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Lecture 7. Theme: Stylistics of English


1. General notes on style and stylistics.

2. Expressive means and stylistic devices.

3. Stylistic classification of the English Vocabulary:


a) Neutral, common literary and common colloquial vocabulary;

b) special Literary vocabulary:
1 .Terms;

2.Poetic and highly literary words;

3.archaic words;

4.barbarisms and foreign words;

5.literary coinages (including nonce-words);

c) special colloquial vocabulary:

1. slang;

2. jargonisms

3. professionalisms

4. dialectal words

5. vulgar words

6. colloquial coinages

Recommended literature:

1. Galperin I.R. Stylistics. - M., 1971 - pp. 9-30, 62-118.

2. Гальперин И.Р. Очерки по стилистике английского языка. М., 1958.

1. General notes on style and stylistics.

There is a confusion between the terms style and stylistics. In linguistics the word style is used so widely that it needs interpretation. The majority of linguists who deal with the subject of style agree that the term applies to the following fields of investigation: 1) the aesthetic function of language, 2) expressive means in language, 3) synonymous ways of rendering one and the same idea, 4) emotional colouring in language, 5) a system of special devices called stylistic devices, 6) the splitting of the literary language into separate subsystems called styles, 7) the interrelation between language and thought and 8) the individual manner of an author in making use of language.

A very popular notion among practical linguists, teachers of language, is that style is the technique of expression. In this sense style is generally defined as ability to write clearly, correctly and in a manner calculated to interest the reader.

The term style also signifies a literary genre. Thus we speak of classical style or the style of classicism; realistic style; the style of romanticism and so on.

Finally there is one more important application of the term style. We speak of the different styles of language.

A style of language is a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication. Each style is recognized by the language community as an independent whole. The peculiar choice of language means is primarily dependent on the aim of the communication.

Thus we may distinguish the following styles within the English literary language: 1) the belles-lettres style, 2) the publicistic style, 3) the newspaper style, 4) the scientific prows style, 5) the style of official documents, and presumably some other.

Each style of language is characterized by a number of individual features. Each style can be subdivided into a number of substyles. Among the styles which have been more or less thoroughly investigated are the following:

a. The belles-lettres style. It falls into three varieties: a) poetry proper; b)
emotive prose and c) drama.

b. The style that we have named publicistic comprises the following
substyles: a) speeches (oratory); b) essays; c) articles in journals and

с The newspaper style has also three varieties: a) newspaper headlines; b) brief news items and communiques and c) advertisements.

d. The scientific prose style has two main divisions: the prose style used
in the humanitarian sciences, and that used in the exact sciences.

e. The style of official documents covers a wide range of varying
material which, however, can be reduced to the following groups: a)
language of commercial documents, b) language of diplomatic
documents, c) language of legal documents, d) language of military

A line of demarcation must be drawn between literary stylistics and linguistic stylistics. It is necessary to bear in mind the constant interrelation between the two. Some linguists consider that the subject of linguistic stylistics is confined to the study of the effects of the message, i.e. its impact on the reader or listener. Stylistics in that case is confined to the study of expressions of thought.

The subject of stylistics can be outlined as the study of the nature, functions and structure of stylistic devices, on the one hand, and, on the other, the study of each style of language as classified above, i.e. its aim, its structure, its characteristic features and the effect it produces, as well as its interrelation with other styles of language.

2. Expressive means (EM) and stylistic devices (SD)

All stylistic means of a language can be divided into expressive means (EM), which are used in some specific way, and special devices called stylistic devices (SD).

The expressive means of a language are those phonetic means,
morphological forms, means of word-building, and lexical, phraseological and
syntactical forms, all of which function in the language for emotional or logical
intensification of the utterance. In most cases they have corresponding neutral
synonymous forms. iuc^a т&»

The most powerful expressive means of any language are phonetic. Pitch, melody, stress, pausation, drawling, drawling out certain syllables, whispering, a sing-song manner of speech and other ways of using the voice are more effective than any other means in intensifying the utterance emotionally or logically.

Among the morphological expressive means the use of the Present Indefinite must be mentioned first. In describing some past event the author uses the present tense, thus achieving a more vivid picturisation of what was going on. - Historical Present.

The use of shall in the second and third person may also be regarded as an expressive means. Compare: He shall do it (— I shall make him do it). He has to do it (— It is necessary for him to do it).

Among word-building means we fmd a great many forms which serve to make the utterance more expressive and fresh or to intensify it. The dimirrutive suffixed as -y(ie), -let, e.g. dear - dearie, stream - streamlet, add some emotional colouring to the words.

At the lexical level there are a great many words which due to their inner expressiveness, constitute a special layer. The same can be said of the set expressions of the language. Proverbs and sayings form a considerable number of language units which serve to make speech more emphatic, mainly from the emotional point of view.

Finally at the syntactical level there are many constructions which, being set against synonymous ones, will reveal a certain degree of logical or emotional

emphasis. In English language there are many syntactical patterns which serve to intensify emotional quality.

Stylistics observes not only the nature of an expressive means, but also its potential capacity of becoming a stylistic device.

