From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Linguistics (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Linguistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of linguistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

more opinion needed[edit]

Suggest you see Merlin Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind, Harvard University Press, 1991, for a discussion of appositional thinking. (talk) 13:43, 15 August 2010 (UTC) Paul Bendheim, August 15, 2010

Someone did a really great job with the NPOV here. It is silent on whether or not this device should be used. It would be nice to have several schools of thought on this included. Is the apposition more commonly used in older, modern, or more formal writing? Have certain great writers used or avoided it? If you have some information on this but don't think it merits inclusion, I would still be interested. (leave a message on my talk page) thanks, --Victoria h 23:45, 17 November 2005 (UTC)

The problem is that both are different by their very nature. Merging the two would create more confusion because an appositive is a noun phrase and has nothing to do with Apposition which deals with titles and/or names only. Grammatically the two can be similar, but in cases where one uses both, it can be a nightmare when placing commas. The only way apposition should only be shown with appositives is as a warning such as "sometimes confused with." To most people, this is not a big deal, but it is grammatically important. David, a fan...

I don't understand how they're different. Could you explain (and preferably provide references)? —Keenan Pepper 00:12, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

more opinion needed[edit]

Someone did a really great job with the NPOV here. It is silent on whether or not this device should be used. It would be nice to have several schools of thought on this included. Is the apposition more commonly used in older, modern, or more formal writing? Have certain great writers used or avoided it? If you have some information on this but don't think it merits inclusion, I would still be interested. (leave a message on my talk page) thanks, --Victoria h 23:46, 17 November 2005 (UTC)

Are years in dates appositives?[edit]

Is the year of a date an appositive? There are thousands of July 19s, but only one July 19, 2002.

No, the two parts of the date refer to two different things. But the parts of "Tuesday, July 19" are in apposition, because they refer to the same thing. Frumpet 09:47, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Appositive Talk[edit]

The following is the entire content of Talk:Appositive:

This page contains discussions about the "appositive" article.

Witty examples[edit]

The former witty examples illustrating Appositive built into an outstanding Wikipedia entry were not humorless and "encyclopedic" enough to satisfy User:Burschik, who suppressed the whole and substituted the current leaden and pedestrian effort, with its "Dick and Jane" numbered examples. The former entry, in its entirety, read:

In grammar, an appositive, a useful dependent noun or phrase or full clause such as this one, offers clarification or additional explanation in a condensed format. An appositive follows the word it explains, offset by commas. One 'way to identify an appositive is to ask the question: could this phrase replace the word next to it? Does this phrase make the word next to it all but unnecessary?

In this Wikipedia entry, the use of appositives and appositive phrases, grammatical devices so handy that their overuse is tempting, are identified by italics.

An appositive, grammatically incomplete, is always set off by commas, a reader-friendly invention, with one exception: LAPIDARY INSCRIPTIONS CHISELLED INTO STONE. If you do not have a chisel in your hand, you must set off an appositive with commas, though at the beginning or end of the sentence only one comma is required.

As for commas, ancient Romans scarcely knew the period at the end of a sentence.


Not all phrases set off by commas are appositives. Some appositives are so brief— and sometimes so inevitable— that they are epithets: Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Persia, comes to mind. But Charlemagne, "Charles the Great", has absorbed his epithet into his very name, much like his 9th-century contemporary Haroun al-Rashid, the caliph at Baghdad. Arabic personal names, daunting to the Anglophone eye,* if such metaphors may be mixed, combine a series of patronymics with an epithet or two, set "in apposition," a phrase not to confuse with "opposition.".

* a gerund phrase placed in apposition


I don't think the chiseling conceit was relevant or appropriate. Just say "An appositive must be set off by commas." The chiseling thing isn't a grammatical exception, so forget about it.

I hope you laughed. Nevertheless, it's all true. Wetman 18:54, 6 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Such a clever article, with its effective tutorial style, should be a model for others.

