According to the phenomenologist Max van Manen intensification is produced through the “thickening of language”. Intensity is produced through a form of compression, a kind of ‘Ver-Dichtung’. It is no accident, he says, “that the Dutch and German word for poem is ‘Gedicht and Dichtung’; writing poetically means ‘to make dense, to thicken, to intensify‘”.1
The American poet Ezra Pound arguments in the same direction: “Good literature is language charged with meaning to an utmost degree.“ According to Pound, the degree of poetic charge helps to define the difference between language and literature. The degree of poetic charge defines the degree of ‘literariness’. Pound sketches three possible ways to stuff the charge into language, namely: “[P]hanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia. You use a word to throw a visual image on to the reader’s imagination, or you charge it by sound, or you use groups of words to do this. Thirdly, you take the greater risk of using the word in some special relation to ‘usage’, that is, to the kind of context in which the reader expects, or is accustomed, to find it”.2
Linguists have described different strategies to achieve intensity in language: The use of comparatives and superlatives is one of them. Properties of gradable quality can be attributed to objects or events through adjectives or adverbs, or through other morphological, lexical and syntactic stylistic devices such as intensifiers.3
Intensifiers strengthen the meaning of expressions and show emphasis without making any contribution to the propositional meaning of a clause. Intensifiers are grammatical expletives – derived from the Latin verb explere, ‘to fill’. The word expletive was originally introduced into English in the seventeenth century for various kinds of padding, the use of soft filling material in cushions etc; of extra characters such as spaces added to the end of a record to fill it out to a fixed length; or extraneous text added to a message for the purpose of concealing its beginning, ending, or length in cryptography. [In this text, I use the definition of intensifiers as expletives to generate time, meaning but also to withhold meaning. Intensity tends to exhaustion and therefore needs de-tension, boredom, time to simply, rather, just slow us down.] Intensifiers, expletives, fillers are often regarded as profanity or “bad language“ as they are semantically vacuous. Vacuous as empty as of emptiness, a human condition in the sense of generalized boredom, social alienation and apathy. Feelings of emptiness often accompany dysthymia, depression, loneliness, anhedonia, despair, or other mental/emotional disorders, including skizoid personality disorder, post trauma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, skizotypal personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. A sense of emptiness is also part of a natural process of grief, as resulting death of a loved one, or other significant changes, says Wikipedia.4
A summary: Intensifiers are fillers of emptiness. A serious proof reader will cut them out of a literary text. How can I use this anti-literary stylistic mean to modulate intensities?