5.1   Obliques
v  Obliques  are any of the phrases within a clause other than the subject, direct object,  direct object, indirect object, or verb.
v  Obliques  usually express a wider range of meanings than do subjects and objects. Some  express secondary characters.


     He opened the door[for the small children].

     Many nations provided funding [for the Persian Gulf war].


     He ate dinner [with his guests].

     Why don’t you come [with me]?

     He missed the dirt [with the manure].


     Many people have learned to eat [with their fingers].

     The mill will not grind [with water that is past].

     We make a living [by what we get], but we make a life [by what we give].

     Let’s go [on foot].

Others express setting.

 (4)   TIME

     He awoke [late the next morning].

     It has been too hot[the whole week].Most successful sales come [after the fifth  call].

(5)   LOCATION (of an object or an entire event)

     He saw the dog[over there].

     Little mice sat [on a teapot].

(6)   SOURCE (starting point)

     He came [from Alabama].

     Please take that silly hat [off your head].

(7)   PATH

     They passed [through many twisted corridors].

     One if [by land], two if [by sea]…

(8)   GOAL (endpoint)

     He ran [to the back of the room].

     I’ll put the letter [on your desk].

Other obliuqes express abstract qualities characteristic of the event or of the speaker’s attitude towards the event.

(9)   MANNER

     [Very slowly], she backed out of the cage.

     Sergeant pepper dismantled th bomb [with great care].

     [Unfortunately], we cannot retain your services.

5.2    Prepositional and postpositional phrases

v  The  structure most used for obliques is a noun phrase combined with a PREPOSITION  (such as under) to form a PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE (PP), such as under the table.  Conversely, the most common use of PPs is as obliques, although we have also  seen them used as possessors, indirect objects, and even direct objects.
v  The  preposition plays a pivotal role in a PP, since it signals the relationship of  the NP to the clause. For example, it is the preposition in the following  examples that indicates the grammatical relation of meaning of the phrase.

11)   to Arthur                                    Indirect Object or Goal

         for Arthur                                   Benefactive

         with Arthur                                 Accompaniment

         on Arthur                                    Location

         through Arthur                          Path

v  Of  course, the meaning of the noun phrase itself also plays a factor, since many  prepositions can be used to express more than one meaning:

(12)   in three minutes                Time

         in the candy dish               Location

         in a huff                          manner

o   Noun phrase

(13)   Benefactive: Juma cooked some porridge for Ahmed.

(14)   Time : The rooster crowed three times.

(15)   Goal and Time: Fatuna goes to the mosque on Fridays

(16)   Location: Juma kissed Halima in the attic.

(17)   Path: Juma did not go by the path

5.2    Adverb phrases

v  Many  other words traditionally called adverbs are clearly not in the same syntactic  category as true adverbs. Degree words,for example, are traditionally  considered adverbs, but they cannot be interchanged freely with true adverbs.

(18)    a. She ran very smoothly.

  1. *She ran smoothly very.
  2.  *She ran quickly smoothly.
  3. *She ran very so.

(19)   a. Don’t speak so fast.

  1. b. *Don’t speak fast so.
  2. *Don’t speak fast well.
  3.  *Don’t speak very.

(*means that the utterance is unacceptable)

in some languages (especially SOV languages), ‘prepositions’ follow the NP, in which case they are called POSTPOSITIONS (also P) and the phrases are called POSTPOSITIONAL PHRASES (also (PP). in a PP, the preposition or postposition is the head and the noun phrase is called its OBJECT, the structure that is generally assumed for PPs is as follows:


5.4   The Distribution of Obliques

Obliques can occur outside of objects if they occur on the same side of the verb, the object will be closer to the verb than the obliques. Wherever they occur, the relative order  of the obliques to each other is usually free, while the order of subject, verb and objects is often more fixed.

(13)   a.   I went to sleep in phonology class  this morning.

  1.  I went to sleep this morning in phonology class.
  2. *went to sleep I in phonology class this morning.

(14)   a.   I was studying grammar with some friends until two in the morning.

  1.  I was studying grammar until two in the morning with some friends.
  2. *I was studying with some friends grammar with until two in the morning

For English we could write a VP rule like the following:



In English, obliques can also occur in front of the subject.

(16)   Last night, I studied too long

Also, some obliques can occur just before the main verb.

(17)   I was gradually walking up, when I realized how late it was.

5.5   Complement versus adjuncts

Most obliques serve as modifiers within the clause and most obliques can freely occur with all types of verbs.

Complements are phrases that are required by particular verbs.

Adjuncts are phrases that freely occur with all verbs.

Most obliques are adjuncts, but not all are. Obliques expressing Source, Path, and Goal, in particular, are required by some verbs and cannot be used with others. The distinction is also sometimes applied within a noun phrase: the possessor is a complement, and the modifiers are adjuncts.

(18)   a.   Polly put the kettle on the table.

  1. *Polly put the kettle.

(19)   a.   In a rage, Arthur killed the pesky fly.

  1. *in a rage, Arthur killed the pesky fly to the wall.

5.6   How to write your PP

Whether a language has prepositions or postpositions tends to correlate with facts about the order of constituents in other phrases. There are two types of languages with respect to constituent order in clauses and phrases. HEAD-INITIAL and HEAD-FINAL languages.

(21)   Head-initial:

            PREPOSITION                     precedes           object              in PP

            VERB              precedes          object               in VP or S (SOV, VSO, VOS)

            NOUN                                    precedes           possessor         in NP


            object              precedes          postposition     in PP

            objects             precede            VERB              in VP or S (SOV, OSV, OVS)

            possessor         precedes          NOUN                        in NP

possessors in English precede the head noun, even though objects follow verbs and prepositions. In other words, these CONSTITUENTS ORDER UNIVERSALS are not true for all languages but represent UNIVERSAL TENDENCIES that are true for most languages.

Let’s bring our phrase structure rules together in one place and see how they work.

            AP       à        (DegP)
            AdvP   à        (DegP)
            QP       à        (DegP)
            DegP   à        … Deg
Given  appropriate lexical entries, these rules will generate the following tree:
(23)   Getrude cut the salami for my hungry  children briskly there with a knife at the last minute.
v  The  most obliques can freely co-occur with all types of verbs, unlike direct and indirect objects. Recall that some verbs are intransitive (they can’t have  objects), some are ditransitive (they require two objects), etc. In contrast to  this, the presence of most obliques is neither ruled out nor required by any verb.
v  Thus, a  basic distinction is usually drawn between those phrases that are required by  particular verb, called COMPLEMENTS, and other phrases that freely occur with  all verbs, called ADJUNCTS.
v  The  complements (such as direct and indirect objects) are those phrases that a verb  subcategorizes for; all others are adjuncts.
v  Most  obliques are adjuncts, but not all are. Obliques expressing Source, Path, ND  Goal, in particular, are required by some verbs and cannot be used with others.