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Litotic/Hyperbolic Paradigm in the Igbo Language: Preliminary Analysis

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DOI: 10.4236/ojml.2016.63016    2,010 Downloads   2,500 Views Citations


Litotes is understatement while hyperbole is overstatement. Litotes is linguistically characterized by a negative. However, by context of use it contributes to a positive output. Hyperbole is not characterized by any specific linguistic elements; words are used to express situations beyond reality. The litotic and hyperbolic phenomena receive more literary stylistic than linguistic or pragmalinguistic attention. In this paper, we provide some morphological/syntactic evidence in Igbo that gives strong indication that the litotic and hyperbolic relations are encoded in the language; hence could be accounted for linguistically or pragmalinguistically. We identify that the morphemes, -gbu “kill” and -ru “corrupt” mark the relations. These morphemes could be free and in some cases appear as bound morphemes (i.e., affixes, particularly suffixes). In such cases as suffixes they serve to express the litotic or hyperbolic relations. They express the litotic relation when they modify a state of affairs in which excessiveness may have a positive implication. Hence, the negative implication of the suffixes does not cancel the significance of what is stated but concludes to asserting it positively. On the other hand, they express the hyperbolic relation when they modify an action about which excessiveness is negative. Here, they are evidently degree markers. They express the degree of what is denoted usually out of normal proportion. We readily see that the suffixes express the litotic relation with stative verbs while they express the hyperbolic relation with dynamic verbs. Beyond this linguistic fact, we note that their use is context-sensitive; and, this paper demonstrates the contexts implicit in their use.

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Mbagwu, U. , Eme, C. , Nkamigbo, L. and Obiamalu, G. (2016) Litotic/Hyperbolic Paradigm in the Igbo Language: Preliminary Analysis. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 6, 161-166. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2016.63016.

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