Adverbs of degree children spoken language and written language
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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. Principle of Contrast.

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Adverbs of degree children spoken language and written language

Adverbs of Degree: Children, spoken language and writtenlanguage

Jack Hoeksema

Symposium on the Role of Frequency and Function in LanguageDevelopment

Principle of contrast

Principle of Contrast

  • Speakers assumethateverydifference in formsignals 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, 1-33. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.)

What is maximally in conflict with this

What is maximally in conflict withthis?



  • 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 amrather/pretty/reasonablytired

  • Ik ben heel/erg/zeer/ontzettend moe

    I amvery/extremely/trulytired

  • Ik ben volkomen/totaal/helemaal nuchter

    I amtotally/completely/entirely sober

Why so much variation


  • Degreelevels: low/mid/high/absolute

  • Stylisticlevels: lowbrow/highbrow/neutral

  • Polarity: negativepolarity items, positivepolarity items, neutral items

  • Syntacticcombinatorics: You are verylovely, I loveyouverymuch/He is verymuch a loner /I don’tlikehimmuch

  • Semantic/lexicalrestrictions: verypossible / *a bit possible / *ratherpossible / quitepossible

  • Phonologicalrestrictions: highly intelligent / *highly smart / highlyunlikely / *highly fat (# syllables > 1)

Why now and not in 1600

Whynow, and not in 1600?

  • Emergence of writtenlanguages

  • And literacy

  • Withvariouswritingstyles

  • And a stylisticrequirement to avoidrepitition of words

Dutch high degree adverbs written data hoeksema 2005 spoken de jong 1979

Dutch high degreeadverbs(written data: Hoeksema 2005; spoken: De Jong 1979)

Most common degree adverbs in dutch

Most commondegreeadverbs in Dutch



Childes data abel and iris

Childes data: Abel and Iris

Een beetje

(een) beetje

Abel 2-8-13

150*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 .

Beetje ctnd

Beetje (ctnd)

Abel 2-10-00

523*GER:ik haal deze een beetje uit elkaar, ok ?

524*CHI:ja, beetje aan mekaar .

526*GER:nee, uit elkaar juist .

527*CHI:oh .

Adverbs of degree children spoken language and written language


2-04-09 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 .

Repeats ignored in data

Repeats (ignored in data)

Abel 3-0-23

1120*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 .

High degree vs absolute

High degreevs absolute

ABEL 3-4-1

583*CHI:ik heb alleen maar xx weg .

584*CHI:<ik heb> [//] ik ben heel weg .

585*GER:waar ga je naartoe ?

586*CHI:ik ga naar Artis .

587*GER:naarArtis ?

588*CHI:ja .

Veel vs heel

Veel vs heel

IRIS 3-6-15

448*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 .

Abel versus iris

Abel versus Iris

Adult degree adverbs in the abel iris files

Adultdegreeadverbs in the Abel/Iris files

Written data vs child language

Written data vschildlanguage

Children and caretakers

Children and caretakers



C onclusions


  • Childrenaged 2 to 3 by and large stick to the Principle of Contrast

  • Despitelots of variants in their input

  • Theylackmidleveladverbs notexplainedbyprinciple of contrast, strictlyspeaking

  • Midleveladverbsfarlesscommon in child-oriented speech than in adultoriented speech

  • Choice of degreemodifiersdeterminedbyfrequency in the input



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