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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Query Details

Query Subject:   A Little Bit of Irony
Author:   Lieselotte Brems
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Pragmatics

Query:   Hello Linguist list readers,

A study on expressions like "a bit of" has led me to uses where the downtoning quantifier semantics of "bit" ('only a small quantity of') have in fact reversed into the more or less emphatic meaning of 'rather a lot', as in examples such as "She is a bit of an old bag" in contexts where the speaker actually means that she is a really old bag. Both face work and irony seem to be at play here, but I cannot really get my head around the systematic strategies behind it.

I was wondering if there are some general formulations of such reversal strategies for ironic purposes available and known to fellow linguist list readers. Since this is a somewhat of a side road in my study, I am not really au fait with such literature.

Any comments or references are much appreciated.

Kind regards,
Lot Brems

K.U. Leuven
Departement Lingu=EFstiek
Assistent Engelse Taalkunde
Blijde-Inkomststraat 21
B-3000 Leuven
e-mail: Lieselotte.Brems@arts.kuleuven.ac.be
LL Issue: 17.758
Date posted: 13-Mar-2006


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