What is the difference between the following?
- I personally don't like wax museums.
- I don't like wax museums.
The adverb personally does not seem to emphasize anything here. Is it redundant?
It's technically redundant, since all opinions are personal, however it can modify the tone of the statement to some degree. It effectively takes emphasis away from the opinion itself by placing the emphasis on the holder of the opinion.
For example, suppose I'm in a group of people, and we're trying to decide whether to go to Madame Tussauds or to see a play. If I say, "I don't like wax museums," the tone is very final and definitive; it sounds like I'm insisting on going to the play. On the other hand, "I personally don't like wax museums," sounds like a much softer statement, and implies that while this is my opinion, I may yet be willing to go.
I think that, although the term is overused, it definitely serves a very specific purpose.
Your example is:
I personally don't like wax museums
I don't like wax museums
In this particular situation, by using the word "personally", the individual emphasizes that others might be of another belief.
If I ask someone, "Do you like my drawing?", and they respond with "Personally, I think it is a bit too dark.", I can tell that the person is telling me that the drawing is too dark for them given their personal tastes, but might very well not be too dark for a lot of other people. The added personally is what emphasizes the extent to which the opinion holder is unsure that others would share the same opinion.
At least that's what I personally believe.
It depends on the context and relationship of the subject and audience.
If the person typically or frequently wears the hat or shirt of some organization, and the audience recognizes that association, including the adverb 'personally' helps distinguish the speaker's opinion from the opinion of the organization.
The use of “personally”
(1) contrasts one's own preferences from those of their family, church, professional community, political party, or other peer group.
My classmates insisted on a field trip to the wax museum, but I personally don't like wax museums.
(2) connotes that other people may have different preferences/opinions, and that the speaker “agrees to disagree” rather than consider the other people “wrong”.
Contextually it is redundant. An opinion is personal already, so in order for that sentence to really be correct it must be followed with something like,
"but others have differing opinions."
The expression of the opinion on its own ('I like', 'I don't like') is in no way by itself either non-subjective or persuasive. Personally for opinion is used to emphasize a distinction in preference or thought.
The other way that sentence could be contextualized (to remove the redundancy) would be if it followed some statement about wax museums, like:
Sign reads: "There are over 1000 wax museums in the world."
The man turns to you and says, "Personally, I don't like wax museums"
(the number of wax museums implying that some people must like them.)
Note that if the context doesn't create a contrast of opinion, then it is pointless to say 'personally', since it being personally held is not an important distinction. It would in that case not simply redundant, but superfluous.
I think in your example it is in fact irrelevant. I think the main difference is, well how I would use it anyways, is like this:
I would never do something like that
meaning that you want to tell the other person that you would disagree with him doing what he is about to do, pointing out that you have a "problem" with it.
As opposed to:
I would personally never do something like that
in which you want to tell the person that you would never do that, and maybe convince him otherwise, but that you wouldn't mind if he did it anyways.
P.S.: Don't hate on my spelling/grammar, English isn't my main language but I tend to believe a have a good feeling for it, but feel free to correct me where needed.
Personally, it has been my experience that using the word "personally" in this manner give the connotation of: "Because you asked, here is my opinion, but keep in mind that it may not be the common or mainstream opinion." It accentuates that the opinion you are giving is based solely on your own perspective. If you say "I don't like wax museums," it's just a declaration of fact. If you say "Personally, I don't like wax museums," it makes the statement wound more like "I don't like wax museums, but others might enjoy them." Using "personally" softens the statement and expresses an appreciation of the fact that others might feel differently.
Generally, yes, it would be considered redundant (assuming the speaker's opinion is in sympathy with the prevailing opinion, which generally is assumed to be the case (because that's how it got to be prevailing opinion).
There is such a thing as sentiment en masse, popular view, shared impression. At times when widely-held beliefs have been convincingly expressed, it would not be inappropriate to separate one's opinion as "personal," should it diverge from the "norm."
At all other times (including when it is questionable as to what constitutes prevailing view) restraint should be used and the redundancy avoided.
I do not understand why much of this discussion appears to revolve around whether the term "personally" adds a subjective nature to the original statement. When the speaker says the phrase "I don't like wax museums", or "I don't feel like that's a good idea", the subjective nature is already implied because the subject of the sentence is the speaker. Therefore, a phrase a beginning with "I feel" or "I think" can only imply that the following statement is an opinion and cannot be interpreted as an objective fact. Continuing with that line of reasoning, leaving out the word "personally" does not somehow mean that the speaker is attempting to include the opinions of others, of his/her profession, or to achieve some level of objectivity. Logically speaking, the word "personally" is entirely superfluous.
That's not to say that the word "personally" has not found its way into contemporary speech for the exact purpose being discussed. Somehow the word does seem to imply that the following statement is specific to the speaker, even though the sentence is perfectly clear in that regard. Perhaps our discussion could be more valuable in determining how this phenomenon began and whether it is worth continuing. Perhaps our continued use of the phrase only solidifies it in the contemporary lexicon, and we are capable of reversing the trend. I personally believe the word is unnecessary and that the recipients of my statements are capable of understanding my sentences without the addition of extraneous words.