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He also forecast the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists in a letter.

From that sentence, 'for graphic artists' modifies 'the usefulness of the medium' or ' the medium' ?

And it seems that definitely 'in a letter' do not modify 'graphic artists'.

Why sometimes prepositional phrases are modifying the words just before them. And sometimes do not?

And how to we can identity them?

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In general, modifiers affect the thing nearest to them. For instance, “of the medium” modifies “usefulness”, and “for graphic artists” modifies “medium”, or it might be a second modifier for “usefulness”; I don’t see a useful distinction there.

The problem is “in a letter”. The nearest thing to modify is “artists”, but that makes no sense. So you try “medium” and then “usefulness”, which also don’t make much sense. Finally, you try “forecast”, which does make sense and is therefore probably what was meant. (If it didn’t, you’d try “he”, which gives the same meaning.)

Here are some other arrangements:

  • He also forecast in a letter the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists.
  • He also in a letter forecast the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists.
  • He in a letter also forecast the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists.
  • In a letter, he also forecast the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists.

Note that the closer “in a letter” is to “forecasts”, the less ambiguity there is about what it modifies.

Note that if you put it in these two places, it radically changes the meaning of the sentence because the nearness rule’s effect on the other modifiers:

  • He also forecast the usefulness in a letter of the medium for graphic artists.
  • He also forecast the usefulness of the medium in a letter for graphic artists.
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  • Strictly speaking, the PPs "of the medium" and "for graphic artists" are complements of "usefulness", not modifiers. – BillJ Aug 15 at 6:44
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He also forecast the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists in a letter.

The NP "the usefulness of the medium for graphic artists" is direct object of "forecast", in which the PPs "of the medium" and "for graphic artists" are complements of "usefulness"

The PP "in a letter" is an adjunct in clause structure.

You have to look at the phrases as a whole to determine what is modifying or complementing what.

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  • Re your question below: Not quite: the relative clause modifies “French artists” (no “the”). The normal position for a relative clause is immediately after the antecedent, but it is also possible for the relative clause to occur in postposed position, at the end of the clause containing its antecedent. For example: “A stranger came into the room who looked just like Uncle Oswald". – BillJ Aug 15 at 6:27

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