Harry swung at it with the bat to stop it from breaking his nose, and sent it zigzagging away into the air. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

‘Zigzagging’ seems to be a predicative adjunct as the case below. Can both be the same case?

They served the coffee blindfolded. [predicative adjunct]
(The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p529)

  • Probably, zigzagging is not an adjunct, as sent it zigzagging is different from sent it. Away into the air is surely an adjunct. – kiamlaluno Jun 12 '13 at 16:49
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    I don't know what CGEL means by 'predicative adjunct'; but the two are very different. Blindfolded modifies the subject of its sentence (and maybe the verb as well); zigzagging modifies the object. But it is also arguably the head of what I can only describe as a participial clause, which is arguably a complement of send, if we read that in a causative sense: 'caused it to zigzag away'. You might consider asking that this be migrated to ELU where somebody who really understands this stuff might take it up. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 17 '13 at 11:29

I finally gave up trying to answer this myself and took the problem over to ELU. As I hoped, John Lawler came through.

The construction has apparently not been named, but JL suggests treating it as a serial verb construction (SVC) of two or more verbs in sequence, like go swimming or Come help me! He describes the construction in your example as [my emphasis]:

... the initial verb part of the serial verb is

  • an intransitive motion verb (go, come)
  • a transitive causative/inchoative of a motion verb (respectively: take, bring)
  • a transitive verb that entails some kind of induced motion (pluck, send, toss, drop, etc.)

while the gerund* part normally describes some property of

  • the motion induced by the verb (lurching, zigzagging, spinning) [OR]
  • the object or person caused to move (muttering, shuddering, screaming, unmoving)

In either case, it is the moving object that functions as subject of the gerund constituent.
* I believe he uses gerund in the sense CGEL uses gerund-participle.

He goes on to remark that this construction is 'discontinuous', like a "phrasal verb" where the second part of the verb comes after the object. Thus sent it zigzagging is analogous to do it over or ask her out.

Fascinating stuff. There seems to be a substantial literature on SVCs, but mostly about languages other than English (including your own). I did find this article; section 2.1 is most relevant, but the conclusion is of great general relevance.

Do look at JL's answer for more detail. And I think you will particularly enjoy his following Comment about Harry Potter.

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    I’m very much appreciated your two-months dedicated answer. And I’m happy to get Prof. John Lawler’s article. : “Serial construction” is said in CGEL under the title of “Catenative Construction.” (p.1194-1245) and the name –– catenative verb –– is also said in Prof. Angela Downing’s (p.108). Yet your and Prof. JL’s explanation is more specific on the matter. – Listenever Aug 5 '13 at 11:55

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