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Social variation in intensifier use: constraint on -ly adverbialization in the past?1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

Department of English, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 24 (Unioninkatu 40), FI-00014 University of Helsinki,


While the formation of deadjectival adjuncts by means of -ly suffixation is regular in the mainstream varieties of English today (they sing Adj-ly), that of intensifying word modifiers is much less so (they sing Adj-lywell). Both categories are typically more variable in many social and regional varieties, in which zero-form adverbs dominate. This article studies the extent to which grammatical and social conditioning played a role in the choice of the form of deadjectival intensifiers between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, before the era of normative grammar. The results indicate that some of the trends of social embedding identified in Present-day English can indeed be observed in the past, but also that the -ly suffix was clearly less grammaticalized four hundred years ago than it is today.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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