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Contextualizing dual-form adverbs in the Old Bailey Corpus: An assessment of semantic, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic factors

Ruth Möhlig-Falke

Abstract

This article is concerned with the so-called dual-form adverbs of English, which are a group of adverbs that may occur both with and without the adverbial suffix -ly in similar syntactic environments. Based on data taken from the Old Bailey Corpus 2.0 for the period between c. 1730-1910, this study explores the impact of micro- and macro-context on variable adverb marking with the aim of identifying factors that explain why these adverbs have resisted the general trend towards -LY-marking for so long, with some of them still appearing with variable adverb marking up to today. The main reasons for this variability are identified to be the semantic-pragmatic orientation of individual adverbs to different entities in the clause, the general fuzziness of the category boundary between adjective and adverb, and the adverbs’ highly context-sensitive interpretation. Sociolinguistic aspects, mentioned as possible additional factors in the literature on variable adverb marking, are identified as only secondarily responsible.

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