Communication: A Philosophical Study of Language

By Karl Britton | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
THE USES OF LANGUAGE

1. In this book I shall attempt to give an account of some of the principal uses to which language--the most important and valuable of all human institutions--is commonly and properly applied. The simple-minded, I suppose, at one time used to believe that language has only one proper and one improper use; the conveyance of truth from one mind to another, and the conveyance of falsehood. But thinkers of many ages and countries have insisted upon what they very likely called 'the dangerous influence of words'--an influence which is essentially upon the emotions rather than upon the opinions of mankind. And it is chiefly two groups of uses, one of which I shall call Informative, and the other Dynamic, that I wish to discuss. This important distinction was clearly established in the treatise of Ogden and Richards:

"In ordinary everyday speech each phrase has not one but a number of functions. We shall in our final chapter classify them under five headings; but here a two-fold division is more convenient, the division between the symbolic use of words and the emotive use. The symbolic use of words is statement; the recording, the support, the organization and the communication of references. The emotive use of words is a more simple matter, it is the use of words to express or excite feelings and attitudes. It is probably more primitive. If we say 'The height of the Eiffel Tower is 900 feet' we are making a statement, we are using symbols in order to record or communicate a reference, and our symbol is true or false in a strict sense

-1-

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