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Syntactical Stylistic Devices

Syntax deals with the patterns of word arrangement and formulates rules for correct sentence building. Sometimes a need arises to intensify the utterance and the normative structures are replaced by syntactical stylistic devices.

The English language is characterized by such specific syntactical features as fixed word order. Normative is the following word order in a sentence, presented symbolically: Subject, Predicate, Object, Modifier. Any shift from this word order results in some effect, and can carry stylistic function.


Inversion aims at giving additional logical or emotional stress to the meaning of the utterance. Inversion may be complete – when the predicate is displaced; and partial – with the displacement of secondary members of the sentence. The examples of inversion are:

1. Over everything she thought and thought.

2. Spring began with first flowers, rather cold and shy and wintry.

3. Shameless and fascinating the advertisements were.

4. Weakly she climbed the stairs and opened the door.


Detachment gives a greater significance to a secondary member of a sentence, usually an attribute or an adverbial modifier. Commas, dashes or full stops are used in detachment. (e.g. He looked around, expectant. She was gone. For good). A variant of detachment is called parenthesis (e.g. I know (if only I could forget it) that you killed her).


Parallel constructions. The necessary condition in parallel constructions is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence in close succession.


Chiasmus is based on the repetition of syntactical patterns, but it has reversed order in one of the two utterances (e.g. She rose up and down sat he.

In the days of old men made manners

Manners now make men (Byron)).

Repetition is a SD based on repeating words, word groups or sentences for some stylistic purposes: to draw the attention of the reader to the key word of the utterance, to emphasize the main idea of the sentence. The varieties of repetition are:

a) simple repetition – a repeated use of the same word or sentence one after another;

b) anaphora – the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive clauses or paragraphs;

c) epiphora – the repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences;

d) framing – the initial elements at the end of the utterance or a paragraph;

e) anadiplosis – rhetorical repetition of the words that end the clause at the beginning of the next one (e.g. She was so beautiful, more beautiful than “D”).


Enumeration is a SD by which separate things, properties or actions are brought together forming a chain or grammatically and semantically homogeneous parts of an utterance (e.g. She wasn’t sure of anything any more, of him, herself, their friends, her work, her future).


Suspence is a SD based on the author’s desire to delay giving the reader the most important information. In trying to do so, he puts the less important, subordinate facts and details first withholding the main idea until the end of the sentence. Its function is to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty and expectation (e.g. Two women who were hasting home to scramble husbands’ dinners together – it was five minutes to four – stopped to look at her).


Climax (gradation) is an ascending series of words or utterances in which intensity and significance increase step by step (e.g. Not a dollar – not a penny of my money will I devote to anyone who could be guilty of such a crime. What difference if it rained, hailed, blew, snowed, cyclone? (o’Henry)). There exist:

a) logical climax;

b) emotional climax;

c) quantitative climax.


Antithesis is a balanced, two-step structure in which the antagonistic objects or ideas are presented by dictionary or contextual antonyms (e.g. For many called but few are chosen. His fees were high, his lessons were light (O’Henry). Youth is lovely, age is lonely; Youth is fiery, age is frost (Longfellow)).


Asyndeton is a deliberate avoidance of conjunctions in constructions in which they would normally be used (e.g. the omission of therefore: You are my wife; you are dearer to me than anyone in the world).


Polysyndeton is an intentional repetition of conjunctions, connectives or prepositions in close succession for emphasizing simultaneousness of actions described (e.g. All the inhabitants dress themselves in boating costumes, and come and march, and flirt and smoke and watch the boats).


Gap-sentence-link is a peculiar way of connection, which is mainly found in dialogues and represented speech. Its essence lies in the formal separation of the two parts of the utterance by a full stop (e.g. Nothing says we have to do it now. Or later).


Ellipsis is the omission of a word or words necessary for the complete syntactical construction of a sentence, but not necessary for understanding (e.g. You feel all right? Anything wrong or what?)


Aposiopesis is a sudden and dramatic breaking off of a thought in the middle of a sentence as though the speaker were unwilling or unable to continue (e.g. Oh. I want to help you, Andrew, only – do you really believe – …).


Question-in-the-Narrative is a question asked solely to produce an emotional effect. The answer is either self evident or immediately provided by the questioner (e.g. But if you can’t help yourself, who can? I suppose nobody).


Represented speech. English writers use the following ways of reproducing actual speech:

a) direct speech representing it as it is;

b) indirect speech representing actual speech through the author’s speech;

c) represented speech reproduces the spoken words or thoughts of a character almost directly, but still within the author’s speech (e.g. It was funny to think that in a few hours she would be someone else, someone’s wife… what did that mean? Who would she be then?)


Rhetorical questions are questions that expect no answer. They are asked in order to make a statement rather than to elicit a reply (e.g. If both ways led to terror, and death what good lay in choice?) Simultaneous realization of two meanings – that of a question and that of an assertion – endows the utterance with an emotional charge.


Litotes is a device whereby an affirmation is expressed by denying its contrary. Usually litotes presupposes doublenegation – one through a negative particle (no, not) the other – through a word with negative meaning (e.g. Not hopeless. Not without love).



Date: 2014-12-28; view: 9286

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