"Reading a book, her dog barked": Prominence Hierarchy and the Acceptability of Dangling Modifiers

Adrian Zhou

A dangling modifier is a linguistic construction where the logical subject of the modifier clause does not match the subject of the main clause. For example, "Walking through the park, the trees looked beautiful". Though normally considered ungrammatical by the standards of prescriptive grammar, dangling modifiers abound in the usage of English. In the current study, an acceptability judgement task was used to test if the acceptability of dangling modifiers are determined by the position of the logical subject in the main clause. Preliminary analysis on data collected on Amazon Mechanical Turk suggests that acceptability of dangling modifiers might be moderated more by the presence of the logical subject and its linear proximity to the modifying clause.




Matthew Lowder