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Language and Purpose



> There are many different purposes for which we use language, both spoken and written. Often there is an underlying (covert) purpose of which we may not be aware, as well as the apparent (overt) purpose.


Take the incident of two men and a woman in a railway carriage. One man smokes, unaware that it is a non—smoking carriage. After a few minutes the other man turns to the woman and says:

“DO YOU mind if I smoke?”

Let us Look at the purpose here.

1. Overt purpose — to discover if he may smoke (conscious).

2. Possible covert purpose

a) to establish contact with and ingratiate himself with the woman

b) to reproach the other man.

Even if he did not intend to reprove the first man, his words may have the effect of doing so.

Writer’s Aim and Purpose

All other identifiable aspects of writing should be in keeping with the aim of the writer in a particular passage; they can be said to be appropriate to the writing.

The most common examples of a writer’s aim are:

Narrative: to tell a story 

Descriptive: to give descriptive information, often in a figurative or comparative manner.  

Informative: to give information and fact

Entertaining: to amuse, to provide light-hearted diversion

Satiric: to use humour as a method of ridiculing or exposing wrongs in any area of society; also uses irony and sarcasm.

Evaluative: after examining a number of differing views, to decide on the strongest case; a decision may he based on strength of a particular argument or a number of arguments

Argumentative: to put any number of differing views on one case, idea or situation and to examine the strengths of each view.

Opinionative: to express a view which is strongly and personally held; usually to the exclusion of a differing viewpoint

Persuasive: to try to convince an audience to agree with a particular point of view.

Expressive: to share one’s private, inner emotions; grief, anger, or exuberance.

Emotive: to express emotions; to try to develop a particular emotional response in an audience.

Reflective: to look back on an event or situation a comment on it in a personal way

Didactic (educative): to teach.

Reasons for Writing

One of the primary considerations reader’s focus on is the Purpose of the writer.  Why is the composer creating his/her artifact?  Let us look at some what some writer’s claim they are:

1.    Guy de Maupassant – a French writer of the 19th C.
To console me, amuse me, make me sad, make me sympathetic, make me dream, make me laugh, make me shudder, make me weep, but above all to  make me think!

2.    Joseph Conrad – Polish/English writer early 20th C.
By the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel… before all to make you

3.    Salmon Rushdie – Indian quoting South African Andre Brink
”Writer’s responsibility to speak against the silence”  Rushdie added that as long as governments lied and journalists told at best half-truths, it was the role of the writer, through fiction, to tell the facts (truth).

4.    George Orwell (Eric Blair) shares four reasons with us:
-Sheer egotism - a desire to be recognised, remembered after death
-Aesthetic enthusiasm – perception and expression of beauty.
-Historical impulse – to see things as they are
-Political purpose – alter people’s idea on the society to strive for.

5.  Therapy

Sylvia Plath used her writing as therapy; by a frank and full admission of her pain she is hoping for some release of tension and an exorcism of the demons that haunt her.

Emily Dickinson’s poems, intensely emotional, yet never dissolving into sentimentality, reveal a troubled soul searching for understanding and acceptance. 

Another writer who used writing as an attempt to address inner turmoil is Zelda, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, commenting on the disintegration of their marriage:

"To right myself, I write myself."   Writing is an escape into the depths of my imagination." 

Franz Kafta –  describes “Writing should be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.” 

Kathy Lette claims she writes because "it's cheaper than therapy".

Nikki Gemmell: "writing is my ballast through life's toss."

Ted Huhges Private Letters indicate his motives and a therapeutic effect: 

‘I’m not sure the effect of writing the poems isn’t just too raw’.

 at the end of the project

It was so great, I was sorry I hadn’t done it before. Writing released a bizarre dream life, and I realised how much had been locked up inside me.

I hope each of us owns the facts of her or his own life,

 6.    Writers write for a variety of reasons, but mainly to voice their concerns; some write to document the times – chronicle or crystallise experience and distil the essence of history to give it permanency, while others use it as an emotional release of pent up tension and some write for the edification or moral uplifting of the world.

7. Fiction attempts to approximate feelings and emotions that defy articulation.

 A major conflict has existed between those who write for aesthetic reasons; “art for art’s sake,” and those who feel it should have a more utilitarian or purposeful function, either didactic or propagandist.

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