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"Rebel's Yell" Library of Congress, P&P Online, LC-USZ62-111240Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic
Emotive Significance

Abstract:   Emotive significance, sometimes called "the slanting of language," is described with examples and exercises.

I. Language can be analyzed into the two aspects of literal meaning and emotional meaning.
A. Emotive words are words that carry emotional overtones. These words are said to have emotive significance or emotive meaning or emotional impact.
1. Two different words or phrases can have literal (or denotative) meanings which are similar, but differ significantly in their emotive significance.
2. Often, we speak of "slanting" as emotive significance; i.e., a word or phrase can be positively slanted, neutral, or negatively slanted.
B. Emotively neutral language is preferable when we are trying to get to the facts or follow an argument; our emotions often cloud our reasoning.
1. When our purpose in language use is to communicate (i.e., the informative use), then, if we wish to avoid being misunderstood, language having the least emotive impact is the most useful.
2. When resolving disputes or disagreements between persons, it is usually best to try to reformulate the disagreement in neutral language. In essence, as we will see later, we are distinguishing between the belief (i.e., factual reference) and the attitude (the emotional reference) expressed by a given speaker or writer.
II. Examples of Slanting. Restate each of following essentially emotively neutral descriptions by (1) a positively slanted description and (2) by a negatively slanted description.





0   talkative

0   shy

0   intelligent

0   practical





A. We are often called upon to make use of slanting in attempting to persuade others. In the service industries, politics, and other cases of special pleading, putting your best foot forward often demands accentuating the positive.
B. Many significant issues stem from the distinction between emotive and literal significance; some of these are covered in the section on the varieties of agreements and disagreements.
III. As an exercise in separating the two kinds of significance, the following letter to "Dear Abby" will be translated from negatively slanted language into positively slanted language. Note that the original content of the letter is transformed from something which initially seems to be informative to something predominately expressive. Try your hand at the translation, word or phrase by phrase. Suggestions are given by clicking on the links.

Introduction and Setting: A neighbor's 9-year-old-grandson is spending most of the day at "NO OPEN HOUSE'S" home. Mrs. NO OPEN HOUSE does not know what to do. A reader responds by the following letter.

DEAR ABBY: In reference to NO OPEN HOUSE: Since the woman does not run a day-care center, she is not responsible for this little brat's welfare.   And she doesn't have to be polite to him,either. Most likely this kid is pushed off on Grandpa because he's insufferable.  And you feel sorry for him yet! The little monster should be made to stay with his grandfather all day. Nothing unfortunate will happen to him except maybe he will learn that life is not a bowl of cherries.  If this poor woman lets him hang around her house all day, she might have to put him through college. If all else fails, why don't you take him Abby?

The complete, edited text is rewritten here:  ABBY EXERCISE

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