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Recent developments in English intensifiers: the case of very much

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

VICTORINA GONZÁLEZ-DÍAZ*
Affiliation:
School of English, University of Liverpool, Chatham St, Liverpool L69 7ZR, UKv.gonzalez-diaz@liverpool.ac.uk

Abstract

The nature and behaviour of complex and compound adverbs (e.g. very much, heretofore, anyway) has not received much scholarly attention in recent years. In the case of very much, for instance, recent literature (e.g. Dixon 2005) considers it a clause-internal adverb which typically modifies phrasal constituents (e.g. I liked the present very much; very much alive). The latter claim, however, appears to clash with previous observations (cf. Bolinger 1972) on the growing scope of the adverb in Present-day English. Through a corpus-based diachronic study (1500–present day), the present article unearths a number of environments where very much does not seem to fit neatly within the functional classifications that it has been assigned to in recent literature and standard grammars of English. It suggests that, from the Late Modern English period onwards (1800–), very much seems to have been developing sentence modifier functions, hence moving along Traugott's (1995) Internal Adverb > Sentence Adverb > Discourse Particle cline.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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