• Notes & Activities
  • Vocabulary

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Notes & Activities:

Emotive language is all around us:

  • In adverts
  • In news headlines
  • In reports, speeches and interviews
  • In everyday interactions between people

Emotive language is any language that aims to manipulate, influence or create feelings in us so that we adopt the viewpoint of the writer or speaker.

Before we look at emotive language, we need to take a step back.

Denotation / Connotation:

Words can have two different types of meanings:

  • The denotative meaning = the factual, objective meaning of the word
  • The connotative meaning = the idea that words give, as opposed to its strict meaning

Think about a rose:



  • Denotative meaning of rose = a flower
  • Connotative meaning of rose = love / passion

When we talk about emotive language, we’re referring to the connotative meaning of words, i.e. the deeper meanings that these words convey and the emotions that they stir up. 

Now, the problem comes in where words have different emotive associations to different people.  This can have unfortunate results! 

The following verse by John Donovan illustrates this perfectly:

                Call a woman a kitten, but never a cat;
                You can call her a mouse, cannot call her a rat;
               Call a woman a chicken, but never a hen
               Or you surely will not be her caller again.

               You can say she's a vision, can't say she's a sight;
               And no woman is skinny, she's slender and slight;
               If she should burn you up, say she sets you afire
               And you'll always be welcome, you tricky old liar.


While some emotive words have favorable connotations, others have unfavorable connotations, for example:

  • Predictable vs boring
  • Scholarly vs nerdy
  • Self-confident vs conceited
  • Youthful vs immature

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Activity 1:



Look at the following list.  The first word has a neutral connotation while the second word has a negative connotation.  Fill in the missing words:

Reserved vs _______________

_______________ vs Cowardly

Bold vs _______________

_______________vs Stubborn

Surreptitious vs _______________

_______________vs Nosey

Self-confident vs _______________

_______________vs Hyperactive

Thin vs ­_______________

_______________vs Cult

Now look at the following list.  Put each group of words into a sentence.  How does the mood of the sentence change when using the neutral word as opposed to the negative word?

  • Ambitious vs unrealistic
  • Careful vs unadventurous
  • Voluptuous vs fat
  • Daring vs irresponsible
  • Inexperienced vs clueless

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Definition of Emotive:

So now, let’s define emotive:

The New Choice English Dictionary defines emotive as: 'characterized by or arousing emotions'. 

Emotive language is therefore any language that appeals to your feelings or stirs up emotions. 

Why use Emotive Language?

Consider the following synonyms for emotive:

  • Emotional
  • Exciting
  • Fiery
  • Heart-warming
  • Heated
  • Manipulative
  • Rousing
  • Stirring
  • Tear-jerking
  • Thrilling

When people use emotive language, these are the types of responses they want the audience to have. 

Why do they want us to have an emotional response? 

The reason is to persuade us to their point of view and influence our actions.  If they can make us feel something, we may be moved to act on our feelings. 

They may get us to do what they want us to do!

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Activity 2:



Give examples of the use of emotive language in the following circumstances:

  • You trying to convince your parents to agree to something
  • Your coaches trying to motivate you before a match
  • Your teachers trying to get you to work

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Emotive language is used in newspaper and magazine headlines.  Editors capture our attention with exciting headlines that piques our curiosity enough to motivate us to buy the newspaper.



Politicians also use emotive language to influence people to vote for them or to accept their policies. 

Advertisers and salespeople, in particular, use emotive language to great effect because they want to motivate you to buy their product or service.

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Activity 3:



Refer to the brochure and answer the following questions:


Brochure

  • Identify the emotive words / phrases used in the brochure.
  • What impression is the advertiser trying to create by using each of these words / phrases?  Be specific.
  • In what way have visual / design elements been used emotively, and how do they support the message of the text?

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Subjectivity vs Objectivity:

Somebody who uses emotive language is likely to have a subjective view, in other words, a view based on emotion rather than reason.

For example: Trying to convince your parents to allow you to go to a club.

