Metalinguistic "just" and "simply": exploring emphatic exclusives

Andrea Beltrama


When occurring next to predicates located at the extreme of a scale, "just" and "simply" contribute an emphatic effect. In this paper, I propose to analyze these uses as exclusive operators over "metalinguistic alternatives", whereby the speaker signals that no more complex alternative description is assertable in the context. On this account, emphasis emerges as an indirect effect of the interaction between exclusivity and scalar extremeness: because all the alternatives to extreme predicates happen to be weaker than the predicate itself, ruling them out will induce an "anti-weakening" effect, whereby the prejacent is interpreted in its full strength, and not merely as a possible alternative among weaker ones.

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