Chapter published in:Producing Figurative Expression: Theoretical, experimental and practical perspectives
Edited by John Barnden and Andrew Gargett
[Figurative Thought and Language 10] 2020
► pp. 449–468
Mind the gap
Expressing affect with hyperbole and hyperbolic figures
Hyperbole is traditionally understood as exaggeration. I argue instead that the point of hyperbole is emphasis. By overstating that things are greater (lesser) than expected, hoped, or desired, we shift the salience of the target property, thus making it more emphatic. This enables to express surprise or other relevant affect in reaction to how much, or how little, our expectations have been either exceeded or thwarted. This purpose is well suited to hyperbolic expression. This is because hyperbole naturally draws a contrast between how things are and how they were expected to be, exaggerating the gap between them. I conclude by considering the characteristics of hyperbolic figures where hyperbole mixes with other figures of speech.
Keywords: hyperbole, salience-shift, affect, metaphor, irony, hyperbolic figures
Published online: 17 December 2020
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