It is not based on fact, but rather on opinion.

What they say is not neutral (or even necessarily true) because it conveys their personal thoughts and feelings about a subject.

For example: Adverts, politicians and even the news.


Hurricane Katrina

The opposite of subjective is objective.  An objective view is impartial or neutral.  It is not influenced or distorted by personal feelings or emotions.

An objective view looks at an issue from all sides, and tries to understand it without personal bias.

It is very important to be able to distinguish between an objective and a subjective viewpoint because if you can't, you will also be influenced by people who want to use you.

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Activity 4:



The following passage comes from the website of Max Clifford, one of Britain's foremost public relations consultants.  His job is to provide positive publicity for his clients. 

In this description, he cleverly presents a very subjective view of himself as though it was fact:

               Max Clifford has been in the business of public relations protecting and promoting a wide variety of clients for well over 40 years. He has become as instantly recognisable as many of the stars he has represented over the years. His views and comments are sought on a daily basis for the world’s media on a wide range of subjects and he regularly appears on TV and radio as a guest on current affairs, news, documentaries and chat shows.

Also during the last 20 years he has become increasingly involved with many of the major front page stories in the British media. He now regularly breaks stories and stops stories in between orchestrating PR campaigns for a multitude of clients from all over the world and is also patron of two children’s charities and helps fundraise and supports many others. Often poacher and gamekeeper at the same time, he has helped save many a famous career from media damage and destruction. Increasingly during the last decade, he is approached by members of the public who seek out his help to get justice and awareness often when all other means have failed.
  • Do you think this article is subjective or objective?
  • What are the four objective 'facts' in the article?
  • Why do you think he mentions the charities?
  • How does he want us to perceive him?
  • What emotive words does he use to create that impression?

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Activity 5:



This is a newspaper article supplied by Max Clifford:

 

Max Clifford Article

  • Is this story subjective or objective?  Give a reason for your answer.
  • Choose five emotive words from the passage that have positive associations.  Who are these words describing?
  • Choose five emotive words from the passage that have negative associations.  Who are these words describing?
  • Now say who you think is Max Clifford's client: Ken or Sherri?

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Bias:

When you are subjective (i.e. influenced by emotions) you may become biased (i.e. have an unfair opinion about someone that affects the way you treat them). 

Bias is a deliberate, irrational conviction not based on evidence.  Another word for bias is prejudice, and it leads to stereotyping.

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Activity 6:



Read through the following article:

               UNISA PROBES RACIST LECTURER CLAIM

2011-07-08

SAPA

Johannesburg - The University of SA (Unisa) will investigate a complaint of racism against a lecturer lodged by civil rights body AfriForum, a spokesperson said on Friday.

AfriForum head of community affairs Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg wrote a letter to Unisa on Friday complaining about a talk given by lecturer Boitumelo Senokoane during a philosophy seminar.

Van Rensburg alleges that Senokoane's talk entitled "White Man, you are on your own" was attended by about 40 academics and members of the public.

He complained that Senokoane said white people, liberals in particular, should not be trusted by black people, that whites who fought against apartheid "should not be regarded as partners" by black people, that white people's economic and political concerns did not need to be dealt with, and that white people had "never committed any good deeds towards black people" and they did not have "moral authority in any area".

Senokoane had told the group that the "God of the white man" had "deserted him", that white people were "social outcasts and religious hypocrites", and that racism was a "white phenomenon", Van Rensburg said.

[Source:
www.news24.com]
  • Is Senokoane's view objective or subjective?  Substantiate your answer.
  • Does he display any bias?

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Stereotyping:

Stereotyping is a way of categorizing or labeling people we meet, based on how they look, speak, talk, dress, etc.  It assumes certain things about people (whether true or not) based on a set of generalizations.  

To stereotype is to pre-judge someone and rank them on a scale of worthiness, relevance or desirability according to your own prejudices.   

Some people hold on to gender stereotypes which specify which jobs they think women are capable of doing, and which professions should best be left to men.  


