Edited by Peter Lauwers, Gudrun Vanderbauwhede and Stijn Verleyen
[Benjamins Current Topics 44] 2012
► pp. 65–93
The English degree adverb absolutely and its Spanish equivalent absolutamente may function as modifiers of words of different kinds, as Adjuncts and as (parts of) minor clauses. This article sets forth a quantitative analysis, based on naturally-occurring linguistic data, of the distribution of these functions for both adverbs. Apart from distributional differences between the two adverbs and between their occurrences in spoken and written language, the results show that when they are modifiers of words or Verbal Group-oriented Adjuncts, their main function is to qualify (part of) the propositional content of the utterance; however, when they are clausal Adjuncts or (parts of) minor clauses, they are often geared to the performance of discourse functions such as contrast, concession or agreement. These functions are shared with some adverbs of certainty such as ‘certainly’ or ‘definitely’, which suggests that the semantic difference between degree and certainty tends to be blurred when adverbs of maximal strength of both types are used for performing discourse functions that enhance assertiveness.