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Adverbs of Degree: Children, spoken language and written language Jack Hoeksema Symposium on the Role of Frequency and Function in Language Development.

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1 Adverbs of Degree: Children, spoken language and written language Jack Hoeksema Symposium on the Role of Frequency and Function in Language Development

2 Principle of Contrast Speakers assume that every difference in form signals a difference in meaning (Eve V. Clark, ‘The principle of contrast: a constraint on language acquisition.’ In: Brian MacWhinney (ed.), 1987, Mechanisms of language acquisition, Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.) 2

3 What is maximally in conflict with this? 3

4 examples Ik ben een beetje/wat/ietsje/enigszins moe I am a bit/somewhat/a tad/a wee bit tired Ik ben nogal/vrij/tamelijk moe I am rather/pretty/reasonably tired Ik ben heel/erg/zeer/ontzettend moe I am very/extremely/truly tired Ik ben volkomen/totaal/helemaal nuchter I am totally/completely/entirely sober 4

5 Why so much variation? Degree levels: low/mid/high/absolute Stylistic levels: lowbrow/highbrow/neutral Polarity: negative polarity items, positive polarity items, neutral items Syntactic combinatorics: You are very lovely, I love you very much/He is very much a loner /I don’t like him much Semantic/lexical restrictions: very possible / *a bit possible / *rather possible / quite possible Phonological restrictions: highly intelligent / *highly smart / highly unlikely / *highly fat (# syllables > 1) 5

6 Why now, and not in 1600? Emergence of written languages And literacy With various writing styles And a stylistic requirement to avoid repitition of words 6

7 Dutch high degree adverbs (written data: Hoeksema 2005; spoken: De Jong 1979) 7

8 Most common degree adverbs in Dutch WrittenSpoken 8

9 Childes data: Abel and Iris 9

10 (een) beetje Abel *GER:en ben je wel een beetje uitgeslapen ? 151*CHI:ja, ben beetje uitgelapen. 152*GER:ja. 153*GER:was je een beetje moe ? 154*CHI:ja, beetje moe. 10

11 Beetje (ctnd) Abel *GER:ik haal deze een beetje uit elkaar, ok ? 524*CHI:ja, beetje aan mekaar. 526*GER:nee, uit elkaar juist. 527*CHI:oh. 11

12 heel ABEL 900*CHI:Falko heel hard chaatsen. 901*JEA:hij kan heel hard schaatsen. 902*CHI:heel schaatsen. 903*GER:hij kan heel hard schaatsen. 12

13 Repeats (ignored in data) Abel *CHI:hou de toren maar even vast. 1121*GER:ja, dat doe ik. 1122*GER:hij staat niet heel erg stevig. 1123*CHI:hij staat niet erg stevig. 13

14 High degree vs absolute ABEL *CHI:ik heb alleen maar xx weg. 584*CHI: [//] ik ben heel weg. 585*GER:waar ga je naartoe ? 586*CHI:ik ga naar Artis. 587*GER:naar Artis ? 588*CHI:ja. 14

15 Veel vs heel IRIS *CHI:babyrups ət heel groter moet worden. 449*FLO:ik [/] ik vind (he)t ook wel (ee)n mooie lange babyrups hoor. 450*CHI:ja. 15

16 Abel versus Iris 16

17 Adult degree adverbs in the Abel/Iris files AdverbTypeNN children HeelHigh66693 Een beetjeLow46567 HelemaalAbsolute26824 ErgHigh913 Heel ergHigh56- OntzettendHigh29- VreselijkHigh28- HartstikkeHigh25- VrijMid22- TamelijkMid8- BehoorlijkHigh6- ZeerHigh5- NogalMid4- ReuzeHigh3- GeheelAbsolute2- 17

18 Written data vs child language 18

19 Children and caretakers ChildrenCaretakers 19

20 Conclusions Children aged 2 to 3 by and large stick to the Principle of Contrast Despite lots of variants in their input They lack midlevel adverbs  not explained by principle of contrast, strictly speaking Midlevel adverbs far less common in child- oriented speech than in adult oriented speech Choice of degree modifiers determined by frequency in the input 20

21 THANKS! 21


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