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Rhetorical StyleThe Uses of Language in Persuasion$
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Jeanne Fahnestock

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199764129

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199764129.001.0001

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Sentence Construction: Modification

Sentence Construction: Modification

(p.178) 8 Sentence Construction: Modification
Rhetorical Style

Jeanne Fahnestock

Oxford University Press

Outside of the subject, verb, and object in an independent clause, everything else in a sentence is modification, the specifying detail that often carries or constrains an argument. Patterns of modification depend on the types of modifier used, their placement, and the overall amount of modification. This chapter sorts through the arguer's modifying options first according to the grammatical profile of the unit involved. At the highest level are adverb and adjective clauses (subordinate or relative; noun clauses, though not actually modifiers, are also covered here). Next are phrases divisible into three types: those based on verbs (participial and infinitive phrases), those based on nouns (appositives and absolute, resumptive or summative structures), and prepositional phrases. Finally there are single-word modifiers, sometimes grouped in chains according to how dissociable they are from the word modified. Modifiers can be multiplied or embedded, and individual texts can carry heavy modification in proportion to the predication. The point of this chapter is not simply to review these sentence constituents but to see their potential argumentative consequences as in the epithetical style. For example, an appositive offers, sometimes tendentiously, an apparently equivalent term, and constructions like the absolute phrase allow the arguer to promote a feature of a mentioned noun into attention. Infinitive phrases often attribute purposes for actions and participial phrases subordinate one action to another. Depending on where modifiers are placed in relation to the main predication, they often predispose audiences to the arguer's interpretation of evidence or events.

Keywords:   modifier, subordinate clause, relative clause, participle, infinitive, prepositional phrases, adjective, adverb, epithet

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