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Lecture 8. Theme: Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices


1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices:

a) Onomatopoeia;

b) Alliteration;

c) Rhyme;

d) Rhythm.

2. Interaction of different types of lexical meaning:

a) Interaction of dictionary and contextual logical meanings: metaphor,
metonomy, irony;

b) Interaction of primary and derivative logical meanings: polysemy,
zeugma and pun;

c) Interaction of logical and emotive meanings: interjections and
exclamatory words, the epithet, oxymoron;

d) interaction of logical and nominal meanings.

3. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:

a) simile;

b) periphrasis;

c) euphemism;

d) hyperbole.

4. Compositional patterns of syntactical arrangement:

a) stylistic inversion;

b) detached constructions;

c) parallel construction;

d) repetition;

e) enumeration;

f) suspense;

g) climax;
h) antithesis.

Recommended literature:

1. Galperin I.R. Stylistics. -M, 1971 -pp. 118-132, 136-175, 202-226.

2. .. . ., 1958.

1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature (wind, sea, thunder, etc), by things (machines or tools etc), by people (sighing, laughter, patter of feet, etc) and by animals.

There are two varieties of onomatopoeia: direct and indirect. Direct onomatopoeia is contained in words that imitate natural sounds, as ding-dong, buzz, hang, cuckoo, mew, ping-pong, roar and the like.

Indirect onomatopoeia is a combination of sounds the aim of which is to make the sound of the utterance an echo of its sense. It is sometimes called "echo-writing". An example is:

'And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain' (E.A.Poe), where the repetition of the sound [s] actually produces the sound of the rustling of the curtain.


Alliteration is a phonetic stylistic device which aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance. The essence of this device lies in the repetition of similar sounds, in particular consonant sounds, in close succession, particularly at the beginning of successive words:

"The possessive instinct never stands still. Through florescence and feud, frost and fires it follows the laws of progression". (J.Galsworthy)

Alliteration is generally regarded as a musical accompaniment of the author's idea, supporting it with some vague emotional atmosphere which each reader interprets for himself.


Rhyme is the repetition of identical or similar terminal sound combinations of words.

Rhyming words are generally placed at a regular distance from each other. In verse they are usually placed at the end of the corresponding lines.

Identity and particularly similarity of sound combinations may be relative. For instance, we distinguish between full rhymes and incomplete rhymes. The full rhyme presupposes identity of the vowel sound and the following consonant sounds in a stressed syllable, as in might, right; needless, heedless.

Incomplete rhymes present a greater variety. They can be divided into two main groups: vowel rhymes and consonant rhymes. In vowel-rhymes the vowels of the syllables in corresponding words are identical, but the consonants may be different as in flesh-fresh-press. Consonant rhymes, on the contrary, show concordance in consonants and disparity in vowels, as in worth-forth; tale-tool-Treble-trouble; flung-long.

Compound rhyme may be set against what is called eye-rhyme, where the letters and not the sounds are identical, as in love - prove, flood - brood, have -grave.


Rhythm exists in all spheres of human activity and assumes multifarious forms. Rhythm in language necessarily demands oppositions that alternate: long, short; stressed, unstressed; high, low and other contrasting segments of speech.

2. Interaction of different types of lexical meaning

Words in a context may acquire additional lexical meanings not fixed in dictionaries, what we have called contextual meanings. The latter may sometimes deviate from the dictionary meaning to such a degree that the new meaning even becomes the opposite of the primary meaning.

What is known in linguistics as transferred meaning is practically the interrelation between two types of lexical meaning: dictionary and contextual. The contextual meaning will always depend on the dictionary (logical) meaning to a greater or lesser extent. When the deviation from the acknowledged meaning is carried to a degree that it causes an unexpected turn in the recognized logical meanings, we register a stylistic device.

a) interaction of dictionary and contextual logical meanings

The relation between the dictionary and contextual logical meanings may be maintained along different lines: on the principle of affinity, on that of proximity, or symbol - referent relations, or on opposition. Thus the stylistic device based on the first principle is metaphor, on the second, metonymy and on the third, irony.

A metaphor is a relation between the dictionary and contextual logical meanings based on the affinity or similarity of certain properties or features of the two corresponding concepts.

The metaphor is a well-known semantic way of building new meanings and new words.

