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I'm examining a number of statements from people describing their views, and one notable trend is the use of qualifying phrases at the beginning of the sentence that specifically address the "truth," "reality," or non/factual nature of what the speaker/writer is saying. Examples include:

  • "To tell the truth,"
  • "In my opinion,"
  • "The truth is,"
  • "In all honesty,"
  • "Honestly,"

Is there a term for this specific type of introductory phrase, beyond simply calling them a "qualifying introductory phrase"?

** Edit **

I realize the above examples mainly focus on "truth" or "honesty" - a few other basic examples that come to mind are:

  • "Naturally,"
  • "Obviously,"

There is a hint of "disclaiming," but what I'm interpreting out of these types of introductory bits is that the speaker/writer is emphasizing how they perceive a certain level of "truth" or "reality" in what they are about to state, and that they assume the reader/audience will accept it as well (or will agree with them).

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  • Of all your examples, "In my opinion" could be considered to be a "disclaimer" because it's stating up front that what's coming next is not a citable fact, but rather an opinion. I'm sure someone else here knows what the rest of the examples might be called. Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 17:42
  • Instead of just calling them a "qualifying introductory phrase" couldn't you just say they're a qualifier?
    – ghoppe
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 23:07
  • ghoppe: It may seem wordier to say "qualifying introductory phrase," but I felt that was a better way to describe them, considering that "qualifier" is more often used to refer to the broad category of modifiers describing quality ("more," "most," "quite," "very," "somewhat," etc.).
    – Dion
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

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They are pragmatic markers subclasses modality / veridicality (though Wikipedia still classes them as adverbs - even the multiword examples - at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_modal_adverbs ).

Modality refers to the degree of confidence the speaker is claiming for the correctness of the matrix sentence (the main proposition) ("In my opinion," "Probably," "Possibly," "Obviously," "If I am not mistaken,"...; veridicality to the endorsement of the truth of the statement ("The truth is," "In fact," "Without question,"...).

There are other (sub)classes of pragmatic markers, and references to excellent articles can be found on this site.

See Swan at http://english-learners.com/wp-content/uploads/Language-Use-Grammar-Basics-for-Technical-Writers-Vocabulary-Building-Discourse-Markers.pdf (he uses the term 'discourse markers') and Fraser at the website indicated here: PRAGMATIC MARKERS - people on the Web at Boston University.

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In classical oratory, the Exordium refers to the beginning part of a discourse. The examples you cite are exordial phrases and are employed by the speaker to win the audience to his/her point of view.

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  • I can only mark one answer as being "accepted," but I appreciate this one as well. While I was looking for a grammatical term, "exordial phrase" is an extremely useful rhetorical term for how I want to discuss the grammatical construction.
    – Dion
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 0:17

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