Publication details [#6805]

König, Ekkehard. 1996. Intensifiers across languages.


Despite some modest beginnings found in the work of Stern (1931) or Ullmann (1964) and a variety of important contributions made in the last fifteen years, very little progress has been made in the attempt to formulate general tendencies, principles and directions of semantic change. One of the problems that has stood in the way of such progress seems to have been the failure to draw a strict distinction between (i) unidirectional developments or paths leading from one domain to another (conditional > concessive, deontic > epistemic), (ii) mechanisms of semantic change (metaphor, metonymy, etc.) and (iii) the resultant effects brought about by such changes (broadening, narrowing, bleaching, etc.). The present paper will address all of these issues in connection with an analysis of a very general pattern of semantic change leading from expressions for body parts (e.g. Arab. 'nafs' (soul)), via intensifiers (Germ. 'selbst, persönlich, leibhaftig'; Engl. HERSELF) to reflexive pronouns (Engl. HERSELF). On the basis of a broad typological comparison pervasive patterns of grammaticalization and semantic change will be described. Moreover, it will be shown that the meaning and use of reflexive pronouns in a specific language depends on the stage these changes have reached in that language (Ekkehard König)