Grammar: "So" as a modifier? (take II)

Subject: Grammar: "So" as a modifier? (take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 07 Oct 2005 12:41:37 -0400

Sankara R responded to my comment that so functions "either as an adverb ("are so X", where "so" modifies the "are")": <<beg to disagree. Look at these: We were so worried. [I believe there is an implied 'that we nearly called the cops'] He is so funny ['that it surprised me when he quoted karl marx] she is so sexy ['that your chances are thin']>>

I didn't intend my response to be comprehensive; it was primarily adverbial uses of "so" that the original poster was wondering about, so <g> there are other possibilities. That being said:

<<Definitely not modifying was, were, or any be-verb: in that case it would be 'you _are_ a funny bird' or whatever.>>

Editors often disagree over parts of speech, since it's often possible to parse a sentence in more than one way... witness your examples.

But if you delete the word "so" from your examples, you'll see that the sentence still makes sense. That means that even if your ellipsis (the implied "so that") is possible, it's not the most likely interpretation because it relies on a very large assumption about the meaning; none of your assumed meanings are obvious without seeing much more context, and that suggests sloppy writing, not skilled use of implicit completion of the sentence. For that reason, the more straightforward interpretation is that "so" is simply adverbial, as can be seen if you substitute "very", "really", or any other appropriate adverb: it's the function of the word, not its meaning, that determines its part of speech.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Re: Grammar: "So" as a modifier?: From: Sankara R

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