Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info


New from Oxford University Press!

ad

Cognitive Literary Science

Edited by Michael Burke and Emily T. Troscianko

Cognitive Literary Science "Brings together researchers in cognitive-scientific fields and with literary backgrounds for a comprehensive look at cognition and literature."


New from Cambridge University Press!

ad

Intonation and Prosodic Structure

By Caroline Féry

Intonation and Prosodic Structure "provides a state-of-the-art survey of intonation and prosodic structure."


Academic Paper


Title: Just for the hell of it: A comparison of two taboo-term constructions
Author: Jack Hoeksema
Institution: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Institution: Swarthmore College
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Semantics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: The two English constructions exemplified in 'Let's get the hell out of here' (type G) and 'They beat the hell out of him' (type B) differ both syntactically and semantically, but in both the taboo expression has the force of an intensifier. History (through a corpus investigation) reveals that the B-construction started as a literal exorcism (beat the devil out of someone), where the hell substituted for the devil, and semantic bleaching ultimately made the literal sense give way to simple emphasis, with any taboo term jumping in. The G-construction may have developed simultaneously, always as an intensifier – or, perhaps, later, on analogy with B. Our analysis suggests that the use of taboo terms as intensifiers spread from wh-constructions to these constructions and, finally, to degree intensifier constructions. These two uses of taboo terms as intensifiers are best characterized in terms of constructions and thus offer evidence against theories lacking any notion of constructions as basic building blocks. Further, they give us information about language change: a pragmatically unified but semantically disparate class of expressions (namely, taboo terms) can extend its distribution in parallel.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 44, Issue 2.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page