English degree modifiers: a diachronic corpus-based study of the maximizer class

McManus, Jennifer
English degree modifiers: a diachronic corpus-based study of the maximizer class. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

[img] PDF (McManusJen_Sept2012_9757.pdf)
McManusJen_Sept2012_9757.pdf.pdf - Unspecified
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives.

Download (2MB)


The study of degree modifiers (cf. ‘intensifiers’, Quirk et al. 1985; Allerton 1987; Bolinger 1972) has been a popular topic in English historical linguistics. This is largely due to their markedly emotional function, giving rise to frequent ‘renewal’ (Hopper & Traugott 1993, 2003) for reasons of expressivity (cf. e.g. Klein 1998). However, the vast majority of the previous research focuses on one specific type, i.e. ‘boosters’ (e.g. very, really), cf. Peters 1992, 1994; Lorenz 2002; Méndez-Naya 2003, 2006, 2007. In comparison, other sub-categories distinguished in standard grammars of English (Quirk et al. 1985; Huddleston & Pullum 2002) have received little attention. This thesis begins to address this gap in the literature, by focusing on one of the neglected sub-categories, viz. maximizers (e.g. absolutely, completely). Specifically, two main research aims are addressed: the initial one being to provide individual comprehensive accounts of the development of seven selected maximizers (viz. absolutely, completely, entirely, perfectly, quite, totally and utterly), and a secondary one, through extrapolation of the results of the individual analyses, being to investigate the diachronic characteristics of the English maximizer sub-class of degree modifier as a whole. Following a survey of the various definitions and classifications of degree modifiers in the literature and of previous diachronic studies on other varieties (including details of the historical process of grammaticalization typically involved), the study takes a corpus-based, diachronic approach to the analysis of the maximizer variety, using data from Middle English up until the present day. In accordance with the initial aim, a series of case studies document the findings of the analyses of the seven adverbs, elucidating their emergence and their subsequent development, taking account not only of their maximizer uses, but also of any other functions available to them throughout their history. By way of addressing the secondary aim, the findings of the individual analyses are then compared in order to present conclusions about the English maximizer class overall. On a more general level, the study also highlights important terminological issues arising from the case studies in connection to the distinction between maximizers and emphasizers and the validity of the maximizer class as currently described in the literature (cf. e.g. Allerton 1987 and Paradis 1997, and standard grammars such as Quirk et al. 1985 and Huddleston & Pullum 2002). It also offers several contributions to general discussions of language change and theorising in diachronic linguistics, e.g. concerning the debate on whether it is reanalysis or analogy that is the driving force of grammaticalization processes (cf. Harris & Campbell 1995, Newmeyer 1998, Haspelmath 1998, Fischer 2007, 2008) and regarding the nature of the conceptualization of developmental pathways (cf. Vandewinkel & Davidse 2008).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2012-09 (completed)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2013 10:04
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:36
DOI: 10.17638/00009757
  • González-Díaz, Victorina
  • Thompson, Geoff
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/9757