While historical approaches to degree modifier constructions in English are often conducted in the light of grammaticalization theory, this study of two intensifying constructions in American English, <adj + awful/terrible/horrible> and <vb (+ Object) + awful/terrible/horrible> in which awful/terrible/horrible function as degree adverbs, as in I was hungry awful or You are scaring me terrible, offers a somewhat different diachronic picture. Although these constructions display unusual morphosyntactic features, the interest here lies in the way(s) they emerged. Relying on data from historical corpora and the Internet, the author argues that the constructions embarked on intertwining pathways of development in which grammaticalization was not the only—and maybe also not the main—process of linguistic change at work. The study highlights a fundamental process of analogization that has strengthened a higher-level construction, <adj + degree adverb (homophonous with an adjective)>, the productivity of which as an instantiation of the degree modifier construction seems to be on the increase in American English.
Research Article| August 01 2014
Hélène Margerie; HE WAS ANGRY Awful: INTERTWINING PATHS OF DEVELOPMENT TO NEW DEGREE MODIFIER CONSTRUCTIONS IN AMERICAN ENGLISH. American Speech 1 August 2014; 89 (3): 257–287. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-2848967
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