A joker added a "Cleanup" notice. I removed it. --Wetman 13:58, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I admit the article was clever. However, it was not what is generally* considered encyclopedic. Burschik 08:55, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

*By "generally" read "by resentful humorless small-town high-school graduates insurance salesmen like me"

  • I believe that Burschik's version is preferable for Wikipedia. The previous version is clever, and humorous when you think it over, but it is not sufficiently clear for an encyclopedia. I surfed to this page and had no idea what an appositive was 5 mins ago. I read the original text first, then Burschik's version. The latter made it far clearer to me what an appositive is, in a simple, straight-forward, efficient manner. That is what an encyclopedia should do. Witty prose has it's place, but it is not what's needed here. Amelia Hunt 00:01, Dec 24, 2004 (UTC)
  • Well, I'm sure that's truly heartfelt, Amelia. I'm glad you cared to share that with us. Tell me, do you think that wit has no genuine role to play at Wikipedia? --Wetman 00:41, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)
01-December-2006: Well, 2 years later, I think wit is okay for Talk-pages: for example, it can be said that WP is growing beyond Weakipedia as it reaches a critical mass with numerous people adding projects of indepth knowledge. Already, the coverage is maturing, with descriptions of all 9 Beethoven symphonies, the precursor groups before the Nazi Party, and descriptions of early ships that followed the Mayflower. However, back to the witty version about "appositive": I, too, am in opposition to witty description of apposition since the topic is complex enough for the novice, so I suppose, for repose, the witty version, regarding appose, should remain deposed as disposed. No wonder Shakespeare said (in Hamlet), "Less art and more matter!" -Wikid77 06:01, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Error in example[edit]

" 4. Bill brought Alice along to the famous singer's wedding. Bill's friend, Alice, adored the famous singer, Dean Martin.

"... The appositives in example four are non-restrictive, since Bill's friend and the famous singer have already been identified."

The famous singer has not been previously identified, so the appositive "Dean Martin" is still restrictive. —Unsigned

I’m changing the first sentence to “Bill brought his friend…”, as the appositive in the second sentence is otherwise unnecessary. I think the word identified here means mentioned (“the famous singer” referring to a specific one), and I’m also changing that text accordingly. Any disagreements can be resolved by editing my edit, I’m not an English major. (See? Comma splice.) —Frungi 03:19, 15 November 2006 (UTC)


Why do we have this page and Apposition?

Because Appositives are "noun phrases" that modifies a noun, whereas appositions can be anything that modifies it. 07:11, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

Appositive preceding a noun[edit]

the article states this is possible. Does anyone have an example? 02:50, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

"'King of the French', Louis-Philippe at first was broadly popular." Such a painful inversion, though, shows how much word order does count in English. --Wetman 11:08, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

"This makes them often function hyperbatons," Should this be "function as"?? -Jeff

I don't think so, but I don't know what a function hyperbaton is. If it were a rhetorical goal to speak a hyperbaton, then i suppose that function as hyperbatons would make sense. This needs clarification. Does anyone have a source for this statement? What was meant there? O'RyanW ( ) 06:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Literary device?[edit]

I had an issue with one of the perspectives of the paper. I'd like to get a few opinions on this, as I'm neither a grammarian nor a linguist.

  1. I'm not sure that apposition is a literary device. It's a grammatical construct of placing two noun phrases next to one another, written with an appositive. Is it really in the same ranks with deceit and foreshadow? Further, the article literary technique doesn't even mention apposition.
  2. You could argue that hyperbations can use appositives, but many hyperbations dont use appositives and most appositives are not hyberbations. Are the two really that closely related?

