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Poetic and Highly Literary Words

Poetic words are mostly archaic or very rarely used highly literary words which aim at producing an elevated effect. Poetic words and expressions are called upon to sustain the special elevated atmosphere of poetry. This may be said to be the main function of poetic words.

V. V. Vinogradov gives the following properties of poetic words: poetic words and images veil the reality, stylizing it according to the established literary norms and canons. A word is torn away from its referent.

Poetical tradition has kept alive such archaic words and forms as yclept (p. p. of the old verb clipian—to call, name); quoth (p. t. of cweð-an — to speak); eftsoons (eftsona,— again, soon after), thee (you) which are used even by modern ballad-mongers.

Poetical words in an ordinary environment may also have a satirical function, showing them as conventional metaphors and stereotyped poetical expressions.

Poetical words and word-combinations can be likened to terms in that they do not easily yield to polysemy. They evoke emotive meanings. They colour the utterance with a certain air of loftiness, but generally fail to produce a genuine feeling of delight: through constant repetition they gradually become hackneyed for the purpose, too stale. And that is the reason that the excessive use of poeticisms at present calls forth protest and derision towards those who favour this conventional device. The use of poetic words does not as a rule create the atmosphere of poetry in the true sense; it is a substitute for real art.

) Archaic, Obsolescent and Obsolete Words

The word-stock of a language is in an increasing state of change. Words change their meaning and sometimes drop out of the language altogether. New words spring up and replace the old ones. Some words stay in the language a very long time and do not lose their faculty of gaining new meanings and becoming richer and richer polysemantically. Other words live but a short time and are like bubbles on the surface of water — they disappear leaving no trace of their existence.

We shall distinguish three stages in the aging process of words:

The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. To this category first of all belong morphological forms belonging to the earlier stages in the development of the language. In the English language these are the pronouns thou and its forms thee, thy – ‘your’ and thine - 'yours'; the corresponding verbal ending -est and the verb-forms art, wilt (thou makest, thou wilt); the ending -(e)th instead of -(e)s (he maketh) and the pronoun ye - 'you', used especially when you are speaking to more than one person

The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are still recognized by the English-speaking community: e. g. methinks (=it seems to me); nay (—no). These words are called obsolete.

The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern English, words that were in use in Old English and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e. g. troth (=faith); a losel (=a worthless, lazy fellow).

Both archaic and poetic words overlap and extend beyond the large circle "special literary vocabulary". This indicates that some of the words in these layers do not belong to the present-day English vocabulary.

The border lines between the groups are not distinct. In fact they interpenetrate. It is specially difficult to distinguish between obsolete and obsolescent words.

Another class of words here is historical words, denoting historical phenomena which are no more in use (such as "yeoman", "vassal", falconet"). They never disappear from the language. They have no synonyms, whereas archaic words have been replaced by modern synonyms.

Archaic words are used to create a realistic background to historical novels. They carry a special volume of information adding to the logical aspect of communication. They also appear in the poetic style as special terms and in the style of official documents to maintain the exactness of expression: hereby, aforesaid, therewith. The low predictability of an archaism when it appears in ordinary speech produces the necessary satirical effect.

Archaic words, word-forms and word-combinations are also used to create an elevated effect. Language is specially moulded to suit a solemn occasion: all kinds of stylistic devices are used, and among them is the

use of archaisms.

Stylistic functions of archaic words are based on the temporal perception of events described. Even when used in the terminological aspect, as for instance in law, archaic words will mark the utterance as being connected with something remote and the reader gets the impression that . he is faced with a time-honoured tradition.


Neutral Words.

Neutral words, which form the bulk of the English vocab­ulary, are used in both literary and colloquial language. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. It is the neutral stock of words that is so prolific in the production of new meanings.

The wealth of the neutral stratum of words is often overlooked. This is due to their inconspicuous character. But their faculty for as­suming new meanings and generating new stylistic variants is often quite amazing. This generative power of the neutral words in the Eng­lish language is multiplied by the very nature of the language itself. It has been estimated that most neutral English words are of monosyllabic character, as, in the process of development from Old English to Modern English, most of the parts of speech lost their distinguishing suffixes. This phenomenon has led to the development of conversion as the most productive means of word-building. Word compounding is not so productive as conversion or word derivation, where a new word is formed because of a shift in the part of speech in the first case and by the addition of an affix in the second. Unlike all other groups, the neutral group of words cannot be considered as having a special stylistic colour­ing, whereas both literary and colloquial words have a definite stylistic colouring.


child father fellow go away continue-boy {girl) young girl / begin 1 start

The neutral stratum of words, as the term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a markedly obvious tendency to pass into that layer. The same may be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer: it can very easily pass into the neutral layer. The lines of demarcation between common colloquial and neutral, on the one hand, and common literary and neutral, on the other, are blurred. It is here that the process of inter-penetration of the stylistic strata becomes most apparent.

There is a certain analogy between the interdependence of common literary words and neutral ones, on the one hand, and common collo­quial words and neutral ones, on the other. Both sets can be viewed as being in invariant — variant relations. The neutral vocabulary may be viewed as the invariant of the standard English vocabulary. The stock of words forming the neutral stratum should in this case be regarde3 as an abstraction. The words of this stratum are generally deprived of any concrete associations and refer to the concept more or less directly. Synonyms of neutral words, both colloquial and literary, assume a far greater degree of concreteness. They generally present the same notions not abstractly but as a more or less concrete image, that is, in a form perceptible by the senses. This perceptibility by the senses causes subject­ive evaluations of the notion in question, or a mental image of the con­cept. Sometimes an impact of a definite kind on the reader or hearer is the aim lying behind the choice of a colloquial or a literary word rather than a neutral one.

In the diagram (p. 71), common colloquial vocab­ulary is represented as overlapping into the standard English vocab­ulary and is therefore to be considered part of it. It borders both on the neutral vocabulary and on the special colloquial vocabulary which, as we shall see later, falls out of standard English altogether. Just as common literary words lack homogeneity so do common colloquial words and set expressions. Some of the lexical items belonging to this stratum are close to the non-standard colloquial groups such as jargon-isms, professionalisms, etc. These are on the border-line betwe.en the common colloquial vocabulary and the special colloquial or non-standard vocabulary. Other words approach the neutral bulk of the English vocabulary. Thus, the words teenager (a young girl or young man) and hippie (hippy) (a young person who leads an unordered and unconvention­al life) are colloquial words passing into the neutral vocabulary. They are gradually losing their non-standard character and becoming widely recognized. However, they have not lost their colloquial association and therefore still remain in the colloquial stratum of the English vocabulary. So also are the following words and expressions: take (in 'as I take it'^as I understand); to go for (to be attracted by, like very much, as in "You think she still goes for the guy?"); guy (young man); to be gone on (—to be madly in love with); pro (=a professional, e. g. a professional boxer, tennis-player, etc.).



Date: 2015-12-17; view: 5627

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