In the same quote below, why is the first occurrence of road is followed by a comma while the second is not? Who or what is curving in the first occurrence, the road or the writer? Can I get evidence as to who or what is curving from the text or grammar rules?

I was on a high, open road, curving over the swell of hillside that I saw as the flanks of some prehistoric animal, deep in slumber. The moonlight was so strong as to throw my shadow beside me on the road as a mute companion; and so I found myself not quite alone after all, taking a childish pleasure in my shadow-self as it matched me stride for stride. I could see quite clearly my road curving ahead, and the clump of trees, inky black, that marked my turning point.

Source: Chapter One of Set in Stone by Linda Newberry

curving over the swell of hillside that I saw as the flanks of some prehistorical animal, deep in slumber is a participle clause modifying road.

Compare:

On the plate was a scoop of ice-cream, melting under the heat of the sun.

and curving ahead is an object-complement, when road is the direct object of saw. It is like a secondary predicate.

I saw the road [to be] curving ahead.

Compare:

I heard her sneezing.

I felt my left eye twitching.

I smelled it burning on the stove.

  • Thanks a lot Tᴚoɯɐuo. Lost my comment due to power outage. +10 for object complement; I knew it has to do with the verb see but wasn't able to articulate it grammatically. This part is perfectly clear. As for the first occurrence of road, is the comma needed? If the comma was left out, how would that change the meaning? Contrary to the complement, I guess it has to do with it being non-essential information. For example, the melting is some info added to the original sentence and can go without it. Am I right? – learner Aug 11 at 5:24
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    Punctuation varies "in the wild" very greatly, and I, for one, do not grant that it determines meaning: it merely reflects the syntactic structures of the utterance and serves as a more or less reliable guide. Those structures are still present without punctuation, just not as evident to the eye. To the extent that readers allow themselves to be guided by punctuation, the absence of the comma in the first sentence could cause a hiccup of confusion, since it would admit the possibility of a present-progressive I ... was curving. But that confusion would be cleared up momentarily. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 11 at 12:40
  • Some people analyzing those sentences might not consider sneezing, twitching, and burning to be complements, but I consider them not merely adjuncts but integral. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 11 at 12:43
  • Thanks. "the absence of the comma in the first sentence could cause a hiccup of confusion, since it would admit the possibility of a present-progressive I ... was curving." – learner Aug 11 at 16:49
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    Especially in literary works punctuation is not an arbiter because writers use it not only to demarcate clauses but to establish a sense of narrative pace and rhetorical pauses which may or may not coincide with major syntactic boundaries. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 11 at 17:44

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