What are your opinions? - grubber 03:48, 21 January 2007 (UTC) (revised 06:01, 31 January 2007 (UTC))

Agree on both points. It's first and foremost a straightforward element of grammar. Nothing to do with specific literary style and techniques. The intro and main outline should be reworked to present it as a grammatical feature, and then at best a paragraph or section outlining its role in rhetorics/stylistics/whatever. Fut.Perf. 06:28, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Can you do apposition without using an appositive? The intro seems to suggest so, but I can't come up with an example. I like grammar, so my biased view is that this article should be at Appositive; the changes you mention would be appropriate for such a move. However, the opposite action is what was done (Appositive->Apposition, according to the page history), so I'm trying to find out the motives behind that merge. - grubber 17:33, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Now that you mention it, these two sentences make no sense to me either: "The placing of two nouns in apposition is called an appositive. Appositives are by far the most common form of apposition." First, "the placing of" the nouns is exactly what the "apposition" itself is; on that definition "apposition" and "appositive" would seem to be exactly the same thing. And then, as you notice, an "apposition" without "appositives" doesn't really make sense - either the two terms denote the same anyway, or the second denotes an essential component of the first. I wasn't exactly familiar with a formal definition of "appositive", but the usage I looked up in Quirk et al's Comprehensive Grammar of English is: "apposition" is the grammatical construction as a whole, i.e. the relation of the noun phrases among each other; an "appositive" is a component of apposition, i.e. either of the two noun phrases that stand in apposition. Fut.Perf. 22:43, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
God we're dorks :) lol. - grubber 22:52, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
My sources (which I can cite if desired) do not say that an appositive is a kind of apposition; rather they say that the appositive is an integral part of an apposition, specifically the limiting, commenting, or explaining part (my wording), although at least one source says that both parts are appositions. The apposition itself is a relationship or structure containing two parts.
Since the appositive is the contained part, it is properly discussed in an article on apposition (the containing structure). (By analogy articles may properly be discussed in a treetment on noun phrases, it makes less sense to me to put the analysis of noun phrases in a discussion on articles.)
I agree that apposition is first and foremost a grammatical structure, although like any structure it may have rhetorical uses. (delayed by edit conflict) O'RyanW ( ) 23:08, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't object to the article staying put at Apposition. However, can you give an example of an apposition not marked by use of an appositive? It seems to that one is the concept and the other is the implementation in grammar. - grubber 23:21, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Some sources difine apposition as the relation (sounds like your "concept"?) betwee two or more elements; some define it as the sequence (sounds like "structure" to me) of two or mor elements. The criteria given are: 1) the two elements be coreferential; 2) both elements have the same relationship to the rest of the sentence or containing structure; 3) either of the elements may be deleted and leave a coherant grammatical structure (if the relationship/structure is restrictive, the scope of the reference will expand or shrink; if if non-restrictive, the reference [tho not the denotation] should remain unchanged). I see no way for an apposition to lack an appositive (The idea sounds like a self-contradiction). Here is the short pair of entries from A Glossary of Grammar and Linguistics by Andrew MacLesh:
  • apposition. Two constructions or words that are next to each other and refer to the same thing. Our teacher, Mr. Smith, is a good one.
  • appositive. The second of two words or constructions in apposition is usually called the appositive. In the example above, Mr. Smith, is the appositive.
The entire sequence Our teacher, Mr. Smith, is the apposition, but the copular relationship between our teacher and Mr. Smith is also called an apposition. The main problem with MacLeish's definition is that it is very oversimplified, especially in that:
  1. His sole example is non-restrictive. He doesn't mention the restrictive cases (such as, my friend John), or the differences between them.
  2. The appositive, apparently, does not have to be the second element; relatively infrequently, it is preposed. (If the apposition is non-restricive, it is marked by a comma or tonal juncture.)
  3. The two elements do not have to be strictly adjacent. Again infrequently, the appositive may be extraposed.
I receintly translated this article for the Esperanto Wikipedia, and have since slowly been correcting and ellaborating it there. In preparation I completely copied the entries on apposition and appositive from some seventeen dictionaries (mostly grammatical and linguistic) into a rft file translating them into Esperanto as I went. I have also ordered several more to do the same with them. The Esperanto article is going into much greater depth. I am finding examples from the Esperanto literature for this. (Over the last few years I have collected around 80 megabytes of Esperanto literary text as my corpus.) So far I am about half way through the restrictives, and have not really gotten into the non-restrictives yet.
The various sources are not fully concsistant; David Crystal says in A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, 4th ed., that there exist, however, many theoretical and methodological problems in the definition of the notion "apposition", because of the existance of several constructions which obey only some of the criteria, and where either semantic or syntactic problems are involved, as in titles and other designations (the number six, my friend John).
One stinker confusing the issue is that some languages (I think French is one) use a word which looks like apposition to mean what we refer to by appositive. They seem to lack a word looking like appositive and lack a single term for what we refer to by apposition. O'RyanW ( ) 01:52, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Excellent explanation. I appreciate it. I looked up what I could and could not find the distinction. Now, we should incorporate your points into the article, as I feel the talk page is more helpful than the article! :) - grubber 02:43, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Not just noun phrases[edit]

