Very jolly and really wild: Development in Victoria English intensifiers

Inge Marjolein Merx


This paper quantitatively examines variable usage of intensifiers—adverbs that give force or emphasis—in a corpus of Victoria English. In this pilot study, intensifier tokens from speakers born between 1879 and 1990 were collected and analyzed. The data comprises of 510 adjectival heads, as in It was a really interesting conversation (CL41m/1970), of which 44.3 per cent were intensified. Overall distributions are presented for very, really, pretty, quite, and so. For the two most frequent intensifiers, very and really, multivariate analyses show that very is favored by the oldest speakers, while really shows an increase in preference among the middle aged and youngest speakers. The fact that, over time, really shows greater diffusion across semantic adjective types and syntactic structures seems to point at progression in its delexicalization process, confirming previous findings for this lexical intensifier (e.g. Ito & Tagliamonte, 2003).


intensifiers; delexicalization; very; really; Victoria English

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria