On the Rise and Diffusion of New Intensifiers: This and That in Some Asian Varieties of English
AbstractThe intensifiers this and that acquired their intensifying function as a result of a grammaticalization process by means of which deictic demonstratives became degree adverbs with the meaning “to this or that extent, so much, so.” The phenomenon spread in the early nineteenth century as a typical resource of spoken English, and since then these intensifiers have found a niche in the written domain by imposing a scalar construal on adjectives for which scale is not the default. Even though these intensifiers are observed in practically all the varieties of English around the world, they predominate in American English, with its use in all the other inner circle varieties lagging well behind. In the outer circle varieties, the construction is also subject to some geographical preferences. The present article has two objectives: to evaluate the role and distribution of this and that as intensifiers in selected Asian varieties of English and to analyze the lexicosemantic structure of their right-hand collocates in terms of word class and mode of construal. The study demonstrates, firstly, the existence of different stages of grammaticalization of this and that, the latter having a wider repertoire of collocates; and secondly, an ongoing process of colloquialization and Americanization of the phenomenon, which is contributing to its growing diffusion in the outer circle varieties of English. The evidence comes from the Indian, Hong Kong, Singaporean and Philippines components of the Corpus of Global Web-based English.
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