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The Object

The term "inversion" has sometimes been used to denote an unusual position of a secondary part of the sentence, that is, of an object or an adverbial modifier. That, however, is undesirable, since it might lead to misunderstandings and seriously hamper the study of word order. To illustrate our point, let us compare the following two sentences: This he knew very well, and, A pretty paradise did we build for ourselves. (THACKERAY, quoted by Poutsma) In both sentences the object stands at the beginning, which is not its usual place. After this, in the first sentence, come the subject and the predicate in their normal order for a declarative sentence, whereas in the second sentence the predicate comes before the subject. It is natural to say that in the first sentence there is no inversion, while in the second sentence there is one. Now, if we were to use the term "inversion" for every case of the object occupying an unusual place, we should have to say that in the first sentence also there is inversion in some sense, which would certainly lead to confusion. ' We will therefore not apply the term "inversion" to a secondary part of the sentence.

It is well known that the usual place of the object is after the predicate, and if there are two objects in a sentence, their order is fixed: if they are both non-prepositional, the indirect object comes first and the direct object next; if one of the objects is prepositional, it comes after the non-prepositional. The tendency to place the object immediately after the predicate verb should not however be taken as an absolute law. Some other part of the sentence often does come in between the predicate verb and its object. This intervening phrase will probably in most cases be a loose part of the sentence, as in the following extracts: At the age of eight Ferdinando was so large and so exuberantly healthy that his parents decided, though reluctantly, to send him to school. (HUXLEY) In the visitors' book at Crome Ivor had left, according to his invariable custom in these cases, a poem. (Idem) In the former example the phrase though reluctantly introduces some shade of meaning, weakening the effect of the verb decided, and it could not conveniently come at any other place in the sentence. In the latter example the rather extended phrase according to his invariable custom in these cases might have come between the subject Ivor and the predicate had left. The sentence would then run like this: In the visitors' book at Crome Ivor, according to his invariable custom in these cases, had left a poem. The effect of the original text, with the loose part separating the object from the predicate, appears to be that of postponing the mention of the poem and thus creating some tension since the words immediately following the predicate fail to make clear what it was that he left in the visitors' book.

An object may also be separated from the predicate by several intervening elements of the sentence. This is the case, for example, in the following passage: He recognized suddenly in every face that passed him the reflection of what appeared a similar, lonely, speechless concern not with the station and the mechanics of arriving, departing, meeting someone, or saying good-bye, but with something more vital still and far beneath such minor embassies. (BUECHNER) Owing to the adverbial modifier suddenly and the prepositional object with the attributive clause belonging to it, in every face that passed him, the direct object the reflection (with the other parts of the sentence belonging to it) is at a considerable distance from the predicate recognized. However, no misunderstanding is to be feared here, as there is no other noun that might be taken for the direct object in the main clause: the only noun that does come in here is the noun face, but it is too obviously connected with the preposition in that introduces it (along with its attribute every) to be taken for a direct object. This example, and many others of a similar kind, show that the principle "the object is bound to come immediately after the predicate verb" does not always hold good.

Quite the same sort of thing is seen in our next example, taken from the same novel: He seemed to see in each figure that hurried by a kind of indifference to all but some secret, unexpressed care having little to do with their involving context. (BUECHNER) Besides the role of rheme -that belongs to the object in the sentence, there is another factor which may have been responsible for the order of words: the group centred around the object kind (or kind of indifference) is rather long, and placing it immediately after the predicate, before the phrase m each figure that hurried by, would result in a rather awkward rhythmical pattern of the sentence.

A non-prepositional object can be separated from the predicate even by two secondary parts, as in the following example: She arose and turned on a lamp to read the letter again. He told and told well in it a little story. (BUECHNER) Here both the adverbial modifier well and the prepositional object in it intervene between the predicate and the non-prepositional object.

An object may also be separated from the predicate by a parenthesis and a clause of time: She had seen, of course, when she spoke, only Tristram. (BUECHNER)

Adverbial Modifiers

The position of adverbial modifiers in the sentence is known to be comparatively more free than that of other parts. However, there is some difference here between types of modifiers. Those which are most closely linked with the part of the sentence they modify are the ones that denote the frequency or the property of an action. They come between the subject and the predicate, or even inside the predicate if it consists of two words — an auxiliary and a notional verb, or two elements of a compound predicate.

We cannot, however, say either that adverbial modifiers of these types cannot stand elsewhere in the sentence, or that adverbial modifiers of other types cannot occupy this position. Occasionally an adverbial modifier-of frequency will appear at the beginning of the sentence. Occasionally, on the other hand, an adverbial modifier of another type appears between subject and predicate: Catherine, for a few moments, was motionless with horror. (J. AUSTEN) Now 'Meiklcjohn, with a last effort, kicked his opponent's legs from under him... (LINKLATER)
The more usual 'position of the adverbial modifiers of time and place is, however, outside the group "subject -f- predicate + object", that is, either before or after it. Which of the two variants is actually used depends on a variety of factors, among which the rheme plays an important part. If the main stress is to fall, for instance, on the adverbial modifier of time, i. e. if it contains the main new thing to be conveyed, this adverbial modifier will have to come at the end of the sentence, as in the following extract: "Only think, we crossed in thirteen days! It takes your breath away." "We'll cross in less than ten days yet/" (FITCH) If, on the other hand, the main thing to be conveyed is something else, the adverbial modifier of time can come at the beginning of the sentence. It would, however, be wrong to say that the adverbial modifier, when not bearing sentence stress, must come at the beginning. It can come at the end in this case, too, and it is for the intonation to show where the semantic centre of the sentence lies. This may be seen in sentences of the following type: Fleda, with a bright face, hesitated a moment. (H. JAMES)

These are problems of functional sentence perspective, which we have briefly discussed above (p. 197 ff.). The position of adverbial modifiers of time and place has also to be studied in the light of this general problem.

