Persuasive Function of Language

  • Tadeusz Pawlowski
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 144)


We react to phenomena of the surrounding world not only cognitively, through mental or sensory representations, but affectively as well: our perceptions take on an emotional colouring, our feelings are rich in variety and intensity. It is because of our ability to react emotionally to external stimuli that we can enjoy and appreciate art, meaningful perception of which usually presupposes living through an aesthetic emotion. Similarly, human behaviour evokes in us feelings of approval or censure. As a result of repetition the emotional reactions, originally provoked by certain objects, undergo a process of mediation: they shift over onto linguistic expressions which refer to those objects. Subsequently, to provoke a person to an emotional reaction it is no longer necessary to place the person in the situation which originally conditioned the reaction; often it suffices to use the expression which stands for the situation. It is in this way that linguistic expressions can take on an emotive load. Such loads may impede processes of communication, particularly when it comes to transmitting precise, unambiguous information about definite facts. However, the same property of linguistic expressions is useful for other purposes: it can be used for persuasion, to shape people’s emotive attitudes. This is a matter of great social importance. Since attitudes help to determine behaviour, by moulding attitudes we can influence behaviour. The persuasive function of language can, of course, be used for any purposes, not only for those we approve of. It is a tool—a tool for shaping people’s attitudes—and, as such, is morally neutral. This makes it the more important for us to know the various forms of the persuasive use of language. It is sometimes good to realize that we are objects of persuasion.


Linguistic Expression Subjective Sense Everyday Language Objective Sense Persuasive Argumentation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tadeusz Pawlowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of LodzPoland

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