Stylistic device is a conscious and intentional literary use of some of the facts of the language (including expressive means) in which the most essential features (both structural and semantic) of the language forms are raised to a generalized level and regarded as aiming at the further intensification of the emotional or logical emphasis contained in the corresponding expressive means.

3. Types of lexical meaning.

A number of stylistic devices are based on the peculiar use of lexical meanings. A word is a language sign that expresses a concept by its forms and meanings. By concept is meant an abstract or general idea of some phenomenon of objective reality including the subjective feelings and emotions of human beings. The forms of the word show its relation to the other words in a sentence. The meaning of a word is the means by which the concept is materialized. The word may have a number of meanings.

Three types of meaning can be distinguished: logical, emotive and nominal.

Logical meaning is the precise naming of a feature of the idea, phenomenon or object, the name by which we recognize the whole of the concept (direct meaning or referential meaning).

The potentiality of words can also be noted in regard to emotive meaning. Emotive meaning also materializes a concept in the word, but unlike logical meaning, emotive meaning has reference not directly to things or phenomena of objective reality, but to the feelings and emotions of the speaker towards these things or to his emotions as such.

And finally we come to nominal meaning. There are words which, while expressing concepts, indicate a particular object out of a class. These words are classified in grammars as proper nouns.

4. Stylistic classification of the English vocabulary.

In accordance with the division of language into literary and colloquial, we may represent the whole of the word stock of the English language as being divided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish character. It is this that makes the layer more or less stable, the aspect of the colloquial layer of words is its lively spoken character. It is this that makes it unstable, fleeting.

The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character, that means it is unrestricted in its use. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity.

The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words: 1. common literary; 2. terms and learned words; 3. poetic words; 4. archaic words; 5. barbarisms and foreign words; 6. literary coinages including nonce-words.

The colloquial vocabulary falls into the following groups: 1. common colloquial words; 2. slang; 3. jargonisms; 4. professional words; 5. dialectal words; 6. vulgar words; 7. colloquial coinages.

The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term standard English vocabulary. Other groups in the literary layer are regarded as special literary vocabulary and those in the colloquial layer are regarded as special colloquial (non-literary) vocabulary.

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. 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.

Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech. Literary units stand in opposition to colloquial units.

The following synonyms illustrate the relations that exist between the neutral, literary and colloquial words in the English language.

Colloquial Neutral Literary

kid child infant

daddy father parent

chap fellow associate

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 falls out of standard English altogether.

Special literary vocabulary:

a) Terms.

Terms are generally associated with a definite branch of science and therefore with a series of other terms belonging to that particular branch of science. Terms are characterized by a tendency to be monosemantic. They are mostly and predominantly used in special works dealing with the notions of some branch of science. Therefore it may be said that they belong to the scientific style. But their use is not confined to this style. They may as well appear in other styles - in newspaper style, in publicistic style, in the belles-lettres style and practically in all other existing styles. But their function in this case changes. They no longer fulfil their basic function, that of bearing an exact reference to a given notion or concept. The function of terms, if encountered in other styles, is either to indicate the technical peculiarities of the subject with, or to make some reference to the

occupation of a character whose language would naturally contain special words and expressions.

There is an interesting process going on in the development of any language. With the increase of general education and the expantion of technique to satisfy the ever-growing needs and desires of mankind, many words that were once terms have gradually lost their qualities as terms and have passed into the common literary vocabulary. This process may be called "de-terminization" (radio, television).

A term has a stylistic function when it is used to create an atmosphere or to characterize a person through his calling and his consequent mode of expression. Sometimes terms are used with a satirical function.

b) Poetic and Highly Literary Words

Poetic words are used primarily in poetry. Poetic language has special means of communication, i.e. rhythmical arrangement, some syntactical peculiarities and a certain number of special words.

Poetic words in an ordinary environment may also have a satirical function.

Poetical words and set expressions make the utterance understandable only to a limited number of readers.

c) Archaic Words

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 disappear.

There are 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 той and its forms thee, thy and itiirie; the corresponding verbal ending -est; the ending - (e) th instead of - (e) s and the pronoun ye.

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. nay (- 'no'). These words are called obsolete, і^ч**-*^

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').

Archaic words are primarily used in the creation of a realistic background to historical novels. The function of archaic words and constructions in official documents is terminological in character. They are used here because they help to

maintain that exactness of expression so necessary in this style. Archaic words and particularly archaic forms of words are sometimes used for satirical purposes.

d) Barbarisms and Foreign Words

In the vocabulary of the English language there is a considerable layer of words called barbarisms. These are words of foreign origin which have not entirely been assimilated into the English language. Most of them have corresponding English synonyms; e.g. chic = 'stylish '.

e) Literary Coinages (Including Nonce-words)

Every period in the development of a language produces an enormous number of new words or new meanings of established words. Most of them do not live long. They are not meant to live long. They are coined for use at the moment of speech, and therefore possess a peculiar property - that of temporariness. The given word or meaning holds only in the given context and is meant only to "serve the occasion".

The first type of newly coined words, i.e. those which designate new-born concepts, may be named terminological coinages or terminological neologisms. The second type, i.e. words coined because their creators seek expressive utterance may be named stylistic coinages or stylistic neologisms.