Most sources are careful to say two elements, pointing out that they are often noun phrases, but need not be. Ralph M. Albaugh in his A Dictionary of Grammar and Structure gives the following non-noun-phrase examples:

  • Adjectival. Sweet, or unsalted, butter is sold in that area.; An adjective modifies (clarifys, limits, explains) a noun.
  • Adverbial. He got up early — at half past five — and went outside.
  • Partly clausal. Morton's hobby, bulding model airplanes, kept him occupied.

O'RyanW ( ) 02:09, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Great examples. I (or whoever) will incorporate these examples into the article, as I think they are important. Your third example uses a gerund, which is also a noun phrase, no? - grubber 02:45, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
On second thought, does the first one count as apposition, since it incorporates a conjunction? - 02:47, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
First, the above three example are not mine, but Albaugh's.
Good point and questions! It certainly looks like a conjunction, and until a month ago I probably would have said conjunction, but note:
  • With the proper intonation, and replacing the word or with a longer pause, one gets what more clearly looks like an apposition/appositive: Sweet — unsalted — butter is sold .... The word or seems (to me) to be functioning as a voiced parenthesis, as the meaning has not changed at all.
  • The word or here conjoins terms, not referents. Thus it seems (again to me) to be functioning in a somewhat metalinguistic fashion. (I just thought up this consideration, so I am not sure of its sigifigance.) (I linked "metalinguistic", but the article there is not very helpful.) In contrast, your I (or whoever) above cannot, I think, despite the parenthesis, be called and apposition since it presents a disjunction of referents.
  • There is a class of appositions involving strict identity or equivalance of reference in which the appositive is presented with an expression such as: namely, that is, i.e., aka, otherwise known as, in other words. Katie Wales iin A Dictionary of Stylistics says "Apposition" is often explicitely markes by "connectives", such as "namely", , "that is to say", "or rather", etc, especially in registers where expliciteness and clarity are important (e.g. scientific articles, official reports). In Plena Analiza Gramatiko de Esperanto by Kalocsay and Waringhien it says in section 131 that the conjunction or is also part of this group. On reflection, I think that a strict structuralist approach would say that in this use all these are not adverbs, not prepositions, and not conjunctions, but some as yet unnamed class, which we might call, say, preappositives, or more specifically preequivalants. For some idiolects, perhaps we could add some uses of I mean, you know, and like to this class. ;-)
With regard to the gerund, I agree that building model airplains is also a noun phrase, or at least functions as one. Furthermore, Morton's hobby is itself a noun phrase, which doesn't serve the purpose of the example. The building of model airplains would more clearly be a noun phrase. Less clearly noun phrases, but still functioning as such are the complement clauses in:
  • The submariners' attempt to stop the leak was doomed. :-(
  • His knowledge that cosmetics are deceptive did not prevent his arousal.
The last two are my examples; you may use them if you see fit. Albaugh also gives the following two examples of "clauses" and "phrases" used as appositives:
  • The idea that justice will triumph underlies the plot.
  • He soon forgot his "resolution" to study every night.
I have been mulling on your idea the apposition is a concept which is implemented by an appositive, and that (consequently?) the article would best be labled Appositive. If I now understand this correctly, you might set up the following analogy: Appositives are to appositions as adjectives and adverbs are to modification. That is a nice analogy. I had in mind something more like: Appositive are to appositions as adjectives are to noun phrases, with most appositions being a kind of complex noun phrase themselves. I suspect that neither analogy is wrong, that both are right, and that the word apposition has differing senses, it being just a matter of descriptive style. Note the definition at: Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary: 1 a : a grammatical construction in which two usually adjacent nouns having the same referent stand in the same syntactical relation to the rest of a sentence (as the poet and Burns in a biography of the poet Burns) b : the relation of one of such a pair of nouns or noun equivalents to the other. See also SIL's Glossary of Linguistic Terms.
On the other hand, in your favor, I have never seen the word apposition (nor the word appositive) used in a phrase structure rule. I still prefer the article name appositive, but I think i understand the other point of view much better now. Thanks! O'RyanW ( ) 05:53, 1 February 2007 (UTC) p.s. Boy! It sure pays to proofread this stuff. Both this and my previous message would have been incoherent otherwise! O'RyanW ( ) 03:44, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

