iii) He died young. They served the coffee blindfolded.
iv) Furious, he stormed out of the room.

The AdjPs in [iii-iv] function as predicative adjunct. Those in [iii] are integrated into clause structure and hence modifiers, while that in [iv] is detached and hence a supplement. All adjectives that can function as predicative adjunct can also function as predicative complement.

(CGEL, p.529)

CGEL says the predicative adjuncts in [iii], young and blindfolded, are modifiers. Which of the next modification does the book mean?

“The words used to modify nouns are typically adjectives, and the words that similarly modify verbs are adverbs.” (CGEL, p.526)

I wonder whether the modifiers in [iii] function as both predicative that depict the subjects and modify them; or even thought they describe subjects, they are integrated into the structure by modifying the verbs.

  • 3
    In the first paragraph, there are three non-standard CGEL terms. Already. Viz, (1) predicative adjunct (2) predicative supplement (3) predicative complement. These terms, their definitions, and their syntactic tests are peculiar to CGEL; a great deal of new terminology is introduced in it. It is a worthy grammar, but not a portable one, and so far questions like this have to be addressed to the authors because few linguists have adopted its terminology, or the presuppositions it enshrines.
    – jlawler
    Jun 23 '14 at 14:47
  • 3
    We're talking about the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language? Is that right? Jun 23 '14 at 15:14

The adjectives in question do indeed behave in a unique way. They are dependents of the verb, but they are predications over the subject (or object), e.g

 He died young.

The adjective young is a direct dependent of the verb died, but it is a predication over the subject he, i.e. it assigns the property of youngness to he. In other words, young is behaving like an adverb/adjunct syntactically because it is a direct dependent of the lexical verb died, but it is definitely an adjective insofar as it looks like an adjective and is assigning a property to a (pro)noun.

As Jlawler points out, the terminology used to denote these words varies. Some call them depictive adjuncts or participant-oriented adjuncts. Depictive adjuncts are stage-level predicates; the property that they assign is not an intrinsic characteristic of the noun, but rather its applicability is transient. Adjectives that assign intrinsic properties cannot occur in this use, e.g.

 *Bill died interesting.

Unlike young, which is a transient state because we all get older, interesting is intrinsic and inalienable. The distinction between stage-level and individual-level predicates is discussed at the bottom of the article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicate_%28grammar%29.

The direct answer to the question is therefore as follows: predicative adjuncts modify the verb if one interprets modify to mean 'be syntactically dependent on', or they modify the subject or object if one interprets modify to mean 'assign a property to'. Note that typical attributive adjectives unify both of these meanings of modify, e.g.

 the young man

In this case, young is both syntactically dependent on man and it is assigning a property to man.

  • I really appreciate that you solved my long confusing question. Having read your answer, I get another question. If predicative adjunct is both adverbial by syntactic aspect and adjective by assigning property, isn’t predicative complement the same? e.g. in “Kim became angry”, 'angry' seems to be a direct dependent of the verb and an adjective that is assigning a property to the pronoun. p.s. I'd hope you'd permit ELL's participants be glad to read yours. ELL
    – Listenever
    Jun 23 '14 at 23:46
  • 1
    If PC could be the same as the modifier, but I can’t imagine it be a supplement.
    – Listenever
    Jun 23 '14 at 23:58
  • I have one question here. @Tim, I have understood your answer. But a little confusion. I got it why "interesting" is wrong in "He died interesting". But "interesting" is right in "He sounds interesting". I guess it's because of the verb. So which verb facilitate such usage, and which verb doesn't. Jun 24 '14 at 3:21
  • 4
    The adjective "angry" in "Kim became angry" is indeed a complement; it is not an adjunct. In other words, an adjective like "angry" appears obligatorily with "became", whereas the adjective "young" appears optionally with "die". Compare: "He died young" vs. "He died" and "He became angry" vs. "*He became". The same comment addresses Man_From_India's question. The adjective "interesting" in "He sounds interesting" is a complement, not an adjunct. The following articles address the distinction between complements/arguments, adjuncts, and predicates. Jun 24 '14 at 4:41
  • 2
    The following Wikipedia articles provide some background information on complements/arguments, adjuncts, and predicates: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complement_%28linguistics%29, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjunct_%28grammar%29, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_%28linguistics%29, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predicate_%28grammar%29. Jun 24 '14 at 4:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.