The metaphor, like all stylistic devices can be classified according to their degree of unexpectedness. Thus metaphors which are absolutely unexpected, i.e., are quite unpredictable, are called genuine metaphors. Those which are commonly used in speech and therefore are sometimes even fixed in dictionaries as expressive means of language are t r t e metaphors, or dead metaphors. Their predictability therefore is apparent. Genuine metaphors are regarded as belonging to language-in-action, i.e., speech metaphors; trite metaphors belong to the language-as-a-system, i.e. language proper, and are usually fixed in dictionaries as units of the language. Here are some examples of metaphors that are considered trite: a ray of hope, floods of tears, a storm of indignation, & flight of fancy, a shadow of a smile and the like.

The metaphor is one of the most powerful means of creating images. This is its main function. Genuine metaphors are mostly to be found in poetry and emotive prose. Trite metaphors are generally used as expressive means in newspaper articles, in oratorical style and even in scientific language.

There is constant interaction between genuine and trite metaphors. Genuine metaphors, if they are good and can stand the test of time, may, through frequent repetition, become trite and consequently easily predictable. Trite metaphors may regain their freshness through the process of prolongation of the metaphor.

Metonymy is based on a different type of relation between the dictionary and contextual meanings, a relation based not on affinity, but on some kind of association connecting the two concepts which these meanings represent.

Thus the word crown may stand for 'king or queen', cup or glass for 'the drink it contains'.

Metonymy used in language-in-action or speech, i.e. contextual met ny my, is genuine metonymy and reveals a quite unexpected substitution of one word for another, or even of one concept for another, on the ground of some strong impression produced by a chance feature of the thing.

Many attempts have been made to pinpoint the types of relation which metonymy is based on. Among them the following are most common:

1. a concrete thing used instead of an abstract notion. In this case the thing
becomes a symbol of the notion, as in

"The camp, the pulpit and the law For rich men's sons are free." (Shelley)

2. The container instead of the thing contained: The hall applauded.

3. The relation of proximity, as in:

"The round game table was boisterous and happy." (Dickens)

4. The material instead of the thing made of it, as in:
"The marble spoke."

5. The instrument which the doer uses in performing the action instead of the
action or the doer himself, as in:

"Well, Mr. Weller, says the gentleman, you're a very good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know." (Dickens)

"As the sword is the worst argument that can be used, so should it be the last." (Byron)

The list is in no way complete. There are many other types of relations which may serve as a basis for metonymy.

Irony is a stylistic device also based on the simultaneous realization of two logical meanings - dictionary and contextual, but the two meanings stand in opposition to each other. Thus in the sentence:

"It must be delightful to find oneself in a foreign country without a penny in one's pocket."

the italicized word acquires a meaning quite the opposite to its primary dictionary meaning, that is 'unpleasant', 'not delightful'. The word containing the irony is strongly marked by intonation.

Irony must not be confused with humour, although they have very much in common. Humour always causes laughter. But the function of irony is not confined

to producing a humourous effect. It rather expresses a feeling of irritation, displeasure, pity or regret. Irony is generally used to convey a negative meaning. Therefore only positive concepts may be used in their logical dictionary meanings. The contextual meaning always conveys the negation of the positive concepts embodied in the dictionary meaning.

b) interaction of primary and derivative logical meanings:


Derivative logical meanings have a peculiar property, they always retain some semantic ties with the primary meaning and are strongly associated with it. Most of the derivative logical meanings, when fixed in dictionaries, are usually shown with the words they are connected with and are therefore frequently referred to as bound logical meanings. The primary and derivative meanings are sometimes called free and bound meanings respectively, though some of the derivative meanings are not bound in present-day English.

Polysemy is a generic term the use of which must be confined to lexicology as an aspect of the science of language. In actual speech polysemy vanishes unless it is deliberately retained for certain stylistic purposes. A context that does not seek to produce any particular stylistic effect generally materialized one definite meaning. That is why we state that polysemy vanishes in speech, or language-inaction.

Let us analyse the following examples where the key-words are intentionally made to reveal two or more meanings:

"Then hate me if thou wilt, if ever now." (Shakespeare)

The verb 'hate' here materializes several meanings. This becomes apparent when one reads sonnet 90 to the end and compares the meaning of this word with other verbs used synonymously. The principal meanings of this word are: 'dislike', 'stop loving', 'become indifferent to', 'feel aversion for', etc.

