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Detached Construction

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One of the secondary parts of a sentence by some specific consideration of thewriter is placed so that it seems formally independent of the word it logically refers to. Such parts of structures are called detached (4) They seem to dangle in the sentence as isolated parts. The detached part assumes a greater degree of significance and is given prominence by intonation. The structural patterns of detached constructions have not yet been classified, but the most noticeable cases are those in which an attri­bute or an adverbial modifier is placed not in immediate proximity to its referent, but in some other position:

1) "Steyne rose up, grinding his teeth, pale, and with fury in his eyes". (Thackeray)

2) "Sir Pitt came in first, very much flushed, and rather unsteady in his gait." (Thackeray)

Sometimes a nominal phrase is thrown into the sentence forming a syntactical unit with the rest of the sentence:

"And he walked slowly past again, along the river—an evening of clear, quiet beauty, all harmony and comfort, except within his heart." (Galsworthy)

The essential quality of detached construction is that the isolated parts represent a kind of independent whole thrust into the sentence or placed in a position which will make the phrase (or word) seem independent But a detached phrase cannot rise to the rank of a primary member of the sentence—it always remains secondary from the semantic point of view, although structurally it possesses all the fea­tures of a primary member. This clash of the structural and semantic aspects of detached constructions produces the desired effect—forcing the reader to interpret the logical connections between the component parts of the sentence. Logical ties between them always exist in spite of the absence of syntactical indicators.

Detached constructions in their common forms make the written variety of language akin to the spoken variety where the relation be­tween the component parts is effectively materialized by means of into­nation.

This stylistic device is akin to inversion. The functions are almost the same. But detached construction produces a much stronger effect, inasmuch as it presents parts of the utterance significant from the au­thor's point of view in a more or less independent manner.

"Daylight was dying, the moon rising, gold behind the poplars." (Galsworthy)

'"I want to go,' he said, miserable." (Galsworthy) "She was lovely: all of her—delightful” (Dreiser)

The italicized phrases and words in these sentences seem to be isolat­ed, but still the connection with the primary members of the correspond­ing sentences is clearly implied.

A variant of detached construction is parenthesis.

“Parenthesis is a qualifying, explanatory or appositive word, phrase, clause, sentence which interrupts a syntactical construction without affecting it, having a characteristic intonation and indicated by commas, brackets or dashes.”

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