I A Richard’s Concept of Two Uses of Language


The disjunction of art from matter-of-fact disciplines is central to Richardsian criticism. The tendency of many writers was to reject or to subordinate one to the other. Richards hoped to find some common area between science and art in psychology, some third term capable of relating one to the other. Principles of Literary Criticism represented the most concentrated endeavour to forge this relation. A more profitable approach proved to be his methodology of contexts.

I A Richard
In a chapter on ‘The Two uses of Language’, Richards distinguishes two kinds of causation that leads for ‘mental events’. The first kind is the result of stimuli affecting the mind through the senses immediately. The second kind of causation lies in the mind itself, its particular needs and its degree of relevant receptiveness. The interaction of these two kinds of of causation determines the character of the mental event.




In the scientific field, impulse should be exclusively derived from what is external.  The scientific use of language thus relies on reference undistorted by the receiving mind. By constrast, there is an emotive use of language which is designed not so much to promote references, as to arouse attitudes and emotions associated with them. The kind of ‘truth’ proper to science resides in the accuracy of references and the logicality of their interconnections. The kind of truth proper to fiction may reside in internal coherence rather than in correspondence with actual facts.

A number of questions in an interview conducted in 1968 draw Richards out on the origins of his and Ogden’s account of two uses of language, the emotive and the referential. In their formulation, referential meant the language of expository prose; it conveyed knowledge; economy and clarity of the relation of word (or sign) to referent (or object) were essential. If the question ‘Is this true or false in the ordinary strict scientific sense?’ were relevant, then the language was referential. Emotive language was not concerned with ‘knowledge’ in this sense (‘It tells us, or should tell us, nothing’ — this was one of the odd notes for many readers of The Meaning of Meaning [1923]). Emotive language was used to stimulate attitudes, certain states of awareness, interest and purpose. Besides these two uses, there is a further distinction into five functions which are present in varying degrees when language is used. 



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