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  1. The weather during summer can be very hot in Libya.
  2. During summer, the weather can be very hot in Libya.
  3. The weather can be very hot in Libya during summer.
  4. The weather can be very hot during summer in Libya.

I thought that the adverbial phrase during summer acts as an adjective that in:

  1. it modifies weather
  2. it modifies weather
  3. it modifies Libya
  4. it modifies weather

Am I right? or is there the possibility that the adverbial phrase modifies the whole sentence?

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all these forms are fine:

The weather during the summer can be very hot in Libya.

During the summer, the weather can be very hot in Libya.

The weather can be very hot in Libya during the summer.

The weather can be very hot during the summer in Libya.

During the summer is an adverbial phrase: The weather in Libya during the summer can be very hot. It answers the question: when? WHEN can the weather be very hot in Libya? It can be hot in the summer. Therefore, it goes with the verb.

Please note: I prefer during the summer here. On the other hand, if you use in summer, you can leave out the article.

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There is the possibility that an adverbial phrase modifies an entire clause.  There is also the possibility that a prepositional phrase is adjectival rather than adverbial. 
 

The weather during summer can be very hot in Libya. 

Here, there seems little room for argument.  "During summer" modifies "weather" or "the weather".  In either case, it is an adjectival prepositional phrase. 
 

During summer, the weather can be very hot in Libya. 

Here, there seems to be plenty of room for argument.  This clause makes sense regardless of whether we consider the prepositional phrase to be supplemental, modifying the entire following clause; or adjunctive, modifying only the verb "can be".  Either case can be labeled adverbial. 
 

The weather can be very hot in Libya during summer. 

There is nothing but room for argument here.  "During summer" could modify "Libya", "very hot", or "can be".  In this example I prefer to interpret it as modifying the verb, but the other interpretations are far from senseless. 
 

The weather can be very hot during summer in Libya. 

For this example I cannot even establish that "during summer" is the complete prepositional phrase.  Both [ [during summer] [in Lybia] ] and [ during [ summer in Lybia ] ] are sensible ways to parse the phrasing. 

The entire adjective phrase "very hot during summer in Lybia", regardless of its internal structure, is the complement of the subject "the weather".  I cannot support the notion that "in Lybia" on its own in any way modifies "the weather" in this sentence. 

 

These ambiguities do not represent a flaw in the English language.  Instead, they are a feature of it.  The overall meaning of this particular sentence does not change, regardless of the exact role that the prepositional phrase plays or the particular position which it takes. 

It is easy enough to construct a sentence in which an ambiguity results in more than one possible overall meaning: 

We are not discussing Libya's weather during the summer. 

In this case, "during the summer" might modify "Libya's weather" or it might modify "are (not) discussing".  Under the former interpretation, we are discussing something other than Libya's summertime weather.  Under the latter, the discussion about Libya's weather happens during some other season if it happens at all.  The former interpretation considers the prepositional phrase in an adjectival role, while the latter considers it adverbial. 

  • I can't see any ambiguity in the OP's examples. "During summer" is an adjunct in clause structure. That is evident from the fact that it is moveable and omissible. – BillJ Nov 1 '16 at 7:51
  • Are "he wanted the cake", "only he wanted the cake", "he only wanted the cake" and "he wanted only the cake" all identical? No. Is "only" an adjunct each time? No, it's an adjunct in the third example only. Is it moveable and omissible? – Gary Botnovcan Nov 1 '16 at 11:32
  • I'm counting 4 examples: No, the focusing modifier "only" is an adjunct in the 3rd example only where it modifies the VP "wanted the cake". In your 2nd and 4th examples it's a modifier in NP structure. An adjunct by definition is a modifier in VP or clause structure; it does not modify nouns or other categories. In the OP's examples "during summer" is a durational adjunct in clause structure modifying the VPs. – BillJ Nov 1 '16 at 13:28
  • Ok, then. In the first, "only" is omitted. In the rest, it has different positions. "Movable and omissible" is demonstrated, but does not establish that the "only" in these examples is always an adjunct. That being said and regarding OP's examples, I don't see the difference between my saying "The overall meaning of this particular sentence does not change, regardless of the exact role that the prepositional phrase plays or the particular position which it takes" and your saying "I can't see any ambiguity in the OP's examples". Is there a difference? – Gary Botnovcan Nov 1 '16 at 13:49

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