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N° 10 – The expression of intensity

Deadline for sending in final versions of papers: July 2017

The e-journal Lexis is planning to publish its 10th issue, devoted to “the expression of intensity”, in 2016.

Co-editors: Lucile Bordet (Université de Lyon (Jean Moulin Lyon 3)), Maria Napoli (Università del Piemonte Orientale) and Miriam Ravetto (Università del Piemonte Orientale).

The expression of intensity

The notion of “intensity” may be defined as a subtype of the expression of degree in that it enhances, it strengthens or it scales upward a quality of the element that is intensified. Contrary to the expression of degree, which seems to rely on objective criteria, the expression of intensity is of a more subjective nature, according to R. Xiao & H. Tao [2007], A. Athanasiadou [2007] and L. Bordet & D. Jamet [2015].

Given the multiple devices at work to express this notion as well as the various functions endorsed by the expression of intensity – be they an emotive function, a cathartic function, a euphemistic function, a humorous function, a persuasive function or a metalinguistic function, intensification seems to pervade everyday language.

However, historically, the notion of intensity has not been given much attention by researchers besides the works of C. Stoffel [1901], E. Benzinger [1971], and D. Bolinger [1972]. It is only recently that renewed interest in the study of intensity has been observed. And yet, the few studies that have been conducted so far seem to be centered on the morphosyntactic devices used to express intensity.

Intensity may be expressed via no less than 14 different processes according to L. Bordet [2014] and L. Bordet & D. Jamet [2015]. These processes are as diverse as the use of intensifying adverbs, the emphatic DO, exaggeration, exclamations, repetitions, intonation and stress, etc.

They take their roots in morphosyntax, phonology, stylistics, semantics and the lexicon but what is striking is that, because these processes generally belong to at least two branches of the linguistic study, they are all the more difficult for scholars to identify and classify.

The expression of intensity seems to rely mostly on morphosyntactic devices, as morphosyntax has been the one area that has been most researched into. The purpose of this issue of Lexis is to investigate those areas of the expression of intensity that have been long ignored by scholars. Therefore, it will mostly deal with the word-formation processes resorted to in order to express intensity. Some of the following issues may be tackled:

  • What are the lexical devices most commonly used to express intensity?

  • To what extent do some prefixes and suffixes, and more generally the various word-formation processes, play a role in the expression of intensity?

  • Should certain words which have hitherto been considered to be lexical (such as carrément in French or “absolutely” in English) be interpreted as lexical or grammatical morphemes when used as intensifiers (see the role of grammaticalization vs. lexicalization)?

  • From a synchronic or diachronic perspective, what are the most productive devices for expressing degree and intensity?

  • Is there any recursive motivation in the creation of intensification devices?

  • Are these devices mutually exclusive or can they overlap?

These suggested approaches are by no means restrictive, and this call for papers invites researchers and scholars to reflect on the modalities of the expression of intensity from an interdisciplinary perspective. Linguists from all horizons are more than welcome to participate and submit papers.


Athanasiadou Angeliki. “On the subjectivity of intensifiers.” Language Sciences 29 (4), 2007: 554-565.

Beltrama Andrea. “From totally dark to totally old: the formal semantics of subjectification”, 2014:

Benzinger Edith. Intensifiers in Current English. University of Florida, 1971.

Bordet Lucile. L’intensification en anglais : entre grammatical et lexical. Thèse de Doctorat soutenue le 14 novembre 2014 à l’Université Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 sous la direction du professeur Denis Jamet.

Bordet Lucile. « En quoi la notion de degré diffère-t-elle de la notion d’intensification ? Le cas des adverbes intensifieurs ». Journée d’étude des préparateurs à l’Agrégation Option linguistique, Bordeaux, 24 janvier 2014 :

Bordet Lucile. « L’intensification en anglais : entre grammatical et lexical. Etude de corpus de la série américaine How I Met Your Mother ». Actes de la journée d’étude Les Amis du Crelingua, juin 2014, 2014 : 5-22.

Bordet Lucile, Jamet Denis. « Degré et intensification : essai de typologie », Actes du colloque « Degré et Intensification en anglais », 24 et 25 avril 2014, Anglophonia, novembre, 2015 :

Bulgin James, Elford Nicole, Harding Lindsay, Henley Bridget, Power Suzanne & Walters Crystal. “So very really variable: social patterning of intensifier use by Newfoundlanders online”. Linguistica Atlantica 29, 2008: 101-115.

Ito Rika, Tagliamonte Sali. “Well weird, right dodgy, very strange, really cool: layering and recycling in English intensifiers”. Language in Society 32 (2), 2003: 257-279.

Labov William. “Intensity”. In D. Schriffin (ed.) Meaning, Form and Use in Context: Linguistic Applications, Washington DC, Georgetown University Press, 1984: 43-70.

Lorenz Gunther. “Really worthwhile or not really significant? A corpus-based approach to the delexicalization and grammaticalization of intensifiers in Modern English”. In I. Wischer & G. Diewald (Eds.), New Reflections on Grammaticalization, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2002: 143-161.

Louw Henk. “Really too very much: adverbial intensifiers in Black South African English”. Proceedings from the Corpus Linguistics Conference Series 1.1, 2005:

Méndez-Naya Belén. “Special issue on English intensifiers”. English Language and Linguistics 12 (2), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008: 213-219.

Palacios Martínez Ignacio, Núñes Pertejo Paloma. “He’s absolutely massive. It’s a super day. Madonna, she is a wicked singer. Youth language and intensification: a corpus-based study”. Text & Talk 32 (6), Berlin, De Gruyter, 2012: 773-796.

Paradis Carita. Degree Modifiers of Adjectives in Spoken British English. Lund, Lund University Press, Lund Studies in English 92, 1997.

Paradis Carita. “Between epistemic modality and degree: the case of really”. In R. Fachinetti, F. Palmer, M. Krug (eds.), Modality in Contemporary English, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 2003: 197-220.

Paradis Carita. “It’s well weird. Degree modifiers revisited: The nineties”. In John Kirk (ed.), Corpora Galore: Analyses and techniques in describing English, Amsterdam/Atlanta, Rodopi, 2000: 147-160.

Paradis Carita, Bergmark Nina. “‘Am I really really mature or something?’: really in teen talk”. Gothenburg Studies in English 84, 2003: 71-86.

Partington Alan. “Corpus evidence of language change: The case of intensifiers”. In M. Baker & G. Francis (Eds.), Text and Technology: in Honour of John Sinclair, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 1993: 177-192.

Recski Leonardo Juliano. “‘It’s really ultimately very cruel’: contrasting English Intensifier collocations across EFL writing and academic spoken discourse”. Delta 20 (2), São Paulo Dec. 2004: 211-234.

Sharp Gabrielle. “That is so feminine! An investigation of intensifiers as characteristics of female speech through the use of so and really in modern television programming. Griffith Working Papers in Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication 5, 2012: 14-20.

Stenström Anna B. “He was really gormless – She’s bloody crap: girls, boys and intensifiers”. In H. Hasselgård & S. Okesfjell (eds.), Out of Corpora: Studies in Honour of Stig Johansson, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1999: 69-79.

Stoffel Cornelis. Intensives and Down-toners. Heidelberg, Carl Winter, 1901.

Tagliamonte Sali A. “It’s like ‘So cool, right?’ Canadian English entering the 21st century”. Journal of Linguistics 51(2 and 3), 2006b: 309–332.

Tagliamonte Sali A. “So different and pretty cool: Recycling intensifiers in Toronto, Canada”. Special Issue of English Language and Linguistics, Intensifiers, Guest editor Bélen Mendez-Naya. 12 (2), 2007: 361-394.

Tagliamonte Sali A., D’Arcy Alexandra. “Frequency and variation in the community grammar: Tracking a new change through the generations”. Language Variation and Change 19 (2), 2007: 341-380.

Tagliamonte Sali A., Roberts Chris. “So weird, so cool, so innovative: The use of intensifiers in the television series Friends”. American Speech 80 (3), 2005: 280-300.

Thorburn Jennifer, Van Herk Gerard. “‘Sometimes it gets really intense’: refining the variable text of adjectival intensification”. Methods in Dialectology XV, 2014:

Wittouck Hermien. “A corpus-based study on the rise and grammaticalisation of intensifiers in British and American English”. Universiteit Gent, 2011.

Xiao Richard, Tao Hongyin. “A corpus-based sociolinguistic study of amplifiers in British English”. Sociolinguistic studies 1.2, 2007: 241-273.

How to submit

Please clearly indicate the title of the paper and include an abstract of no more than 3,000 characters as well as a list of relevant key-words. All abstract and paper submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed (double-blind peer reviewing) by an international scientific committee composed of specialists in their fields. Papers will be written preferably in English or occasionally in French.

Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such. There is no limit to the number of pages.

Abstracts and articles will be sent via email to


  • June 2016: call for papers

  • November 2016: deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis

  • January 2017: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors

  • March 2017: deadline for sending in papers

  • March to April 2017: proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee

  • April to June 2017: authors’ corrections

  • July 2017: deadline for sending in final versions of papers

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