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Sound Instrumenting, Graphon. Graphical Means


As it is clear from the title of the chapter, the stylistic use of phonemes and their graphical representation will be viewed here. Dealing with various cases of phonemic and graphemic foregrounding we should not forget the unilateral nature of a phoneme: this language unit helps to differentiate meaningful lexemes but has no meaning of its own. Cf.: while unable to speak about the semantics of [ou], [ju:], we acknowledge their sense-differentiating significance in “sew” [sou] and “sew” [sju:]; or [au], [ou] in “bow” etc.

Still, devoid of denotational or connotational meaning, a phoneme, according to recent studies, has a strong associative and sound-instrumenting power. Well-known are numerous cases of o — the use of words whose sounds imitate those of the signified object or action, such as “hiss”, “bowwow”, “murmur”, “bump”, “grumble”, “sizzle” and many more.

Imitating the sounds of nature, man, inanimate objects, the acoustic form of the word foregrounds the latter, inevitably emphasizing its meaning too. Thus the phonemic structure of the word proves to be important for the creation of expressive and emotive connotations. A message, containing an onomatopoeic word is not limited to transmitting the logical information only, but also supplies the vivid portrayal of the situation described.

Poetry abounds in some specific types of sound-instrumenting, the leading role belonging to alliteration — the repetition of consonants, usually-in the beginning of words, and assonance — the repetition of similar vowels, usually in stressed syllables. They both may produce the effect of euphony (a sense of ease and comfort in pronouncing or hearing) or cacophony (a sense of strain and discomfort in pronouncing or hearing). As an example of the first may serve the famous lines of E. A. Poe:

…silken sad uncertain

rustling of each purple curtain…

An example of the second is provided by the unspeakable combination of sounds found in R. Browning: Nor soul helps flesh now more than flesh helps soul.

To create additional information in a prose discourse sound-instrumenting is seldom used. In contemporary advertising, mass media and, above all, imaginative prose sound is foregrounded mainly through the change of its accepted graphical representation. This intentional violation of the graphical shape of a word (or word combination) used to reflect its authentic pronunciation is called graphon.

Graphons, indicating irregularities or carelessness of pronunciation were occasionally introduced into English novels and journalism as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century and since then have acquired an ever growing frequency of usage, popularity among writers, journalists, advertizers, and a continuously widening scope of functions.

Graphon proved to be an extremely concise but effective means of supplying information about the speaker’s origin, social and educational background, physical or emotional condition, etc. So, when the famous Thackeray’s character — butler Yellowplush — impresses his listeners with the learned words pronouncing them as “sellybrated” (celebrated), “bennyviolent” (benevolent), “illygitmit” (illegitimate), “jewinile” (juvenile), or when the no less famous Mr. Babbitt uses “peerading” (parading), “Eytalians” (Italians), “peepul” (people) — the reader obtains not only the vivid image and the social, cultural, educational characteristics of the personages, but also both Thackeray’s and S. Lewis’ sarcastic attitude to them.

On the other hand, “The b-b-b-b-bas-tud — he seen me c--c-c-c-coming” in R. P. Warren’s Sugar Boy’s speech or “You don’t mean to thay that thith ith your firth time” (B.C.) show the physical defects of the speakers — the stuttering of one and the lisping of the other.

Graphon, thus individualizing the character’s speech, adds to his plausibility, vividness, memorability. At the same time, graphon is very good at conveying the atmosphere of authentic live communication, of the informality of the speech act. Some amalgamated forms, which are the result of strong assimilation, became cliches in contemporary prose dialogue: “gimme” (give me), “lemme” (let me), “gonna” (going to), “gotta” (got to), “coupla” (couple of), “mighta” (might have), “willya” (will you), etc.

This flavour of informality and authenticity brought graphon popularity with advertizers. Big and small eating places invite customers to attend their “Pik-kwik store”, or “The Donut (doughnut) Place”, or the “Rite Bread Shop”, or the “Wok-in Fast Food Restaurant”, etc. The same is true about newspaper, poster and TV advertizing: “Sooper Class Model” cars, “Knee-hi” socks, “Rite Aid” medicines. A recently published book on Cockney was entitled by the authors “The Muwer Tongue”; on the back flaps of big freight-cars one can read “Folio me”, etc. Graphical changes may reflect not only the peculiarities of, pronunciation, but are also used to convey the intensity of the stress, emphasizing and thus foregrounding the stressed words. To such purely graphical means, not involving the violations, we should refer all changes of the type (italics, capitalization), spacing of graphemes (hyphenation, multiplication) and of lines. The latter was widely exercised in Russian poetry by V. Mayakovsky, famous for his “steps” in verse lines, or A. Voznesensky. In English the most often referred to “graphical imagist” v/as E. E. Cummings.

