What are the different categories for parenthetical asides that are set aside by commas, dashes or parentheses? You have nonrestrictive descriptors which function syntactically as modifiers, interjections (such as 'yeah', 'oh', etc.) that have no syntax function, and...

And what else? Are there other categories I'm missing?

Take this sentence, for instance: "Becoming a great writer—or even a good writer—requires practise and patience."

The phrase bracketed in dashes is a coordinate completer of the gerund 'Becoming', which itself is the sentence's subject... Correct? So how is the phrase in dashes functioning in terms of the syntax? I'm not looking for an answer along the lines, "It's just a nonessential element..." How does that enclosed phrase relate to the remainder of the sentence?

If there's any source that teaches the logic of nonessential elements in the meticulous detail I'm looking for, I'd appreciate a link/reference. I have struggled with understanding them for months now! I don't know why I can't get my head around them. I have studied syntax in detail, learning the logic of the language, the roles of each word category, etc., etc., but this single issue has driven me crazy! Anyway, apologies for this mini-rant.

Thanks for any responses!

  • Mark Nichol's '8 types of parenthetical phrases' is an attempt to show some of the accepted uses of parentheticals. Corrective, mitigating, concessive, and contrastive uses are not given (as such, at any rate). Examples of these would be 'I know of eight – no, eleven – types.' / 'These are the main (but not the only) reasons.' / 'This is the usual (though admittedly not the universal) view.' / 'This is according to descriptive, not prescriptive, views.' Aug 2 '17 at 16:21

The expressions you are interested in are ordinarily constituents of root sentences. Root sentence is an expression type introduced by Joseph Emonds. A root sentence is a sentence that occurs independently, not part of another construction, or is a coordination of root sentences, or is complement to a verb of quotation.

Root sentences are hospitable to parenthetical and exclamatory expressions.

In my opinion (I don't know that Emonds says this), the functional correspondent to the syntactic category of root sentence is performative. A performative sentence is one that when said accomplishes a speech act, as for example "I hereby ask you to stop talking" performs a request (rather than declaring that you ask something).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.