LINGUIST List 8.366

Sun Mar 16 1997

Sum: _completely dead_?: Degree advs + adjs

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>


  1. hiro-t, Summary:_completely dead_?

Message 1: Summary:_completely dead_?

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 97 18:39:40 JST
From: hiro-t <>
Subject: Summary:_completely dead_?

Dear colleagues,
 I posted a query on the List concerning the acceptabilities of 
"degree adverbs(completely, etc.) + adjectives/verbs(dead, die, etc.). 
20 people responded to my judgement test. I wish to express 
my sincere thanks to all of them. The names and addresses of the people 
are the following:
Tara L. Narcross" <> (Sharon Vaipae)
Peter Daniels <>
Philip Grew <>
John Conrad Cornelius <> (M. Lynne Roecklein)
"N. M. Taylor" <>
Dan Maxwell <100101.2276CompuServe.COM>
Linda Coleman (
Kevin Caldwell(
Karen Stanley <>
Gerald B.Mathias <>
Gillian Collins <>
William Ham Bevan <>

 Here are the results of the test. I put in each slot OK(perfectly OK),
 OK?(OK, but slightly questionable), OK??, ?(truly questionable, half of
 them said yes, and half said no), *?(unacceptabable, but slightly OK), 
*??, and *(completely unacceptable), judging from the ratio 
of the result, which is shown by % below the sentence. Comments, if 
any, are shown in each sentence.
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
- --------------------------------------------
 I am investing the collocational possibilities of degree adverbs + 
adjectives/verbs. Please help me with acceptablity judgement tests. 
Thanks a lot in advance. The problem is: can a man be 
_completely_ dead in what sense? Please put OK, ? or * in each slot.

 (1) a. (OK? ?)The victim is completely dead.
 OK:50% ?:25% *:25%
 b. (*?? )The victim is perfectly dead.
 OK:19% ?:31% *:50% 
 This shows the speaker's degree of conviction; "I have no 
 doubt that the victim is dead." 
 c. (*?? )The victim is totally dead.
 OK:19% ?:31% *:51%
 d. (? )The victim is utterly dead.
 OK: 38% ?:19% *:43% 
 e. (*?? )The victim is entirely dead.
 OK:19% ?:31% *:51%
 (d) and (e) are better if we replace "the victim" into 
 "the poor guy."
 f. (OK? )The victim is absolutely dead.
 OK: 69% ?:12% *:19% 
 (f) emphasizes the speaker's conviction: "I'm absolutely positive
 the victim is dead."
 g. (OK?? )The victim is very dead.
 OK:50% ?:25% *:25% (cf. *slightly dead)
 h. (OK )The victim is quite dead.
 OK:98% ?:2% *:0%
 Although I found no examples of "completely dead" in the sense of 
human death, I have several examples of "very/quite dead," in which case
 the degree adverbs are close to "really, actually or brutally."
 (i) For your information, George Casselamn turned up very, very dead
 in his apartment this morning. (E.S.Gardner, The Case of the Long-
Legged Models.)
 (ii) He was very dead, she thought, remembering the man who had 
fucked her so crudely on the desk which he now faced in death. (U. Hall,
 But Not for Long.)
 (iii) Martins: Could he have been conscious?
 Porter: Oh no, he was quite dead.
 Martins: I've been told he didn't die at once.
 Porter: He couldn't have been alive, not with his dead in the 
 state it was.
 (Scenerio from G. Green's The Third Man.)

 (2) a. (*?? )The victim is completely alive.
 OK:19% ?:25% *:56%
 "Completely alive" is OK if there is some kind of contradiction
 in the context.
 b. (*?? )The victim is almost alive.
 OK:25% ?:19% *:56%
 c. ( ? )The victim is perfectly alive.
 OK: 43% ?:16% *:43%
 d. (OK? )The victim is surprisingly alive.
 OK:63% ?:25% *:12%
 e. (OK )The victim is very much alive.
 OK:98% ?:2% *:0%
 We need contradiction in the context: "You're mistaken if 
 you thought him/her dead."
 (3) a. (OK )The issue is completely dead now.
 OK:98% ?:2% *:0%
 b. (OK )The issue is almost dead now.
 OK:96% ?:2% *:2%
 c. (OK?? )The issue is very dead now.
 OK:50% ?:25% *:25% (cf. OK: The issue is quite 

 (4) a. (OK? )The door is completely open.
 OK:75% ?:18% *:7%
 b. ( ? )The door is totally open.
 OK:37% ?:37% *:26%
 c. (OK?? )The door is quite open.
 OK:50% ?:30% *20%
 d. (*? )The door is very open.
 OK: 6% ?:56% *:38% (cf. OK: The door is 
 very much open.)

 (5) a. (OK )The door is completely shut/closed.
 OK: 96% ?:2% *:2%
 b. (OK?? )The door is totally shut/closed.
 OK:56% ?:19% *:25%
 (J c. (OK?? )The door is quite shut/closed.
 OK:50% ?:25% *:25%
 d. (*? )The door is very shut/closed. 
 OK:0% ?:31% *:69% (cf. OK: The door is 
 very much shut/closed)

 (6) a. (*?? )He wrote the letter completely.
 OK:25% ?:31% *:44%
 b. (OK )He wrote the letter perfectly.
 OK:92% ?:4% *:4%
 This sentence is OK in the sense of manner adverb: He wrote 
the letter with no errors./ The letter contains no errors, unacceptable
 in the sense of degree adverb.
 c. (*?? )He completely wrote the letter.
 OK: 25% ?:25% *:50%
 d. (? )He has written the letter completely.
 OK:31% ?:31% *:38%
 e. (OK?? )He has completely written the letter.
 OK:44% ?:38% *:18%
 f. (*?? )He is writing the letter completely.
 OK:18% ?:18% *:64%
 g. ( *??)He is completely writing the letter.
 OK:13% ?:31% *:56%

 (7) a. ( * )The victim is dying completely.
 OK:0% ?:4% *:96%
 b. ( * )The victim dies completely.
 OK:4% ?:2% *:94%
 c. ( *? ? )The victim died completely.
 OK:10% ?:15% *:75%
 d. ( *?? )The victim has died completely.
 OK:10% ?:30% *:60%
 e. ( * )The victim is completely dying.
 OK:0% ?:2% *:98%
 f. ( * )The victim completely dies.
 OK:2% ?:2% *:96%
 g. (*?? )The victim completely died.
 OK:4% ?:30% *:66%
 h. ( ? )The victim has completely died.
 OK:12% ?:44% *:44%
 "Completely"in the following example cited by one respondant does 
not actually modifies "die": Everyone dies completely in this play.=They
 all end up dead.

 (8) a. His nose was almost completely blocked (OK:96% /?:4% )by 
/(OK:96% / ?: 4%)with caked blood. (Some prefer "with" to "by".)
 b. And then the opening at the top of the hole was completely 
covered (OK: 98% /*:2%)by/(OK:80% / ?:15% /*:5% )with this fat form 
darkening everything so that it wa no longer possible to see.
 (Some prefer "by" to "with". Most of them point out that we need "
the" before "opening". It was my mistake. Thank you for pointing out 
the error.)
 I will welcome any further comments on this problem.

Best Wishes,

Hiroaki Tanaka

Associate Professor,
1-1, Minamijousanjima-cho, Tokushima, 770, Japan
Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences,
Tokushima University, Japan

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