All or nothing: a semantic analysis of hyperbole


  • Laura Cano Mora Universitat de València



figurative language, hyperbole, semantic field, corpus analysis


This paper focuses on hyperbole, a long neglected form of non-literal language despite its pervasiveness in everyday speech. It addresses the production process of exaggeration, since a crucial limitation in
figurative language theories is the production and usage of figures of speech, probably due to the intensive research effort on their comprehension. The aim is to analyse hyperbole from a semantic perspective in order to devise a semasiological taxonomy which enables us to understand the nature and uses of the trope. In
order to analyse and classify hyperbolic items a corpus of naturally occurring conversations extracted from the British National Corpus was examined. The results suggest that the evaluative and quantitative dimensions are key, defining features which often co-occur and should therefore be present in any definition of this
figure of speech. A remarkable preference for negative affect, auxesis and absolute terms when engaging in hyperbole is also observed.


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