Really Good or Real Good? A Corpus-Based Approach to the Grammaticalization and Delexicalization of Real

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Yi HE

Abstract

This study deals with the intensifying/emphasizing use of real, as in real good, the real question, which highlights the qualities indicated by the following adjective or nominal description. More specifically, it investigates the evolution toward Intensifier/Emphasizer by tracing real’s micro-diachronic progress along the two structures ‘real + adjective’ and ‘real + noun’. The observations of prominent collocations show an ongoing grammatical change of real, e.g. real predominantly modifying a nominal good in 1820s but mainly functioning Intensifier in the same string real good after 1930s. Still, this transition seems limited to a certain set of collocates. Real in collocation with nouns such as estate, world, life never functions as Emphasizer.

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