In CGEL, in the section on "supplements", there is a short subsection on "indicators" (pages 1354 and 1355). These are defined as follows: "Supplements may contain indicators which serve to clarify the nature of their semantic relation to the anchor." Four examples are given and the function is said to be a "specifying" one. It is not made explicit whether this is the only function or just one of many. The examples given are "namely", "that is", "for example" and "especially". Semantically, all represent an includer/included function (X namely Y, X for example Y and X particularly Y) and are best exemplified with appositives (specifying noun phrases):

The interviewee, namely Jane, is here.

But one can say that another includer/included function is a general X including Y:

Everyone, even Jane, is here.

Is "even" an indicator? If it is, what about other degree adverbs, with other types of supplements:

Jane left the room, practically running out.

Is "practically" an indicator? Or, if a focusing adverb like "especially" is an indicator, what about a modality adverb like "probably" (here with another type of supplement):

Jane, probably angry at the fact, left the room.

Or, going back to what I presume is a specifying noun phrase:

Someone, probably Jane, is here.

To sum, the question is: Could any adverb beginning a supplement be considered an indicator? If not, then what is an indicator in more precise terms?

  • If it meets the criteria specified in CGEL, then yes.
    – BillJ
    Jan 31, 2023 at 12:57
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    What is CGEL? Something for the piles? I don't find it in my dictionary.
    – David
    Apr 1, 2023 at 16:00
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    "Serve to clarify the nature of their semantic relation" is not a criterion, but a fond hope. None of the terms are defined syntactically, so anything could fit. As we would say it here, it's a matter of opinion. Apr 1, 2023 at 16:59
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    @David: The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. A huge and recent grammar (which I want, but cannot afford).
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 1, 2023 at 21:20
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    "namely" and "that is" specify or respecify; "for example" exemplifies and "especially" highlights. Jul 30, 2023 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL) defines "indicators" as follows:

Supplements may contain indicators which serve to clarify the nature of their semantic relation to the anchor.

I think that all the examples in CGEL are in line with the definition, perhaps except for [13vi]

vi She was highly critical of both proposals, [especially the second one].

Here, the second one alone cannot be a supplement: *She was highly critical of both proposals, [the second one].

I doubt, therefore, that especially serves to clarify the nature of the semantic relation between the supplement the second one and the anchor both proposals. Rather, it's necessary for the second one to be a legitimate supplement.

No other examples of indicators presented in CGEL are necessary for the supplement to be a legitimate one. That is, you can omit them without changing their meaning or function.

If especially in [13vi] were a correct example of indicators, the boldfaced words in your own examples should be considered to be indicators. But since that doesn't seem to be the case, I think they're not indicators.

Among your examples, two don't work without the boldfaced words:

*Everyone, Jane, is here.

*Someone, Jane, is here.

The other three do work without them, but their meaning is different from the original:

The interviewee, Jane, is here.

Jane left the room, running out.

Jane, angry at the fact, left the room.

This I take to mean that these boldfaced words do not merely clarify the nature of the semantic relation between the supplement and the anchor, but that they are necessary parts of the supplements.

  • Many thanks for the thoughtful reply. Unfortunately, I don't buy it. First, you're not giving CGEL the benefit of the doubt, by proposing that they got "especially" wrong. Second, if "especially" is wrong, then "for example" should be wrong too. "Especially" and "for example" are semantically similar; "for example" implies an example while "especially" implies the most significant example. Also, in "I like fruit, for example apples", "for example" is not deletable.
    – user468388
    Jan 31, 2023 at 23:51
  • I think the reason "especially" is not deletable in the quoted example is that it's used with a noun phrase. Many of the other examples are used with full clauses, which of course can stand on their own. Lastly, in the last example in the subsection, to demonstrate an indicator can be in a non-initial position, "for example" can be replaced with "especially", and "especially" would be deletable: "The therapist’s level tone is bland and neutral – [he has, for example, avoided stressing ‘you’]."
    – user468388
    Jan 31, 2023 at 23:51
  • Any grammatical terms can be defined narrowly or broadly, depending on how you want them to be. As I understand it, CGEL has defined the term rather narrowly, but some of their examples seem to go outside of their own definition, which I have pointed out to answer your question. But you seem to suggest that we should interpret their definition more broadly, which is fine with me. But then, what's the point of your asking the question?
    – JK2
    Feb 1, 2023 at 2:16
  • One point of the question is this: if adverbs/adjuncts in noun phrase supplements are not all indicators, what are they? That is, how is an adverb being part of a noun phrase explained? Is the adverb modifying the noun? Should they not be thought of as adverbs, but something else? If so, what? Connectors?
    – user468388
    Feb 4, 2023 at 11:08
  • They are adverbs. What else should they be? Adverbs can be part of an NP, if you didn't know that already.
    – JK2
    Feb 4, 2023 at 12:34

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