Fall 2015

October 8, 2015
Tricia Irwin, Postdoctoral Researcher,
Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

TOTALLY at the core of "Drama So"

In this talk I will discuss a relatively new construction in colloquial English that contains the word "so" followed by a VP, as in "Jamie has SO dated that sort of guy before". The constituent that "so" seems to modify in this usage (a VP) is not the sort that "so" normally modifies--"so" usually modifies APs, as in "so happy" or "so quickly". I'll describe the distribution of this use of "so", and I'll argue that although it appears to be innovative, the word "so" in this construction is being used in its normal way -- as a degree modifier. I'll argue that the curious properties of this use of "so" are due to the fact that "so" modifies a silent speaker-oriented adverb, the word "totally". "Totally" as a speaker-oriented adverb (as in, "We totally might go out tonight") is itself relatively new. I'll show that the properties of speaker-oriented "totally" are responsible for the interesting syntactic behavior of the "so" construction.