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WHAT IS DICTION? DICTION IS THE CHOICE AND USE OF WORDS IN SPEECH AND WRITING.

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Presentation on theme: "WHAT IS DICTION? DICTION IS THE CHOICE AND USE OF WORDS IN SPEECH AND WRITING."— Presentation transcript:

1 WHAT IS DICTION? DICTION IS THE CHOICE AND USE OF WORDS IN SPEECH AND WRITING.

2 Why does diction matter?  Diction helps the writer to express his/her point of view.  Diction contributes to establishing the writer’s tone.  Diction adds to clarity and concision.  Diction eliminates confusion.

3 Or as Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between… LIGHTNING……. and the LIGHTNING BUG.”

4 DICTION MATTERS: Which would you prefer to be called:  1. trusting or gullible?  2. cautious or cowardly?  3. hypocritical or tactful?  4. enthusiastic or fanatical?  5. practical or unimaginative?  6. overbearing or decisive?

5 DICTION INCLUDES: Denotation and Connotation:  Denotation is the literal, dictionary definition of a word: dictionary definition of a word:  Connotation refers to the response a word really arouses in the reader or listener.  Mother denotatively means “female parent” but means much more connotatively.  What responses do you have to the word mother? (Write them down.)

6 The visual image has connotations, too:  What do these images of mothers suggest?

7 What do these images of mothers suggest?

8 How do we describe diction ?  1. Diction can be colloquial or sophisticated: sub or sandwich? sub or sandwich? pal or friend? pal or friend? guts or courage? guts or courage? sleep or snooze? sleep or snooze? kid or child? kid or child? finished or done? finished or done?

9 Diction can be of different levels:  1. Formal (found in lectures & documents) (“If mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power would be justified in silencing mankind.”) (“If mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power would be justified in silencing mankind.”)

10 Diction levels can be:  Semi-formal: language generally used in newspapers and magazines: (“Beethoven was stirred to compose the Eroica by the spectacle which he soon came to despise, of Napoleon crashing around Europe, making history, orphans and axioms, one of which is in vogue regarding Panama.” (“Beethoven was stirred to compose the Eroica by the spectacle which he soon came to despise, of Napoleon crashing around Europe, making history, orphans and axioms, one of which is in vogue regarding Panama.”

11 Diction levels can be:  Informal: language used in letters and conversations with friends: (“The State Banquet was very grand. We ate in a huge hall with thousands of other guests, and yet were all served at the same time which must have needed tremendous organization.”) (“The State Banquet was very grand. We ate in a huge hall with thousands of other guests, and yet were all served at the same time which must have needed tremendous organization.”)

12 Diction levels can be:  Technical: language that is the specialized vocabulary of a particular trade or profession: (“We have investigated memory storage and the molecular nature of associative-memory formation by analyzing, in the marine snail Hermissenda crassicornis and in the rabbit, a comparatively simple type of associate learning.”) (“We have investigated memory storage and the molecular nature of associative-memory formation by analyzing, in the marine snail Hermissenda crassicornis and in the rabbit, a comparatively simple type of associate learning.”)

13 Diction can be Doublespeak: (A special level all its own and one referenced by Orwell)  Doublespeak is language which pretends to communicate but really does not.  Doublespeak is not careless or sloppy, but the product of clear thinking and is language carefully designed to appear to communicate, when in fact, it does not:

14 Forms of Doublespeak-level Diction :  Euphemisms: words or phrases that soften unpleasant realities; they can be used to deceive or mislead. (“unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life” =killing) (“unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life” =killing)

15 More levels of Doublespeak:  Jargon: specialized language of members of a profession becomes Doublespeak when it is used in addressing or confusing nonmembers. ( “involuntary conversion of a 727” = ( “involuntary conversion of a 727” = a plane crash.) a plane crash.)

16 More Doublespeak forms:  Bureaucratese; use of sheer volume of words or complicated syntax to overwhelm the audience: (“It’s a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated premiums.”) (“It’s a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated premiums.”)

