This article investigates one of the discourse functions that has been proposed for the variation in English of the position of adverbials within the clause. The view that initial positioning, or ‘thematisation’, of adverbials establishes scope over larger discourse spans (Lowe 1987; Downing 1991) is tested by examining three kinds of adverbial in a corpus of short written expository texts in English: adverbials of location (prepositional phrases and when-clauses), nonfinite purpose clauses, and finite if-clauses. Objective methods are used to measure persistence of adverbial scope and how scope is cancelled. Data on length of scope and position of adverbial are compared to see whether there is evidence of a dependent relation. In most cases, initial adverbials do not appear to establish discourse scope and in some cases noninitial adverbials do appear to establish discourse scope: It is concluded that to establish scope cannot be the function of initial position. Because cancellation only occurs initially half the time, it is also concluded that there is no special relation between initial position and cancellation.
About the author
Peter Crompton has taught English and applied linguistics in various institutions around the world. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Lancaster University and is interested in corpus linguistics, text analysis, and second-language writing instruction.
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