On this resource (towards the bottom of the page), it is implied that an appositive can modify an entire sentence.

These are the two examples given:

Economic changes have reduced Russian population growth to less than zero, a demographic event that will have serious social implications.

These micro-organisms decompose organic matter in the soil and release plant nutrients, a process which occurs particularly rapidly in an oxidised soil under tropical conditions of warmth and humidity.

According to the resource, the second example is functioning as an appositive to 'the activity of decomposition'. Therefore, does that mean that a noun or noun phrase doesn't need to be explicitly stated?

This relates to something called a 'summative modifier'. However, I was told that this falls under the broader window of apposition. As such, I don't understand how it works. I was under the impression that an appositive needs an obvious noun or noun phrase, and I haven't seen anything that says that an entire sentence can be a noun phrase.

1 Answer 1


The article you point to refers to the summative modifier as "a type of apposition", not exactly as an appositive.

According to "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language", (Quirk,Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik, Longman 1985), it is a "sentential relative clause" which
Google books

does not function as a modifier of a noun phrase; its relative item refers anaphorically to a unit larger than a phrase, usually to a clause but sometimes even to a series of sentences.

Google books A Student's Grammar of the English Language

Unlike adnominal relative clauses, which have a noun phrase as antecedent, the sentential relative clause refers back to the predicate or predication of a clause, or to a whole clause or sentence or even to a series of sentences.

Google books, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language

(b) SUMMATIVE clauses provide as the noun head a word that summarizes the matrix clause: Norman may be pretending to be sick to avoid going to school, a possibility that we cannot ignore.

In the last example, the noun head of the sentential relative clause is "possibility". It refers back to the meaning of the entire preceding part of the sentence. The nouns in your examples are "a demographic event"..." and "a process..."; these refer back not to noun phrases but to the entire content of the preceding sentence.

This example and the ones you quote from Thoughtco are grammatical in English.

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