17 Doublespeak as inflated language:  Inflated Language makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. (car mechanics = automotive internists) (car mechanics = automotive internists) (black and white TV sets = non-multicolor capability) (black and white TV sets = non-multicolor capability) (fire in a nuclear reactor building = rapid oxidation.) (fire in a nuclear reactor building = rapid oxidation.) (lies = inappropriate statements) (lies = inappropriate statements)

18 Characteristics of Good Diction :  Accuracy: the choice of words that mean exactly what the author intends  Economy: the choice of the simplest and fewest words that will convey the exact meaning intended  Emphasis: the choice of fresh, strong words, avoiding clichés and unnecessarily vague or general terms  Appropriateness: the choice of words that suit the subject matter, the reader, the purpose.

19 Loaded Diction: (Also called ‘snarl’ and ‘purr’ words:))  Compare "seal harvest" with "slaughter of seal pups";  "fetus" with "unborn child";  "management offers" versus "union demands";  "terrorist" versus "freedom fighter.“

20 More loaded snarl and purr diction:  No list could include all the "snarl" and "purr" words in the language  Other words that journalists encounter are: "deny," "claim," "democracy," "breakthrough," "realistic," "exploited," "bureaucrat," "censor," “hack,” "commercialism," and "regime."  The words can set the mood.

21 Regionalisms in Diction:  "In the [American] South it’s called Coke, even when it’s Pepsi. Many in Boston say ‘tonic’. A precious few even order a ‘fizzy’ drink. The real battle: ‘pop’ vs. ‘soda’.”  "Sack and poke were both originally regional terms for bag. Sack has since become a standard term like bag, but poke remains regional, mainly in South Midland Regional dialect."  "Sack and poke were both originally regional terms for bag. Sack has since become a standard term like bag, but poke remains regional, mainly in South Midland Regional dialect." dialect

22 Soft Diction: Carlin-style:  "Sometime during my life toilet paper became bathroom tissue....  Sneakers became running shoes.  False teeth became dental appliances.  Medicine became medication.  Information became directory assistance.  The dump became the landfill.  Car crashes became automobile accidents.

23 Soft Diction, con’d:  Partly cloudy became partly sunny.  Motels became motor lodges.  House trailers became mobile homes.  Used cars became previously owned transportation.  Room service became guest room dining.  Constipation became occasional irregularity....

24 Soft Diction in the Corporate World:  "When a company is 'levering up,' it often means, in regular language, that it is spending money it doesn’t have.  When it is 'right-sizing' or finding 'synergies,' it may well be firing people.  When it 'manages stakeholders,' it could be lobbying or bribing.  When you dial into 'customer care,' they care very little. But when they call you, even at dinnertime, then it’s a 'courtesy call.’ (A. Giridharadas, "Language as a Blunt Tool of the Digital Age." The New York Times, Jan. 17, 2010)

25 ART OR CRAFT?  What might the writer mean if she begins a passage saying that teaching is an art?  How is this different than reviewing a book on the craft of teaching?  What might you anticipate would be in the teaching-as-an-art passage?  What might you anticipate would be in the review of the craft-of-teaching book?  Would there be any overlap? Where?

26 GANG OR CLUB?  Do any of these images come to mind when you think about the word gang?  Do any of these images come to mind when you think to mind when you think about the word club? about the word club?

27 LADY OR WOMAN?  That woman is a liar!  She was a woman of substance!  Hey lady, get outta the way!  Do your best, young women!  Good morning, young ladies!  Woman or man, who is more practical?  Ladies and gentlemen, be seated.

28 How to analyze diction, specifically, the word, “associate”:  You walk into a Petsmart…You hear a voice on a loudspeaker say urgently, “Would an associate report to the rubber-toys aisle.” Instantly, a guy with a mop and pail appears, zeros in on the puddle behind a shamefaced puppy and takes care of the problem.  The job title of the person doing the mopping-up is associate. No longer is today’s man with a muck rake termed an employee; that description is deemed demeaning. Associate hints at managerial equality.

