Appositive Phrase ?

Mr.X Senior

Senior Member
Burmese & English (2nd Language)
1. Are these two phrases which are higlighted in read in the following sentence appositive ?

For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom, enabling them to soar high above the clouds, travelling around the world as swiftly as the gods of old.

2. Do you think that pronoun "them" in former phase is unambigous ?
 
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  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    1. Are these two phrases which are higlighted in read in the following sentence appositive ?

    For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom, enabling them to soar high above the clouds, travelling around the world as swiftly as the gods of old.
    No, I don't think so, Mr.XSenior. Appositive phrases are usually noun phrases.

    2. Do you think that pronoun "them" in former phase is unambigous ?
    Yes. It must refer to people. It can't possibly refer to decades, as decades don't soar above clouds;)
     
    My opinion would also be no. The appositive appears to be more of a DIRECT further descriptive about the noun, as follows:

    I would say:
    The airplane, a big object that flies in the sky, gives people a sense of freedom.
    Able to whizz people overseas, the airplane gives people a sense of freedom.
    For a sense of freedom, people take a plane, a big shiny thing you often see in the sky.

    2) Yes, I think "them" is unambiguous. It refers to the people.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    1. The phrase is placed next to "superhuman freedom", qualifying or explaining it. That is apposition isn't it?

    2. Yes, "them" can only be referring to people.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I am reading Sidney's A Student's Grammar of the English Language, and it stated that these are norminal -ing clauses functioning as appositive.
    So he said they were nominal -ing clauses?
    Hmm, I suppose you could parse them that way.
     

    Mr.X Senior

    Senior Member
    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    So he said they were nominal -ing clauses?
    Hmm, I suppose you could parse them that way.
    Thank for correcting my typo Lobo.
    I am still confused after reading his book.
    I don't really agree that those are -ing clauses. Travelling and Enabling are participle verb not using as noun in those two phrases.

    Am I missing out something or focusing wrong place ?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I too prefer to see the two -ing words as participles rather than gerunds, Mr.XSenior:)

    Does your grammar book give any more examples?
     

    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom, enabling them to soar high above the clouds, travelling around the world as swiftly as the gods of old. (From post #1)

    appositive: describes words or phrases that refer to the same person or thing and have the same relationship to other sentence elements (Encarta Dictionary: English (U.K.))

    (1) I don’t think that the original sentence can be parsed, because it is so badly phrased: what do the two clauses in red refer to? do they both refer to the same noun or noun-clause or not? I don’t think you can use present participles here, given the pluperfect in the opening clause. The two relative clauses (if that’s what they are) are trying to share the same function or part of speech—but they cannot, because each has a different construction. To me, the whole thing is a hotchpotch of strangenesses.


    If I were to rephrase the sentence, this would be my attempt—how might others do it?

    “For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom that had enabled them to soar high above the clouds and travel around the world as swiftly as the gods of old.”

    Edit: Ah... I see. 'Travelling' should have been in the infinitive: "...enabling them to soar and to travel..."

    (2) The pronoun ‘them’ is, here, perfectly unambiguous, thankfully—but why the question?

     
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    Thinking about this more (lots more), I could maybe see the second phrase acting in apposition to the plane - but not to freedom (or, rather, not to "an experience of freedom"). A freedom experience isn't what's enabling people to fly, it's the plane doing that.

    The airplane, enabling people to soar high in the sky, .... etc
    The airplane, giving people an experience of freedom, ... etc

    But I'm no expert and I think I shall stop thinking about it because it's beginning to hurt. I shall leave it to the grammar kings and queens of the WRFs.
     

    Mr.X Senior

    Senior Member
    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    In my current thinking, author and editors were trying describe the noun phrase experience of superhuman freedom.

    Experience of superhuman freedom which people had been able to fly soar high above the clouds and to travel around the world as swift as the god of old.

    Lobo,

    According to the book:

    Appositive -ing clause : His current research, investigating attitudes to racial stereotypes, takes up most of his time.

    A nominal -ing clause may refer to a fact or an action :
    Fact : Your driving a car to New York in your condition distrubs me greatly.
    Action : Your driving a car to New York in your took longer than I expected.

    However, I would rather use the participle phrase like in :

    Enabling them to soar high above the clouds, people are satisfied with the airplane.


