heightened language

Heightened language or heightened text is often defined as a more formal, emotional, or poetic way of speaking. Words are chosen for their sound and power, not just their meaning. Heightened language enables words to ascend beyond everyday speech. Look for what is happening that “elevates” the moment beyond the mundane.

Often something within the language itself requires some attention.

If Shakespeare comes to mind, you’re on the right track. For example, in “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare writes, “Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds.” Tarzan might say, “Gallop, steads!” You’ll notice the important words tend to be nouns and verbs. Play these as the important words and you’ll gain clarity of thought and intention.

With Shakespeare or other poetic drama, you’ll need to pay some attention to how the language is trying to operate so that you don’t get in your own way – adding pauses or breaking up thoughts when they are incomplete or reversing rhythms to kill momentum. 

Heightened language - Shakespearean monologue
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Chances are you’ll naturally drop certain words and emphasize others. Then speak the line like an actor keeping those important, emphasized words in mind.

Poetry can be thought of as a verbal, written art form that uses a heightened sense of language to convey experience, feeling, or modes of consciousness. It is also called “figurative language.” It is opposed to so-called “literal” language. Understood in the context of actual poetry, poetic language is not nice-sounding words that have no real meaning.

While that could be said of many contemporary plays, heightened language pieces use language as the primary engine of the action and stakes require you to actively pursue your character’s need through image-laden text.

heightened language dialogue vs naturalistic language

The study of literature is also the study of language. It is through such processes that the potential of a language is best recognized. A language’s lexicon doesn’t give the full picture of its power of representation; its use does. The mere lack of an abundant vocabulary renders a language weak.

Meanings of words given in a dictionary are lexical definitions. As a word may have more than one meaning, it may also have more than one lexical definition. The five lexical categories are: Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, and Preposition. They carry meaning, and often words with a similar (synonym) or opposite meaning (antonym) can be found. Frequently, the noun is said to be a person, place, or thing and the verb is said to be an event or act.

If the horizons of knowledge reach out far, then a writer writing in a language having a limited lexical base could also create great literature without drawing on the entire resources enumerated in the dictionary, the skilled use of phrases and idioms and the language’s inherent possibilities will provide the writer the scope to do so. The character of a language itself carries the potential for innovation. Rhetoricians have explored different aspects of this phenomenon; they have dealt with it by making use of illustrations from creative literature.

When a writer is in search of new forms of representation in his language, similar exercises in other tongues may give some examples, but when it comes to actual use, it is not possible to do so outside the language’s character. The innovative use of language grants it a new dimension, enhancing its potential.

Even when there are borrowings from other languages, they must be assimilated within the representational parameters of the language. Otherwise such use of borrowed terms does not have any relevance. New thought, new worldviews will always seek avenues for expression, and the writer will be amazed by the remarkable plasticity and elasticity evident in the language. It is because of these twin conditions that the writer’s creative exercises enhance the language, enriching it further.

The arts serve as laboratory for such development. Language is strengthened by these exercises. Every creative writer has a responsibility towards their own language, which they can do by exploring the expressive potential of the language and enriching its idioms.

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