"all" = very; quite

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Oct 19 21:06:55 UTC 2005

On Oct 18, 2005, at 10:23 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:

> Now I've got it *all* figured out. The OED definition fails to
> distinguish between two distinguishable meanings of "all."...
> ... My suspicion is that early exx. of adv. "all" in such contexts
> overwhelmingly emphasize *utterness and completeness,* while more
> modern exx. are about equally likely to emphasize  *intensity.*

the stanford ALL project believes that the totality reading of
adverbial ALL came first (developing from the pronoun/quantifier
ALL), but that a booster/reinforcer reading ('very') developed from
this pretty early and has coexisted with the other reading for a very
long time.  a great many examples can be understood either way, and
it's not clear that speakers have always distinguished them.

by the way, TOTALLY, which obviously started out as a totality
adverb, has fairly recently picked up a simple reinforcer use/
meaning, too.


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