Absolute Clauses

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Here is a quote from "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini:

Sometimes, at day's end, the cook at the buffet-style restaurant let Rasheed bring home a few leftovers-as long as he was discreet about it-cold meatballs sloshing in oil; fried chicken wings, the crust gone hard and dry; stuffed pasta shells turned chewy; stiff, gravelly rice.

Absolute clauses... I feel the bolded phrases are failed attempts at creating absolute phrases/clauses. My understanding is that an absolute phrase/clause begins with a noun and is followed by a modifier. The two bolded phrases, however, begin with nouns but which are followed by verbs that have their auxiliary verbs removed (the crust had gone hard and dry; stuffed pasta shells that had turned chewy).

Though they do not create the same meanings, here are how they should look were they absolute phrases/clauses: the crust hard and dry; stuffed pasta shells chewy.

Can someone please confirm I'm correct or explain why I'm wrong?
Thanks
Senior Member2,850
I cannot comment on your explanation, but the bolded phrases work fine for me.
Veteran Member88,943
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English 1b3I feel the bolded phrases are failed attempts at creating absolute phrases/clauses.
The current terminology for "absolute clause" is "small clause". A small clause is simply [NP XP]. The subject of a small clause is always a noun phrase. The predicate can be any kind of phrase. Noun, adjective, preposition, and (non-finite) verb phrases are common.

turned chewy is not a small clause, but a participial construction modifying 'shells': stuffed pasta shells (which had) turned chewy. Note the lack of a noun phrase at the beginning.

There are no failed attempts here, and there is only one small clause, namely, the crust gone hard and dry, where (obviously) the crust is the NP.

CJ
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In my experience, an absolute clause (from the Latin 'absolitus', meaning free or unconnected) is defined as a supplementary adjunct that contains a subject, is subordinate in form but, crucially, has no syntactic link to the main clause:

[1] "His hands gripping the door, he let out a volley of curses".
[2] "This done, she walked off without another word".
[3] "With the children so sick, we weren't able to get much work done"

The underlined non-finite clauses are supplements with the main clause as anchor. Absolute constructions are usually participial clauses, as in [1], or past-participial clauses, as in [2], though they can be verbless forms, as in [3]. In none of those examples is there any explicit indication of the semantic relation between the supplement and the anchor - this has to be inferred from the content of the clauses and/or the context. For example, the natural interpretation of [2] is temporal - "when this was done", and of [3], one of reason: "because the children were so sick".

[4] "Born in Aberdeen, Sue had never been further south than Edinburgh".

By contrast, the clause in [4], though also a supplement, does not qualify as an absolute because it has no subject and is syntactically related to the main clause in that the missing subject is controlled by the subject of the main clause: It was Sue who was born in Aberdeen.

Now, consider your examples:

[5] ... would bring home .... [fried chicken wings, the crust gone hard and dry].
[6] ... would bring home .... [stuffed pasta shells turned chewy].

I'd say that both the underlined clauses are post-head modifiers in a noun phrase, not absolutes. Absolutes are not modifiers, but supplementary adjuncts that normally have a clause as anchor. As modifiers, the clauses in your examples have a clear syntactic link with the NP they modify, as well as a clear semantic relation. The underlined past-participial clause in [5] modifies of the NP "fried chicken wings", and is thus part of the bracketed NP. Likewise in [6] the clause is just a modifier of "stuffed pasta shells, and part of the bracketed NP (note also that the clause has no subject and that it is not a supplement but an integral part of the NP).

BillJ
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Thanks for your responses.

I would first like to say that I too feel the topic sentence is grammatical. I just couldn't explain how it was.

It appears I have two differing explanations, which is no surprise to me. In this post I will respond to CJ and Bill J in the next. I hope I hear back from you guys, but I do understand if you don't have the time and/or interest to.

Regarding CJ's answer, I agree with your first paragraph ("The current terminology...verb phrases are common").

As for your below comment, which I have pasted as a quote, I must admit my understanding of participial constructions is not as thorough as it once was. If my memory serves me, these participial constructions are easily identified by adding 'which' and the verb 'to be' between the noun phrase being modified and the '-ing' or '-ed' participial. In the case at hand, what's missing isn't the verb 'to be' but the auxiliary verb 'had'. Is this a unique case, where 'had' is acting like the verb 'to be' perhaps...?

Now, assuming you are correct in saying this is in fact a participial construction (because, let's admit it, you probably are), I don't understand why you have said there is a lack of a noun phrase at the beginning. What about stuffed pasta shells? I must be confused as to what you mean because to me this is the noun phrase being modified...

As for your final comment, which I haven't pasted, I don't see how the construction is any different from the other sentence I've just discussed. There's a noun phrase and - if my understanding of how you came to classify 'turned chewy' as a participial construction is correct - yet another participial construction.

turned chewy is not a small clause, but a participial construction modifying 'shells': stuffed pasta shells (which had) turned chewy. Note the lack of a noun phrase at the beginning
Hi BillJ - and apologies for misspelling your name in my reply to CJ (I put a space between Bill and J - maybe you didn't even notice).

After carefully reading the topic sentences again, I can now see the first of my examples is not an absolute clause. The second, however, I don't see how it is not an absolute clause...

