relative clause is part of the subject noun phrase constituent. – John Lawler Dec 8 '14 at 19:10
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Wolves, hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century, occupy a vital place in the natural cycle of the area.

A straightforward test for subject-hood is to make a yes/no question and see what inverts with the auxiliary verb:

  • Do [Wolves, hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century] occupy a vital place in the natural cycle of the area?

Here we see that bracketed part of the sentence appearing between the auxiliary Do and the main verb occupy. This shows the bracketed part of the sentence to be the Subject. It has inverted with Do. If we had an emphatic declarative version of the sentence, it would read:

  • [Wolves, hunted to extinction in Wyoming and Montana in the twentieth century] do occupy a vital place in the natural cycle of the area.

As the bracketed section is the Subject, it cannot be part of the Predicate.

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