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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter 2021

Using intensifier-adjective collocations to investigate mechanisms of change

From the book Variation in Time and Space

  • Martin Schweinberger


This study takes a corpus-based approach to examining co-occurrence patterns of amplifiers and adjectives based on the Irish and the New Zealand components of the International Corpus of English (ICE). The chapter investigates changes in amplifier-adjective-bigram frequencies, to provide insights into the mechanisms underlying lexical replacement. Specifically, the chapter analyses why the replacement of the traditional amplifier (very) by an innovative variant (really) was successful in New Zealand English, but not so in Irish English. Distinctive collexeme analyses show that really attaches to high frequency adjectives (in particular the high-frequency adjective good) in NZE while really does not associate with high-frequency adjectives in IrE. The results suggest that in order for innovative variants to successfully replace traditional variants, successful variants must associate with high frequency adjectives. This leads to an increase in their usage frequency and thus deeper entrenchment. This entrenchment then serves as an advantage in situations where speakers choose between several rivalling innovative variants.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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