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while studying for the SAT, I came across some sentences which confuse me.

1. One of Bohr's peers, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger, suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once.

2. The daughter of a physician dedicated to helping the poor, Sendler was raised to value humanitarianism.

I learned that in the second sentence, 'the daughter ... the poor' works as an introductory appositive phrase modifying the subject of the main clause, which is 'Sendler' in this case.

Likewise, I thought that 'One of Bohr's peers' in the first sentence can work as an introductory appositive phrase, which would obviate the second comma in the sentence. However, the answer choice states that 'Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger' should be set off by a pair of commas.

I am so confused now. Is there any way to differentiate if some element in the first part of the sentence set off by a comma is an introductory appositive phrase or not?

I'd really appreciate it if you could enlighten me. Thank you very much.

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  • "One of Bohr's peers" is put first to act as a link to a previous mention of Bohr; it might be more usual to name Schrodinger first and then describe him, but you wouldn't get the link in that case.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 27, 2023 at 12:58
  • Please directly quote the part of the answer where it "states that 'Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger' should be set off by a pair of commas". Preferably, put an online link if there's one.
    – JK2
    Jun 28, 2023 at 2:44

3 Answers 3

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The appositive is meant to give more specific information so that its referent is not a person, object or phenomenon in a group of many, but a particular person, object or phenomenon. In your sentence 2, this is exactly what happens. It speaks not just of any Sendler, but the Sendler who is the daughter of a physician dedicated to helping the poor.

As for your sentence 1, out of the two NPs (One of Bohr's peers, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger), the appositive will have to be the one bringing more specific information, the one which identifies the referent, and that's Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger.

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  • "dedicated to helping the poor" is not an appositive at all; it is a participial phrase.
    – Lambie
    Jun 27, 2023 at 14:14
  • It is part of the appositive NP.
    – fev
    Jun 27, 2023 at 14:16
  • It does not restate anything. An appositive restates something like in 1). "dedicated to helping the poor" modifies "the physician".
    – Lambie
    Jun 27, 2023 at 14:41
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  • One of Bohr's peers, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger, suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once is paraphrasable:

  • One of Bohr's peers, specifically Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger, suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once.

BUT

  • One of Bohr's peers, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once is paraphrasable:

  • Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger (he was one of Bohr's peers) suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once.

Semantically there's not a lot of difference, but the second couplet above downplays '[he was] one of Bohr's peers' to tacked-on information status. The ultimate downplaying would be an in-line reference and footnote.

The second example in OP is likewise of the 'A,B where A is tacked-on information' rather than the 'A,B where A is the emphasised part of the joint subject of the sentence and B a precising appositive' variety. Whether the first example is considered to exhibit an appositive depends on the stipulative definition chosen.

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  • You seem to be saying that your third example does work. But OP says, "the answer choice states that 'Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger' should be set off by a pair of commas". Before getting into the reason, I think we need to first figure out whether your third example works or not. And if it does, we need to look into why SAT says it doesn't (per OP).
    – JK2
    Jun 28, 2023 at 2:41
  • It certainly works; the intro is an absolute construction. Compare 'A man blessed with good looks and great charm, Lord Snowdon had five children by four women ...' [The Australian; 2017; courtesy of Facebook]. And the (arguably further deleted) form 'Blessed with good looks and great charm, Lord Snowdon had five children by four women ...' which is unarguably not an appositive construction. Jun 28, 2023 at 11:24
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You should try to understand these in terms of “reduced” adjective clauses vs. “reduced” adverb clauses. (warning: grammar frameworks and terms vary) . . .

[Reduced] adjective clauses:

Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger, [who was] one of Bohr’s peers, suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once.

Sendler, [who was] the daughter of a physician dedicated to helping the poor, was raised to value humanitarianism.

[Reduced] adverb clauses:

[Because he was] one of Bohr’s peers, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger suggested that expecting quantum behavior in the broader world was like believing a cat can be dead and alive at once.

[Because she was] the daughter of a physician dedicated to helping the poor, Sendler was raised to value humanitarianism.

There is only one of the above that doesn’t make sense.

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  • You seem to be saying that the third one doesn't work. Agreed. But are you saying that the only way it can be an adjunct is by being a reason adjunct?
    – JK2
    Jun 28, 2023 at 2:33
  • @JK2 — I’m not sure; I don’t use the same terminology as you. Can you give me an example of how a reduced clause of a time or contrast (as opposed to reason) could work? Jun 28, 2023 at 3:31
  • I can't think of it as a time or contrast adjunct either. I don't think, though, all adjuncts must be reduced from a clause and have a corresponding clause form before reduction.
    – JK2
    Jun 28, 2023 at 3:42

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