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Phonetic Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices


ONOMOTOPOEIA is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature (wind, sea, thunder, etc.), by things (machines and tools), by people (singing, laughter, patter of feet, etc.) and by animals. Combinations of speech sounds of this type will inevitably be associated with whatever produces the natural sound.

There are two types of onomatopoeia [4, 124]:

· Direct (which displays itself in words imitating natural sounds) The degree of imitation may be different. Some words at once remind us of things producing sounds, others need our efforts to be decoded.

E.g.ding-dong; buzz; bang, cuckoo; mew, etc.

· Indirect (is formed by sounds which make the utterance an echo of its sense). It reqires the mention of the thing which is the source of the sound.

E.g. And the silken, sad, unsertain rustling of each purple curtain (E.A. Poe) [45]


ALLITERATIONis a phonetic stylistic device which aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance.. The essense of this SD lies in the repetition of similar sounds (consonant sounds in particular) in close succession [4, 126].

E.g. Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. (E.A. Poe) [45]


RHYMEis 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.

Rhyme may be of two types:

· Full rhymes (presupposes identity of the vowel sound and the following consonant sounds in a stressed syllable).

E.g. might – right; needles – heedles, etc [4]

· Incomplete rhymes, which may be further divided into:

A) vowel rhymes (the vowels in corresponding words are identical, but the consonants may be different)

E.g. flesh – fresh – press [4]

B) consonant rhymes (consonants are identical, but vowels are different)

E.g. worth – forth; tale – tool; Treble – trouble [4]


Modifications of rhyming sometimes go so far as to make one word rhyme with a combination of words. Such rhymes are called compound or broken. The peculiarity of this type is that the combination of words is made to sound like one word.

E.g. bottom – forgot'em – shot him [4]

Another modification of compound rhyme is eye-rhyme, where the letters and not the sounds are identical.

E.g. love – prove; flood – brood [4]

According to the way the rhymes are arranged within the stanza, certain models have crystallized [4, 128-129]:

· couplets – when the last words of two successive lines are rhymed. This is commonly marked aa

E.g. In the southern clime,

Where the summer's prime

Never fades away,

Lovely Lyca lay. /W. Blake/ [2]

· triple rhymes – aaa

E.g. Here the sledges with the bells –

Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells! /Poe/ [45]

· cross rhymes – abab

E.g. Piping down the valleys wild,

Piping song of pleasant glee,

On a cloud I saw a child,

And he laughing said to me. /W. Blake/ [2]

· framing or ring rhymes – abba

E.g. Exhales on high;

The Sun is freed from fears,

And with soft grateful tears

Ascends the sky. /W. Blake/ [2]

· internal rhymes – the rhyming words are placed not at the end of the lines, but within the lines

E.g. I bring fresh showersfor the thirsting flowers. (Shelley) [4]

Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary. (Poe) [45]


RHYTHM exists in all spheres of human activity and has various forms. It is a deliberate arrangement of speech into regularly recurring units intended to be grasped as a definite periodicity which makes rhythm a SD. Rhythm, therefore, is the main factor which brings order into the utterance. Rhythm reveals itself most conspicuously in music, dance and verse [4].

Rhythm may also be very important in prose, bringing either speed or monotony to the utterance. In the fragment below the rhythmic arrangement of words shows how fast the sails of the windmill were turning:


E.g. In front of them, the sails of the windmill stuttered. They began to turn slowly, with much clattering and creaking, shedding chunks and splinters of rotten vanes.

The speed of the sails increased.

