Freeguy, the fact that a parenthetical structure like "frightened by the thunder" appears after a noun does not necessarily make it adjectival. Actually, I find it hard to find good and natural examples of reduced non-defining relative clauses (that is, relative clauses introduced by a participle and set off by commas). The only one that comes to mind right now is:

- This poet, (who was) born in the 1960s, has written many interesting works.

Notice that "frightened by the thunder" can (and usually will) be placed at the beginning of the sentence to indicate reason, being therefore adverbial:

- Frightened by the thunder, the dog trembled.

I see.

English is an unusual language in an interesting way. For a non-native English speaker who has read grammar-related sources, itโ€™s a non-restrictive adjectival subordinate clause realized as the subject predicative in the subordinate clause.

 

I am trying to grasp what you said. Thanks.

Freeguy posted:
To me, it's adjectival, deriving from:

The dog, who was frightened by the thunder, trembled

Have you considered, Freeguy, that it could instead be said to derive from this?
- The dog, having been frightened by the thunder, trembled.
Have you considered, too, that the phrase answers the adverbial question "Why?"

Freeguy posted:

But which interpretation wins?

Does one interpretation have to win? However we parse it, it will remain true that "frightened by the thunder" both describes the dog's state of being at the time (an adjectival function) and explains why it trembled (an adverbial function) every bit as much as it would if the idea expressed by the phrase were in a "because"-clause: "The dog trembled because it was/had been frightened by the thunder."

If you feel that you absolutely must judge the phrase to be adjectival or adverbial rather than simply recognizing that it has both an adjectival and an adverbial function, consider that if we changed "frightened" (the past participle of the verb "frighten") to an adjective (let us use "afraid"), the sentence would be incorrect or of highly questionable grammaticality: "The dog, afraid of the thunder, trembled."

Here again, if we choose to view the nonrestrictive phrase as a reduced version of something more complete, we must choose between "The dog, which was afraid of the thunder, trembled" and "The dog, being afraid of the thunder, trembled." Although both of those non-reduced versions work, the latter seems much more plausible.

"The dog, afraid of the thunder, trembled" doesn't even work. It is not good English. "The dog, being afraid of the thunder, trembled" does work. It is good English. And with "being" before "afraid," the phrase has the same meaning and function as it does in the more clearly adverbial alternatives "Being afraid of the thunder, the dog trembled" and "The dog trembled, being afraid of the thunder."

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