An adverbial modifier can also occupy other positions in the sentence; thus, the auxiliary do of the negative form can be separated from the infinitive by a rather lengthy prepositional group acting as a loose secondary part of the sentence, which is probably best classed as an adverbial modifier of cause: He was perhaps the very last in a long line of people whom Steitler at this time did not, for an equally long line of reasons, want to see, but, half perversely, half idly, he turned his steps in the direction of his friend's room. (BUECHNER) This may be counted among cases of "enclosure", with one part of a sentence coming in between two elements of another part.

An adverbial modifier also comes in between two components of the predicate in the following sentence: ...he was acting not happily, not with an easy mind, but impelled to remove some of the weight that had for months, even through the excitement over Kätherine, been pressing him down. (SNOW) The analytical form of the past perfect continuous tense had been pressing is here separated by the intervening adverbial modifiers, for mantis and even through the excitement over Katherine, which come in between the two auxiliaries had and been. This does not in any way impede the understanding of the sentence, as the verb had does not in itself give a satisfactory sense and either a verbal (to complete an analytical verb form) or a noun (in the function of a direct object) is bound to follow. So there is some tension in the sentence. Analytical forms admit of being thus "stretched" by insertion of adverbial modifiers. However, they do not admit insertion of any objects, and this may be another objective criterion for distinguishing between the two kinds of secondary parts of the sentence.

The usual statement about adverbial modifiers of time always coming either at the beginning or at the end of a sentence, and outside the subject-predicate group anyway, is much too strict and is not borne out by actual usage. Here are some examples of adverbial modifiers of time coming either between the subject and the predicate, or within the predicate, if it consists of more than one word: (1) Bessie, during that twenty-four hours, had spent a night with Alice and a day with Muriel. (GARY) (2) Sir Peregrine during this time never left the house once, except for morning service on Sundays. (TROLLOPE) (3) His grandson had on each day breakfasted alone, and had left the house before his grandfather was out of the room; and on each evening he had returned late, — as he now returned with his mother, — and had dined alone. (Idem) In the first of these examples the adverbial modifier of time is separated by commas from the rest of the sentence, and so must be accounted a loose secondary part of it. But in the second example a similar adverbial modifier, with the same preposition during, is not separated by commas, so the looseness does not appear to have any essential significance here. In our last example the adverbial modifier on each day in the first clause comes between the two elements of the predicate verb form, while in the second clause a similar modifier, on each evening, stands before the subject. The reason for the position of the adverbial modifier in the first clause (where it might also have stood at the .beginning of the clause) probably is, that the subject of the clause, his grandson, represents the theme, whereas the adverbial modifier, on each day, belongs to the rheme, together with the predicate and all the rest of the clause.

We may also compare the following sentence: She had not on that morning been very careful with her toilet, as was perhaps natural. (TROLLOPE) Here the adverbial modifier of time also comes in between two elements making up the analytical form of the link verb. The variant On that morning she had not been very careful with her toilet... would certainly also be possible, but there would probably be some greater emphasis on the adverbial modifier, which would have tended to represent the theme of the sentence, as if the sentence were an answer to, the question: What happened on that morning? Standing as it does within the predicate, the adverbial modifier is more completely in the shade.

The adverbial modifier of time also stands between the subject and the predicate in the following sentence: But I saw that he was distracted, and he soon fell quiet. (SNOW) In this example, too, it remains in the shade.

As a contrast to these sentences we can now consider one in which the adverbial modifier of time stands at the beginning and is marked off by a comma, so that it is apparently a loose modifier: Three days later, I was surprised to be rung up by Charles. (SNOW) Now in this case it could not come in between the elements of the predicate, probably because it announces a new situation (not on the day described so far, but three days later) and this new element of the situation cannot be brought out properly if the part of the sentence containing it is left in the shade, as it certainly would be between the elements of the predicate.

This is also seen in the sentence, In a few minutes she returned, her eyes shining, her hair still damp. (SNOW) The adverbial modifier in a few minutes could not possibly come between the subject and the predicate. It might have come after the predicate, and would in that case have been more strongly stressed, as if the sentence were an answer to the question, When did she return? That is, the adverbial modifier of time would have represented the rheme, or at least part of it. As it stands in the original text, the adverbial modifier rather makes part of the theme, but it is not so completely in the shade as an adverbial modifier standing between the subject and the predicate (or within the predicate, for that matter) necessarily is.


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