Gradient Phenomena and the Language of Aesthetics

17 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020

Date Written: Fall 2008


The art world, like many cultural spheres, uses language in unique and idiosyncratic ways; drawing on assumptions of categorical and community membership and presumed knowledge of certain references, context, and vocabulary. The frame that is this elitist landscape onto which communication is drawn however, functions in a specific albeit elaborate way in that it delivers a projected visual experience by which members of this specific group gain an understanding/knowledge of certain subjective events or sensory phenomena. The chief director of this communication is the art critic/reviewer whose task it is to communicate, to a large audience, the subjective and experiential. The difficulty of this task lies in that this audience is blind to the artwork being described, in that often a picture is not supplied with the text. Given this restricted means of communication, the critic is charged not only with describing a work of art (which is often an instance of the new), but also situating it inside the cultural sphere of the art community with its history and many movements intertwined. This situation, paired with my experience as a member of this community, has led me to ask the question; how does language function as a vehicle for describing experiential phenomena, and what strategies does the art critic use to deliver his/her message effectively to the community at large?

Keywords: Pragmatics, gradient scales, pragmatic scales, presupposition

Suggested Citation

Schartman, Samantha, Gradient Phenomena and the Language of Aesthetics (Fall 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Samantha Schartman (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University ( email )

10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7068
United States
(216)990-4267 (Phone)

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