STYLISTIC CHARACTERISTIC OF THE ENGLISH VOCABULARY
Stylistic Characteristic of the English Vocabulary
Stylistic characteristic of any vocabulary may be given from different points of view.
From the point of view of their stylistic colouring we may represent the English vocabulary as being divided into three main layers:neutral, literary, and colloquial.Neutral words make the main stock of the English vocabulary [e.g., man, house, to speak, green, etc.] The words of neutral layer are generally deprived of any concrete association and refer to the concept more or less directly. They are characterised by high frequency and cover the greater portion of every utterance having no degree of emotiveness. Both neutral and literary layers have their upper and lower ranges and overlap. The lower range of the literary layer approaches the neutral one and has an obvious tendency to pass into that layer. This range is calledcommon literary vocabulary. The same may be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer, or the so-called common colloquial vocabulary. The lines of demarcation between common colloquial and neutral vocabulary on the one hand, and between common literary and neutral, on the other, are blurred. All three mentioned above groups (common literary, neutral, and common colloquial) are headed by the term Standard English Vocabulary. Standard English is the official language of Great Britain, taught at schools and Universities, used by the press, on radio and TV, spoken by educated people. It may be defined as that form of English that is current and literary, recognised as acceptable wherever English is spoken and understood.
The literary layer has a bookish character. Literary words make a characteristic feature of official documents, of poetry, of technical and scientific books, fiction and literary works in high-flown style. Literary words have elevated and solemn colouring. Common literary vocabulary is opposed to the special literary vocabularyconsisting of the following groups: terms, poetic words, archaic words, barbarisms and foreign words, literary coinages including nonce words. Terms are words denoting the notions of science, art, technics [nasal consonants]. Poetic words are not used in English poetry as such but by certain literary schools (classicism, romanticism) at certain historical centuries (mainly in 18th). These words are not only lofty, but also more abstract in meaning than their neutral synonyms [to billow - wave; behold - to see]. Sometimes it is not the word as a whole that is poetic, but only one of its variants [fair; flood]. Poetic words are closely interconnected with archaisms. Archaisms are words that were once in common use but in present day language have become obsolete and are replaced by new words. They have a lofty stylistic colouring and are found in poetry and prose of high-flown style. Sometimes archaisms are used in literature for satirical purposes. Archaisms usually have present-day synonyms [methinks - mean]. The peculiarity of archaic words is that they have become obsolete as linguistic units, but the notions they denote continue to exist. That is why archaisms shouldn’t be mixed up with historical words which denote outdated things and phenomena that have gone out of use, and have no modern synonyms, e.g., names of ancient weapons [spear, goblet]. Barbarisms are words of foreign origin, which have not entirely been assimilated into the English language. They display their foreign origin in pronunciation, spelling, and do not form any English flexion [protégée; cart blanche]. Barbarisms usually have synonyms in Standard English [chagrin - vexation - ðàçäðàæåíèå]. It is very important for stylistic purposes to distinguish between barbarisms (words which have already become fact of English) and foreign words which do not belong to the English vocabulary and are not registered by English dictionaries; they denote certain concepts reflecting some objective reality not familiar to the English-speaking community [perestroika]. But it should be mentioned that sometimes in English and American linguistic literature the terms are confused.
Literary coinages are words derived or introduced in a new sense for some particular situation by the writer as a stylistic device [O’Henry: worldling - ñâåòñêèé; lordolatry - ïðåêëîíåíèå ïåðåä ÷èíàìè]. Non of these words may be found in any dictionary; they are writers’ neologisms, and serve as characteristic features of this or that writer’s style. But some of these words find the way into literary English and become part and parcel of it [snob].
The colloquial layer of the English language comprisesstandard andsubstandard colloquial words. The words of the first group are words of everyday speech of educated people, used by them in the case of ordinary conversation, or when writing letters to intimate friends [old chap, I’ve got it; you see, etc.] Substandard colloquial vocabulary is more emotional and much more free and careless than the standard one; it is also characterised by a great number of ironical expressions and nonce words. This subgroup falls further into the followings classes of words: slang; jargonisms, professional words, dialectical words, vulgar words, and colloquial coinages.
For the most part slangwords sound somewhat vulgar, cynical, and harsh aiming to show the object of speech in the light of an offhand contentious ridicule [money = beans, brass, chink, etc.]. Slang words may be classified into generalslang words, and special ones. General slang includes words that are not specific for any social or professional group, whereas special slang is peculiar for some of these groups (teenagers’ slang, public school slang, air force slang, etc.) Different opinions have been expressed concerning the nature and boundaries of slang and the attitude that should be adopted towards it. Slang may be defined as a lexical layer consisting of words and expressions, which though not yet recognised as a fact of Standard English have one recognition as fresh innovations. Slang words are derogatory words that serve to create fresh names for some things that are frequent topics of discourse [kisser, smiler - a mouth]. Jargonis a term for a group of words whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social or age group, especially within the so called «underworld», e.g., the criminals. Jargonisms are generally old words with new meanings imposed on them, and as a rule, with a derogatory connotational meaning; they always have neutral synonyms in Standard English [loaf - head; a bigger hunter - a gambler]. The essential difference between slang and jargon results from the fact, that slang has an expressive function, whereas jargon is primarily concerned with secrecy. Professional words are used in a definite trade, or profession and are correlated to terms. But terms are coined to nominate new concepts that appear in the process and as a result of technical progress and the development of science; professional words have a new already existing concepts, tools, or instruments having image bearing meaning [a chair-warmer - a beautiful, but not talented actress]. Dialectical wordsare considered a definite low category [a lass - a beloved girl; a lad - a young man]. Vulgar words are named as extremely harsh and insulting [blessed, bloody, etc.] Colloquial coinages are not actually new words, but new meanings of the existing ones [to be the limit - to be unbearable].