Thursday, September 20, 2012

An adverb caught modifying a noun

This morning, CBC Toronto's Metro Morning program was being broadcast remotely from the new arts and culture hub of Regent Park. Shortly before 6:00, I believe, the host, Matt Galloway, said something along the lines of "We're here at the opening officially of the new arts and culture hub." I'm going from memory, but I'm certain about the opening officially of....

What we have here is an adverb officially post modifying a noun opening. Most grammars will tell you adverbs aren't supposed to do that. It even sounds vaguely obscene. But I tell you, it's the truth.

Now, obviously, opening is deverbal, but you could say the official opening of... with the expected modification by an adjective, and you couldn't say *the officially opening of... with the adverb before the noun. More importantly, an example like *the running quickly of the race seems highly unlikely, so being deverbal isn't the whole deal.

You may think that officially must be modifying something else in the sentence, but since this is between the noun and the modifying of phrase, it's clearly internal to the noun phrase and the most obvious thing for it to be modifying in there is the head noun. When they post the podcast tomorrow, I'll try to find the exact sentence. I think you'll find that there's really nothing else in the sentence that officially could possibly have been modifying.

[Update: the podcast is now available, but it's only 25 minutes of highlights, and apparently interesting grammatical features don't qualify. A google search, though, turns up a number of relevant instances elsewhere.]


Q Higuchi said...

How curious! I casually googled for "the opening officially of" - boy, there are quite a few (although not all of them are 'genuine' of course).

My immediate impression is that this is a case of syntactic blending of some complex sort, but I do not yet know what factors are interacting, let alone how. Fascinating.

MikeyC said...

A bit late, but: