Linguistics ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-14-2017


In traditional sociolinguistic analyses, one or more linguistic variables are examined in terms of their correlation with broad social categories, such as gender or ethnicity. If a correlation is found, it can be argued that the variable is indexical of the speaker’s membership within the relevant social category (Labov 1972, 2001; Mesthrie et al 2000; Tagliamonte 2005, 2008). The use of intensifiers in English is one linguistic variable which has been extensively analyzed in terms of its variation in multiple populations, with noted differences in intensifier use between male and female speakers, older and younger speakers, and speakers in different regions (Ito & Tagliamonte 2003, Tagliamonte 2005, 2008, Tagliamonte & Roberts 2005). These patterns in intensifier use suggest that intensifiers can be used by speakers to index aspects of their social identities. However, the connection between intensifier use and aspects of speaker identity other than these broad social categories has not been adequately explored.

To better understand the way intensifiers are used to index aspects of speaker identity, the study addresses speaker identity by exploring the topic of self through an analysis of differences in intensifier use when speakers are talking about themselves and their own experiences, versus when speakers are talking about other people or things, or reporting other people’s experiences. The way speakers discuss macrosocial categories such as gender, age, and ethnicity is also analyzed. Additionally, the study focuses on the variety of English spoken in northern New Mexico, which is a linguistically interesting but understudied variety of American English, allowing for both a description of the use of intensifiers in New Mexican English as well as a comparison to other populations of English speakers. The study finds that elements of individual speaker identity, such as speaker stance and a speaker’s personal connection to discourse content, influence intensifier variation as much as the social demographic categories to which speakers belong. This multifaceted exploration of intensifier use expands our understanding of how intensifiers are related to the construction of speaker identity in discourse while also contributing to the study of intensifier variation in different dialects of English.




intensifiers, identity, discourse analysis, sociolinguistic variation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Linguistics

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Christian Koops

Second Committee Member

Dr. Melissa Axelrod

Third Committee Member

Dr. Rosa Vallejos

Included in

Linguistics Commons