People use different language and structures depending on their purpose. Various text types can be identified and analysed.
All communication has a purpose and composers will attempt to fulfil that purpose by using a variety of techniques that will achieve their aim.
Broadly speaking we can identify and categorise these techniques in order to discriminate between rational objective responses and emotive, confidence tricks.
As recipients of information we have to be vigilant and cluey so we do not become victims of propaganda.
As Zachary Karabell, in "No Left Turn" said:
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."
Language is complex tool invented by society. As any artefact it can have beneficial or detrimental effects. It can be used and abused.
People often use language to conceal rather than reveal their real intentions. All attempts to communicate are subjective and therefore even well intentioned informative writings can be prone to bias or unconscious distortion of truth.
We know that truth can be free; but bullshit - spin can be very expensive.
However, much of the communication we are exposed to is deliberately persuasive and justifies using any means at its disposal to convince us their cause is just. Extreme forms of persuasion are called propaganda.
As active participants in a democratic society we need to be able to discriminate between reality and falsehood – bullshit detectors, so that we can make sense of what is happening and make well informed considered choices.
A democratic society needs people who have the linguistic abilities which enable them to discuss, evaluate and make sense of what they are told, as well as to take effective action on the basis of their understanding…. Otherwise there can be no genuine participation, but only the imposition of ideas of those who are linguistically capable.
Aldous Huxley- Education on the Non-Verbal Level
Even on the verbal level, where they are most at home, educators have done a good deal less than they might reasonably have been expected to do in explaining to young people the nature, the limitations, the huge potentialities for evil as well as for good, of that greatest of all human inventions, language, Children should be taught that words are indispensable but also can be fatal - the only begetters of all civilization, all science, all consistency of high purpose, all angelic goodness, and the only begetters at the same time of all superstition, all collective madness and stupidity, all worse-than-bestial diabolism, all the dismal historical succession of crimes in the name of God, King, Nation, Party, Dogma.
The lack of genuine communication as words have lost their meaning and language is not always a reliable tool for genuine discourse. Language is used to reveal the shallowness of relationships and the emptiness of modern society.
In Lewis Carrol’s famous Through the Looking Glass, Humpty said to Alice.
When I use a word… it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.
Alice’s reply was: “The question is whether you can make words mean different things.”
Humpty: "The only question is, who is to be master, that is all!"
Absurdists agree with Humpty. Language like truth is relative and subjective, not absolute or objective like Alice assumes. Politicians and other persuasive writers have debased our language so that many words have lost their integrity.
T.S. Eliot notes in “Burnt Norton” - Four Quartets:
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still…………..
Lack of communication is a recurring theme in Absurdist plays. People can talk to each other without really communicating. Language is used to conceal your purpose rather than reveal it.
Rosencrantz says of Hamlet:
“half of what he said meant something else and the other half didn’t mean anything at all”
Sometimes we need to read between the lines or souse out innuendo:
Tex Perkins & the Dark Horse in the Track title: Looking At You But Seeing Her
“I heard what was said but I knew what was spoken.”
“When she opened her mouth she put her foot right inside.
We heard what she said but we knew what she meant.”
We will look at various Text Types and look at their purposes, characteristics, linguistic techniques and structures.
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