Around, around, around-around-around, around-aroundaround. It turned like a haunted Ferris wheel in a carnival of the damned. /Dean Koontz Cold Fire/ [34]


Figures of speech


The examination of syntax provides a deeper insight into the stylistic aspect of utterances. I.R. Galperin groups all figures of speech according to:

1. Compositional patterns of syntactic arrangement

· Stylistic inversion

· Detached construction

· Parallel construction

· Chiasmus

· Repetition

· Suspense

· Climax (Gradation)

· Anticlimax

· Antithesis

2. Particular ways of combining parts of the utterance

· Asyndeton

· Polysyndeton

3. Particular use of colloquial constructions

· Ellipsis

· Break-in-the-narrative (Aposiopesis)

· Question-in-the-narrative

· Represented speech

4. Stylistic use of structural meaning

· Rhetorical question

· Litotes


STYLISTIC INVERSION is a figure of speech based on specific word order. It aims at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the surface meaning of the utterance. Therefore a specific intonation pattern is the inevitable element of inversion.

Stylistic inversion in Modern English should not be regarded as violation of Standard English. It is only a practical realization of what is potential in the language itself [4, p. 204].

The following patterns of stylistic inversion are most frequently met in both English prose and poetry:

· The object is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

E.g. Talent Mr. Micawber has; capitalMr. Micawber has not. /Dickens/

· The attribute is placed after the word it modifies. This model is often used when there is more than one attribute.

E.g. With finger wearyand worn... /Thomas Hood/ [4]

Once upon a midnight dreary... /E.A.Poe/ [4]

· a) The predicative is placed before the subject.

E.g. A good generous prayerit was. /Mark Twain/ [4]

b) The predicate stands before the link-verb and both are placed before the subject

E.g. Rude am I in my speech... /W.Shakespeare/ [4]

· The adverbial modifier is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

E.g. EagerlyI wished the morrow. /Poe/ [44]

My dearest daughter, at your feetI fall. /Dryden/ [4]

· Both modifier and predicate stand before the subject.

E.g. In went Mr. Pickwick. /Dickens/ [4]

Down dropped the breeze. /Coleridge/ [4]


These five models comprise the most common and recognized models of inversion. However, in Modern English and American poetry there appears a definite tendency to experiment with the word order to the extent, which may render the message unintelligible. In this case there may be an almost unlimited number of rearrangements of the members of the sentence [4, p. 205].


DETACHED CONSTRUCTION is a stylistic device in which one of the secondary parts of a sentence by some specific consideration of the writer is placed so that it seems formally independent of the word it logically refers to.

Detached parts assume a greater degree of significance and are given prominence by intonation. The most common cases of detached constructions are those in which an attribute or an adverbial modifier is placed not with its immediate referent, but in some other position.

E.g. Sir Pitt came in first, very much flushed, and rather unsteady in his gait. /Thackeray/ [4]

The essential quality of detached constructions lies in the fact that the isolated parts represent a kind of independent whole thrust into the sentence which will make the phrase seem independent. But this phrase cannot become a primary member of the sentence [4, p. 206].

A variant of detached construction is parenthesis – a qualifying, explanatory or appositive word, phrase, clause, sentence, etc. which interrupts a syntactic construction without otherwise affecting it [4, p. 207].

E.g. June stood in front, fending off this idle curiosity - a little bit of a thing, as somebody said, ‘all hair and spirit’. /Galsworthy/ [4]

Parenthesis separated from the rest of the utterance by dashes or brackets is called insertion.

E.g. As a matter of fact, he was rather concerned about Marge – dear fat old Marge – who for so many years had been simply content to squat in front of the television and eat. /Jeckie Collins Sinners/ 12]


PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION (or parallelism) is a figure of speech based upon a recurrence of syntactically identical sequences that lexically are completely or partially different [5, p. 58].

E.g. There were, [...], real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same to hold the cakes and toast in. /Dickens/ [4]

Partialparallel arrangement is the repetition of some part of successive sentences or clauses.

E.g.Our senses perceive no extremes. Too much sound deafens us; too much light dazzles us; too great distance or proximity hinders our view. [4]

Complete parallel arrangement, also called balance, is the repetition of identical structures throughout the corresponding sentences [4, p. 208].

E.g. And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,

And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot. (Shakespeare) [4]


CHIASMUS (reversed parallel constructions) is a device based on the repetition of a syntactic pattern of two successive sentences or parts of a sentence, in which the word-order of one of the sentences is inverted as compared to that of the other.

