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Diction Analysis

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									The Basics of Diction
            Analysis
    Just don’t say “the author uses diction…”
   Diction is simply the particular words an
    author uses to convey meaning in a piece
    of writing.
    ◦ Diction is the fundamental ingredient in written
      communication; without words, there is no
      meaning!
1.   Above all is connotation.
2.   Level of diction
3.   Type of diction: abstract and concrete
4.   Sound quality of diction: occasionally
     euphony and cacophony (only if you are sure
     you can pull it off!)

Always ask yourself, “why did the author
  choose this/these words instead of others?




What to look for
   Connotation: the implied meaning or
    feeling of a word.
    ◦ The most important aspect of diction for
      analysis!
      gives clues to author’s stance, tone, and bias.
      Suggests how the author wants us to view the
      subject.




Denotation and Connotation
◦ Compare “patriots,” “heroes,” “soldiers,” “war
  criminals,” “invaders.”
  What are the connotations of each word?
  What clues do we get about the author’s attitude
   from each of these words?
   Patriots: implies (“connotes”) doing what is best
    for one’s country, a sense of moral goodness,
    sacrifice for the common good (+ tone)
   Heroes: connotes goodness, trying to protect
    one’s homeland/family, sacrifice for the common
    good, morality (+ tone)
   War Criminals: connotes wrong-doing, murder,
    brutality, a sense of evil (- tone)
   Invaders: connotes a group that does not
    belong, a group that is harming the “native”
    population, mistreatment of the invaded group
    EACH OF THESE WORDS REFERS TO
    SOMEONE WHO FIGHTS IN A WAR! THE
    DIFFERENCE IS THE EFFECT OF EACH
    WORD!
   The “Level” of diction refers to the degree
    of complexity of the language.
   Levels are used to characterize the diction
    of a large section of a piece or the entire
    piece. Don’t try to categorize each word.




Levels of Diction
   Formal/Elevated: complex, “big” or unusual words,
    often jargon
    ◦ Several effects: can cause the writer to seem
      knowledgeable and thoughtful (positive ethos) or can cause
      the author to seem boring, pedantic. Frequently used to
      obscure meaning by making the piece confusing and
      making the audience feel dumb; puts author is superior
      position relative to the audience.

   Neutral: this does not mean words with a neutral
    connotation. Instead, this is the everyday language
    that people use in professional settings.
    ◦ Effects: author can seem normal, everyday without
      “talking down.” Places author and audience on “equal
      footing.”



Levels of Diction
   Low/Informal: usually, language used
    amongst peers. Often includes dialect,
    colloquialism, and slang.
    ◦ Effects: personality and voice, causing
      closeness to reader; conversely, can cause
      author to seem uneducated or sloppy.
      Sometimes places audience in superior
      position, causing them to “look down upon” the
      speaker/writer.
 ◦ For all levels, identify the audience and
   decide why the author chose this diction for
   this audience.
 ◦ Connect the level of diction to 1) the tone and
   2) purpose.




So What?
 Abstract: idea words and feeling words. Not tangible
  —do not appeal to senses.
 Examples: love, honor, respect, patriotism,
  goodness, evil, etc.
    ◦ Effects: can build background for more specific discussion
      to follow for any of the appeals. Conversely, can distance
      the reader through a lack of specifics, and can obscure
      logic.
    ◦ Often used to manipulate pathos
    ◦ Often used to create ethos (especially through patriotic
      appeals)


       See the opening paragraph of McCarthy’s speech for an example
        of manipulative/propagandist use of abstract diction.



Abstract and Concrete
   Concrete: tangible words appealing to
    the five senses.
   Examples: desk, blood, fly, fiery,
    agonizing.
    ◦ Effects: often helps to establish imagery and
      therefore pathos—check to see if the pathos is
      manipulative.
    ◦ Specifics help form the backbone of logic
      (statistics, specific examples and cases, etc.)
   The sound of the words is the key here.
   Euphony: words that sound pleasant.
    ◦ Usually dominated by vowel sounds; “flowery,”
      “pluvial,” “serendipitous.”

    ◦ Effects: contributes on a less conscious level
      to the tone; can make the subject sound
      positive.




Euphony and Cacophony
   Cacophony: negative sound.
    ◦ Usually consonant-heavy and Germanic.
    ◦ “Grungy,” “horrendous,” “vile.”

    ◦ Sound often overlaps with the meaning—
      negative sounding words often mean negative
      things, but not always.
   Connect the sound to the tone of the
    piece and to the author’s purpose.




So what?
   Shift: any placed where an author
    changes the level, tone, or style of his or
    her diction.

    ◦ Effects: can work as transitions, indicate a
      change in attitude, or signal a key point in the
      argument.
    ◦ Almost always a signal that the author wants
      you to pay more attention than normal to a
      certain part of the writing.



Shifts

								
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