The answers and comments beneath my question about the sentence “He kept a black book in his desk” seemed to agree that “in his desk” acts as a complement and not as an adjunct in that sentence. But what about a sentence like “In his desk, he kept a black book” or “In his desk he kept a black book” (both punctuation styles seem possible to me; I don't know if that's significant, or if other people would have the same judgement)?
The web page “Complements and Adjuncts” says that a PP complement to a verb cannot be preposed:
- John decided on the boat.
- On the boat, John decided.
Notice the first example is ambiguous. It either means (a) that John's decision took place on the boat, or (b) that of two alternatives John was considering (say, a boat or a coat hanger), John chose the boat-alternative. The second example has only the (a) reading. We usually explain this by saying that on reading (b) the PP on the boat is a complement, and that verbs don’t like having their complement PPs preposed. This is a well-accepted test, but it only works reliably for verb heads and PP modifiers.
As far as I can tell, “In his desk, he kept a black book” meets the criteria for this test: it has a PP modifier and a verb head. So why can “in his desk” be placed at the start? I don't see a contrast in meaning between this sentence and the one with the other word order; in both sentences, it seems to me that “in his desk” describes the location of the book.
Is this really a "well-accepted test"? If so, is there some relevant exception to this test for certain types of complements?