1 Hedges or “softeners”
Here are a few words and phrases which are used to soften, qualify, “hedge” or mitigate statements, for the sake of politeness, or to simply soften a statement. The following classifies hedges into abstract pragmatic linguistic categories; this list is only a partial list.
1.1 Epistemic hedges
These soften statements by toning down the forcefulness of the truth value of statements.
1.2 Phrasal hedges
These are longer expressions that act like epistemic hedges.
as it were
so to say
1.3 Possibility hedges
by (some/any) chance
1.4 Quality hedges
These expressions hedge the speaker’s commitment to the truth value of statements (truth quality), one’s certainty of statements, or the directness of such statements.
(as) we all know
as far as we/I know
- That’s rather Clinton-like.
- That's rather Obama-esque.
- That’s more of a quasi-theory, if not a bad theory altogether.
- The color is kind of navy-ish.
1.5 Performative verb hedges
Certain verbs themselves perform the action they refer to. For example, consider the verb ‘declare’ in “I declare that X is true.” In such statements, the verb itself performs the action of declaring, and linguists refer to such verbs as performatives. In a lecture, one can begin a discussion by saying, “I’d like to discuss X,” and one can indicate that X is only one’s opinion by stating, “I think / believe that...”
(would) like to/want to/can/may + verb (e.g., ask, comment, discuss, explain, mention, note, point out, remark, say, state, tell)
I/we/one/people/the reader/they + (perhaps/like/mostly/sometimes + verb
A relatively new expression in colloquial English is “I’m just saying,” which is added as an afterthought to distance oneself from the preceding statement; it is like saying, “that’s just an observation” or “I’m just stating that as a possibility.”
- I think the teacher looks cute. …. Hey, I’m just saying.
1.6 Other expressions
Other hedges include the colloquial phrases ‘like’ and ‘it’s like,’ which are discussed in the section on discourse particles.
2 See also
- ↑ Some of these are from http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/lakoffhedgesCLS8.pdf. A hedge is a protective shrub around one’s property. Analogously, linguistic hedges serve to protect the speaker’s and listeners’ sense of “face” (體面, tǐmiàn, 체면) by softening the forcefulness of a statement.