[Lingtyp] Is the connection between simplicity and intensity universal

Mira Ariel mariel at tauex.tau.ac.il
Sat Jun 5 00:49:01 UTC 2021


Yael Ziv, here cc'ed, wrote about Hebrew pashut 'simple/ly'. The paper is in Hebrew, but I'm sure you can ask her about it.

I here attach a paper of mine (with Ruti Bardenstein), in press with Studies in language, about the evolution of intensifiers from truth markers, but we mention particularizers, which simply might be similar to. We talk about the "missing link" between truth and intensification, and you may well find that there's a missing link between 'simple/ly' and 'very'. For truth markers we argued that they originally serve to mark something as "a real category member of Y", and later on they more generally block a loosening (weakening) of the modified concept (Y). Only then do they evolve into intensifiers. I suspect the beginning of 'simply' > 'very' is some metalinguistic use of 'simply'. Maybe simply in simply Y first aims to preempt a potential reservation that 'Y' is too strong?


From: Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of tangzhengda
Sent: Friday, June 4, 2021 5:08 PM
To: lingtyp <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Subject: [Lingtyp] Is the connection between simplicity and intensity universal

Dear all,

Words with the lexical meaning of 'with simplicity' are likely to grammaticalize into intensives, or 'intensifiers', e.g. English 'simply', Chinese jianzhi (简直,lit simple and straight), and may be Roman languages also.  It is thus interesting to have the potential to express 'In a plain, homely, or frugal manner', 'inadequately' and 'absolutely, extraordinarily' by the same word.

I wonder if the connection, both synchronical and diachronical, between 'being simple' and 'being intense' somewhat universal?Are there more languages that coincidentally have such intensifier-used lexicons indicating 'simplicity'?

Thanks a lot

With best wishes


Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
No.5 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, China; 100732

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