Chapter published in:Current Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics
Edited by Diego Pascual y Cabo and Idoia Elola
[Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 27] 2020
► pp. 133–152
Degree, time and focus
A historical tale of a poco
This paper applies theories from historical pragmatics to trace the syntactic and semantic changes of a poco (today meaning ‘in a short time’) from the thirteenth to twentieth centuries. The data shows that during this period the structure shifts from being a prepositional phrase that modifies a noun phrase to being an autonomous adverb. In its adverbial form, it gains wider scope, modifying structures beyond the noun phrase. Along with this syntactic change, a poco retains its degree modification properties over the centuries. However, the scales a poco evaluates extend from objectively measurable concepts such as time and space to subjective concepts such as time elapsed between events, approximation to completion of an event or minimization of focus among alternatives.
Keywords: grammaticalization, semanticization, historical linguistics, degree modifier, focus adverb
Published online: 04 June 2020
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