Would you say this both of these are absolute constructions or just the latter?

He would bring home dinner, stuffed pasta shells full of flavor.
He would bring home dinner, his generosity not going unnoticed.

Thanks
English 1b3It appears I have two differing explanations
Yes, but the differences are mostly superficial. The only real difference is our judgment about the role of the crust gone hard and dry, and even then, I see BillJ's point. the crust gone hard and dry does modify chicken wings, so according to most definitions of 'absolute clause', it doesn't qualify. It turns out that 'absolute clause' and 'small clause' are not nearly as identical as I originally thought. To confound the issue further, the definitions of 'absolute clause' found in various sources do differ. Some say that the absolute construction must contain a participle; other definitions include the verbless forms as well. Most definitions say that the absolute construction has to apply to the whole main clause; others don't mention this, so they seem to allow even a small clause that modifies a noun to be called an absolute clause.
______________

I wonder if it's as obvious in the formulation below that the crust gone hard and dry is not an absolute clause but a modifier of the fried chicken wings.

The crust gone hard and dry, the cook let Rasheed take the fried chicken wings home.
English 1b3In the case at hand, what's missing isn't the verb 'to be' but the auxiliary verb 'had'. Is this a unique case, where 'had' is acting like the verb 'to be' perhaps...?
When the participle in question is a present participle (like taking), there is no doubt that the missing auxiliary is a form of be, but when it's a past participle (like turned), the missing auxiliary can be a form of be (passive) or a form of have (perfect, active).
English 1b3I don't understand why you have said there is a lack of a noun phrase at the beginning.
It is turned chewy that has no noun phrase at the beginning. stuffed pasta shells is not part of the clause being considered. The text is not saying The stuffed pasta shells turned chewy. It's saying ... brought home [ pasta shells ] [which had turned chewy]. I pointed out the absence of an NP before turned chewy because, by definition, an absolute clause must have an NP at the beginning. Thus, the flour turned chewy, the crust turned chewy, and the surface turned chewy are all candidates for membership in the class of absolute clauses, but not just turned chewy or turned sour or turned stale, the latter being participle clauses. Putting a noun phrase in front of a participle clause (i.e., giving the participle clause a subject) turns the participle clause into an absolute clause.
English 1b3As for your final comment, which I haven't pasted
If you don't quote these things again, I can't help you. I'm here in the middle of filling in the reply box with no way to go back and read that comment without losing what I've written here or posting a partial answer until I go back and research what you're talking about. My memory is not so good that I can answer 15 other posts, then come back to this thread and remember what my last comment was in the third or fourth post of this thread. Emotion: sad

CJ
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CalifJimI wonder if it's as obvious in the formulation below that the crust gone hard and dry is not an absolute clause but a modifier of the fried chicken wings.
Fair point.
CalifJimIt is turned chewy that has no noun phrase at the beginning. stuffed pasta shells is not part of the clause being considered. The text is not saying The stuffed pasta shells turned chewy. It's saying ... brought home [ pasta shells ] [which had turned chewy]. I pointed out the absence of an NP before turned chewy because, by definition, an absolute clause must have an NP at the beginning. Thus, the flour turned chewy, the crust turned chewy, and the surface turned chewy are all candidates for membership in the class of absolute clauses, but not just turned chewy or turned sour or turned stale, the latter being participle clauses. Putting a noun phrase in front of a participle clause (i.e., giving the participle clause a subject) turns the participle clause into an absolute clause.
After I wrote my reply to you, I came to the same conclusion you have made clear here. Thank you.
CalifJimWhen the participle in question is a present participle (like taking), there is no doubt that the missing auxiliary is a form of be, but when it's a past participle (like turned), the missing auxiliary can be a form of be (passive) or a form of have (perfect, active).
If it's not too much trouble, would you be able to give me a couple of examples to understand exactly what you are saying? It's frustrating because I once upon a time knew this stuff inside out. Curse my memory.
CalifJimIf you don't quote these things again, I can't help you. I'm here in the middle of filling in the reply box with no way to go back and read that comment without losing what I've written here or posting a partial answer until I go back and research what you're talking about. My memory is not so good that I can answer 15 other posts, then come back to this thread and remember what my last comment was in the third or fourth post of this thread.
Sorry! Totally understand. I wouldn't expect your memory to be that good - maybe your grammar though.

the crust gone hard and dry,

So if 'turned' is a participial, then what is 'gone hard and dry'?
CalifJimI wonder if it's as obvious in the formulation below that the crust gone hard and dry is not an absolute clause but a modifier of the fried chicken wings.The crust gone hard and dry, the cook let Rasheed take the fried chicken wings home.
After re-reading your post, I have to say that this is definitely an absolute clause, according to some credible sites I have looked at in the past. I was going to try prove my case by copying and pasting something I read a long time ago, but the server for the page is down. Basically it says that a classic example of when an absolute phrase might be used is when you want to provide more detail about a noun in the main clause. For instance, if in the main clause you are talking about a boy, you may want to provide more detail about this boy in the form of an absolute construction. EG:

The boy walked down the street, his bag slung over one shoulder.

I feel this is no different from your example.
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