According to the frequency of usage, variability of functions, the first place among graphical means of foregrounding is occupied by italics. Besides italicizing words, to add to their logical or emotive significance, separate syllables and morphemes may also be emphasized by italics (which is highly characteristic of D. Salinger or T. Capote). Intensity of speech (often in commands) is transmitted through the multiplication of a grapheme or capitalization of the word, as in Babbitt’s shriek “Alllll aboarrrrrd”, or in the desperate appeal in A. Huxley’s Brave New World — “Help. Help. HELP.” Hyphenation of a wofa suggests the rhymed or clipped manner in which it is uttered as in the humiliating comment from Fl. O’Connor’s story — “grinning like a chim-pan-zee”.

Summing up the informational options of the graphical arrangement of a word (a line, a discourse), one sees their varied application for recreating the individual and social peculiarities of the speaker, the atmosphere of the communication act — all aimed at revealing and emphasizing the author’s viewpoint




1. What is sound-instrumenting?

2. What cases of sound-instrumenting do you know?

3. What is graphon?

4. What types and functions of graphon do you know?

5. What is achieved by the graphical changes of writing — its type, the spacing of graphemes and lines?

6. Which phono-graphical means are predominantly used in prose and which ones in poetry?




I. Indicate the causes and effects of the following cases of alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia:

 1. Streaked by a quarter moon, the Mediterranean shushed gently into the beach. (I.Sh.)

 2. He swallowed the hint with a gulp and a gasp and a grin. (R. K.)

 3. His wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible. (Sc.F.)

 4. The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, the furrow followed free. (S. C.)

 5. The Italian trio tut-tutted their tongues at me. (T.C.)

 6. “You, lean, long, lanky lath of a lousy bastard!” (O’C.)

 7. To sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock From a cheap and chippy chopper On a big black block. (W.C.)

 8. They all lounged, and loitered, and slunk about, with as little spirit or purpose as the beasts in a menagerie. (D.)

 9. “Luscious, languid and lustful, isn’t she?” “Those are not the correct epithets. She is — or rather was — surly, lustrous and sadistic.” (E.W.)

10. Then, with an enormous, shattering rumble, sludge-puff, sludge-puff, the train came into the station. (A.S.)

11. “Sh-sh.”

“But I am whispering.” This continual shushing annoyed him. (A.H.)

12. Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky. (Ch. R.)

13. Dreadful young creatures — squealing and squawking. (C.)

14. The quick crackling of dry wood aflame cut through the night. (Sl.H.)

15. Here the rain did not fall. It was stopped high above by that roof of green shingles. From there it dripped down slowly, leaf to leaf, or ran down the stems and branches. Despite the heaviness of the downpour which now purred loudly in their ears from just outside, here there was only a low rustle of slow occasional dripping. (J.)


II. Indicate the kind of additional information about the speaker supplied by graphon:

 1. “Hey,” he said, entering the library. “Where’s the heart section?” “The what?”

He had the thickest sort of southern Negro dialect and the only word that came clear to me was the one that sounded like heart. “How do you spell it,” I said.

“Heart, Man, pictures. Drawing books. Where you got them?” “You mean art books? Reproductions?” He took my polysyllabic word for it. “Yea, they’s them.” (Ph. R.)

 2. “It don’t take no nerve to do somepin when there ain’t nothing else you can do. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on — changin’ a little may be — but goin’ right on.” (J. St.)

 3. “And remember, Mon-sewer O’Hayer says you got to straighten up this mess sometime today.” (J.)

 4. “I even heard they demanded sexual liberty. Yes, sir, Sex-You-All liberty.” (J. K.)

 5. “Ye’ve a duty to the public don’tcher know that, a duty to the great English public?” said George reproachfully. “Here, lemme handle this, kiddar,” said Tiger. “Gorra maintain strength, you,” said George. “Ah’m fightin’ fit,” said Tiger. (S. Ch.)

 6. “Oh, that’s it, is it?” said Sam. “I was afeerd, from his manner, that he might ha’ forgotten to take pepper with that ’ere last cowcumber, he et. Set down, sir, ve make no extra charge for the settin’ down, as the king remarked when he blowed up his ministers.” (D.)

 7. “Well, I dunno. I’ll show you summat.” (St.B.)

 8. “De old Foolosopher, like Hickey calls yuh, ain’t yuh?” (O’N.)

 9. “I had a coach with a little seat in fwont with an iwon wail for the dwiver.” (D.)

10. “The Count,” explained the German officer, “expegs you, chentlemen, at eight-dirty.” (Ñ. Í.)

11. Said Kipps one day, “As’e — I should say, ah, has’e... Ye know, I got a lot of difficulty with them two words, which is which.” “Well, “as” is a conjunction, and “has” is a verb.” “I know,” said Kipps, “but when is “has” a conjunction, and when is “as” a verb?” (H. W.)

12. Wilson was a little hurt. “Listen, boy,” he told him. “Ah may not be able to read eve’thin’ so good, but they ain’t a thing Ah can’t do if Ah set mah mind to it.” (N.M.)