Zeugma and Pun

There are special stylistic devices which make a word materialize two distinct dictionary meanings. They are zeugma and the pun.

Zeugma is the use of a word in the same grammatical but different semantic relations to two adjacent words in the context, the semantic relations being on the one hand literal, and on the other, transferred.

"Dora, plunging at once into privileged intimacy and into the middle of the room ". (B. Shaw)

This stylistic device is particularly favoured in English emotive prose and in poetry.

The pun is another stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase. It is difficult to draw a hard and fast distinction between zeugma and the pun. The only reliable distinguishing feature is a structural one: zeugma is the realization of two meanings with the help of a verb which is made to refer to different subjects or objects (direct or indirect). The pun is more independent. Like any other stylistic device, it must depend on a context.

But the context may be of a more expanded character, sometimes even as large as a whole work of emotive prose. Thus the title of one of Oscar Wilde's plays, "The Importance of Being Earnest" has a pun in it, inasmuch as the name of the hero and the adjective meaning 'seriously-minded' are both present in our mind.

c) Interaction of logical and emotive meanings

The emotive meaning or emotional colouring (contextual emotive meaning) of a word plays a considerable role in stylistics. Both words and constructions of an emotional character have a stylistic significance only when they are set against the non-emotional. Thus, for instance, interjections, which are erroneously referred to as parts of speech are, in fact, signals of emotional tension. They must be regarded as expressive means of the language and as such may be effectively used as stylistic devices in the proper context.

Interjections and Exclamatory Words

Interjections are words we use when we express our feelings strongly and which may be said to exist in language as conventional symbols of human emotions.

Interjections can be divided into primary and derivative. Primary interjection are- generally devoid of any logical meaning. Oh! Ah! Bah! Pooh! Gosh! Hush! Alas! are primary interjections, though some of them once had logical meaning. 'Heavens!', 'good gracious!', 'God!', 'Come on!', 'Look here!' and many others of this kind are not interjections as such; a better name for them would be exclamatory words generally used as interjections, i.e. their function is that of the interjection.

It must be noted that some adjectives and adverbs can also take on the function of interjections - for example, such words as terrible!, awful!, great!, wonderful!, fine! and the like.

Interjections like other words in the English vocabulary bear features which mark them as bookish, neutral or colloquial. Thus oh, ah, Bah, and the like are neutral; alas, egad, Lo, Hark are bookish; gosh, why, well are colloquial.

The Epithet

The epithet is a stylistic device based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence, used to characterize an object and pointing out to the reader, and frequently imposing on him, some of the properties of features of the object with the aim of giving an individual perception and evaluation of these features and properties. The epithet is markedly subjective and evaluative. The logical attribute is purely objective, non-evaluating. Thus in green meadows, white snow, round table, blue skies and the like, the adjectives are more logical attributes than epithets. But in wild wind, loud ocean, heart-burning smile, the adjectives do not point to inherent qualities of the objects described. They are subjectively evaluative.

The epithet makes a strong impact on the reader, so much so, that the reader unwittingly begins to see and evaluate things as the writer wants him to.

Epithets may be classified from different standpoints: semantic and structural. Semantically, epithets may be divided into two groups: those associated with the noun following and those unassociated with it.

Associated epithets are those which point to a feature which is essential to the objects they describe: the idea expressed in the epithet is to a certain extent inherent in the concept of the object. The associated epithet immediately refers the mind to the concept in question due to some actual quality of the object it is attached to, for instance 'darkforest', 'careful attention', 'fantastic terrors', etc.

Unassociated epithet are attributes used to characterize the object by adding a feature not inherent in it, i.e., a feature which may be so unexpected as to strike the reader by its novelty, as for instance, 'heart-burning smile', 'voiceless sands', etc. It may seem strange, unusual, or even accidental.

The process of strengthening the connection between the epithet and the noun may sometimes go so far as to build a specific unit which does not lose its poetic flavour. Such epithets are called fixed and are mostly used in ballads and folk songs: 'true love', 'dar forest', 'green wood', 'good ship'.

Structurally, epithets can be viewed from the angle of a) composition and b) distribution.

From the point of view of their compositional structure epithets may be divided into simple, compound and phrase epithets. Simple epithets are ordinary adjectives. Compound epithets are built like compound adjectives: 'heart-burning sigh', 'cloud-shapen giant', 'mischief-making monkey'.