For a new section[edit]

I think that the current third and forth paragraphs

Apposition often results when the verbs (particularly verbs of being) in supporting clauses are eliminated to produce shorter descriptive phrases. This makes them often function hyperbatons, or figures of disorder because they can disrupt the flow of a sentence. For example in the phrase: "My wife, a nurse by training,...," it is necessary to pause before the parenthetical modification "a nurse by training."

While apposition is quite common in modern prose, it has been pointed out [2] that it is rarely used in impromptu speech, which tends to make greater use of parenthesis or subordinate clauses. In ordinary speech, the preceding example would more likely be rendered: "my wife, who is a nurse by training,...."

should be moved down and form a new section named something like "Usage" or "Rhetorical uses". I would place it between the current "Examples" and "References". O'RyanW ( ) 06:04, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Appositive examples[edit]

  • Seabirds can be highly pelagic, coastal, or in some cases spend a part of the year away from the sea entirely. --from todays WP main page, exemplifying a non-nominal (non-restrictive) equivalence relation, without that is, etc. O'RyanW ( ) 14:25, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm still thinking about all this.... - grubber 19:53, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Cancel that please - I saw "pelagic" and thought "litoral". Oops! O'RyanW ( ) 01:34, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
  • John and Bob, both friends of mine, are starting a band. (currently used on the page) -- is the appositive phrase ambiguous? While this would be natural in spoken language in writing it almost looks to me like it asserts that the writer has only two friends. I'm not sure though, because if I reword the genitive, it's "John and Bob, both my friends," and I'm not sure whether or not this is distinct from saying "John and Bob, both of my friends" (although I guess if I'm being overly pedantic, adding the 'of' in that case might just mean that they both are 'of his friends' -- members of the set of his friends) Is there any other way to set up the punctuation in this sentence without changing any of the words, which might preserve the intended meaning but make this more clear? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:24, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
With regard to both of my friends, that is treated briefly at Genitive case#Double genitive. Some regard that as a "partitive": "both are members of the set of my friends"; others as an appositive: "both are my friends". TomS TDotO (talk) 14:24, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Two essential books[edit]

In addition to Quirk (1985) two books which anyone wishing to expand this article in depth should study, in my view, are:

  • Acuña Fariña, Juan Carlos (1996) The Puzzle of Apposition, On so-called appositive structures in English. (Unuversidad de Santiago de Compostela).
  • Meyer, Charles F. (1992) Apposition in Contemporary English. (Cambridge).

Meyer's work is corpus based. He analyzes the gradation in syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties from coordination through apposition to subordination that various constructions display. He also charts the differing degrees to which various genres (conversation, the press, fiction, scientific, other academic) and subgenres tend to use different types of "apposition" and speculates on the pragmatic reasons for these differences.

