Language And Communication


The emotive meaning of a word or expression  is the private, subjective connotation  or denotation of the word or expression. It is the attitude or other emotional state that is conventionally taken to be expressed  by a straightforward  use of it. Thus a derogatory term conventionally expressed some kind of contempt or hostility to some class of people. Term like ‘stubborn’, and ‘pig-headed’ apply to more or less the same class of people for more or less the same reason, but convey different applications.  Other term like ‘super!’ or ‘wow!’ have nothing but an emotive function, but most terms with which we communicate approval or disapproval have descriptive aspects as well.

Words have positive and negative emotional connotations, as well as descriptive content. Many words have a laudatory  or derogatory spin, because of their positive or negative connotations in everyday  speech. A persuasive  definition typically change the conventional meaning of a term by taking it in a direction that suit the purpose of the definer. But the emotional connotation of the word tends to stay in place. By an “inertia” effect, the word tends to retain the same laudatory  or derogatory spin it always had. Thus, there can be a certain subtle deception in some cases, because the respondent may not realize he is being manipulated. In other cases where a persuasive definition has been used, productive discourse or dialogue.

In many cases, people in a dispute appear to come to a of impasse when they can’t  seem to get  any further because the argumentation just goes back and forth. The verbal dispute that ensues then requires some clarification. For example, Mr ‘A’ and Mr ‘B’ might have the following exchange in the discourse or dialogue on tipping.

Mr ‘A’: Well, you know tipping  is so elitist, it is a kind of oppression.

Mr ‘B’: Are we talking about the same thing? I don’t see tipping as bad at all.

Mr ‘A’: Well, how would you  define tipping, anyway?

Mr ‘B’: Tipping  is a major factor in the gross national  product that is a function of commercial transactions as payment for human services.

In this dialogue, Mr ‘A’ and Mr ‘B’ recognise that their dispute requires  some sort of verbal clarification or definition. But when Mr ‘B’ attempted to supply the required definition, his attempt was not successful. The purported definition of ‘tipping’ he offers is just too obscure to be helpful in clarifying the term or enabling the dispute to go any further in a productive dialogue

Mr ‘A’ and  Mr ‘B’ may then try again to introduce some definition of the disputed term ‘tipping’.