Is 'extremely vital' a tautology?

In another post, Eugene suggested that the phrase ‘extremely vital’ might a tautology. Do you agree?

Many thanks,

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I don’t. The adverb ‘extremely’ intensifies the quality expressed by the adjective ‘vital’.

That’s good to hear ;-).[YSaerTTEW443543]

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Thank you.

Just for the record: how about intensifying the quality expressed by such adjectives as ‘unique, fatal, complete, dead’ etc?
‘Extremely fatal’ sounds just as eloquent to me as ‘extremely vital’ (the meaning slightly opposite).

Yes, for adjectives of unique things we need no intensifying or modifying or grading effort. They are, by themselves, unparalleled. The word ‘vital’ does not enjoy that status. It can be very vital, as vital, more vital etc.

I base my contentions on the following examples:
Honesty is a very vital trait.
This factor is not as vital as it might sound.
The eyes are more vital than most other organs.

Well, there are two sides to every story, aren’t there?
Here is mine:

  1. “The answer to this is the same as the answer to so many of your previous questions. Some people will use ‘very’ with your adjective and some will use a comparative form (‘more vital than’, not ‘vitaler’). Others will not. For examination purposes, do not.
    … As with many other words we have discussed, “vital” has more than one definition. When used as “absolutely necessary” or “essential” the word would likely not be graded. However, if used to mean “full of energy” or “lively”, grading is possible.” … n-gradable
  2. "Tautology is the inclusion of words that have the same meaning as other words already used. So, and vital make the following sentence tautologous:
    Your contribution is crucial and vital
    since crucial and vital are synonymous.
    Redundancy occurs when a word is used that adds no extra information to the words already used. So the very in very crucial is redundant because crucial already means very important. … -redundant
  3. … le.2692133
    [where English native speakers disagree on vital being non-/gradable.]
  4. Over 300 Absolute Adjectives: A Word List for Writers
    Watch for the following words.

Scrutinize your writing. Although you might wish to modify these adjectives, they usually function better on their own.
Unless your intent is to make a point with sarcasm or irony, consider the examples in this list absolutes, and don’t precede them with adverbs of degree. …… Valid, valuable, valueless, vital, void, vulnerable

–Of course, you’re entitled to have your own opinion. My point was, and still is: since it’s a test question, it doesn’t have to have any debatable parts; just right—wrong, right—wrong. That’s how it should work for me.

Here is what Rod Hinn, the author of the test has to say on this: Hello,

I am in the school of usage-based expressions; whatever most people say in a certain genre is ‘appropriate/correct.’ Extremely vital is a common expression that people use (both in writing and speaking).

These sort of descriptions range from the literal to metaphorical as well, and the more metaphorical something else, it seems to me (at least from a meaning perspective), the easier it is to give it a graded dimension.

An example brought up on the message board concerned fatal.

  1. The smoking proved fatal to his health. (Very literal)
  2. His gambling was already a problem. But his drug addiction proved to be more fatal. (Here, I think you envision more of a ‘metaphorical’ life, as in his livelihood, etc.)
  3. His womanizing was extremely fatal for his career. (I think most people understand here that when this is expressed, they understand that a deep gravity is expressed in his actions.)
  4. His womanizing was fatal for his career. (I argue that the 3rd and 4th have different nuances; If 3 was truly redundant, i.e., did not add extra information, wouldn’t 3 and 4 have the same meaning?)

A real tautology would be redundant in the very literal sense. Examples may include “The boy is male.” or “The female woman was friendly easy to befriend.”
But even these, under the right contexts, might not be tautologies, hence the word may. Emphasizing the female in woman for example might highlight certain qualities; preceding sentences might have painted a picture of masculinity.

With that being said, I can understand the argument for redundancy from a stylistics point of view. The test item just measured simple ‘native-like’ word order and intuition, if such a thing exists. However, if stylistics was the construct being measured, of course, I’d be convinced to modify the question. As this thread has shown, this is a common debate in language assessment: what to measure, how to measure it, and how much context to give.

By the way, are these types of tests of interest to any of you? Things that cover writing style, or redundancy, etc.

Thanks for your input. Any additional thoughts would be appreciated.[YSaerTTEW443543]

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