Tools For Analyzing Language and Other Symbols
Symbolic Expression And Persuasive Language
Having gained some perspective on the making, using, and misusing of symbols, we cannow turn to ways in which we can critically process and analyze persuasive symbols. We begin outintroduction to the tools of analysis by looking at several dimensions of language. Language isrepresented as a cube containing all the various qualities that words and sentences can carry to andelicit from the listener. There are several dimensions along which certain charts the meaning can be charted. One dimension charts the possible meanings that a word a series of words can have thesemantic dimension, the functional dimension, and the thematic dimension.
The Functional DimensionWhat Do the Words Do?
Words have jobs. We traditionally group these jobs into grammatical classes nouns, verbs,adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunction, interjection, and so on. We all have memorizedsome of the definitions of these for example, “A noun is the name of person, place, thing, or idea.”It would be impossible for us to diagram all the sentences we hear, but diagramming might show a preferred pattern of sentences structure or a tendency to use certain words or word classes morefrequently than others.
The Semantic DimensionWhat Do Words Mean?
The semantic dimension focuses on the various shadings of meaning that can be given tocertain words. For example, in the same abortion case, the defense succeeded in getting a favorableruling censoring the use of the words “baby boy” and “human being” and having the word “fetus”substituted throughout the trial. What is the difference in the meaning or connotation of thesewords? The defense attorney said, “the words ‘fetus’ mitigates the connotation of aliveness for the‘baby/fetus’ in question, thereby distancing the defendant from wrongdoing.”
The Thematic Dimension