Polarity sensitivity and collocational restrictions of adverbs of degree

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The availability of a wide choice of adverbs of degree, partly with distinct features, gives the speaker the possibility to communicate much more than simply a degree. Two additional features — informative and emotional value — can be expressed, and these impose restrictions on the contexts in which a specific adverb of degree can be used, restrictions on the polarity of the sentence on the one hand, on the polarity of the modified element on the other hand. These restrictions are partly interdependent, and in the rare case that only the emotional value of the adverb is specified, we find polarity sensitivity not at the lexical, but at the constructional level. These general findings are illustrated with material from Dutch.


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