Functional Classification of Adverbials: Linking Adverbials and Their Cohesive Role

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2004

20 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Adverbials in Grammar
2.1 Grammar, Syntax, and Cohesion - What Are We Talking About?
2.2 Adverbial Characteristic

3. Two Approaches to the Classification of Adverbials
3.1 Greenbaum & Quirk’s Semantic Roles and Grammatical Functions of Adverbials
3.2 Biber et al.’s Classes and Semantic Categories of Adverbials

4. Linking Adverbials and Cohesion
4.1 Cohesive Relations
4.2 Types and Planes of Conjunction
4.3 The Role of Linking Adverbials for Conjunction and Cohesion in General

5. Summary


1. Introduction

The Swiss linguist Mongin Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) counts for the most important pioneer of modern linguistics. With his epochal work Cours de Linguistique Générale, published posthumously in 1916, he introduced a structural approach to linguistics, which we describe today as functional linguistics. He distinguished between parole and langue (speech and language system) and this way enriched linguistic research with another level to work on. De Saussure is also famous for establishing the view of the arbitrary linguistic sign, whose meaning is not naturally given, but subjectively related to certain conventions of the speaker and the receiver. At any rate, it was his conceptual framework that allows us today to describe language not only in terms of lexical meaning, but also to recognise different information units within texts and sentences whose information value may differ, pragmatically, depending on e.g. the speakers intention; or even grammatically, depending on the element’s arrangement. We can evaluate smallest units of meaning relating to their form and function within the sentence, and we are able to identify rules within language that help us to understand or produce verbal information correctly.

It is the goal of this paper to give an insight into a grammatical description of a particular ‘part-of-speech category’, as I will deal with the syntactic and semantic behaviour of adverbials. I will show in the following how a structural, say functional expertise of language can contribute to sentence and text meaning; for that purpose, the grammatical concept of the linking adverbial shall be a useful example to be discussed and to be focussed upon.

In the beginning I will once more sketch the use of syntax for making a statement concerning textual structure, particularly cohesion, to supply the layman with the conceptual background, and to put the topic in its proper place. Then, I will try to develop an understanding for semantic roles and grammatical functions of adverbials while discussing two different approaches to the classification of the English adverbial in the light of modern linguistic theory. The first approach can be found in Greenbaum & Quirk’s Stundent’s Grammar of the English Language (1990), and the second in Biber et al.’s Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English (2002). Finally, I will examine the cohesive role of linking adverbials according to Halliday & Hasan’s Cohesion in English (1976), an aspect that is said to contribute to the comprehensibility of texts.

Certainly, the reader must be aware of some basic concepts necessary for any linguistic inquiry, particularly grammatical fundamentals, since this paper is not supposed to be a grammar book of its own. A basic knowledge of word forms (such as noun, verb, adverb, etc.), functions (subject, predicate, object, etc.), and structural concepts (sentence, clause, phrase, etc) is required. Considering the scope of this paper, my explanations will rather provide general ideas of current classification of adverbials than mention every detail. Likewise, I will only be able to consider cohesive devices that clearly signal systematic connection between the sentences.

2. Adverbials in Grammar

2.1 Grammar, Syntax, and Cohesion – What are we talking about?

Whenever we perceive, interpret, or – from a stylistic point of view – evaluate a piece of spoken or written language, we need a (mental) system of rules and categories to combine single word meanings to a total understanding of the text. This also applies to language production. Generally, we call such a system the grammar of a language.

One major part of any grammar is syntax, the system of rules and categories that underlies sentence formation. Referring to form and function of the sentence constituents, syntax tells us that some constituents are obligatory to simply make a bit of language a sentence. Most familiar are the subject and the predicate, both concepts that represent particular grammatical functions within the sentence (see also Greenbaum & Quirk, 1990). Syntactic considerations of the adverbial are even more interesting since some adverbials are obligatory, whereas most are optional, as their omission still leaves an acceptable sentence (see paragraph 2.2).

