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FUNCTIONAL STYLES AND NEUTRAL VOCABULARY

The extra-linguistic factors influencing usage and development of language constitute one of the crucial problems of linguistics. They are dealt with in sociolinguistics and linguostylistics. The first, i.e. sociolinguistics, is primarily interested in variations in language according to uses depending on social, educational, sex, age, etc. stratification, in social evaluation of speech habits, in correlation of linguistic facts with the life and attitudes of the speaking community. Linguostylistics studies the correlation of speech situation and linguistic means used by speakers, i.e. stratification according to use and hence ó different functional styles of speech and language. Our concerní in the present chapter is linguostylistics.

In a highly developed language like English or Russian the same idea may be differently expressed in different situations. On various occasions a speaker makes use of different combinations open to him in the vocabulary. Part of the words he uses will be independent of the sphere of communication. There are words equally fit to be used in a lecture, a poem, or when speaking to a child. These are said to be stylistically neutral and constitute the common core of the vocabulary. They are characterized by high frequency and cover the greater portion of every utterance. The rest may consist of stylistically coloured words. Not only does the speakerís entire experience determine the words he knows and uses but also his knowledge of his audience and the relationship in which he stands to them (i.e. the pragmatic aspect of communication) governs his choice of words. He says: perhaps, jolly good and Iíve half a mind to ... when speaking to people he knows well, but probably, very well and / intend to ... in conversation with a stranger.

The English nouns horse, steed, gee-gee have the same denotational meaning in the sense that they all refer to the same animal, but the stylistical colouring is different in each case. Horse is stylistically neutral and may be used in any situation. Steed is dignified and lofty and belongs to poetic diction, while gee-gee is a nursery word neutral in a childís speech, and out of place in adult conversation.

Stylistically coloured, therefore, are words suitable only on certain definite occasions in specific spheres and suggestive of specific conditions of communication. Dictionaries label them as colloquial, familiar, poetical, popular and so on. The classification varies from dictionary to dictionary.


The very term style is open to more than one interpretation. The word is both familiar and ambiguous. "The Oxford English Dictionary" records it in twenty-seven different meanings. Primarily style is a quality of writing; it comes by metonymy from Latin stilus, the name of the writing-rod for scratching letters on wax-covered tablets. It has come to mean the collective characteristics of writing, diction or any artistic expression and the way of presenting things, depending upon the general outlook proper to a person, a school, a period or a genre. One can speak not only of Dickensís or Byronís style, but also of Constableís and Christopher Wrenís, of classical, romantic, impressionistic style in literature, painting and music, of epic or lyrical style and even of style in clothes and hair-do.



The term stylistics for a discipline studying the expressive qualities of language is attested in "The Oxford English Dictionary" from 1882. F. de Saussureís disciple Ch. Bally modelled his ideas of style on a structural conception of language and started that branch of stylistics which has for its stated aim the task of surveying the entire

system of expressive resources available in a particular language.

*

ß 12.2 FUNCTIONAL STYLES AND REGISTERS

Linguistically a functional style may be defined as a system of expressive means peculiar to a specific sphere of communication.

The lexicological treatment of style in the present chapter will be based on the principle of lexical oppositions. Every stylistically coloured word presupposes the possibility of choice, which means that there must exist a neutral synonym to which it is contrasted, e.g. steed : : horse. The basis of the opposition is created by the similarity of denotational meaning, the distinctive feature is the stylistic reference. A stylistic opposition forms part of an extensive correlation of oppositions, because for a style to exist there must be a considerable set of words typical of this style. Therefore stylistical oppositions are proportional oppositions:

It is also possible to consider oppositions between whole sets of words, i.e. oppositions between styles.

The broadest binary division is into formal and informal (also called colloquial) English. The term formal English will be used in what follows to cover those varieties of the English vocabulary (there are also peculiarities of phonetics and grammar, but they do not concern us here) that occur in books and magazines, that we hear from a lecturer, a public speaker, a radio announcer or, possibly, in formal official talk. These types of communication are characteristically reduced to monologues addressed by one person to many, and often prepared in advance. Words are used with precision, the vocabulary is elaborate; it is also generalized ó national, not limited socially or geographically.


Informal vocabulary is used in personal two-way every-day communication. A dialogue is assisted in its explicitness by the meaningful qualities of voice and gesture. The speaker has ample opportunity to know whether he is understood, the listener can always interrupt him and demand additional information, i.e. there is constant feedback. The vocabulary may be determined socially or regionally (dialect).

The opposition of stylistically neutral and stylistically marked words is a binary privative opposition.

The term privative opposition is used to denote an opposition in which the distinctive feature is present in one member and absent in the other. The feature is said to m a r k the opposition. The member characterized by the presence of the distinctive feature is the marked member. The other one is called the u n-marked member. In an equipollent opposition the members differ according to the changes in the distinctive feature.

Another opposition within the stylistically marked words contrasting formal and informal diction is also a privative binary opposition. Further subdivision can be only equipollent. In an adequate classification the definitions of various classes must be based on the same kind of criteria, and so we continue to adhere to spheres of communication.

The stylistically formal part of the vocabulary, chiefly but not exclusively used in written speech, is composed of special terminology (further subdivided according to various specific branches of knowledge and art in which it is used), learned words common to all fields of knowledge, official vocabulary used in documentation and business or political transactions and, lastly, poetic diction including lofty words.

According to some linguists there is also a belles-lettres style, but as literature is not confined to one particular sphere of human experience, different functional styles may be made use of in a literary text. Also the style of one writer is characteristically different from that of another, so that it is literary stylistics and not linguostylistics that has to deal with it.

Many authors abroad prefer the division according to medium into spoken English and written English which is misleading, because in reality the division goes between private and public speech, so that a lecture is much nearer a book in vocabulary than a conversation, although both are spoken.

The informal part is traditionally subdivided into literary colloquial (cultivated speech), familiar colloquial, low colloquial (illiterate speech), argot and slang.

Other terms widely used by English linguists for systematic vocabulary variations according to social context, subject matter and professional activity are register and domain. These include the language of science and law, advertising and newspaper reporting, church worship or casual conversation, etc.

The speakers adapt their utterance to the degree of formality the


situation demands and to subject matter. This ability is referred to as code-switching,


Date: 2016-01-03; view: 1847


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