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Is [主]{おも}に one of 副詞 that can modify 体言? It seems to be used this way often, like:

  1. 与るとは [主]{おも}に目上から、好意の表れとしてあることを受ける。

  2. アメリカではに経済学を学んだ. In America, he studied mainly economics.

(random dictionary examples)

But it's not on this list (主として is though), is it still a 程度の副詞?

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主に is an adverb which indicate dimension like mainly, mostly.

Dictionaries explain 主に means 主として,大部分,ほとんど.

I think adverbs modify only verbs and adjective at first but there are some adverbs which modify nouns and adverb.

主に can modify noun like your example, 主に modify 経済学(noun) and 学んだ(verb) in アメリカでは主に経済学を学んだ.

And もっと can modify adverb like もっと modify ゆっくり(adverb) in もっとゆっくり話せ.

In addition, there are some dimension verbs which modify both noun and verb at a time like 少し. For example. 少し in 彼は少し右に動いた modify 右(noun) and 動いた(verb) like 少し右に and 少し動いた.

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    But you don't appear to have answered the OP's question. They would like to know if 主に can modify a following 体言. – snailcar Mar 10 '16 at 19:48
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In short: no, 主に can't modify 体言{たいげん} directly. More detail:

主{おも}に and 用言{ようげん}

主{おも}に is a 副詞 (adverb), and thus it modifies 用言{ようげん} (verbs and adjectives).

In your example, it might look like 主に is modifying a noun, since the very next word is a noun: アメリカでは主に 経済学を学んだ。 However, the 主に, as an adverb, is actually modifying the verb at the end: アメリカでは主に経済学を学んだ。 The sentence states that someone studied, and it qualifies that action by also stating the this person mainly studied economics.

主{おも}な and 体言{たいげん}

There is a usage of 主{おも} that can modify a 体言 directly: it also takes な, much like any other -na adjective. So we could say アメリカでは主な学問は経済学でした。 → "In America, (my? the?) main study subject was economics."

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    The interesting thing is that semantically 主に does seem to be more related to the object than a random adverb. I think there are some syntactic tricks we can do which illuminate this. Like in response to「何を勉強していますか?」, 「主に経済学です」 seems reasonable, but 「毎日経済学です」 doesn't. Also, 「毎日勉強しています」 and fine while 「主に勉強しています」 is weird. I think this is because things like 毎日 and いつも are purely modifying the semantics of the studying event (making it more frequent, etc.), while 主に can only be understood when considering the object. This said, I have no idea how to explain this... – Darius Jahandarie Mar 10 '16 at 22:18
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    The entry for 副詞 in 日本文法大辞典 (p.720) starts this way: 品詞の一つ。単独で文節(あるいは句)を構成し、主として文の成分上連用修飾語に用いられる語。 But later, they elaborate on other functions: 「[主として]{◦◦◦◦}文の成分上連用修飾語に用いられる」といわれるのは、「[もっと]{HHH}[ゆっくり]{﹅﹅﹅﹅}歩け」のように、他の副詞を修飾したり、「[やや]{HHH}[東の方]{﹅﹅﹅}」のように、体言を修飾したり、「い‌​ったい、誰がそんな事を言い出したのか」のように、下にくる文全体を修飾することがあるからである。 So I don't think it's really as simple as saying 副詞 always modify 用言. {{pad}} – snailcar Mar 11 '16 at 1:55
  • @DariusJahandarie, I think it depends on the context of the question and/or answer. Even in English, answering "what do you study" with "every day XXX" sounds a little weird. Meanwhile, 「主に勉強しています」 could be perfectly sensible, depending on what it's in response to. – Eiríkr Útlendi Mar 11 '16 at 3:17

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