29 Analyzing the connotations words suggest to you:  Of course, employee is higher in the pecking order than worker. Although “hard worker” remains a compliment, few today prefer plain worker as a job description — whatever the color of the collar — though it’s less pejorative than Shakespeare’s underlings and surely better than “unemployed.”

30 Other words for “associate”, and other connotations:  Taken as a lump, in the military or other large organizations, the associate/employee/worker is called the rigid staff and the bloodless personnel :

31 How powerful diction can be:  Feargus Gwynplaine MacIntyre sees a management plot behind the associate vogue, assuming that most associates get nominal prestige without health care and other union benefits:  “The transformation of employees into ‘associates’ is clearly an effort to exploit blue-collar workers more than ever,” he s from Scotland, “while covering the collective butt of the companies that employ them.”

32 More connotations for “co-worker”:  What do you call a co-worker these days? Neither teammate nor confederate will do, and partner is too legalistic. The answer brought from academia to the political world by Henry Kissinger and now bandied in the boardroom is colleague. It has a nice upper-egalitarian feel, related to the good fellowship of collegial. Would PetSmart please send a colleague to the rubber-toys aisle? Henry KissingerHenry Kissinger

33 Rhetorical analysis of the word, “channeling”:  When a Congolese student asked Hillary Clinton what her husband thought of a Chinese loan offer to Congo, she bristled and snapped: “My husband is not secretary of state. I am.” She went on to emphasize, “I am not going to be channeling my husband.” Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton

34 A negative connotation of “channeling”:  Although the awkward moment was quickly smoothed over by agreeing that the question had been mistranslated, The Associated Press reported that the official State Department translation read, “What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton?... ”  No wonder she took offense at such an imputation of channeling.

35 …and some more positive connotations of “channeling”:  In another recent usage of this increasingly popular participle, The Wall Street Journal reported — at the top of its front page, no less — that “one butcher used to advise his customers to simply ‘squeeze out the blood.’  Now butchers are boning up and offering more artful cooking tips.” The spirited headline: “Channeling Julia Child at Meat Market.” Julia ChildJulia Child

36 …some humorous connotations of “channeling”:  In my op-ed days, I used to write an occasional “mind-reading” column in the voice of world leaders, living and dead. (My interview with Nixon was in purgatory, where his entry into heaven was delayed until he expiated his sin of having imposed wage and price controls.)  Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” called these “channeling columns.” Tim Russert Tim Russert

37 …and some historical connotations:  The verb “to channel” started in the 13th century with the meaning of “to guide along a pathway or though a certain medium” and much later found a home in “the transmission of electrical signals.”  From there, notes Anne Soukhanov, U.S. editor of Encarta World English Dictionary, “it’s a very short semantic leap to ‘transmit information or messages directly from a personality of a consciousness, other than one’s own.’ ”

38 More on history of “channeling”:  Through the medium of my computer I am in touch with the Parapsychological Association, which cites a 1990 book by Arthur Hastings titled “With the Tongues of Men and Angels: A Study of Channeling.”  He defines the word channeling fairly conservatively as a phenomenon in which “a person purports to transmit information or messages directly from a personality or consciousness other than his or her own, usually through ‘automatic writing’ or ‘trance speaking’; this other personality usually claims to be a nonphysical spirit or being.”

39 “Channeling” as vestige:  As used today, channeling is a vestige of New Age jargon that has taken on a general, non-spiritual, un- psychic meaning.  Many serious believers in spiritualism familiar with such terms as astral projection, cosmic ordering, quantum mysticism, as well as those old standbys, extrasensory perception and psychic, should not take offense at the popular lifting of one item from their lexicon.

40 Very negative connotations of “channeling”:  In its fresh outbreak as vogue lingo, channeling means “indiscriminately transmitting another’s ideas or beliefs” as well as, in the extreme, “parroting a party leader’s talking points.”  To be accused of channeling is to be dismissed as a ventriloquist’s live dummy, derogated at not having a mind of one’s own.


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