E.g. I kissed her, she kissed back hard and passionate […] /Jonathan Kellerman The Web/ [26]

E.g. She seemed to care about him. And he certainly cared about her. /J. Collins Sinners/ [12]

Chiasmus helps to lay stress on the second part of the utterance, which is opposed in structure. Chiasmus can appear only when there are two successive or coordinate parts of a sentence [4, p. 209].


REPETITION is an EMs based upon a repeated occurrence of one and the same word or word-group [5, p. 59]. It is used when the speaker is under the stress of strong emotion.

E.g. «Stop!» - she cried. «Don’t tell me! I don’t want to hear; I don’t want to hear what you’ve come for. I don’t want to hear.» [4]

Here repetition is not a stylistic device; it is a means by which the excited state of the speaker’s mind is shown. As a figure of speech repetition aims at logical emphasis to fix the attention of the reader on the key-word of the utterance [4, p.211].

E.g. For that was it! Ignorant of the long stealthy march of passion, and of the state of which it had reduced Fleur; ignorant of how Soames had watched her, ignorant of Fleur’s reckless desperation...- ignorant of all this, everybody felt aggrieved. /Galsworthy/ [4]

Repetition is classified according to compositional patterns [4, p. 212; 5, p. 59-60]:

· Anaphora - the repeated word comes at the beginning of two or more sentences. (e.g. above)

· Epiphora - the repeated unit is placed at the end of the consecutive sentences.

E.g. I am exactly the man to be placed in a superior position in such a case as that. I am above the rest of mankind, in such a case as that. I can act with philosophy in such a case as that. /Dickens/ [4]

· Framing - repetition arranged in the form of a frame: the initial parts of a syntactic unit, in most cases of a paragraph, are repeated at the end of it.

E.g. Poor doll’s dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when losing her way on the eternal road and asking guidance. Poor, little doll’s dressmaker. /Dickens/ [4]

· Anadiplosis (or linking, or catch repetition) - the last word or phrase of one part of an utterance is repeated at the beginning of the next part, thus hooking the two parts together.

E.g. Freeman and slave... carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. /Marx, Engels/ [4]

· Chain-repetition - the catch repetition used several times.

E.g. A smile would come into Mr. Pickwick’s face: the smile extended into a laugh: the laugh into a roar, and the roar became general. /Dickens/ [4]

ENUMERATION is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, phenomena, actions, etc. are named one by one so that they produce a chain of homogeneous parts of speech. Enumeration as a SD has no continuous existence in their manifestation. Sometimes the grouping of absolutely heterogeneous notions occur only in isolated instances to meet some peculiar purpose of the writer [4, p. 216].

E.g. There Harold gazed on a work divine,

A blending of all beauties: stream and dells,

Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine

And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells

From grey but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells. (Byron) [4]

There is hardly anything in this enumeration that could be regarded as making some extra impact on the reader: each word is closely connected with the following and the preceding ones, and the effect is what the reader associates with natural scenery. The following example is different [4, p. 217]:

E.g. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and his sole mourner. (Dickens) [4]

The enumeration here is heterogeneous; the legal terms placed in a string together with such words as ‘friend’ and ‘mourner’ result in a kind of clash, a thing typical of any SD.


SUSPENSE is a compositional device which consists in arranging the matter of a communication so that the less important, descriptive, subordinate parts are amasses at the beginning, while the main idea is withheld till the end of the sentence. Thus the reader’s attention is held and his interest kept up:

E.g. Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. Was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw. /Charles Lamb/ [4]

The function of suspense is to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty, expectation and emotional tension. Suspense always requires long stretches of speech or writing, but the main purpose is to prepare the reader for the only logical conclusion of the utterance [4, p. 218].

