The distinction between arguments and adjuncts and predicates is central to most theories of syntax and grammar. The omission diagnostic, for instance, helps identify many arguments and thus indirectly many adjuncts as well. If a given constituent cannot be omitted from a sentence, clause, or phrase without resulting in an unacceptable expression, that constituent is NOT an adjunct, e.g. The argument–adjunct distinction is central in most theories of syntax and semantics.
With its prefix, ad-, meaning “to or toward”, adjunct implies that one thing is “joined to” another. An adjunct professor is one who’s attached to the college without being a full member of the salaried faculty. And anyone trying to expand his or her vocabulary will find that daily reading of a newspaper is a worthwhile adjunct to actual vocabulary study.
Forms and domains
Distinguishing between predicates, arguments, and adjuncts becomes particularly difficult when secondary predicates are involved, for instance with resultative predicates, e.g. The area of grammar that explores the nature of predicates, their arguments, and adjuncts is called valency theory. Predicates have valency; they determine the number and type of arguments that can or must appear in their environment. The valency of predicates is also investigated in terms of subcategorization. The subject is identified as an argument insofar as it appears as a sister and to the left of V(P). The modal adverb certainly is shown as an adjunct insofar as it adjoins to an intermediate projection of V or to a projection of S.
Theories that assume sentence structure to be less layered than the analyses just given sometimes employ a special convention to distinguish adjuncts from arguments. Some dependency grammars, for instance, use an arrow dependency edge to mark adjuncts, e.g. The object argument each time is identified insofar as it is a sister of V that appears to the right of V, and the adjunct status of the adverb early and the PP before class is seen in the higher position to the right of and above the object argument. Other adjuncts, in contrast, are assumed to adjoin to a position that is between the subject argument and the head predicate or above and to the left of the subject argument, e.g.
Characteristics of Adjuncts (Optional Adverbials)
For instance, it incorrectly suggests that many modal and manner adjuncts are arguments. This fact bears witness to the difficulty of providing an absolute diagnostic for the distinctions currently being examined. Despite the difficulties, most theories of syntax and grammar distinguish on the one hand between arguments and adjuncts and on the other hand between optional arguments and adjuncts, and they grant a central position to these divisions in the overarching theory. Many theories of syntax and grammar employ trees to represent the structure of sentences. Various conventions are used to distinguish between arguments and adjuncts in these trees. In phrase structure grammars, many adjuncts are distinguished from arguments insofar as the adjuncts of a head predicate will appear higher in the structure than the object argument(s) of that predicate.
- Predicates have valency; they determine the number and type of arguments that can or must appear in their environment.
- The resultative adjective tired can be viewed as an argument of the matrix predicate made.
- Optional arguments pattern like adjuncts when just the omission diagnostic is employed, e.g.
- The argument–adjunct distinction is central in most theories of syntax and semantics.
The adjunct is adjoined to a projection of the head predicate above and to the right of the object argument, e.g. The distinction between arguments and adjuncts is much less clear than the simple omission diagnostic (and the other diagnostics) suggests. Most accounts of the argument vs. adjunct distinction acknowledge a further division. Optional arguments pattern like adjuncts when just the omission diagnostic is employed, e.g.
synonym study For adjunct
In X-bar theory, adjuncts are represented as elements that are sisters to X’ levels and daughters of X’ level [X’ adjunct [X’…]]. Many phrases have the outward appearance of an adjunct but are in fact (part of) a predicate instead. The confusion occurs often with copular verbs, in particular with a form of be, e.g. The particular merit of the relative clause test is its ability to distinguish between many argument and adjunct PPs, e.g. Each of the adjuncts in the examples throughout this article is a constituent. These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word ‘adjunct.’ Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors.
The terminology used to denote arguments and adjuncts can vary depending on the theory at hand. Some dependency grammars, for instance, employ the term circonstant (instead of adjunct), following Tesnière (1959). The reliability of the relative clause diagnostic is actually limited.
Notice that this example is ambiguous between whether the adjunct in the garden modifies the verb saw (in which case it is Lorna who saw the dog while she was in the garden) or the noun phrase the dog (in which case it is the dog who is in the garden). The definition can be extended to include adjuncts that modify nouns or other parts of speech (see noun adjunct). The resultative adjective tired can be viewed as an argument of the matrix predicate made. Such examples illustrate that distinguishing predicates, arguments, and adjuncts can become difficult and there are many cases where a given expression functions in more ways than one. The matrix predicate in the first sentence is is under; this predicate takes the two arguments It and the bush. Similarly, the matrix predicate in the second sentence is is at; this predicate takes the two arguments The party and seven o’clock.