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A devout Christian, she plays tennis every weekend.

The most beautiful of villages, Ullapool has hosted a food festival for the last twenty years.

I see this kind of thing a lot in non-fiction writing, particularly things like short bios/blurbs and tourist writing, where people are trying to convey information but also make it attractive/enjoyable to read.

The part before the comma feels like it's introducing the part after the comma, but actually the two things have no relation. Like

One of the most infamous mass murderers of his generation, his favourite colour is red.

Is it a recognised 'thing' and does it have a name?

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  • It's a garden-path sentence, more or less. Aug 18, 2023 at 22:21
  • What's the sentence version of clickbait?
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 18, 2023 at 22:53
  • The semantic disjunct is called a non-sequitur. There is a duplicate: Unrelated actions, as in 'Do you walk to school or eat tofu?. // Your first two sentences involve what some would call non-restrictive appositives of the 'added information' kind. The third involves further deletion and is arguably stretching grammaticality, but it too uses a premodifying ascriptive noun phrase (which arguably can be considered to attach to the referent of 'his'). // Sentence (2) shows less incongruity than ... Aug 19, 2023 at 11:42
  • the other two examples, and doesn't sound too unnatural, though using separate sentences might well be considered the better style. Aug 19, 2023 at 11:44
  • Will you please re-phrase that so it has meaning in any language; preferably English? Aug 21, 2023 at 21:38

2 Answers 2

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A devout Christian, she plays tennis every weekend.

The most beautiful of villages, Ullapool has hosted a food festival for the last twenty years.

“A devout Christian”, and “The most beautiful of villages” are adjectivals that are best understood as having ellipsis. Without the ellipsis, they would be non-defining relative clauses.

As they stand, they are fronting, attributive, non-defining, noun phrases modifying “she” and “Ullapool” respectively.

Non-defining phrases/clauses are invariably unrelated to the substance of the main clause and may be removed without significant loss to the meaning.

Consider “Karen, who often played tennis, was married in Cyprus.” and “Karen was married in Cyprus.”

The example sentences can be expressed as

She, who happens to be a devout Christian, plays tennis every weekend.

Ullapool, which in my opinion is the most beautiful of villages, has hosted a food festival for the last twenty years.

The example “One of the most infamous mass murderers of his generation, his favourite colour is red” is somewhat different as “his” is exophoric and also a genitive.

Consider

“One of the most infamous mass murderers of his generation, Vlad the Imapler’s favourite colour is red.”

This cannot be adjusted because of the genitive (his/Vlad the Imapler’s) (it would be) “*Vlad the Imapler’s, who is one of the most infamous mass murderers of his generations, favourite colour is red.”

The sense is expressed by

Vlad the Impaler is one of the most infamous mass murderers of his generation and his favourite colour is red.”

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They are examples of non sequitur:

non sequitur
a statement that does not correctly follow from the meaning of the previous statement

From the Latin

non sequitur
it does not follow

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  • You're using the wrong sense of "follow". This sense refers to implication, not physical ordering.
    – Barmar
    Aug 21, 2023 at 16:36
  • @Barmar none of it involves physical ordering. Please explain. Aug 21, 2023 at 16:37
  • Then I don't understand your answer, since the examples aren't making any arguments about one thing following from another.
    – Barmar
    Aug 21, 2023 at 16:45
  • Do you think it's suggesting "Because she's a devout Christian"?
    – Barmar
    Aug 21, 2023 at 16:46
  • @Barmar that's the way I read it: the second part of each sentence does not follow from the first part. Obviously it occurs after the first part, but not logically. It is a non-sequitur. Aug 21, 2023 at 16:49

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