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Academic Paper

Title: There is no such thing as a free combination: a usage-based study of specific construals in adverb–adjective combinations
Author: Britt Erman
Institution: Stockholm University
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Linguistic Theories; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: The study is aimed at revealing collocational adverb–adjective patterns in the British National Corpus (BNC). The adverbs selected for the study include the maximizers absolutely, completely, entirely, fully, perfectly, totally, utterly, wholly. The study involves searches on both the selected adverbs and the adjectives they modify in a bi-directional fashion. It is claimed that only a cognitive and usage-based approach in terms of underlying conceptual structures can provide an accurate description of collocational patterns. The results show that a large proportion of the adjectives have strong bonds with particular maximizers. This is explained through the basic conceptual structure of Boundedness/Scalarity, i.e. the degree to which the adjective lends itself to a bounded or a scalar construal and the adverb is biased towards a totality construal (which is the kind of construal to be expected from maximizers). The results support the hypothesis that a substantial part of the adverb–adjective combinations investigated are (semi)-prefabricated units, presumably easily accessed by native speakers because the combinations are the result of specific construals and their members have close associative and conceptual links in the mental lexicon.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 18, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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