A cognitive approach to English adverbs

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7 Citations (Scopus)


The adverb has been understudied, compared with other grammatical categories such as nouns and verbs. Previous accounts of English adverbs such as Greenbawn (1969), Jackendoff (1972), Bellert (1977), Ernst (1984) assume that one only has to paraphrase the meanings of English adverbs as simply and formally as possible. These semantic-paraphrase analyses do not ask what underlies their paraphrases, much less what is a possible English adverb. The aim of this paper is threefold: to criticize the longstanding assumption that adverbs are too heterogeneous to be subject to a systematic treatment; to provide a cognitive-grammar (Langacker 1987a, 1990, 1991) account of English adverbs; and to show that it contributes to constraining their range. It will be shown that English adverbs are much less idiosyncratic and heterogeneous than the previous analyses assume, with their semantic properties and syntactic behavior attributed to our ability to conceptualize a situation by means of alternate images. More specifically, adverbs will be defined as functions that map a verb (construed through sequential scanning,) into some other mode of scanning or modal. Furthermore, it will be argued that the inventory of scanning and modal offers a natural way to constrain the range of English adverbs. All this strongly suggests that adverbs are no less amenable to a systematic treatment than nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-287
Number of pages41
Issue number348
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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