Trying to wrap your head around the literary technique of emotive language?
If you aren’t too sure what it is or how you’re meant to analyse it in texts, we’ve got you covered.
Keep reading to find out more!
What is emotive language?
Because different words affect how writing and speech is received, word choice is incredibly important when building a story.
A crucial example of this is emotive language, also called ‘loaded language’, which is how authors choose words extremely carefully to evoke specific emotional responses in a reader. Often, this is done by manipulating the connotations of a word, and is most commonly used in highly emotional or descriptive scenes or situations.
Because it can get awkward when used too much in character dialogue — as people don’t tend to speak their minds in such an elaborate way — emotive language is more often used in poetry. However, it is used widely in many novels and narratives, including those by Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Khaled Hosseini, and Katherine Mansfield.
Emotive language is also often used in conjunction with rhetorical devices, symbolism and extended metaphors, and is often attached to themes of romance/love, grief/loss, and joy.
Examples of Emotive Language
Here are some examples of emotive language in texts:
“So, thought Septimus, looking up, they are signalling to me…it was plain enough, this beauty, this exquisite beauty…he looked at the smoke words languishing and melting in the sky and bestowing upon him in their…laughing goodness one shape after another of unimaginable beauty…Tears ran down his cheeks.”
Queen Elizabeth I (speech to troops)
“I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too.”
How can you analyse emotive language as a literary technique?
To analyse emotive language, you must investigate:
#1: The Emotions
Consider what emotions the author wished to evoke in readers by considering how the text makes you feel (i.e. angry, sad, pitiful, happy, grieving).
#2: The Context
Consider the events leading up to the current scene, and how they would have informed and shaped the emotional states of each character. This will allow you to better understand the emotions evoked by the author as well.
#3: The Connotations
How has the author used the underlying meanings, implications, or metaphors of particular words to evoke meaning?
Consider ‘double meanings’ as well — for instance, ‘heart’ and ‘stomach’ go beyond their literal meanings, and can mean ‘spirit’/‘love’ and ‘courage’, respectively.
#4: The Character
Following on from characterisation, it’s important to understand why a character is using this type of language, or how it is being used to reveal a character’s feelings.
This will change with each character, so you need to consider their motivations, desires, emotions, and personality when analysing the emotive language used by or about them.
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Rujuta Banhatti is currently a third year Law/International Studies student at UNSW. As a Content Writer at Art of Smart, she is super keen to be able to write (read: academically rant) about texts that she’s absolutely loved, both at school and in general.