The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 185–228 | Cite as

Expressive intensifiers and external degree modification

  • Daniel GutzmannEmail author
  • Katharina Turgay
Original Paper


Varieties of colloquial German exhibit a special class of degree expression, including expressions like sau, voll and total, which we call expressive intensifiers (EIs) and which have received almost no attention in the literature. EIs are distinguished from ordinary degree intensifiers like very by several special syntactic properties. Most importantly, they can appear in what we call the external degree modification construction (EDC), a construction of the form [EI D (A) NP]. Despite preceding the determiner in these constructions, the EI still intensifies the adjective or noun inside the DP. The entire EDC behaves like a DP and, curiously, its interpretation must be indefinite, irrespective of the definite determiner that it involves. External EIs raise at least six questions for their analysis: (i) What is their relation to internal EIs? (ii) What position hosts them and why do they move at all? (iii) Why does the external position shift the interpretation of the determiner? (iv) Why is it that ordinary degree items are excluded from that position? (v) Why are some EIs prevented from appearing adnominally in internal position, but all can be used adnominally in external position? (vi) Why do some constructions block external EIs? After presenting a detailed description of the behavior of EIs both in internal and external position and in adjectival and adnominal use, we develop an analysis of EDCs to answer these questions which is based on the idea that the derivation of an EDC involves head movement to D0 where the EI forms a complex quantifier with the determiner in order to express a syntactic expressivity feature.


Intensifiers Expressivity Adjectives Degree phrases Gradable nouns German 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of LinguisticsUniversity of FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Institute of German StudiesUniversity of LandauLandauGermany

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