Course-based Project

A diachronic analysis of the intensifier very in British English

  • Osman Mamoon Osman Mohamed (Carnegie Mellon University Qatar)
  • Tokhirjon Mirzajonov (Carnegie Mellon University Qatar)


As an intensifier, the word very is used to increase the force or emphasis of other words. Little research exists on how the word very is used differently based on an individual's age, gender, or social class. This study examines how the frequency of the word very has evolved across these groups over time, using data from a corpus of spoken English samples known as the Spoken British National Corpus. A 1994 set and a 2014 set were compared, and the findings showed that the frequency of very grew over time. Individuals 60 and older used very more frequently than people of other ages. Men used very more often than women in 1994, but their frequencies nearly converged in 2014. Retired people used it the most in 1994, and in 2014 middle-class individuals used the word very most frequently. These results are important because they demonstrate how language use can vary between various social groups and change over time, giving us a better understanding of how society and culture affect how we speak.

Keywords: corpus analysis, intensifiers, gender and language, age and language, intensifiers, gender and language, age and language

Published on
08 Sep 2023
Peer Reviewed