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Academic Paper

Title: On the Interchangeability of Actually and Really in Spoken English: Quantitative and Qualitative Evidence from Corpora
Author: Mark Gray
Institution: Université Paris-Est
Linguistic Field: Semantics; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Much of the research that has been carried out into the functions of actually and – to a lesser extent – really has focused on their so-called ‘discourse functions’. However, when they appear medially both actually and really are usually classified as intensifiers, and it has been argued that they are often interchangeable (see for example Lenk 1998; Oh 2000; Taglicht 2001). The purpose of this article is to test current thinking on this question by casting further light on the way medial actually and really are used in spoken discourse. Two complementary approaches are taken. Firstly, the interchangeability hypothesis is assessed on the basis of quantitative analyses of data from the British National Corpus. Secondly, the question of the extent to which actually and/or really function as intensifiers in preverbal position is addressed via a detailed qualitative analysis of data from a small corpus of recent BBC radio broadcasts of the panel-based political discussion programme Any Questions. The analyses presented here suggest that the interchangeability hypothesis is untenable and that the two adverbs have different core meanings, with any intensifying function being largely the result of interplay between the distinct semantic properties of each adverb and the discourse context.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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