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Basically, relative adverbs modify their antecedent and antecedents should be nouns, which I learned.

However, in the following sentence, 'where', which I think is a relative adverb, seems to modify 'outdoor,' which is an adverb:

Visual awareness is also heightened outside, where the eyes are exercised by motion.

Also, if 'where' is relative adverb, then it is used as a nonrestrictive relative adverb. Does 'where' modify 'outdoor,' despite the fact that it is an adverb, or is its antecedent the whole sentence before the comma? Or isn't 'where' a relative adverb at all?

Thank you.

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  • I don't see the tem "outdoor" in your example sentence Visual awareness is also heightened outside, where the eyes are exercised by motion. I don't suppose it changes things too much but.. "outdoor" and "outside" are not interchangeable e.g. "It's raining outside", and "He loves outdoor sports" – Mari-Lou A Sep 26 '19 at 7:41
  • While writing, I switched from "outside" to "outdoor" before I knew it. My question was, why "outside", which is an adverb, can function as the antecedent of the relative adverb "where." – maple1345 Sep 27 '19 at 2:19
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I think "outside" is a noun modified by a non-restrictive relative clause. It is part of a PP with understood preposition "at", and it is that PP which is the adverb,. This doesn't make the relative clause an adverb, because the relative clause doesn't modify the adverb.

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  • Thank you for collecting the word. Is 'PP' (prepositional phrase, right?) with understood preposition often used?In which case, – maple1345 Sep 26 '19 at 12:52
  • Yes, PP is short for "prepositional phrase". I don't know how common it is to analyze location nouns as equivalent to PPs, but it is an obvious analysis, in view of examples like "She stayed (at) home, where she was comfortable." – Greg Lee Sep 26 '19 at 15:26
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Visual awareness is also heightened outside, [where the eyes are exercised by motion].

Do you mean "outside" or "outdoors"? You use both these words in your question. I'll assume the former.

The bracketed element is a non-restrictive relative clause. Unlike restrictive relatives, non-defining ones are not modifiers; rather, they are supplements that refer to a semantic 'anchor' (in supplementary relatives, the anchor and the antecedent are the same). In your example the anchor is "outside". Note also that non-restrictive relatives can have virtually any element as antecedent, from a noun phrase to an entire clause.

"Where" is a relative adverb (or preposition in some grammars); it functions as a locative adjunct in the relative clause. Adjuncts in relative clauses are mostly associated with PPs, and it would be plausible here to interpret "outside" as roughly meaning "in the open".

Trad grammar takes this "outside" an adverb, but there are good reasons for calling it a preposition.

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  • Yes, I did. I switched from "outside" to "outdoor" before I knew it, since the passage is about the importance of children playing outdoors. – maple1345 Sep 27 '19 at 2:21
  • Even though "relative adverbs", which originally function as both "conjunctions" and "adverbs", they can have "virtually any element" as their antecedent, so long as they are non-restrictive relatives? On the other hand, whenever relative adverbs are restrictive ones, their antecedent has to be nouns, correct? – maple1345 Sep 27 '19 at 2:33
  • When I said "virtually any element" as antecedent, I was referring to supplementary (non-restrictive) relative clauses in general. Restrictive relative clauses take only nouns or nominals as antecedent. In both kinds of relative clause the relative adverb "where" usually takes locative expressions as antecedent. Within the relative clause itself, "where" typically functions as an adjunct (adverbial) of space. In your example "outside" (or "outdoors") is traditionally called an adverb, but some modern grammars call it a preposition – it serves as the antecedent for “where”. – BillJ Sep 27 '19 at 7:26

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