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There is no such thing as a free combination: a usage-based study of specific construals in adverb–adjective combinations1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2014

BRITT ERMAN*
Affiliation:
Department of English, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Swedenbritt.erman@english.su.se

Abstract

The study is aimed at revealing collocational adverb–adjective patterns in the British National Corpus (BNC). The adverbs selected for the study include the maximizers absolutely, completely, entirely, fully, perfectly, totally, utterly, wholly. The study involves searches on both the selected adverbs and the adjectives they modify in a bi-directional fashion. It is claimed that only a cognitive and usage-based approach in terms of underlying conceptual structures can provide an accurate description of collocational patterns. The results show that a large proportion of the adjectives have strong bonds with particular maximizers. This is explained through the basic conceptual structure of Boundedness/Scalarity, i.e. the degree to which the adjective lends itself to a bounded or a scalar construal and the adverb is biased towards a totality construal (which is the kind of construal to be expected from maximizers). The results support the hypothesis that a substantial part of the adverb–adjective combinations investigated are (semi)-prefabricated units, presumably easily accessed by native speakers because the combinations are the result of specific construals and their members have close associative and conceptual links in the mental lexicon.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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Footnotes

1

Thanks are due to generous funding by Sweden's Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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There is no such thing as a free combination: a usage-based study of specific construals in adverb–adjective combinations1
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