Great big stories and tiny little changes: tautological <scp>size</scp>-adjective clusters in Present-day English

(2018) Great big stories and tiny little changes: tautological <scp>size</scp>-adjective clusters in Present-day English. English Language and Linguistics, 22 (3). 499 - 522.

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<jats:p>This case study focuses on intensificatory tautological constructions (e.g. <jats:bold><jats:italic>tiny little</jats:italic></jats:bold><jats:italic>bird</jats:italic>, <jats:bold><jats:italic>big huge</jats:italic></jats:bold><jats:italic>pay rise</jats:italic>). The attention that intensificatory tautology has elicited in previous literature is scarce and often centred on specific aspects of its Present-day English (PDE) distribution. Formally, tautological intensificatory patterns often involve the combination of two synonymous <jats:sc>size</jats:sc>-adjectives (e.g. <jats:italic>massive great</jats:italic>, <jats:italic>tiny little</jats:italic>) in a given order (i.e. <jats:italic>great big</jats:italic> but not <jats:italic>big great</jats:italic>). Functionally, they are standardly associated with emphatic descriptive modifying functions and informal styles (Matthews 2014: 364; Coffey 2013: 59; Huddleston &amp; Pullum 2002: 561–2). This contribution takes a corpus-based, synchronic standpoint in order to (a) refine previous literature's account of the formal and functional distribution of tautological <jats:sc>size</jats:sc>-adjective clusters in PDE and (b) assess the significance of tautological intensification for functional–structural descriptions of the English Noun Phrase. The analyses indicate that PDE intensificatory <jats:sc>size</jats:sc>-adjective clusters have a wider functional distribution than has hitherto been observed, with reinforcer and adverbial intensifying functions slowly developing alongside the descriptive modifier functions. More generally, the article shows that tautological <jats:sc>size</jats:sc>-adjective clusters create pockets of interpersonal meanings whose impact on the formal and functional structure of the NP needs further exploration.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2018 16:09
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2022 11:51
DOI: 10.1017/s1360674317000570