10 Jul 2013

Emotive Language, Positive, Negative, Absolutes

Emotive language is used to put a positive spin on it, play down horrible ideas. Or frighten, disgust and appal the reader. Emphasise. Or hide the truth.

For example
'Calls grow for Britain to boycott 'toxic' Court of Human Rights'
'Politician's Union Battle* Could Destroy Him'
(this is emotive because the metaphor portrays the disagreement as a battle)
'victims'
'shocking attack', 'cowardly attack'
'monsters* [criminals] given hope of freedom'
'bleak outlook as firms slash* recruitment' (metaphor suggests violent attack)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest* demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. - Martin Luther King, ‘I Have a Dream’, 1963

How to write about it: The language here is positive, about unity ('join', 'nation') and uses superlatives (greatest) to describe the meeting as an event worthy of 'history' - which it was.

Emotive language designed to manipulate the reader, or listener's, emotions. It can be positive. Or negative.

Other things linked to emotive language:
Postive, or Affirmative Language
at its most basic, this includes the words 'yes', and 'it is'.
It also includes any other words, phrases or metaphors that give a pleasant, healthy or vibrant feeling or mood.
e.g. 'delicious', 'golden' (links to gold, wealth, warmth), 'rising' ('up' is good), 'natural', 'sustainable', 'carbon neutral', etc.

Negative
These simple words are easy to spot and well worth commenting on in poetry, or where they are frequently repeated:
no, not, nor, never*, none, negative prefixes like: dis-, un-, de-, im-, non-, a-, anti-
How to write about it: the repetition of 'not' creates a strong negative mood; the use of 'no man' negates the initial idea.

Also comment on any other words, phrases or metaphors that give a bad feeling.

For example
One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty - Martin Luther King, 'I Have a Dream', 1963

Absolutes
all/none, everything/nothing, every/none, never/always*, eternity, eternal (time), infinity, infinite (space), total, utter, complete, oblivion, destruction, obliteration (i.e. 100% or 0%).

Comment on whether the absolutes are positive or negative. This technique is similar to hyperbole, in as much as all/nothing is usually an exaggeration, done to prove a point.

For example
Check out the negatives and absolutes in this famous sonnet by Shakespeare.

[love] is an ever-fixéd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
...Love alters not ...
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Pathetic fallacy is a specific type of emotive language. Here, emotions are put into weather in a novel, story or poem.