Publication details [#722]

Cacchiani, Silvia. 2010. A CL Perspective on Complex Intensifying Adjectives. Textus 23 (3) : 601–617. 17 pp.
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Intensifiers are optional elements, typically adverbs, which express the semantic role of degree. They modify a range or point along an abstractly conceived scale of intensity. Amplifiers scale upwards the property expressed by the item they modify (very, extremely, absolutely); downtoners scale the property downwards (rather, a bit, little) (Quirk et al. 1985: 589). Additionally, intensifiers carry expressive meanings (Bühler 1934), express and achieve subjectivity (Athanasiadou 2008), and contribute speech act modification (in the sense of Searle and Vandervecken 1985). This, Bolinger (1972) observes, brings about continuous variation within the category. While amplifying Adv-Adj collocations have enjoyed pride of place in the vast literature on intensification, morphology has not paid much attention to complex intensifying adjectives. One exception, however, is Booij (2009, 2010), who addresses the semantic relation of intensification in Dutch compounding and derivation within the broader debate on the role of analogy and abstract schemas in word formation. Proceeding on the assumption that the parallelism between intensifying phrases and complex intensifying adjectives can highlight the lexical unit properties of complex intensifying adjectives, in this paper we take the first steps towards classifying complex intensifying adjectives by semantic relation and provide some preliminary remarks on their conceptualization, based on a list of around 200 constructs gathered from grammars, studies in English morphology and the Oxford English Dictionary online, 2nd ed. and later additions ( Taking into account insights from Paradis’ (2004, 2008) Cognitive (Lexical) Semantics, Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980, 1999, Lakoff 1987) Cognitive Metaphor Theory, and Booij’s (2005, 2009, 2010) work on intensifiers in Construction Morphology, we characterize intensification as an instance of subjectivity (Athanasiadou 2007), or a scale transfer from content domains to the schematic domain of degree. As will be seen, the integration of the two component elements into a composite intensifying structure depends on correspondences between substructures within the component elements that are configured on the basis of bounded and unbounded scales for one or more domains, and variously motivated through metaphorical and metonymic mappings