Gutzmann, Daniel and Katharina Turgay. 2012. Expressive intensifiers in German: syntax-semantics mismatches. In: Piñíon, Christopher (ed.): Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 9. 149–166.


Varieties of informal German exhibit a special class of degree expression, including expressions like sau, voll, or total, which we call expressive intensifiers (EIs) and which have received almost no attention in the literature. EIs, which head a DegP, are distinguished from ordinary degree intensifiers like very by several special semantic and syntactic properties. In addition to their intensifying function, EIs are mixed expressives that convey an expressive speaker, which is not part of the sentence's descriptive content. In addition, EIs can appear in a DP-external position in which they precede the determiner, while still intensifying the adjective internal to the DP, a position which is not available for ordinary degree words and only licensed in definite DPs. The entire structure [EI DP] behaves like a DP and is only available if the DP is definite. Curiously, its interpretation must nevertheless be indefinite. External EIs raise at least four questions for their analysis. (i) In what position are they located? (ii) Why can ordinary degree expressions not occur externally? (iii) Why is the position only available with definite DPs? (iv) Why is the entire construction nevertheless interpreted as indefinite? We try to give some tentative answers to these questions, based on the decomposition of both the DP and the DegP into a Q- and a D-component.

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