The missing link between truth and intensification

Ruti Bardenstein, Mira Ariel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Truth markers commonly evolve into intensifiers (Heine & Kuteva 2002), but we here argue that this shift is only indirect, and a counter-loosening phase necessarily mediates between truth marking and intensification. Counter-looseners instruct the addressee to avoid (or rather, constrain) the very natural interpretative process of broadening, whereby the speaker-intended concept would have been taken as a loosened, “more or less” interpretation of the meaning of the modified expression (Carston 2002). We provide a diachronic analysis for Hebrew mamash ‘really’, which supports our point, and we reinterpret diachronic analyses of other truth markers in order to show that they too underwent a counter-loosening phase before turning intensifiers. Finally, we briefly distinguish between a counter-loosening mediated intensifier evolution (for truth markers, particularizers and maximizers) and a direct evolutionary path into intensification for originally upscaling expressions (extreme scalar modifiers and augmenters).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-322
Number of pages38
JournalStudies in Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Counter-loosening
  • Intensifiers
  • Loosening
  • Paradis’ principle of harmony
  • Semantic change
  • Truth attesters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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