The tendency to cram into one language unit as much information as possible has led to new compositional models for epithets which are called phrase epithets. A phrase and even a whole sentence may become an epithet if the main formal requirement of the epithet is maintained - its attributive use. But unlike simple and compound epithets, which may have pre- or post-position, phrase epithets are always placed before the nouns they refer to. For example:

"It is this do-it-yourself, go-it-alone attitude that has thus far held back real development of the Middle East's river resources."

"Personally I detest her smug, mystery-making, come-hither-but-go-away-again-because-butter-wouldn 't-melt-in-my-mouth expression."

Another structural variety of the epithet is composed of two nouns linked in an o/-phrase: 'a devil of a job', ' the shadow of a smile'.

From the point of view of the distribution of the epithets in the sentence, the first model to be pointed out is the string of epithets. For example:

"Such was the background of the wonderful, cruel, enchanting, bewildering, fatal, great city."

Another distributional model is the transferred epithet. Transferred epithets are ordinary logical attributes generally describing the state of a human being, but made to refer to an inanimate object, for example: sick chamber, sleepless pillow, restless pace, unbreakfasted morning.


Oxymoron is a combination of two words (mostly an adjective and a noun or an adverb with an adjective) in which the meanings of the two clash, being opposite in sense, for example:

How skyscraper', 'sweet sorrow', 'pleasantly ugly face', 'horribly beautiful'.

e) Interaction of logical and nominal meanings: Antonomasia

The interplay between logical and nominal meanings of a word is called antonomasia. Here is an example of genuine antonomasia.

"Society is now one polished horde,

Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored."

Antonomasia is intended to point out the leading, most characteristic feature of a person or event, at the same time pinning this leading trait as a proper name to the person or event concerned. Antonomasia is a much favoured device in the belles-lettres style.

In Russian literature this device is employed by many of classic writers. It will suffice to mention such names as Molchalin, Korobochka and Sobakevich to illustrate this efficient device for characterizing literary heroes.

The use of antonomasia is now not confined to the belles-lettres style. It is often found in publicistic style, that is in magazine and newspaper articles, in essays and also in military language.

3. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:

In the third group of stylistic devices we find that one of the qualities of the object in question is made to sound essential.


The intensification of some feature of the concept in question is realized in a device called simile. Ordinary comparison and simile must not be confused. Comparison means weighing two objects belonging to one class of things with the purpose of establishing the degree of their sameness or difference. To use a simile is to characterize one object by bringing it into contact with another object belonging to an entirely different class of things. Comparison takes into consideration all the properties of the two objects, stressing the one that is compared. Simile excludes all the properties of the two objects except one which is made common to them. For example, 'The boy seems to be as clever as his mother' is ordinary comparison. 'Boy' and 'mother' belong to the same class of objects - human being - and only one quality is being stressed to find the resemblance. But in the sentence: "Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare," (Byron), we have a simile. "Maidens' and 'moth' belong to heterogeneous classes of objects and Byron has found the concept 'moth' to indicate one of the secondary features of the concept 'maiden', i.e., to be easily lured. Of the two concepts brought together in the simile - one characterized {maidens), and the other

characterizing (moth) - the feature intensified will be more inherent in the latter than in the former.

The properties of an object may be viewed from different angles, for example, its state, its actions, manner, etc. Accordingly, similes may be based on adjective-attributes, adverb-modifiers, verb-predicates, etc.

Similes have formal elements in their structure: connective words such as like, as, such as, as if, seem.


Periphrasis is the re-naming of an object by a phrase that brings out some particular feature of the object. Here are some examples of well-known dictionary periphrases:

the cap and gown ('student body'); a gentleman of the long robe ('a lawyer'); the fair sex ('women'); my better half {'my wife').

Stylistic periphrasis can also be divided into logical and figurative. Logical periphrasis is based on one of the inherent properties or perhaps a passing feature of the object described, as in instruments of destruction = 'pistols'; the most pardonable of human weaknesses = 'love'. Figurative periphrasis is based either on metaphor or on metonymy, the key-word of the collocation being the word used figuratively as in 'the punctual servant of all work' = the sun; 'to tie the knot' = to marry.

Date: 2015-01-02; view: 3092

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