This paper applies the methodology of corpus linguistics to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary in order to evaluate the lexicographer’s mastery and interest in registering actual language usage. Specifically, it focuses on the ways and extent to which Dr Johnson's Dictionary accounts for the enormously varied and ever-changing lexico-functional category of intensifiers (e.g. abominably, abundantly, ardently, bad), varying connotations, type and degree of expressivity, as well as style and register restrictions. By using the Dictionary itself as a corpus and referring for comparison to the Oxford English Dictionary (restricted to the relevant time span), we demonstrate that intensifiers in the Dictionary – around 860 altogether – are depicted as varying not just along the continuous scales of formality and history but also on the scale of attitude, on the lexico-semantic dimensions of degree, connotations and expressivity, and on the scale of language purity. The paper thus demonstrates that Johnson had a genuine and surprisingly deep interest in colloquial language.
Desperately, utterly, and other intensifiers. On their inclusion and definition in Dr Johnson’s Dictionary / Cacchiani, Silvia. - In: TEXTUS. - ISSN 1824-3967. - STAMPA. - (XIX) 2006/1:(2006), pp. 217-236.