III. Think of the causes originating graphon (young age, a physical defect of speech, lack of education, the influence of dialectal norms, affectation, intoxication, carelessness in speech, etc.):

1. He began to render the famous tune “1 lost my heart in an English garden, Just where the roses of Kngland grow” with much feeling:

“Ah-ee last mah-ee hawrt een ahn Angleesh gawrden, Jost whahr thah rawzaz ahv Angland graw.” (H.C.)

2. The stuttering film producer S.S. Sisodia was known as ’Whiwhisky because I’m papa partial to a titi tipple; mamadam, my caca card.’ (S.R.)

3. She mimicked a lisp: “I don’t weally know wevver I’m a good girl. The last thing he’ll do would be to be mixed with a hovvid woman.” (J.Br.)

4. “All the village dogs are no-’count mongrels, Papa says. Fish-gut eaters and no class a-tall; this here dog, he got insteek.” (K.K.)

5. “My daddy’s coming tomorrow on a nairplane.” (S.)

6. After a hum a beautiful Negress sings “Without a song, the dahaywould nehever end.” (U.)

7. “Oh, well, then, you just trot over to the table and make your little mommy a gweat big dwink.” (E.A.)

8. “I allus remember me man sayin’ to me when I passed me scholarship — “You break one o’my winders an’ I’ll skin ye alive.” (St.B.)

9. He spoke with the flat ugly “a” and withered “r” of Boston Irish, and Levi looked up at him and mimicked “All right, I’ll give the caaads a break and staaat playing.” (N.M.)

10. “Whereja get all these pictures?” he said. “Meetcha at the corner. Wuddaya think she’s doing out there?” (S.)

11. “Look at him go. D’javer see him walk home from school? You’re French Canadian, aintcha?” (J.K.)

12. Usually she was implacable in defence of her beloved fragment of the coast and if the summer weekenders grew brazen, -getoutofitsillyoldmoo, itsthesoddingbeach, — she would turn the garden hose remorselessly upon them. (S.R.)

13. The demons of jealousy were sitting on his shoulders and he was screaming out the same old song, wheethehell whothe don’t think you canpull the wool how dare you bitch bitch bitch. (S.R.)


IV. State the function of graphon in captions, posters, advertisements, etc. repeatedly used in American press, TV, roadside advertising:

1. Weather forecast for today: Hi 59, Lo 32, Wind lite.

2. We recommend a Sixty seconds meal: Steak-Umm.

3. Choose the plane with “Finah Than Dinah” on its side.

4. Best jeans for this Jeaneration.

5. Follow our advice: Drinka Pinta Milka Day.

6. Terry’s Floor Fashions: We make ’em — you walk on ’em

7. Our offer is $ 15.00 per WK.

8. Thanx for the purchase.

9. Everybody uses our wunnerful Rackfeed Drills.


V. Analyse the following extract from Artemus Ward:

“Sit down, my fren,” sed the man in black close; “yu miskomprehend me. I meen that the perlitercal ellermunts are orecast with black klouds, 4 boden a friteful storm.”

“Wall,” replide I, “in regard to perlittercal ellerfunts ³ don’t know as how but what they is as good as enny other kind of ellerfunts. But ³ maik bold to say thay is all a ornery set and unpleasant to hav round. They air powerful hevy eaters and take up a right smart chans of room.”

The man in black close rusht up to me and sed, “How dair yu insult my neece, yu horey heded vagabone? Yu base exhibbiter of low wax figgers — you woolf in sheep’s close,” and sow 4th.


VI. State the functions and the type of the following graphical expressive means:

 1. Piglet, sitting in the running Kanga’s pocket, substituting the kidnapped Roo, thinks:

this shall take

“If is I never to

flying really it.” (M.)

 2. Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo We haven’t enough to do-oo-oo. (R. K.)

 3. “Hey,” he said “is it a goddamn cardroom? or a latrine? Attensh — HUT! Da-ress right! DHRESS! (J.)

 4. “When Will’s ma was down here keeping house for him — she used to run in to see me, real often.” (S.L.)

 5. He missed our father very much. He was s-l-a-i-n in North Africa. (S.)

 6. “We’ll teach the children to look at things. Don’t let the world pass you by, I shall tell them. For the sun, I shall say, open your eyes for that laaaarge sun.....” (A. W.)

 7. “Now listen, Ed, stop that, now. I’m desperate. I am desperate, Ed, do you hear?” (Dr.)

 8. “Adieu you, old man, grey. I pity you, and I de-spise you.” (D.)

 9. “ALL our troubles are over, old girl,” he said fondly. “We can put a bit by now for a rainy day.” (S.M.)

10. His voice began on a medium key, and climbed steadily up till it reached a certain point, where it bore with strong emphasis upon the topmost word, and then plunged down as if from a spring board:


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 3282

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