2DenotationThe denotative meaning of a word is its literal meaning – the definition you’d find in the dictionary. Take the word “mother,” for example. The dictionary would define mother as “a female parent.” OK, but the word “mother” probably creates emotions and feelings in you: it paints a picture in your mind. You may think of love and security or you may think of your own mother. The emotions and feelings that a word creates are called its connotative meaning.Now we’re going to explain the difference between the denotative and connotative meaning of words. This is a bit similar to what we learned about in our last Instruction: the difference between words’ literal and figurative meanings.
3ExampleThe word “cat.” The denotative meaning (how the dictionary defines “cat”) is: “a carnivorous mammal, domesticated as a rat catcher or pet.” But what is its connotative meaning? It depends. If you like cats, the word “cat” may suggest graceful motion, affectionate playfulness, noble reserve and admirable self-sufficiency. If you don’t, the word might suggest stealthiness, spitefulness, coldness and haughty disdain.
4Personal ConnotationPersonal connotation is what we’ve just described with the word “cat.” It’s the emotions or feelings a word creates in you or in any one individual.This brings up an important point about connotation, because there are two different kinds of it -- personal connotation and general connotation.
5General ConnotationGeneral connotation is different – it’s what a word means to a large group of people; a mind picture that is shared.When many words with strong connotations appear in the same news report, that news report is said to be “slanted” or “loaded.” This means that the words have been chosen to create either a favorable or unfavorable impression. Professor Vosovic of Stanford University has written two different accounts of the same event:
6ExampleTake a man’s beard. In Victorian times, the image of a bearded man was that of a proper older gentleman – a grandfather, perhaps. But in the1960’s, a bearded man came to mean “unshaven hippie.” General connotation doesn’t mean that everybody in the world thinks the same way about something, just that large groups of people do.
7One Event, Two StoriesA. Five teenagers were loitering on the corner. As their raucous laughter cut through the air, we noticed their sloppy black leather jackets and their greasy dyed hair. They slouched against a building with cigarettes dangling contemptuously from their mouths.
8One Event, Two StoriesB. Five youngsters stood on the corner. As the joy of their laughter filled the air, we noticed their smooth loose-fitting jackets and the gleam of their colorful hair. They relaxed against a building smoking evenly on cigarettes that seemed almost natural in their serious young mouths.The same event, yes. But two very different accounts of it. How does each report make you feel?
9Politically CorrectSince there are many words with negative connotations, people often use a form of speech called a euphemism to try and say the same thing in a more positive or pleasant way. Instead of saying “you’re fired,” they say “we’re downsizing.” Instead of talking about a corpse, they use the word “remains.” Instead of calling somebody “short,” they say “vertically challenged.” Since many people try not to offend, which of course is good, we end up with some pretty weird euphemisms – many coined in the name of Political Correctness and some made up just to be funny or have fun.Translations from one language to another are often subject to great debate, since the connotative meaning of a word can be quite different from one language to another. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew. In English, the Sixth Commandment has been translated as “Thou shalt not kill.” This Commandment has been invoked against everything from killing in self-defense to bearing arms in time of war. Scholars believe that the original Hebrew term for “to kill” actually meant “murder.” So the proper translation of the Commandment should actually be: “Thou shalt do no murder.”Misunderstandings occur between people of different cultures every day just because a word or group of words means different things to them. If we are all sensitive to this and try learning about these cultural differences, we may be able to figure out better ways to get along.
10Street freeway highway lane parkway passage pavement, place road roadwayrouterowstrollterracethoroughfare tracktrailturfwayarteryavenuealleyboulevardbywaycourtdead enddragdrive
11Connotation and Denotation Graphic Organizer WordPositiveNeutralNegative
12MoodThe atmosphere that pervades a literary work with the intention of evoking a certain emotion or feeling from the audience.Diction can impart freshness and originality to writing. Words used in surprising or unusual ways make us rethinkwhat is known and re-examine meaning. Good writers often opt for complexity rather than simplicity,for multiple meanings rather than precision. Thus diction, the foundation of voice, shapes a reader’sthinking while guiding reader insight into the author’s idiosyncratic expression of thought: the writer’s voice.
13DictionThe accent, inflection, intonation, and speech-sound quality manifested by an individual speaker, usually judged in terms of prevailing standards of acceptability; enunciationIn other words – word choice!word choice!
14Word ChoiceThe words that are chosen in a specific sentence affect the mood.Words are the writer’s basic tools:They create the color and texture of the written work. They both reflect and determine the level of formality. They shape the reader’s perceptions.Student should rarely skip words they do not know when studying serious literature. (It’s like wearing earplugs to a symphony.) Tounderstand voice, students must “hear” the words and “feel” their effects.Diction reflects the writer’s vision and steers the reader’s thought.
15Effective voice is shaped by words that are clear, concrete and exact. Good writers eschew words like pretty, nice, and bad.Instead, they use words that invoke a specific effectA coat isn’t torn; it is tattered.A door does not shut; it thuds.Specific diction brings the reader into the scene, enabling full participation in the writer’s world.
16So, what do diction and mood have to do with denotation and connotation?
17When a writer calls a character slender, the word evokes a different feeling from calling the character gaunt.A word’s power to produce a strong reaction in the reader lies mainly in its connotative meaning.connotative
18Review Denotation: the definition of a word Connotation: a secondary meaning of a wordGeneral Connotation: the meaning elicited by a large group of peoplePersonal Connotation: a private meaningDiction: word choiceMood: the feeling or emotional response of a literary work