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  • 1.
    Claridge, C.
    et al.
    University of Augsburg, Germany.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities. Uppsala Universitet.
    Kytö, M.
    Uppsala Universitet.
    A little something goes a long way: The downtoner (a) little in the Old Bailey Corpus2017Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Various intensifier studies (e.g. Ito & Tagliamonte 2003, Tagliamonte 2008) have noted the dominance of very few forms. If one checks downtoners in the Old Bailey Corpus (OBC 2.0), comprising ca. 24 million words spoken in a courtroom context in the period 1720-1913, it turns out that little is by far the most frequent downtoner (with the exception of the multifunctional intensifier quite) with around 8,000 occurrences. Therefore this contribution will be entirely devoted to the structural and functional profile of (a) little in Late Modern English speech-related data (we will leave the other 104 downtoners for a later paper); this period and our source, OBC, have so far been largely neglected in intensifier and especially in downtoner studies. The two downtoners little and a little can function as minimizer and diminisher respectively, and also in negative litotic contexts (Quirk et al. 1985: 598, Bolinger 1972: 131, 234). Stoffel (1901: 131) further mentions the variant a leetle with emphasized long vowel to express “the very smallest degree”. Partly depending on the forms (+/- article), they can modify nouns, adjectives, and verbs, but with certain restrictions, such as little mostly with comparatives/past participles and mental verbs (Bolinger 1972: 50f). (A) little may have quantity/frequency/duration and diminutive meanings, which need to be distinguished from the degree meaning most relevant here; this partly goes together with different syntactic uses and positions (e.g. emphatic front position and inversion). Modern little seems to be more open than other types to being itself intensified. We therefore seek to answer the following questions: What are the targets that speakers in the courtroom modify by using (a) little (nouns, verbs, adjectives, potentially even adverbs)? Are the restrictions noted for modern usage already in evidence or emerging? How do the modification patterns correlate with the different meanings and (pragmatic) functions? In which syntactic contexts are degree meanings most prominent? What are the distributions of the degree forms across various types of speakers with regard to speakers’ social (e.g. gender and rank) and functional (e.g. judge, witness) roles? Which are the most innovative/conservative types of users in sociolinguistic respects? Comparisons will also be drawn to the results of our previous work on a bit (Claridge & Kytö 2014), whose uses partly overlap with a little but which is a younger form. It may be assumed that (a) little is, in comparison, more established in the degree function.

  • 2.
    Claridge, Claudia
    et al.
    University of Augsburg.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities. Uppsala Universitet.
    Kytö, Merja
    Uppsala Universitet.
    “I found it somewhat untidy”: The socio-pragmatics of downtoners in the Old Bailey Corpus2017Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Intensifiers are usually taken to comprise amplifiers (e.g. perfect(ly), very) marking a high degree of the scale, and downtoners (e.g. partly, scarcely) marking a low degree of the scale. Despite the growing body of research on intensifiers (e.g. Bolinger 1972, Peters 1993, Méndez-Naya 2008), only relatively little is known about their development in Late Modern English and this is especially true of downtoners. Of special interest are speech-related genres, as intensifiers have been shown to occur particularly in speech in Present-day English (Paradis 2008: 321; Biber et al 1999).For our data, we will turn to the Old Bailey Corpus (OBC 2.0), which includes ca. 24 million words, from 1720 to 1913. Owing to lack of audiorecorded data and speech-based data in general from the period, these records provide an opportunity to approach the speech of the period albeit via writing and a fairly formal setting.We will investigate downtowners, a category of intensifiers comprising diminishers and minimizers. The following items are represented in the material in modest to substantial numbers:slight(ly), mild(ly), partial(ly), part(ly), somewhat, least, faint(ly), thin(ly), light(ly), sparing(ly), moderate(ly), bare(ly), hard(ly), scarce(ly), scant(ly/ily)–as well as quiteand little, which will be disregarded here due to the former’s multifunctionality and the latter’s high frequency (to be treated in a separate study). In terms of methodology, our approach draws on principles of corpus linguistics, historical pragmatics and historical sociolinguistics and aims at both quantitative and qualitative insights. We seek to answer the following research questions:

    •Which of the downtoner forms gain ground and which forms are on their way out?

    •What are the targets that speakers in the courtroom modify by using downtoners (verbs, adjectives, oradverbs)? What effects are conveyed by these uses (hedging, vagueness, precision etc.)?

    •How restricted/formulaic or flexible are individual downtoner types, both with regard to forms and to co-occurrences? Are there specific collocational preferences and do these change over time?

    •What are the distributions of the forms across various types of speakers with regard to speakers’ social (e.g. gender and rank) and functional (e.g. judge, witness) roles? Which are the most innovative/conservative types ofusers in sociolinguistic respects?

    Comparisons will also be drawn to the results of our previous work on amplifiers. Our findings can be expected to reveal new information on the pragmatics of intensifiers 8 and their distributions across functional speaker roles over the important Late Modern English period.

  • 3.
    Claridge, Claudia
    et al.
    University of Augsburg.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.
    Kytö, Merja
    Uppsala Universitet.
    “Methinks you are mighty funny, Gentlemen”: The socio-pragmatics of boosters in the late modern courtroom2016In: International Conference on English Historical Linguistics 19, 2016, p. 25-26Conference paper (Refereed)
  • 4.
    Claridge, Claudia
    et al.
    University of Augsburg, Germany.
    Kytö, Merja
    Uppsala Universitet.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.
    Maximizers on the move: A historical socio-pragmatic analysis2016In: ICAME 37 Conference: Corpus Linguistics across Cultures, The Chinese University of Hong Kong , 2016Conference paper (Refereed)
  • 5.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.
    Conversational writing: A Multidimensional Study of Synchronous and Supersynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication2015Book (Refereed)
  • 6.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities. Uppsala universitet.
    Emotives in screen-mediated communication: from punctuation to emojis and beyond2017Conference paper (Refereed)
  • 7.
    Jonsson, Ewa
    Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.
    Language and beyond in digital communication2016Conference paper (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
  • 8. Jonsson, Ewa
    New historical speech-related texts: The case of early 21st century digital communication2016Conference paper (Refereed)
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