Sentences, in fact, are those units within language that “must be regarded as primary, in comprising a minimum sense of completeness and unity” (Greenbaum & Quirk, 1990, p 12). Texts carrying meaning and thus being larger semantic units are on a lower level realized by, say encoded in, sentences. Syntax in particular focuses on the structural integration among the constituents of a sentence. The structural integration of a text – its unity – is of a different kind, but it can be influenced by constituents at sentence level, namely by adverbials. This is what cohesion is all about, not considering structural relations within sentences, but across sentences. The cohesive role of adverbials shall be discussed later on with the help of a particular cohesive relation examined by Halliday & Hasan (1976): conjunction.

2.2 Adverbial Characteristics

Each statement concerning the basic grammatical characteristics of the adverbial in the following can be found equally in the present grammars by Greenbaum & Quirk (1990) and Biber et al. (2002), or in any other grammar of the English language. Conceptual or nominal differences across literature will not be taken into consideration, due to the aim of providing a rough overview of adverbial characteristics.

When talking of adverbials we talk of the grammatical function of a sentence constituent, not of a word class. Actually, adverbials can have a wide range of syntactic forms; they can be single adverbs, prepositional phrases, noun phrases, even whole clauses. Example (a) shows an adverb functioning as modifier of an adjective, which is not to be confused with an adverbial:

(a) “Widely varying types of land are cultivated.”

(Biber et al., 2002, p 354)

Here, widely modifies the adjective varying and therefore is not an adverbial but an adverb. Example (b) shows a typical case of an adverb functioning as adverbial:

(b) “She grinned widely.”

(Biber et al., 2002, p 354)

Example (c) provides an idea of how complex an adverbial can be, in this case consisting of a whole clause:

(c) “She called me to say a lawyer was starting divorce proceedings.”

(Biber et al., 2002, p 354)

The adverbial in (c) represents a to -infinitive clause with an internal structure that can even be attributed to a sentence.

The grammatical functions of adverbials mainly lie in adding something about circumstances of an activity or state to the sentence, giving a speaker’s comment about what a clause says, or serving a connective function. Moreover, adverbials are clause elements that can have several semantic meanings such as expressing location, time, agency, or attitude. (Examples will be provided when discussing the two approaches of the classification of adverbials in detail, see paragraph 3.)

Adverbials can occur in various positions within clauses (initial, medial, final); and ultimately, we can have multiple adverbials within one clause, in contrast to other clause elements such as subject, predicate, or object. Whereas these elements represent a sense of grammatical completeness towards the internal structure of the sentence, most adverbials are optional, that is, most have no syntactic obligation. As can be seen in (b), the sentence would still be syntactical correct if the adverbial would be left out. Yet, example (d) shows a case in which the verb takes obligatory adverbial complementation:

(d) “Your toast is on the table.”

(Biber et al., 2002, p 51)

To close this paragraph, I would like to quote an impressive example given by Greenbaum & Quirk (1990) that “illustrates not only multiple occurrence but also a variety of meaning, forms, positions, and grammatical relations:”

(e) “Next Tuesday [1], I shall probably [2] visit her mother in London [3] for an our or so [4] to see if she’s feeling better [5], unless she telephones me before that [6].”

(Greenbaum & Quirk, 1990, p 158)

Since we now have an idea what the adverbial is all about, I will continue with introducing two different approaches to the classification of adverbials that will lead us to the notions of conjuncts and linking adverbials, which I will discuss in the context of text cohesion within paragraph 4.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Functional Classification of Adverbials: Linking Adverbials and Their Cohesive Role
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg  (Institut für fremdsprachliche Philologien, English Department)
Hauptseminar: Syntax and Semantics of Adverbials
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Functional, Classification, Adverbials, Linking, Adverbials, Their, Cohesive, Role, Hauptseminar, Syntax, Semantics, Adverbials
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Christian Kuhn (Author), 2004, Functional Classification of Adverbials: Linking Adverbials and Their Cohesive Role, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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