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In a footnote at the bottom of page 123 of A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (2005; by Huddleston and Pullum), I found mention of a construction in which adverbs modify nouns:

There is a construction where we find an adverb modifying a noun, as in Industrial action resulted in the withdrawal indefinitely of the vehicular ferry service or A shortage of timber internationally led to a steep rise in prices. This construction is subject to severe constraints; most importantly, adverbial modifiers of nouns are restricted to post-head position – compare the indefinite withdrawal of the vehicular ferry service, where the pre-head modifier is required to be an adjective. There are also constraints on the kind of adverb permitted. Manner adverbs, for example, are normally excluded, so that we have his angry reaction, but not *his reaction angrily.

Further research directed me to some discussion in a paper by the same two authors along with John Payne, The distribution and category status of adjectives and adverbs (page 13 of 51):

(17) (a) [The unique role globally of the Australian Health Promoting Schools Association], as a non-government organization specifically established to promote the concept of the health promoting school, is described. [...]

Example (17a) shows firstly that the nouns which head this construction are not necessarily deverbal: we do not have *It roled globally. Secondly, although there is a related adjective global which can be used as a premodifier in the NP
[1.] the unique global role of the Australian [...] Association,
the meaning of this NP is subtly different from that of the NP in (17a). Whereas in (17a)
we are talking simply about the location in which the role is performed (globally as opposed, say, to nationally), the use of the adjective strongly invites the inference that the role is an important one. (emphasis added)

How does "the use of the adjective strongly [invite] the inference that the role is an important one"? I don't perceive this difference between (17)(a) and the example denoted as [1.].

What are the semantic similarities and differences?

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This is based on how each sentence breaks down. For the first sentence,

The unique role globally...

'unique' modifies 'role', so the role is unique. Then 'globally' modifies 'unique role', saying that the role is performed in a global context.

In the second sentence,

The unique global role...

'global' modifies 'role' first, becoming 'global role'. Then, 'unique' modifies 'global role'. Effectively, the fact that the role is global is also (part of) what makes it unique.

  • 1
    Au contraire. The first says that their role is unique in all the world (no one else on the globe has that same role). It says nothing about where they perform that role. The second clearly says that their role is global in scope, and nobody else has a role of global scope that is similar. The difference is that with the adverb following, it can and will be construed as applying to the adjective preceding, not the noun. – Brian Hitchcock May 14 '15 at 11:55

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