Many new coinages disappear entirely from the language, leaving no mark of their even brief existence. Other literary neologisms leave traces in the vocabulary because they are fixed in the literature of their time. This is not the case with colloquial coinages. These are spontaneous, and due to their linguistic nature, cannot be fixed.

Most of the literary-bookish coinages are built by means of affixation and word compounding.

Another type of neologism is the nonce-word, i.e. a word coined to suit one particular occasion. (/ am wived in Texas, and mother-in-lawed, and uncled, and aunted, and cousined within an inch of my life.).

Special colloquial vocabulary

a) Slang

No one has yet given a more or less satisfactory definition of the term slang. Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English. Slang is represented both as a special vocabulary and as a special language. Slang is much rather a spoken than a literary language. It originates, nearly always, in speech.

The following stylistic layers of words are generally marled as slang:

1. Words which may be classed as thieves' cant, or the jargons of other social
groups and professions, like dirt (- 'money'), dotty (- 'mad'), a barker (= 'a

2. Colloquial words and phrases like for good, to have a hunch, a show (at the
theatre) and the like.

3. Figurative words and phrases are not infrequently regarded as slang and
included in special slang dictionaries, e.g. Scrooge (- 'a mean person'),
blackcoat (= 'a clergyman').

4. Words derived by means of conversion, one of the most productive means of
word-building in present day English, are also sometimes classed as slang,
for example, the noun agent is considered neutral because it has no stylistic
notation, whereas the verb to agent is included in one of the American
dictionaries of slang.

5. Abbreviations of the /яб-type, for example, rep (reputation), cig (cigarette)
ad (advertisement),
as well as of they7w-type (influenza).

6. Set expressions which are generally used in colloquial speech and which are
clearly colloquial, are also marked with the notation slang, e.g., to go in for,
in a way,
and many others.

7. Improprieties of a morphological and syntactical character, e.g., How come,
I says,
double negatives as / don't know nothing and others of this kind.

8. Any new coinage that has not gained recognition and therefore has not yet
been received into standard English is easily branded as slang, leggo (let


Slang is nothing but a deviation from the established norm at the level of the vocabulary of the language.

b) Jargonisms

In the non-literary vocabulary of the English language there is a group of words that are called jargonisms. Jargon is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group. Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. Most of the jargonisms of any language, and of the English language too, are absolutely incomprehensible to those outside the social group which has invented them.

Jargonisms are social in character. They are not regional. In England and in the USA almost any social group of people has its own jargon.

Slang, contrary to jargon, needs no translation. It is not a secret code. It is easily understood by the English-speaking community and is only regarded as something not quite regular. It must also be remembered that both jargon and slang differ from ordinary language mainly in their vocabularies. The structure of the sentences and the morphology of the language remain practically unchanged.

There are hundreds of words, once jargonisms or slang, which have become legitimate members of the English literary language.

There is a common jargon and special professional jargons. Common jargonisms have gradually lost their special quality, which is to promote secrecy and keep outsiders in the dark. It belongs to all social groups and is therefore easily understood by everybody.

c) Professionalisms

Professionalisms, as the term itself signifies, are the words used in a definite trade, profession or calling by people connected by common interests both at work and at home. Professionalisms are correlated to terms. Professionalisms are special words in the non-literary layer of the English vocabulary, whereas terms are a specialized group belonging to the literary layer of words. Like slang words, professionalisms do not aim at secrecy.

Professionalisms are used in emotive prose to depict the natural speech of a character. The skilful use of a professional word will show not only the vocation of a character, but also his education, breeding, environment and sometimes even his psychology.

d) Dialectal Words

Dialectal words are those which in the process of integration of the English national language remained beyond its literary boundaries, and their use is generally confined to a definite locality.

Dialectal words are only to be found in the style of emotive prose, very rarely in other styles.

There is sometimes a difficulty in distinguishing dialectal words from colloquial words. Some dialectal words have become so familiar in good colloquial or standard colloquial English that they are universally accepted as recognized units of the standard colloquial English. To these words belong lass, meaning 'a girl' and lad 'a boy' or a young man'.

Dialectal words fulfil a function of characterization in the literature.

e) Vulgar Words r^u^^ aVv^^1^*
Vulgarisms are defined as expletives or swear-words and obscene words and

expressions. There are different degrees of vulgar words. Some of them, the obscene ones should not even be fixed in common dictionaries. They are euphemistically called "four-letter' words. A lesser degree of vulgarity is presented by expletives, words like damn, bloody, son of the bitch, to hell, and others.

The function of vulgarisms is almost the same as that of interjections, that is to express strong emotions, mainly annoyance, anger and the like. They are not to be found in any style of speech except emotive prose, and here only in the direct speech of the character.

f) Colloquial Coinages

Colloquial coinages (nonce-words), unlike those of a literary-bookish character, are spontaneous and elusive. They are not usually built by means of affixes but are based on certain semantic changes in words that are almost imperceptible to the linguistic observer until the word finds its way into print.

Nonce-coinage appears in all spheres of life.

Date: 2015-01-02; view: 5768

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