E.g. in front of the right-hand passage was an awkward-looking, red-carpeted, with an oiled banister, all right angles, no curves – staircase. /J. Kellerman The Web/ [26]


Note: Suspense may function on macro-level as well, affecting the plot development. For instance, in the novel The Singing Stones by Phyllis A. Whitney [57] the authoress resorts to suspense in the last paragraph of the prologue:

E.g. We gathered up our things and started down to the road where Stephen had left his car. No premonition of any sort touched me as we ran to the car, my hand in Stephens. No warning reached me that it would be twelve years before I ever climbed this hill again. /Whitney The Singing Stones/

Naturally we expect to know what happened to the newly wed heroine and why it took her twelve years to come back to the house she was supposed to settle in; but our interest and expectations are kept in suspense, because the next chapter conveys only the events, which took place after that twelve-year period.


CLIMAX (GRADATION) is an arrangement of sentences (or of homogeneous parts of one sentence), in which each next sequence is either emotionally stronger or logically more important [5, p. 61]:

E.g. It was a lovely city, a beautiful city, a fair city, a veritable gem of a city. [4]

E.g. All this was her property, her delight, her life.[4]

A gradual increase in significance may be maintained in three ways [4, p. 220-221]: logical, emotional and quantitative.

Logical climax is based on the relative importance of the component parts considered from the viewpoint of the concepts embodied in them:

E.g. Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him, and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways […]; and then wag their tails, as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”(Dickens Christmas Carol) [4]

Emotional climaxis based on the relative emotional tension produced by words with emotive meaning:

E.g. He was pleased when the child began to adventure across floors on hands and knees; he was gratified, when she managed the trick of balancing herself on two legs; he was delighted when she first said ‘tata’; and he was rejoiced when she recognized him and smiled at him. /Alan Paton/ [4]

Quantitative climax is an increase in the volume of the corresponding concepts:

E.g. They looked at hundreds of houses; they climbed thousands of stairs; they inspected innumerable kitchens. /Maugham/ [4]


ANTICLIMAX is the reverse of climax [5, p. 61]. It is such an arrangement of ideas, in which there is a gradual increase in significance, but the final idea (which the reader expects to be the culminating one, like in climax) is trifling or farcical; i.e. it is a sudden drop from the serious to the ridiculous [4, p. 221]:

E.g.It was absurd, scandalous and beautiful. /Maugham The Voice of the Turtle/ [1]

E.g. I mean, there’re no wild animals or anything else for that matter except the stranglers. /J. Kellerman The Web/ [26]


Note: Climax as well as anticlimax may be part of macro-level structure, causing the plot to develop either climatically or anticlimatically.


ANTITHESIS (or contrast) is a SD consisting of two steps, the lexical meanings of which stand in opposition. [4, p. 222; 5, p. 63]

E.g. A few seabirds hovered above us, but the sky was inert. /J. Kellerman The Web/ [26]

E.g. Lieutenant David Elliot loved Colonel Jack Kreuter. Lieutenant David Elliot betrayed Colonel Jack Kreuter. /Joseph R. Garber Vertical Run/ [17]

ASYNDETON is connection between parts of a sentence or between sentences without any formal sign, when there is a deliberate omission of the connective conjunctions where it is generally expected to be according to the norms of the literary language [4, p. 226].

E.g. Arthur looked at his watch; it was nine o’clock. (Voynich) [4]

E.g. The policeman took no notice of them; his feet were planted apart on the strip of crimson carpet stretched across the pavement; his face, under the helmet, wore the same solid, watching look as theirs. (Galsworthy) [4]


Polysyndeton is a SD of connecting words, sentences or phrases by using connective conjunctions [4, p. 226].

E.g.The heaviest rain, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. (Dickens) [4]


ELLIPSISis an intentional ommision from the utterance of one or more words that can be restored by the context. [4, p. 231; 5, p. 68] It imitates the common features of colloquial language and is characteristic of a dialogue to create the effect of naturalness and authenticity of lively emotional speech.

E.g.See you tomorrow.

E.g. You say that?


APOSIOPESIS (or Break-in-the-Narrative) is a sudden intentional break in the narration or dialogue based on the principle of incomplete representation (i.e. what is not finished is implied) [5, p. 67]. It is graphically marked by dashes and dots.

