Expressing levels of intensity in Xhosa English
This article reports on patterns of adverbial usage in a 550 000-word corpus of informal spoken English collected from mother tongue (MT) Xhosa speakers for whom English is a second language. The focus is on the subset of intensifiers which accompany gradable adverbs and adjectives that allow comparison and modification (e.g. rather hard) and the benchmark used for comparison with so-called natural MT English usage is the spoken component of the International Corpus of New Zealand English (Holmes 1995; 1996). Results reveal that patterns of usage vary enormously between Xhosa English (XhE) and New Zealand English (NZE). Not only do they vary in overall frequency of use in all categories, with XhE speakers using fewer intensifiers, but the XhE speakers also draw from a smaller lexical range, which suggests a process of lexical focusing. Other characteristic patterns of intensifier usage include differences in adverbial placement as well as formulaic phrasing.
Published online: 11 March 2005
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