Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Evaluative Meaning and Its Cultural Significance

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Evaluative Meaning and Its Cultural Significance

Article excerpt


In the framework of traditional descriptive semantics, evaluative meaning is defined as an aspect of affective meaning. By virtue of its general positive and negative evaluation, evaluative meaning finds its place in the compartment of interpersonal meaning in functional linguistics. The concept of evaluative meaning is also in agreement with the categorisation of meaning in contemporary stylistics. Having stated its spread and disagreement with logic, the cultural significance of evaluative meaning is analysed in this article. Employing the contextual and binary methods of analysis, it has been shown that much of cultural significance in fiction and the image of culture in general owes much to evaluative meaning. It is both plain evaluation and its emotive component that increase the potential of evaluative meaning in fiction and render most delicate senses in it. In fiction, evaluative meaning ranges from rude and moderate name calling to metaphor and irony at the other extreme. The chosen methods appear sufficient in the analysis of evaluative meaning, while its expressiveness is shown to gain much because of its logical inconsistency.


Like any rational description of language, the linguistic analysis of research material is a fundamental engagement in language study. Like any rational undertaking of man, the linguistic analysis of meaning is expected to comply with the rules of logic and concrete methodological principles. The linguistics of the twentieth century had seen much formalised analysis of language, which definitely gratified some of the authors as an exercise in formal reasoning rather than as an adequate description of natural human language. One of the problems of natural human language is that it is idiomatic and deviant, which means that it often defies logic and this is obvious in the analysis of meaning. A general question that this paper addresses concerns the socio-cultural significance of evaluative meaning. It further concerns rational treatment of the linguistic phenomena to which logic applies in the least. A more specific question would be that of the method which would apply to the analysis of the most delicate aspects of meaning which we encounter in statements like the following:

1) The measurement of ultra-short light pulses was a remarkable achievement in quantum electronics.

2) I remember Lady Oxford, one of the most remarkable female personalities of the century, when she was old (Cartland 1969: 257).

3) Our subjective impression of a poem is perfectly all right until someone else comes along who disagrees with it. Then it is no good reiterating such phrases as 'But I like the poem', 'I think it's good'. This gets us nowhere, for the person who thinks the poem is bad will want reasons for our opinion. Again, the only thing is to try to rationalize the subjectivity inherent in our approach by looking at the language and seeing what is it in it which has caused such a favourable or unfavourable reaction (Crystal 1968: 68).

4) But literary works never lie wholly within the codes that define them, and this is what makes the semiological investigation of literature such a tantalizing enterprise (Culler 1976:105).

5) The development of methods by which one can determine, for example, which features of bluebird song are communicatively functional for bluebirds is probably the knottiest problem in the whole field of animal communication (Hockett 1977:131).

6) How amazing (Drabble 1971: 21). It's perfect (Drabble 1967: 131). David thinks she's awful (Drabble 1971: 137).

7) 'Louise looked quite ravishing in a coat without a collar and a wonderful fur hat (Drabble 1967: 87).

8) In this, her longest and finest novel, her first since the greatly acclaimed The Realms of Gold, one of the best English novelists writing today .. …

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