A Cross-Linguistic Study of Super and Intensifiers in the Real World
This study examined super in German (super) and in Mandarin Chinese (chao-ji 超級 ‘super’ and chao 超 ‘super’), with data taken from corpora. We aim to test whether intensifiers function as semantically vacuous fillers, as Huddleston and Pullum (2002) proposed, and show the sociolinguistic features of intensifiers while moving toward grammaticalization. The results indicate that German super is flexible morphologically and syntactically, while super in Mandarin Chinese has several constraints. Semantically, Mandarin Chinese chao enhances the gradable property of states and chao-ji often emphasizes modern technology and events. In comparison, German super has advanced itself in terms of linguistic performance and gradually lost its role as an intensifier. The study of super and the use of intensifiers display interesting linguistic diversity and also reveal how men and women, teenagers and children play different participant roles in the process of moving intensifiers toward grammaticalization.