The denotation (of the verb ” to denote”) indicates a meaning that is objective and whose meaning is explicitly expressed. In this article you will find denotation examples.
It is the opposite of connotation, which refers to expressions that have a figurative or a double meaning.
While denotation is interpreted in the same way for all receivers, connotation requires interpretation: each receiver can make their own reading of it because it is a symbolic meaning.
Explanation of Denotation
Languages are instruments of human communication loaded with semantic content, reproduced, and represented phonetically and phonologically. Thus, this communication can occur to accomplish different purposes from context to context, and for that, the language offers some tools to the speakers. In this regard, language takes forms according to the purpose of the text or speech. Therefore, denotation is one of the ways defined by grammar as the linguistic effect in which the word maintains a direct and objective relationship with the meaning it expresses. In other words, it is about the proper meaning of language, enabling precise information, which avoids the double meaning.
In the use of language, speakers make lexical choices, this means that when elaborating a sentence, a speech, or a text, we choose the words according to the meaning they will express in that context. These choices are also related to some user brands, such as the region of origin, age, gender, among other characteristics that can be identified through discourse. However, in the denotative use of language, the lexical choices made by the subject do not offer much evidence about them, since the denotative sense explores the relationships between the sign, the meaning, and the signifier according to what is described by the dictionaries, not regional variations occurring, for example, or attributing some surprising significance
Next, a series of denoting sentences will be presented, and they will be contrasted with others that contain some of their words, but with a connotative tone:
My cousins adopted a dog they found on the street; I prefer cats because they are more independent pets. /
Juan and María get along like cat and dog, they will surely divorce. (They get along very badly)
I would love to get a tropical fish to put in my new tank /
Acting is her forte. Every time he goes on stage, he handles himself like a fish in water. (He handles himself with ease)
When you leave, don’t forget to turn off the light please /
That girl is a light, she always responds before the rest and correctly. (He is a very intelligent person)
I brought fresh tomatoes from the fifth to prepare a good salad /
I don’t like to ask that teacher anything, she always goes to the tomato side. (Talk about anything)
I find the fried chicken very heavy; I prefer it roasted or baked /
He sat on the chair and was fried; I hadn’t slept well for days. (Fell fast asleep)
In the show we saw in the aquarium there was a dolphin named Flipper. /
For the next elections, they want to nominate a dolphin of the current president (He is a very faithful and close person)
It seems to me that the stage is not sufficiently illuminated for the play. /
He is enlightened, everyone knows it and that is why he comes to ask for advice. (He is a wise person)
I like this room because the sun shines in the morning. /
That girl is a sun. I’m going to ask her to marry me. (He is a person who turns out to be a source of joy for others).
In the zoo, there is a lion that they brought from the African savannah. /
He fought like a lion; he deserves it. (He fought hard for something)
Denotative language is used to express things as they are so that they can be understood simply and clearly, without the intention of generating symbolism or meta-messages.
This language is generally used in non-literary fields, such as the informative (newspapers, radio, oral communication), the academic or the professional.
When someone expresses himself using denotative language, the possibility of double reading is canceled, since the message is univocal.
Examples of denotative language
- The show starts at 9 pm.
- I’ll buy the blue car that I showed you yesterday.
- The task consists of answering the five questions of the questionnaire delivered.
- The unionists called for a 48-hour strike for next Thursday.
- Super gasoline increased 4%.
- The open vowels are ‘a’, ‘e’ and ‘o’; the closed ones, ‘i’ and ‘u’.
- I work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Closed for vacations.
- I don’t know that man.
- I need a white sheet.