Expressives are expressions of thoughts and emotions towards a certain circumstance or proposition. This includes gratitude, hesitation, doubt, apology, and welcome. For instance, “Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone to help me,” is an example of an expressive that connotes gratitude, while, “I’m sorry for hurting you,” is an expressive that connotes apology.
While these may seem rather obvious, expressives also venture into more complicated territory such as, “I wish the weather was more bright and lively, as it puts a damper on my emotions;” and “I hoped that the Christians in this day and age were more active in making disciples and going to the nations” to communicate deeper emotions and moods.
Religious or structural affiliation also falls under expressive. For example, “I am a Mason as I identify with their community” and saying “I believe in God” are expressives. I believe in God is considered an expressive and not so much assertive as its goal is
simply to communicate one’s own faith and not necessarily with
the intent to assert one’s faith.
The Psalms is full of expressives, as it is well-known to contain poems and songs of David’s emotions, including joy and utter sorrow. Here, we can see the complexity of David’s emotions as he goes from utter despair to reinforcing faith:
My God, my God, why have you deserted me? Why do you seem so far away when I need you to save me?
Why do you seem so far away that you can’t hear my groans?
My God, I cry out in the daytime. But you don’t answer. I cry out at night. But you don’t let me sleep.
But you rule from your throne as the Holy One. You are the God Israel praises.
Our people of long ago put their trust in you. They trusted in you, and you saved them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you, and you didn’t let them down. (Psalm 22:1-5)
While in this following passage, we recognize the fullness of joy that David has, praising the Lord endlessly:
Come and see what God has done.
See what wonderful things he has done for people!
He turned the Red Sea into dry land.
The people of Israel passed through the waters on foot.
Come, let us be full of joy because of what he did.
He rules by his power forever.
His eyes watch the nations.
Let no one who refuses to obey him rise up against him.
Praise our God, all you nations.
Let the sound of the praise you give him be heard.
He has kept us alive.
He has kept our feet from slipping. (Psalm 66:5-9)
We all know how the range of human emotion is far and wide, and as such it is important for us to be able to know how to utter expressives that help others understand how we feel, especially when we need their help.
As we explore speech acts even more in the chapters to come, it would help for us to be aware of these things and learn to recognize how they apply in our relationships with God.
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