separating oddly verb and object

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat May 20 16:20:40 UTC 2006

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch, speaking at a 5/9/06 forum on
Uzbek atrocities, as heard on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, 5/13/06:

When we criticize rightly Russia, for example, for its human rights
problems, criticize rightly Uzbekistan, but then extol Kazakhstan...

this is the way i heard it, but the published reports i've found
clean it up a bit:

When we criticize, rightly, Russia, for example, for its human rights
problems and criticize, rightly, Uzbekistan, but then extol

what caught my ear was, of course, those occurrences of an adverb
("rightly") intervening between verb and object.  this is just not
acceptable (unless the object is "heavy") when the adverb is not set
off as a parenthetical, and even the parenthetical version is
awkward.  but you can see how malinowski got into it.  he wanted to
express something like 'when we give an appropriate criticism of
Russia/Uzbekistan' and he wanted to do it briefly and with a verb
rather than an abstract nominalization.  putting the adverb in either
of the straightforwardly grammatical positions, before the verb or at
end of the VP ("rightly criticize Russia", "criticize Russia
rightly"), puts too much focus on it, however, and suggests that
there is a contrast here, between criticizing rightly and criticizing
wrongly, or between the rightness and wrongness of criticizing a
particular country.  what he wanted, instead, was a nonrestrictive
interpretation of "rightly" as a modifier of "criticize", which he
can get by setting it off as a parenthetical (as in the published
reports).  a bit awkward, but clear.

arnold (zwicky at

The American Dialect Society -

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