E.g. You just come home or I'll…[4]

E.g. Good intention but…[4]


QUESTION-IN-THE-NARRATIVE changes the real nature of a question and turns it into a SD. Normally, questions are asked by one person and expected to be answered by another. A question-in-the-narrative is asked and answered by one and the same person, usually the author. It has strong emotional implication and close to a rhetoric question (to which the answer is not really necessary), because here the answer is not known for sure [4, p. 235].

E.g. How long must it go on? How long must we suffer? Where is the end? What is the end? (Norris) [4]

E.g. Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. (Dickens) [4]


REPRESENTED SPEECH is representation of the actual utterance by a second person, usually the author, as if it had been spoken, whereas it has not really been spoken but is only represented in the author's words. There is also a SD, called represented speech, which conveys to the reader the unuttered or inner speech of the character, thus representing his thoughts and feelings.

Thus I.R. Galperin distinguishes between: uttered represented speech – the author's representation of the actual speech, and unuttered or inner represented speech – the representation of the character's thoughts and feelings [4, p. 236].

Uttered represented speech demands that the tense should be switched from the present to the past and that the personal pronouns should be changed from 1st and 2nd person to 3rd person as in indirect speech, but the syntactic strucutre of the utterance does not change [4, p. 238].

E.g. Could he bring a reference from where he now was? He could. /Dreiser/ [4]

E.g. A maid came in now with a blue gown very thick and soft.Could she do anything for Miss Freeland? No, thanks, she could not, only, did she know where Mr. Freeland's room was? /Galsworthy/ [4]

Unuttered or inner represented speech is a psychological phenomenon; it is very fragmentary, incoherent, isolated, and consists of separate units which only hints at the content [4, p. 241].

E.g. An idea had occurred to Soames. His cousin Jolyon was Irene's trustee, the first step would be to go down and see him at Robin Hill. Robin Hill! The odd -–the very odd feeling those words brought back. Robin Hill – the house Bosinney had built for him and Irene – the house they had never lived in – the fatal house! And Jolyon lived there now! H'm! (Galsworthy) [4]

Unlike the uttered represented speech it is usually introduced by verbs of mental perception (think, meditate, feel, occur, wonder, ask, tell oneself, understand, etc)

E.g. Over and over he was asking himself: would she receive him? Would she recognize him? What should he say to her? [4]


RHETORICAL QUESTIONis a specialstylistic device, whose essence consists in reshaping the grammatical meaning of the interrogative sentence. I.e. the question is no longer a question but a statement expressed in the form of an interrogative sentence. Thus there is a simultaneous interplay of two structural meaning: 1) that of the question and 2) that of the statement (either affirmative or negative) [4, p. 244].

E.g. Are these the remedies for a starving and desperate populace? [4]


LITOTESis a stylistic device consisting of a peculiar use of negative constructions. The negation plus noun or adjective serves to establish a positive feature in a person or thing. This positive feature, however, is diminished in quality as compared with a synonymous expression making a straightforward assertion of the positive feature. Lets compare the following two pairs of sentences [4, p. 246]:

E.g. It’s not a bad thing. = It’s a good thing.

E.g. He is no coward. = He is a brave man.

Not bad’ is not equal to ‘good’ although the two constructions are synonymous. The same can be said about the 2nd pair, no coward and ‘a brave man’. In both cases the negative construction is weaker than the affirmative one. Still we cannot say that the two negative constructions produce a lesser effect than the corresponding affirmative ones, just on the contrary. The stylistic effect of litotes depends mainly on intonation.

E.g. He was not without taste. [4]

E.g.It troubled him not a little. [4]

E.g. He found that this was no easy task. [4]


A variant of litotes is a construction with two negations, as in ‘not unlike’, ‘not unpromising’, not displeased’, etc

Litotes is used in different styles of speech, excluding those, which may be called matter-of-fact styles, official style and scientific prose [4, p. 248].



Date: 2016-01-03; view: 1698

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