6 Boosting and Hedging
As indicated above, this chapter will explain the basic distinction between boosting and hedging. It has already been mentioned that the degree of speaker involvement relates to modifying the illocutionary force of speech acts. In this connection Urbanová (2003) states that “the interpretative character of meaning […] is reflected in the modification of the illocutionary force […]. Meaning in conversation is dynamic in the sense that new shades of meaning constantly come into existence through contextual clues and speaker-hearer interaction, simultaneously reflecting idiosyncrasies and predilections on the part of the speaker” (2003:66, emphasis added). The illocutionary force of utterances is modified due to the incidence of two “counteracting, yet co-existing tendencies influencing the relative weight of the message, namely attenuation and accentuation” (Urbanová 2003:66, my emphasis).
In her article on modification of the illocutionary force, Holmes (1984) describes two communicative strategies for modifying the strength of the speech acts: attenuation (sometimes called “hedging”, “mitigation” or “weakening”) and boosting (“accentuation”, “strengthening” or “intensification”). These two concepts have been dealt with in various studies, among others e.g. by Brown and Levinson (1987), Lakoff (1972), Fraser (1980), Coates (1987), and Urbanová (2003).
Boosting and hedging are regarded as complementary, not contrasting, notions which, in opposition to Vanderveken’s concept (described in Chapter 4.2), are external modifiers of illocutionary force and not its constituents. The differentiation between attenuation and intensification should be understood as “illocutionary force gradation” (Urbanová 2003:67), thus,...
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