What are 'arguably' and 'notably' modifying?

LQZ

Senior Member
Mandarin
Dear,

While reading a news item, I ran into the two following sentences. I can catch meanings, but fail to conclude what 'arguably' and 'notably' are modifying.


1 The results are consistent with recent polls by Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others that have tracked a significant public concern about China's growing prominence on the world stage, as its economy has expanded into what is arguably the second-biggest in the world.

2 Although both Washington and Beijing have signaled that they don't want the relationship to be damaged, other issues -- most notably trade and a U.S. belief that China's currency needs to rise against the dollar -- could conspire to keep tension high.

To me, these two adjectives are separately modifying 'the second-biggest' and 'trade'. Could you tell me whether I am right? Thanks.


LQZ
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    (1) Arguably is an adverb modifying is in what is (arguably) the second-biggest in the world.

    (2) Most notably is an adverb ... I think I'll let someone else have a go at that one first :)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Arguably, the word 'arguably' could be modifying the entire clause, or a noun phrase (either 'the second-biggest' or 'the second-biggest in the world'). It can be set off intonationally so that it can only be modifying the clause:

    what is, arguably, the second-biggest in the world

    On the other hand, it can move with the larger noun phrase:

    Arguably the second-biggest in the world, China's economy continues to expand.

    And with a bit of pushing and shoving we can make it modify just 'the second-biggest' while keeping that inside the larger one:

    It is arguably the second-biggest and certainly the fastest-growing in the world.
    It is certainly the fastest-growing and arguably the second-biggest in the world.

    'Most notably' is a focusing adverb phrase (like 'mainly', 'principally', 'especially', 'only') and these can modify almost anything: here it's the noun phrase coordination beginning 'trade and . . .'
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I've been troubled by this question for the last fourteen hours or so. As a result of deep reflection I am now convinced that I was completely wrong.

    (1) as its economy has expanded into what is arguably the second-biggest in the world.

    The adverb arguably is modifying the entire clause in which it sits, the text in blue.

    (2) most notably trade and a U.S. belief that China's currency needs to rise against the dollar

    The superlative adverb most notably is modifying the clause in blue.

    In other words, I've just spent the last fourteen hours coming to the same conclusion as etb.
     
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