The syntax of an emotional expletive in English

J. Lachlan Mackenzie

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Various linguists have identified linguistic phenomena that express emotions rather than purely ideational or discursive meanings. From the viewpoint of Functional Discourse Grammar (FDG) adopted here, emotion is visible above all as an overlay on structures that communicate interpersonal and representational meanings. This is particularly apparent for ‘expletives’, words which are in themselves meaningless but ‘fill out’ the clause with an expression of emotion. This chapter focuses on the expletive use of fuck, fucking, fucking well and the fuck and their precisely delineable complementary syntactic distributions. The positioning of these expletives is identified for all types of syntactic phrase and nine kinds of pronoun, including the phenomenon of tmesis in, for example, im-fucking-possible. The items are identified as grammatical rather than lexical and as functioning as optional pragmatic markers, specifically as realizing an operator of emotional emphasis (EmoEmph) on Focused or Contrasted Subacts at FDG’s Interpersonal Level. This analysis is validated by examining the grammaticality or discourse-acceptability of all possible exceptions, and the repercussions are explored for the Morphosyntactic Level, where the syntactic distribution of the items is actually effected.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotion in Discourse
EditorsJ.L. Mackenzie, L. Alba-Juez
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9789027262776
ISBN (Print)9789027202390
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePragmatics & Beyond New Series


1. The research done for this study has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, through the EMO-FunDETT project (FFI2013–47792-C2–1-P). I am grateful to Evelien Keizer for her close and critical reading of an earlier version of this chapter.

FundersFunder number
Ministerio de Economía y CompetitividadFFI2013–47792-C2–1-P


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