intends genuinely

(I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. It is a discussion of a linguistic issue arising from one piece of Australian legislation.)

Clause 500 of the Australian Migration Regulations covers student visas. One of the requirements is that “the applicant intends genuinely to stay in Australia temporarily” (that is, it is not a permanent visa). The wording intends genuinely struck me as awkward. Throughout the Regulations, intends genuinely is used four times, alongside genuinely intends 12 times and genuinely intend twice.

The linguistic questions which arise are: is intends genuinely ungrammatical, if so, why; and if is it grammatical, why does it sound so awkward?

Google Ngrams records no occurrence of intends genuinely, but a general Google shows a small number of results. Some of these quote or discuss this piece of legislation, but there are enough other results to show that people do use it, albeit very rarely. Why does it sound so awkward? Maybe it’s because of its rarity, or maybe it’s something to do with the meaning of intend or genuinely. Maybe we don’t like anything coming between a main verb and a following catenative verb (intend (*) to V). Ngrams shows intends not to, intends only to and intends thereby to as the first three results, and also, relevantly, intends merely to and intends shortly to. The next question is whether merely and shortly belong with the following infinitive. No: Ngrams shows merely intends to and intends merely to running about equal, and no occurrence of intends to merely. On the other hand, there are no occurrences of solely intends to or intends to solely

The Regulations also include many instances of the equivalent noun phrase genuine intention. Compared with adverbs and verbs, which can change order relatively freely (though the default is adv V), adjectives can be placed after nouns relatively rarely.

A related document, the Ministerial Direction No 69, which guides departmental officers in assessing applications, contains intends genuinely and genuinely intends within eight lines of each other.

So why does intends genuinely sound so awkward? I don’t know. Certainly adv-ly V is usual/natural, but V adv-ly is grammatical. Why did the Office of Parliamentary Counsel use that word order at all, let alone four times, when they are aware of the usual/natural genuinely intends? I don’t know that, either. 

None of this affects the validity of this clause of the Regulations. There’s no doubt as to what it means.


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