Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Question: Work on -ly-less adverbs

I think I'm going to ask general information gathering  questions that I have about linguistics research here on my blog, rather than as Facebook or Twitter posts. Then, I can add the answers I get back to the post.

What research is there on -ly-less adverbs? I think the most common one that comes up is "personal," as in
  • Don't take it personal.
Here are two more real life examples (the second one I heard just today, hence the question):
  • I go to South Jersey occasional.
  • I need a cigarette desperate.
I have some vague intuitions about restrictions on the -ly-less forms. Specifically, I think they're only possible post-verbally, so
  • *I personal took it.
And I doubt we'd ever see it with a sentential adverb, like
  • *Hopeful, we'll find an answer.
  • *We'll find an answer, hopeful.
But then, I don't really trust my intuitions, because I would have also rejected the "occasional" and "desperate" sentences above, which I heard come out of real people's mouths.

So, anyone know of any research on the topic?

People came through for me! First, Mercedes Durham pointed me in the right direction on Twitter.
The Tagliamonte and Ito paper provides a great introduction to the topic of -ly~ø variation in adverbs. First, in the long view of history, the -ly adverbs are the innovation creeping in, not the zero forms. Here's how I understand it worked. There used to be a morpheme -lic which was used to create adverbs from nouns.
  • friend + lic
  • man + lic
And there was a separate morpheme -e that created adverbs from adjectives.
  • direct + e
  • open + e
Sometimes you'd get them stacking on top of each other

  • friend + lic + e
  • man + lic + e
And sometimes you'd wind up with the -lic+e morphemes coming together and behaving like one morpheme that turns adjectives into adverbs.
  • sweet + lice
This part sounds similar to a more modern situation. We have a morpheme -ate that turns nouns into verbs.
  • assasin + ate
And a morpheme -ion that turns verbs into nouns, which sometimes stacks on top of -ate.
  • delete + ion
  • assasin + ate + ion
But sometimes, we get -ation coming together and acting like one morpheme that turns verbs into nouns.
  • cause + ation (*causate)
Anyway, back to Old English. At some point the little -e morpheme that turned adjectives into adverbs got lost (probably as part of a larger language change that dropped a lot of word final unstressed e's). At that point, adjectives and derived adverbs just all sounded the same. That is, derived adverbs were all zero forms. But then, the fused form -lice started being used to make adverbs in more places than it used to be, and it eventually changed in pronunciation to modern day -ly.

On these historical issues, a lot of ink has been spilled including a whole two volume series on just this case of variation in adverb formation, and a few book chapters.

Tagliamonte & Ito also provide a lot of cool examples from other studies, like these ones from Appalachian and Ozark English (Christian, Wolfram & Dube, 1988).
  • I come from Virginia original.
  • It certain was some reason.
Their own study was on a large corpus of speech from York, Enland. After treating really separately (they argued the patterns in really had more to do with its use as a special intensifier and less to do with adverb formation), they found basically no age effects, but working class men strongly favored the zero form compared to everyone else.

As for language internal effects, they completely excluded preverbal adverbs as being invariantly -ly forms (per my intuition, but not per that one example above from Appalachian English). After that, the found that the concreteness of the verb had the strongest effect, with concrete verbs favoring the zero form a lot more than abstract verbs.

I noticed that both the examples that I felt were interesting enough to take a mental note of above involve abstract verbs + zero form adverbs. Maybe the fact that abstract verbs disfavor zero forms is what made them jump out at me.

Allison Shapp pointed me to work she's doing on -ly~ø variation in American English, and specifically (if I understood the poster right) African American English. They've found a big effect of education, where higher education favors more -ly form, and that African American speakers, who are likely to be speakers of African American English, favor the zero form.

So! That was a fruitful information gathering adventure! This is a really cool variable!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know of any research here, but this came up on ADS-L some years ago. The discussion was about the "take it personal" type (actually I think it was "take X serious"). I'd argue that the ly-less forms are more common in these cases b/c they're interpretable as object complement structures. Thus they aren't adverbs but really adjectives. No such explanation would apply with your other real-life exx, which strike me as bizarre.


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