dualism = {mass noun} 1. The division of something conceptually into two opposed or contrasted aspects, or the state of being so divided

I know that definitions don't have to be written as complete grammatical sentences,
but while reading the above definition, I noticed no verbs.

1. So what does conceptually modify? Is this use right?

2. Does this instance offer any lessons in the big picture?

  • 4
    The one thing I notice is that "division" is an act of dividing, so you could also say "Conceptually dividing something into two opposed aspects...".
    – ColleenV
    Mar 27, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    @ColleenV: That's true, but on the other hand, we say "conceptual division", not *"conceptually division".
    – ruakh
    Apr 19, 2015 at 1:21
  • 1
    @ruakh I think there is something special about words that are both a process, and the result of that process. The conceptual division of work is OK, but so is the division of work conceptually. The division can be conceptual or be done conceptually. I don't really have a good way to explain it clearly, which is why I haven't attemped an answer, but I don't think this is as cut and dried as adjective versus adverb.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 19, 2015 at 3:49
  • @ColleenV: I think I see what you mean, thanks. I'll be interested to see the explanation that someone comes up with . . .
    – ruakh
    Apr 19, 2015 at 4:09
  • Implementation is also this type of word - I tried explaining it here: ell.stackexchange.com/q/49636/9161 but wasn't that happy with the result. Maybe I'll poke around EL&U and see if something similar has been asked there. @ruakh
    – ColleenV
    Apr 19, 2015 at 12:11

2 Answers 2

  1. What does conceptually modify? ...

In this case, the word conceptually modifies the word division. Rewritten another way, the phrase would read: The conceptual division of something into two opposed...

  1. ... Is this use right?

This use is indeed correct grammatically (as is this sentence).

  1. Does this instance offer any lessons...?

Definitions by their very nature define what something is. This is the implied verb that you're missing. To take your example, each definition listed for the word dualism makes the statement "Dualism is defined as..."


There are also adverbs that refer to the whole sentence, especially adverbs that determine the viewpoint. "Conceptionally" indicates that there need not be a clear division but we have the concept of such a division. Mostly these adverbs are called sentence adverbs.

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