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Which verb does the phrase ending with くらい modify in the following sentence?

気の遠くなるくらい むこうにある何か見つめて

Does it modify the ある or the 見つめる? So is it

He is staring at something that is overwhelmingly far away, ...

or

He is staring at something far away to the point that he becomes overwhelmed, ...

Or maybe both of these translations are off? In situations like this when two verb follow くらい, is there a general rule which verb is modified by it or does it depend on context?

For context, here is the entire passage:

必死にただ闇雲に空に手を伸ばして
あんなに大きなカタマリを打ち上げて
気の遠くなるくらい むこうにある何か見つめて
遠野くんが他の人と 違って見える理由が 少しだけ分かった気がした。

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    I think it depends on context. So I think it's the former ("... overwhelmingly far away") but I'm not 100% sure. Can you provide some more context, or the whole sentence/passage? – Chocolate May 5 '17 at 2:47
  • I added the entire passage for context. – chinpunkanpun May 7 '17 at 23:01
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    Thanks. Now I'm pretty sure it's the former, considering the line 「必死にただ闇雲に空に手を伸ばして」. 遠野くん is staring at something in the distant sky, not something over there (むこう(がわ)にある) for a long time. – Chocolate May 8 '17 at 5:26
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    Yes, 「~Verb+くらい」 can act adverbially. Therefore, grammatically speaking, it can modify a 用言, i.e. verb, verb phrase, adjective, adjectival phrase, etc. – Chocolate May 8 '17 at 10:14
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    ~くらい is an adverbial phrase, not adjectival. I think it'd be alright to see it as modifying the verb phrase 「向こうにある」 "lies far away", but! actually Japanese 副詞 can sometimes modify 名詞, too, e.g. 「 はるか昔を思い出す」「 もっと上を探しなさい」「 ずっと先の話だ」. So... I don't think it'd be incorrect to say the ~くらい here modifies the noun 向こう. – Chocolate May 9 '17 at 14:03
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気の遠くなるくらい むこうにある何か見つめて

I think the phrase 「気の遠くなるくらい」 modifies 「むこう(向{む}こう)」.

Another possible option is 「見つめて」, but if you want to let 「見つめて」 be modified by 「気の遠くなるくらい」, it is natural to add something like 「長{なが}い時間{じかん}」, then the whole sentence given will be 「気の遠くなるくらい長い時間 むこうにある何か見つめて」.

And 「ある」 is impossible to be modified by 「気の遠くなるくらい」, because if so, 「ある」 needs something like 「遠くに」 before modified by it like:
「気の遠くなるくらい 遠くにある何か見つめて」, but the given sentence already has 「むこう(向{む}こう)に」 which functions as an adverb instead of 「遠くに」.

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