Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Corrine Occhino



Subject Categories

Linguistics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Intensifiers are a class of adverbs that are noted to change relatively rapidly when compared to other parts of English. Frequently, their role as intensifiers results from the process of grammaticalization in which they take on this emphatic function. Over time, certain intensifiers have adopted indexicality, often carrying connotations of informality and femininity. Very, on the other hand, stands out from the other most frequent intensifiers (really, pretty, and so) due to its classification as a formal intensifier, evidenced by its favored usage in formal speech and written text. In the present study, the perceived formality or informality of these common intensifiers was examined with a corpus of Internet language, a relatively new register that is unique in the fact that the language found within is written, but generally informal. By examining the distribution of very, really, pretty, and so across differing levels of formality on the Internet, it was determined that really is the overall favorite intensifier, but that very maintains its position as the go-to intensifier in more formal situations. In addition, pretty and so were found to behave differently than the more common very and really, indicating that they are following a different path of grammaticalization.


Open Access

Included in

Linguistics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.