Acuña reviews the literature on apposition focusing on Poutsma, Jespersen, Curme, Hockett, Chomsky, Sopher, Burton-Roberts, Bitea, Koktová, and Meyer. He strictly applies criteria for judging whether a construction is appositive. In the end only non-restrictive juxtaposed definite noun phrases, and perhaps certain adverbial constructions are left. He doubts that there is sufficient motivation for considering apposition to be a relation distinct from both coordination and modification. The non-restrictive structues are sometimes indeterminate, having a dual analysis.

I have just finished a 62K article on apposition for the Esperanto Wikipedia and will be very interested to see what develops here. O'RyanW ( ) 23:34, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

Restrictive Appositions ???[edit]

As a linguist, I am quite surprised to hear about 'restrictive appositives'. AFAIK, the distinction between restrictives and non-restrictives applies to RELATIVE clauses, with appositives intersecting with the latter class.

For example: The man which is standing there is cool. (restrictive relative clause) Mary, who is standing there, is pretty. (non-restrictive relative clause) Mary, a trained nurse, is pretty (apposition).

IMHO the whole restrictive vs non-restrictive section should be deleted since the distinction does not apply here. Concerning punctuation, appositions must be separated by commas or dashes anyway. Sebiroth 10:17, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia requires sources, not the testimony of a self-proclaimed expert in the field in question. As for your point, there are quite a few constructions where commas are not used with appositives. To go with your examples: My friend Mary is pretty. Other examples are in the article. — trlkly 14:39, 14 October 2008 (UTC)
  • 09-Nov-2011: (3 years later) Today, a Google Search for the term "non-restrictive apositive" yields 14,900 hits. The term has been used in the U.S. for more than 40 years, and a check of the sources will show how widely the term has been used in various areas. -Wikid77 05:23, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Appositive genitive[edit]

Would it be appropriate to include something about the "appositive genitive"? The use of the same construction which indicates possession (the gentive case, a prepositional or postpositional clause, the construct) is used in many languages to indicate apposition: Dublin's fair city, the habit of smoking, a monstrosity of a blunder, ...

TomS TDotO (talk) 16:39, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Appositive v. apposition: consistency needed[edit]

The article seems to use the two words interchangeably. If they are synonyms, the first part of the article needs to read "Apposition, also know as appositives...). If, however, as this talk page suggests, they are different concepts, both need to be defined explicitly, since the former redirects to the latter. Either way, there needs to be consistency in the article. Switching words midarticle is not a good idea. — trlkly 14:47, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

Seconded Giddie (talk) 09:43, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

Isn't appositive new or additonal info set by commas[edit]

Well I,(Rosevictor (talk) 19:13, 14 December 2008 (UTC)), ask this question is appositive new or additional info set by commas or is my English teacher is wrong If so get me a reason and why or why not. Posted By (Rosevictor (talk) 19:13, 14 December 2008 (UTC)).


You need a definition for the wordYou —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:49, 14 April 2009 (UTC)


09-November-2011: Someone has tagged the term "non-restrictive apositive" to request additional text for "[clarification needed]" and so to clarify, I am rewriting the text to mention the concept as to "restrict, or limit, the scope". -Wikid77 05:23, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

The usage "My brain, it teems [/ with endless schemes /both good and new / for Titty-Poo, /for Titty-Poo.]"[edit]

   For now i am taking the view that that usage is not an example of apposition (but rather an ungrammatical lyric, invented to fit a convenient poetic meter). In fact, i now remember that the apparently analogous "My brother, he says that ..." was a usage explicitly treated as bad speech in, probably, my public grade school in a suburb of a big northeast-coast city. (Or, if not, in the jr. high of the pop. 8k seat of a county in which about another 3k now live in even smaller "cities", 2k in incorporated villages, and 36k(!) elsewhere, and presumably farm and/or run small businesses directly serving farmers, or the farm families that (i assume) raise big families).
--Jerzyt 08:15, 3 October 2016 (UTC)

Linguists call it Topic and comment, not apposition. AnonMoos (talk) 17:21, 8 October 2016 (UTC)