    Johndot,

    1. I agree with you.
    2. I was figuring out who was them.


    Oiseau,

    So I am, getting more and more confused after consulting more grammar books. Perhap, we should wait for grammar king or queen.



    Edit :

    After consulting a few grammar books available at home, I have almost reached to the concultion that the phrases , at least the former if not both, are nonfinite clauses ( participle phrase ) which were used as non-restricitive ( non-defining ) postmodification to the noun phrase an experience of superhuman freedom.

    I may be wrong therefore I am here for discussion to learn. Please do highlight and correct me if I focus wrong.

    Books that I'd consulted:

    Sidney Greenbaum & Randolph Quirk (2007) A Student's Grammar of the English Language
    Geoffrey Leech & Jan Svartvik (2002) A Communicative Grammar of English
    Michael Swan (2007) Practical English Usage
    Ronald Carter & Michael McCarthy (2006) Cambridge Grammar of English
    L. G. Alexander (2007) Longman English Grammar
    A. J. Thomson & A. V. Martinet (2007) A Practical English Grammar
     
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    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Enabling them to soar high above the clouds, people are satisfied with the airplane.(Mr.X Senior, post #13, line 11)

    No, Mr.X Senior, I’m sorry—you really, really cannot phrase it like that because you’ve made the ‘enabling’ part refer to ‘the people’ instead of ‘the airplane’. And this is why the word ‘them’ was ambiguous: this construction makes it sound as if “People are enabling them to be satisfied with the airplane soaring high above the clouds” Here are some different constructions for comparison:

    Enabling them to soar high above the clouds, the airplane satisfies people.
    The airplane, enabling people to soar above the clouds, satisfies them.
    People are satisfied with the airplane’s enabling them to soar above the clouds.

    (Note: the punctuation, or lack of it, is important in each one.)

    I’ve just read your latest edit. I should have thought that your pile of reference volumes would have given conclusive instruction by now—but then again, some Grammars can be tedious... I had a quick look on the web though, and a few sites which popped up looked as if they might have easier-to-read advice: try doing a search for grammar appositive phrases, if you haven’t already done so. Good luck!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    According to the book:

    Appositive -ing clause : His current research, investigating attitudes to racial stereotypes, takes up most of his time.
    I don't have a problem with the phrase in italics being seen as an appositive noun phrase.

    After consulting a few grammar books available at home, I have almost reached to the conclultion that the phrases , at least the former if not both, are nonfinite clauses ( participle phrase ) which were used as non-restricitive ( non-defining ) postmodification to the noun phrase an experience of superhuman freedom.
    I agree with you that the red phrases in your original sentence are participle phrases/clauses (choice of phrase or clause depends on which linguistic tradition you're following....). But I don't think they are examples of post-modification.

    Instead, I think they are examples of what are sometimes called "participle clauses wth adverbial meaning". In other words, they are similar to such constructions as:
    He left the room, taking the girl with him
    = He left the room and took the girl with him (or more precisely He left the room and when he did so he took the girl with him).

    Looking back at the topic sentence
    For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom, enabling them to soar high above the clouds, travelling around the world as swiftly as the gods of old
    I believe we need to interpret this as
    For decades, the airplane had given people an experience of superhuman freedom and had enabled them to soar high above the clouds and to travel around the world as swiftly as the gods of old.
    (This is a slightly-modified version of johndot's translation;).)

    This interpretation helps us to determine the "subject" of enabling and travelling. The subject of had enabled is "the airplane", so "the airplane" is also the subject of enabling. The 'subject' of to travel is "them"/[they] (= people), so the 'subject' of travelling is also "them"/[they] (= people).


    All in all, it seems to me that Mr (Ms?) Sidney was somewhat foolhardy in choosing the topic sentence as an example of apposition:D
     
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    Mr.X Senior

    Senior Member
    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    Johndot and Lobo,

    Thank for giving very clear explaination. I get all your point and agree with you. Subject of enabling is the airplane, but , subject of traveling should be people. I'd done research on the net for 3 days before I post this question. I knew that these phrases were not appositive but I was confuse with participle phrase and could not find the subject of enabling. However, I am quite clear now. Thanks.
     
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