Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Language Uses in English Language Arts Learning - Part 1

English language arts instruction is concerned with all language uses: expressive, pragmatic, and aesthetic. These language uses are not entirely separate; all discourse can be placed on a continuum between purely pragmatic and purely aesthetic language, as shown in the chart that appears on the following page. In one direction, language becomes increasingly pragmatic and increasingly concerned with and shaped by the response of its audience. In the other direction, it becomes increasingly aesthetic, finding ways to evoke or recreate rather than simply describe experience. Pragmatic use of language in its absolute form (for example, instructions on a bottle of medication) aims to be transparent to the broadest audience. Aesthetic use of language in its absolute form (for example, experimental poetry) exploits qualities of language such as sound and pattern, but may invite a variety of different interpretations and responses. Between these extremes, students encounter forms that use language with varying degrees of concern for clarity and for effect. These include texts such as business letters and magazine features produced for pragmatic purposes and texts such as dramas and novels produced primarily for aesthetic purposes.

Although individual texts cannot be categorized definitively according to their place on the pragmatic-expressive-aesthetic continuum of language uses, the terms "aesthetic texts" and "pragmatic texts" denote texts that appear to be produced for aesthetic or pragmatic purposes. A text, however, may be read for a different purpose than that for which it was produced. A political speech (which has a pragmatic purpose) may be read for the pleasure the reader takes in its language and style, and a magazine advertisement may be examined for its use of poetic language. Similarly, a reader may approach an aesthetic text with a pragmatic purpose, for example, to gather information about the period in which it is set.

Continuum of Language Uses

Creating and Producing Texts




Pragmatic language purposes
  • to prompt a decision or action
  • to set up an interaction
  • to inform, instruct, direct, explain, persuade, argue, analyze, or plan
Expressive language purposes
  • to shape or interpret experience for self
  • to rehearse or recall experience for self or others
Aesthetic language purposes
  • to capture and represent experience, feelings, or vision for self or others
  • to create an imagined reality
  • to enlighten, foster understanding and empathy, and bring enjoyment
  • to reflect culture
  • to use language and forms in reactive ways
Pragmatic language
  • is concerned primarily with meaning
  • aims to be clear, direct, and unambiguous
  • assumes a voice that is shaped by audience and purpose
Expressive language
  • is personally expressive and not concerned with conventions
  • assumes a voice that is individual and idiosyncratic, reflecting the producer’s personality and feelings
Aesthetic language
  • is concerned with impact and effect and may call attention to itself
  • works through inference and sensory appeals, such as sound and rhythm
  • may assume a range of voices based on content and purpose

Responding to and Engaging with Texts

The audience for pragmatic text
  • is often specific or known
  • attempts to gain information or alternative viewpoints
  • decides whether to respond by
    • following instructions
    • revising previous understanding
    • modifying opinion
The audience for expressive text
  • is private, r there is no audience
  • may identify with and enjoy the text
  • is not required to respond
The audience for aesthetic text
  • is often unknown to the creator of the text
  • participates through the imagination
  • approaches the text with the purpose of
    • deriving aesthetic pleasure from the text
    • own experience and understanding

Distinguishing between pragmatic and aesthetic uses of language is a way of thinking about the purposes of a speaker, writer, or producer, or an audience, rather than a way of classifying texts. The purposes of the speaker, writer, or producer, as well as the purposes of the audience, contribute to the meaning derived from a text.

The continuum of language uses represented on the previous page describes

  • the range of language purposes at play when texts are produced
  • the range of language purposes with which audiences may listen to, read, or view texts

Note that an audience may use a text for purposes other than those for which it was produced and that the audience’s purpose may change in the course of listening, viewing, and representing

Three English Language Arts Curricula

Differentiating between pragmatic and aesthetic language uses in language arts learning is important for several reasons:

  • Identifying the purpose of a text enables students to approach it with appropriate expectations as listeners, readers, or viewers (e.g., Am I coming to this poem looking for information or for an expression of feeling or sensation with which I can relate? Is this narrative told to entertain me or to persuade me of something?).
  • Knowing various language uses enables students to focus their efforts appropriately to create the effects they intend as speakers, writers, and producers.

To enable students to explore their interest in a particular language use, Senior 3 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes (1999) identifies three sets of specific student learning outcomes, one set for each curriculum: Comprehensive Focus, Literary Focus, and Transactional Focus. Each requires students to produce and read texts from the full range of the language continuum:

  • Senior 3 English Language Arts: Comprehensive Focus (30S)
    These student learning outcomes identify the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes students demonstrate in the Comprehensive Focus, which addresses pragmatic and aesthetic purposes and texts in approximate balance.
  • Senior 3 English Language Arts: Literary Focus (30S)
    These student learning outcomes identify the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes students demonstrate in the Literary Focus, which emphasizes aesthetic purposes and texts. Texts read and produced are approximately 70 percent aesthetic and 30 percent pragmatic in purpose.
  • Senior 3 English Language Arts: Transactional Focus (30S)
    These student learning outcomes identify the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes students demonstrate in the Transactional Focus, which emphasizes pragmatic purposes and texts. Texts read are approximately 70 percent pragmatic and 30 percent aesthetic in purpose. Texts produced are pragmatic in purpose.

Language Uses in ELA Learning - Part 2


Implementation Overview: Senior 3