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Abstract

Abstract

While many studies have employed variationist methods to examine longitudinal changes in the English intensifier system, to date, no variationist studies have tackled the intensifier system of Old English. By providing a critical view of this system at an earlier stage in the history of the English language, the present study adds to the long tradition of scholarship on intensifiers while providing new insight into their diachronic development. Despite its antiquity, several parallels can be drawn with the intensifier system at later stages in the language. Both internal and external factors are found to constrain this system, with predicative adjectives favoring intensification over attributive adjectives, prose texts having higher intensification rates than verse texts, Latin-based texts having higher intensification rates than vernacular texts, and the rate of intensification increasing over time. The quantitative analysis of the Old English system also increases the time depth necessary for a more detailed reflection on the diachronic recycling, replacement, and renewal of intensifiers. Language contact and borrowing are also postulated as driving forces of innovation and replacement in earlier stages of the English language.

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2021-09-02
2021-10-22
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