JoLIE 14:1/2021


Back to issue page






Teodora Popescu

1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia, Romania






The aim of this paper is to offer an insight into the semantic roles of adverbials. The approach is mainly construed around the theory of adverb semantics propounded by Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik (1985) – grammatical functions and the realisation of semantic roles. The theoretical approach is complemented by a practical analysis of adverbial phrases occurring in social interactions (as well as script-based stage directions) from the TV series “Friends”. The main method used is corpus analysis; in addition, a semi-automated identification of adverbs was performed using both quantitative and qualitative analyses. The tools used were ConcApp software, as well as electronic dictionaries and lexical databases. A quantitative and qualitative analysis of -ly adverbials in the script was carried out to establish certain patterns of adverb occurrence in social interaction. The results reveal a large proportion of subjuncts, in particular emphasisers, intensifier subjuncts and downtoners (approximator) (in Greenbaum et al.’s taxonomy), or, in other taxonomies, speaker-oriented (Jackendoff 1972) / sentence adverbs (Swan 1988) / stance adverbs – attitude and epistemic (Biber et al. 1999). A second important finding is that the ly adverbs used in this sitcom display high polysemy, including some novel semantic uses peculiar to present-day US English.


Keywords: Adjunct; Subjunct; Disjunct; Conjunct; Adverbials in social interaction; US sitcoms.





Bellert, I. (1977). On semantic and distributional properties of sentential adverbs. Linguistic Inquiry, 8(2), 337-351.


Biber, D., & Finegan, E. (1988). Adverbial stance types in English. Discourse Processes, 11, 1-34.


Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan E. (1999). Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow: Longman.


Bright, K.S., Kauffman, M., & Crane, D. (Executive Producers). (1994). Friends [Television series], New York, National Broadcasting Company.


Brown, G., & Yule, G. (1983). Discourse Analysis. Cambridge: CUP.


Greenbaum, S., & Quirk, R. (2004). A student’s grammar of the English language. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.


Halliday, M.A.K, & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M. (2004). An Introduction to functional grammar (3rd edition). London: Hodder Education. doi:


Heine, B., Kaltenbock, G., Kuteva, T., & Long, H. (2013). An outline of Discourse Grammar. In Shannon Bischoff and Carmen Jany (Eds.), Functional Approaches to Language, 155-206. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. doi:


Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G.K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Jackendoff, R. (1972). Semantic interpretation in generative grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Kaltenbock, G., B. Heine, & Kuteva, T. (2011). On thetical grammar. Studies in Language, 35(4), 848-893. doi:


Popescu, T. (2020). A semantic approach to ‘Friends’ TV series. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 13, 153-164. doi:


Quaglio, P. (2009). Television Dialogue: The sitcom Friends vs natural conversation. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.


Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.


Swan, T. (1988). Sentence Adverbs in English: A Diachronic and Synchronic Investigation. Oslo: Novus.


Swan, T. (1997). From manner to subject modification: Adverbialization in English. Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 20(2), 179–195. doi:


Tagliamonte, S., & Roberts, C. (2005). So weird; so cool; so innovative: The use of intensifiers in the television series Friends. American Speech, 80, 280–300.


Tannen, D. (1984). Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends. Norwood NJ: Ablex.


Tannen, D. (1989). Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: CUP.



How to cite this article: Popescu, T. (2021). Semantic roles of adverbials in the TV series “Friends”. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 14(1), 113-143. doi:



For details on subscription, go to: