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Non-detached attributes

§ 88. Non-detached attributes form one sense group with their head­word and are not separated from it by commas.

They generally adjoin the headword, either premodifying, postmodify­ing, or embedding it, and are connected with other parts of the sentence only through the headword.

Non-detached premodifying attributes may be unextended, consisting of one word only, or form chains of homogeneous attributes with identical reference, as in: a nice girl, a pretty house; crimson, white, and yellow flowers.

Attributes with identical reference (crimson flowers, white flowers, and yellow flowers - crimson, white, and yellow flowers) are usually inter­changeable (yellow, white, and crimson flowers) and are set off by commas (crimson, white, yellow flowers) or joined by a conjunction as they are in the example given above.

Attributes may form a string with different reference, that is, those of them which are closer to the noun form one whole with subsequent words:


her usual (good temper);

a clever (young man) (compare with crimson, white, yellow flowers);

a large black and white (hunting dog).


In the word-group a large black and white hunting dog the adjective large refers to black and white hunting dog, black and white, refers to hunting dog, and hunting refers to dog. This relation of attributes embedded inside a string of them requires a fixed order and no comma is used to separate them. The phrase an old lady’s hat allows of two possible interpretations: (An old lady)’s hat and an old (lady’s hat).

If there are relations other than attributive within the string of premo­difying words, the whole string functions as one attribute. In this case they are usually hyphenated, as in:

most deeply-felt emotions; too-new shoes, a word-for-word translation, a brass-coffee-pot-like thing (a

thing looking like a brass coffee-pot);

a dirty-collar, unbrushed-coat man (a man with a dirty collar and in an unbrushed coat).


One of the characteristic features of English, especially in academic and newspaper style is a marked tendency to form long strings of phrasal attributes (usually called compositional phrases), which express in a com­pressed form the content of a clause or sentence and which can be easily turned into one, if necessary form words are added (prepositions, link verbs, etc.) and the morphological changes are introduced, as in:


Fish-breeding plants. (Plants that breed fish.)

Efficient salt-producing mines. (Mines that produce salt efficiently.)

The uranium-supply industry. (Industry that supplies uranium to...)

The last decade’s scarcity of hands in the country. (In the last decade hands were scarce in the country.)

The long-looked-for hours. (The hours which were looked for long.)

Detached attributes

§ 89. A detached attribute is only loosely connected with its headword and is often optional from the point of view of structure, although very important semantically. It forms a separate sense group in speech and is accordingly separated by commas in writing.

A detached attribute may be placed in preposition, post-position,oroften at some distance from the headword.


Carrie looked about her, very much disturbed and quite sure that she did not want to work here.


Unlike non-detached attributes, a detached attribute may modify personal and relative pronouns.


Big and strong, he impressed us greatly.


Very often a detached attribute refers not only to the headword, but also to another part of the sentence, thus forming a double connection. For example, a detached attribute referring both to the subject of the sentence and to the predicate may have in addition to its attributive meaning some adverbial shade of meaning, such as conditional, causal, or concessive.


And for a moment I hesitated, unable to start talking (as I was unable to start talking).

Familiar with these details, Michael paid them little attention (because he was familiar with these


The apposition

§ 90. An apposition is a part of the sentence expressed by a noun or nominal phrase and referring to another noun or nominal phrase (the headword), or sometimes to a clause.

The apposition may give another designation to, or description of, the person or non-person, or else put it in a certain class of persons or non-persons. In the latter case it is similar to an attribute, as it characterizes the person or non-person denoted by the headword.


Beyond the villa, a strange-looking building, began the forest.

He had remembered her at once, for he always admired her, a very pretty creature.

He knows about everything - a man of the world.

The whole thing was indescribable - a terrific spectacle, a stupendous symphony of sound.


Like the attribute, the apposition may be in preposition or postposition. However, unlike the attribute, which is always subordinated to its headword and is usually connected with other parts in the sentence only through it, words in apposition are, at least syntactically, coordinated parts, that is, both the headword and the apposition are constituents of the same level in the sentence. This may be illustrated by two possible types of transformation of sentences with words in apposition.


Mr Smith, the local doctor, was known to everybody. The local doctor, Mr Smith, was knownto everybody.


However, an apposition can rarely replace the headword in the sentence. Substitution is possible only if the apposition meets the following conditions:


1. It denotes the same person or non-person as the headword.


Winterbourne was back on the Somme, that incredible desert, pursuing the retreating enemy.


If it puts the person or non-person in a certain class of persons or nonpersons, no substitution is possible. Thus the sentence Mr Smith, a local doctor, was known to everybody cannot be transformed into the sentence *A local doctor was known to everybody.

2. It is expressed by words of the same morphological class as its headword. Otherwise the apposition may be unacceptable in the structure of the sentence because of its grammatical or lexical meaning. This can be illustrated by the sentence: She was seized by a gust of curiosity to see that wife of his, which does not allow the substitution of the apposition for the headword - She was seized by a gust of to see that wife of his.


3. It follows the headword immediately and has no dependent words which may hinder substitution. Otherwise, the dependent words may block the connection and make the apposition unacceptable in the structure of the sentence. Thus, the sentence John, at that time a student, wrote several articles on architecture cannot be transformed into At that lime a student wrote several articles on architecture, for it changes the meaning of the sentence altogether.

The sentences discussed above show the peculiarity of the appositive relation: although itresembles coordination syntactically (in that the headword and the apposition are constituents of the same level within the sentence),communicatively they are not of the same rank.

Appositions may be joined by a coordinating conjunction, or follow one another asyndetically. In both cases appositions refer directly to the headword.

Dr and Mrs Macphail were left alone.

A man of action and a born leader, now forced into a state of thought, he was unhappy.

A daughter of poor but honest parents, I have no reason to be ashamed of my origins.

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