Degree modifiers of adjectives in spoken British English

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This thesis investigates a set of degree modifiers of adjectives common in spoken British English. The main focus of the study is on generalizable semantic and intonational features, but attention is also given to the use of the modifiers in authentic speech in terms of frequency, collocability and intonation.

The study explores the semantic constraints that govern the relationship between degree modifiers and adjectives in terms of their conceptualization. It is shown that the gradable features of adjectives must harmonize with the grading function of degree modifiers with respect to totality and scalarity for a successful match. The selection of degree modifiers by adjectives is predictable at the level of the type of gradability that the adjective represents.

The study also explores the constraints that govern the intonation of degree modifiers. The placement of the nuclear tone and the shape of the tone are two variables which are constrained by the presupposition that an utterance relies on, the harmony between intonational meaning, speaker attitudes and the function of the degree modifier as to reinforcement and attenuation. The interplay between intonational meaning, discoursal meaning, attitudinal meaning, and the lexical meaning of the degree modifiersis shown to be governed by a principle of harmony.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLund University Press
Number of pages192
ISBN (Print)91-7966-427-X
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Publication series

NameLund Studies in English
ISSN (Print)0076-1451

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • semantics
  • degree modifiers
  • adverbs
  • adjectives
  • gradability
  • conceptualization
  • collocation
  • nuclear tones
  • lexical meaning
  • discoursal meaning
  • attitudinal meaning
  • intonational meaning
  • Engelska (språk och litteratur)
  • English language and literature
  • scaling-test
  • corpus
  • intonation


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