Sexism

Some people also hold on to racial stereotypes which cause people to act in a dismissive or condescending way towards those who they perceive to be inferior to them, based on race.

These stereotypes can limit us in our self-perception and life choices.  Many people use stereotyping as a form of humor, but stereotyping also has a dark side.  When it is built on racism or sexism, it is a form of prejudice and can be offensive.



Steve Martin, as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, gives us a humorous example of stereotyping in "The Pink Panther 2":


Stereotyping

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Activity 7:



Read through the article before addressing the discussion points that follow:



               BBC DEFENDS TOP GEAR STEREOTYPING

2011-02-07

AFP

The BBC apologized to the Mexican ambassador to London on Friday for remarks made about him on a top television show – but defended its jokes about the country as being part of British humor.

Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora had written to the BBC earlier in the week about comments made by presenters of the motoring show Top Gear describing Mexican as “lazy”, “feckless” [ineffective, incompetent] and “flatulent” [gassy]. 

In an apology to the Ambassador, the BBC said: “On the broader issue of comments about Mexican as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar.”

In the show, during a discussion about a sports car made by Mexican firm Mastretta, presenter Richard Hammond said vehicles reflected national characteristics.

“Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat,” he said.

In Mexico, a spokesman for Mastretta Cars – a new high-end sports car presented at the Paris Auto Show – said the program was unexpected positive publicity for the firm.

“We were not prepared for this … the Top Gear program has given us publicity in Mexico and abroad that we could not have paid for,” Carlos Sandoval, a spokesman for the firm, told AFP.

The BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson later said “we won’t get any complaints about this because the Mexican Ambassador’s going to be sitting there with a remote control like this” – before slumping in his chair and snoring.

The BBC said hundreds of Mexicans had contacted its Spanish-language website, BBC Mundo, to complain.

Medina-Mora described the remarks as “outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults”.

But the BBC said that while the comments may have been “rude” there was “no vindictiveness” behind them.

“We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centered on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humor, and indeed a robust part of our national humor,” the statement said.

“Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganized and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organized.”

[Source: www.news24.com]
  • Are you familiar with the program Top Gear and the type of things the presenters say?
  • The BBC defended Top Gear by saying that such jokes are “a part of British humor” and that the show was making “comic use of stereotypes”. Do you accept this defense?  Why / why not?
  • What do you understand by the term “national characteristics”?
  • Suggest some possible South African “national characteristics”.
  • Do you think it is okay to laugh at Hammond’s or Clarkson’s comments? Why / why not?
  • The program was unexpected positive publicity for Mastretta Cars.  Does this justify the use of offensive stereotypes to describe their cars?
  • Medina-Mora described Clarkson’s remarks as “outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults”.  Do you agree or do you think that the Ambassador was taking things a bit too seriously?
  • Would you be justified in using stereotypes, even if they are “rude”, as long as there was “no vindictiveness” behind them?

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Why is it Important to Recognize Stereotyping?

Stereotyping can have tragic consequences.  Consider the following extract from Learning the lessons of the Holocaust by Tracey Petersen:

          Societies that have engaged in genocidal killing have a history of incremental levels of discrimination against the target group.

It may begin with stereotyping and then move to excluding the target group from the general population through legal and other institutional measures.

From public platforms, those targeted are labelled "aliens" and "foreigners".  Nazi propaganda referred to Jews as vermin, "rats in human disguise".  Hutu extremists called the Tutsi "cockroaches".

These terms, repeated often enough, make it easier to convince ourselves the target group is less than human.

This lethal cocktail of racism, prejudice and discrimination makes it increasingly likely that the target group will be seen as an existential threat.  The only solution for such a threat is annihilation.

[The Cape Times, 27 January 2010]

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Pop Quiz - Emotive Language

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Vocabulary:



You will never be able to master a subject if you don't have the vocabulary to support it.  So, please learn the following words (contained in these notes).  You will be examined on them.

     

Vocab Quiz - Emotive Language