This paper argues that the ubiquitous cognitive process of comparing and the resultant judgements of similarity and dissimilarity also underlie the semantic processes of intensification and grading to a large extent. This comparative basis is visible both in the formal properties of many intensifiers and in central aspects of their semantics: Intensifiers may overtly encode a comparison (e.g. crystal clear, royally, outstanding) and an emotional reaction to a comparison (surprisingly, frightfully), or they may imply a comparison with a covert standard in endocentric expansions of simple adjectival predications. In order to gain a new perspective on their meaning, the relations between intensifiers, on the one hand, and demonstratives, exclamatives and comparative constructions, on the other, are analyzed and a semantic typology of comparative constructions is outlined and discussed in relation to the central hypothesis.
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