Mind the Gap: Expressing affect with hyperbole and hyperbolic compounds

John Benjamins (forthcoming)
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Hyperbole is traditionally understood as exaggeration. Instead, in this paper, we shall define it not just in terms of its form, but in terms of its effects and its purpose. Specifically, we characterize its form as a shift of magnitude along a scale of measurement. In terms of its effect, it uses this magnitude shift to make the target property more salient. The purpose of hyperbole is to express with colour and force that the target property is either greater or lesser than expected or desired. This purpose is well suited to hyperbolic expression. This because hyperbole naturally draws a contrast between two points: how things are versus how they were expected to be. We also consider compound figures involving hyperbole. When it combines with other figures hyperbole operates by magnifying the specific effects of the figure it operates on. We shall see that sometimes hyperbole works as an input for irony; and at other times it builds on a metaphor to increase the effects of that metaphor.
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