An ELT Glossary : Adjuncts, Disjuncts and Conjuncts



Adverbials may be adjuncts, disjuncts or conjuncts.


1. Adjuncts are integrated into the clause - eg

He walked slowly out of the room.

Syntactic tests for adjuncts are :

  • They can't appear initially in a negative declarative sentence :
          *Slowly, he didn't walk.

  • They can be contrasted with another adverbial in "alternative" interrogatives :
          Did he walk quickly or slowly? Did he walk into the room or out of the room?
    
          and negatives : 

          He didn't walk quickly and he didn't walk slowly, but at average speed. 
          He didn't walk into the room or out of the room - he went through the window both times.


2.  Disjuncts and conjuncts are syntactically similar in that they are both peripheral to the clause, and in writing this is often (though not always) indicated by commas :

He was, quite frankly, the best person for the job.
It was pouring with rain. However, he insisted on going out

They satisfy none of the syntactic criteria given above for adjuncts - for example, they can (and often do) appear initially in a negative declarative sentence :

 Quite frankly, he wasn't the best person for the job
However, he didn't insist on going out.


3. Disjuncts and conjuncts are distinguished semantically :

  • Disjuncts convey the speaker/writer's attitude to the proposition (idea of the sentence) :

         Quite frankly, he wasn't the best person for the job
         If you ask me, we should have stayed at home.
         Unfortunately, we were too late.


  • Conjuncts convey the logical relationship between the idea in the current clause and a previous one :
          We missed the bus. As a result, we were half an hour late.
           It was pouring with rain. However, he insisted on going out.


Test Your Understanding So Far...

https://www.llas.ac.uk/materialsbank/mb061/6/20a.htm


For Further Reference

This is a complex area, and only a simplified account has been given here. For a much fuller explanation see either of the following: 

Quirk, R. et al (1972) A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman  Chapter Eight

http://www.slideshare.net/PhamVanvanDinh/week-11-adverbial-adjuncts-conjuncts-disjuncts