Студопедия — Generalities Of Stylistics
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Generalities Of Stylistics

The notion of stylistics. Stylistics is a branch of linguistics which deals with expressive resources and functional styles of a language.

Types of stylistics. linguo-stylistics is a science of functional styles and expressive potential of a language. Communicative (decoding) stylistics de­scribes expressive peculiarities of certain messages (texts). Coding stylistics (literary stylistics) deals with individual styles of authors. Contrastive stylis­tics investigates stylistic systems of two or more languages in comparison.

Connection of stylistics with other branches of linguistics. Stylistics and phonetics: Phonetics studies sounds, articulation, rhythmics and intona­tion. Stylistics concentrates on expressive sound combinations, intonational and rhythmic patterns. Stylistics and lexicology: Lexicology describes words, their origin, development, semantic and structural features. Stylistics also deals with words, but only those which are expressive in language or in speech. Stylistics and grammar: Grammar describes regularities of building words, word-combinations, sentences and texts. Stylistics restricts itself to those gram­mar regularities, which make language units expressive.

This connection gave birth to such interdisciplinary sciences as sh-listic semasiology (the science of stylistic devises or tropes), stylistic lexicology (the science of expressive layers of vocabulary, such as vulgarisms, jargon-isms, archaisms, neologisms etc.), stylistic phonetics (the science of ex­pressive sound organization patterns), grammatical stylistics (the science of expressive morphological and syntactic language units).

The notion of functional style. One and the same thought may be worded in more than one way. This diversity is predetermined by coexist­ence of separate language subsystems, elements of which stand in relations of interstyle synonymy. Compare: / am afraid lest John should have lost his way in the forest (bookish) = 1 fear John's got lost in the wood (conversational). Such language subsystems are called "functional styles". Functional style units are capable of transmitting some additional informa­tion about the speaker and the objective reality in which communication takes place, namely the cultural and educational level of the speaker, his inner state of mind, intentions, emotions and feelings, etc. The most tradi­tionally accepted functional styles are the style of official and business com-

munication, the style of scientific prose, the newspaper style, the publicistic style, the belletristic style, the conversational style.

The style a writer or speaker adopts depends partly on his own person­ality but very largely on what he has to say and what his purposes are. It| follows that style and subject matter should match each other appropriately. For example, a scientific report will obviously be much more formal and ob­jective in style than a poem which is trying to convey an intensely personal and moving experience. Just how important it is to choose an appropriate style can be seen by examining the following three sentences, which all say the same thing but in different ways:

John's dear parent is going to his heavenly home (bookish).

John's father is dying (literary colloquial).

John's old fella's on his way out (informal colloquial).

Though these sentences say the same thing, the style is very different in each. The first sentence is unduly sentimental and rather pompous. It has a falsely religious ring to it because, in striving to be dignified, it is overstated. The second one is plain and simple because it is formed of simple neutral words and does not try to disguise the unpleasant fact of death by using a gentler expression like passing away. Its simplicity gives it a sincerity and a dignity which are lacking in the first sentence, and, according to how it was said, it would be capable of conveying immeasurable grief in a way which is not possible with the other two. The third sentence is ludicrously insensitive, the use of slang suggesting the speaker's lack of respect or concern for John's father.

> style

• One very important feature of good style is that it must be entirely appro­priate for the task it is performing.

• This means that the author must take into account [even if unconscious­ly!] audience, form, and function.

• Style might be good, yet hardly noticeable - because it is concentrated on effective communication. This is sometimes known as 'transparent' good style.

• The following extract is from The Highway Code.

When approaching a roundabout, watch out for traffic already on it. Take special care to look out for cyclists or motorcyclists

ahead or to the side. Give way to traffic on your right unless road markings indicate otherwise; but keep moving if the way is clear.

• This is writing which makes its points as simply and as clearly as possi­ble. The vocabulary is that of everyday life, and in manner it is speaking to a general reader without trying to make an impression or draw atten­tion to itself in any way.

• This writing is entirely free of literary effects or decoration.

• In most writing however, 'good style' is normally associated with verbal inventiveness and clever manipulation of the elements of literary lan­guage.

• The extract from Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel Lolita illustrates this point:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Та.

• This is writing which is deliberately setting out to be impressive. It relies very heavily on decoration and ornament.

• In this extract Nabokov uses lots of alliteration - the repetition of the M' and 4' sounds, metaphor- 'light' and 'fire' -andonomatopoeia- "trip', 'tap' - as well as such fancy wordplay as the orthographic and semantic parallels between 'life' and 'fire'.

• Good style in speech and writing - like that in clothes or other matters involving taste - can go in and out of fashion.

Style in context. Style, in any kind of speech or writing, is extremely important to the overall function of communication. In most cases, a consistency of features produces what we understand as a pleasing style. That is, the style is appropriate to the context in which it occurs.

• A discordant style is produced by the inclusion of some feature which does not fit with the stylistic context of the piece. In other words, the feature is out of place.

• An example of this might be found in a personal letter which is signed 'Yours faithfully' or an aristocratic character in a novel speaking street slang for no good stylistic reason.

The notion of norm. Norm may be defined as a set of language rules which are considered to be most standard and correct in a certain epoch and in a certain society. It is next to impossible to work out universal language norms because each functional style has its own regularities. The sentence


••/ ain't got no news from nobody" should be treated as non-grammatical from the point of view of literary grammar though it is in full accordance with special colloquial English grammar rules.

The notion of form. Form is a term which refers to the recognizable shape of a text or a speech act. This shape may be either physical or ab­stract. It is physical in writing and abstract in spoken communication. Written forms are novels, stories, articles, poems, letters, posters, menus, etc. Spoken forms are conversations, TV and radio commentaries, announcements, ser­mons, jokes and anecdotes, etc. The term "form" is used in linguistics and in literary criticism as a technical term. It is used when considering the shape the construction, or the type of speech or writing. An awareness of form can help to produce more efficient communication.

The notion of text. Text literally means "a piece of writing". Charles Dickens' novel "Bleak House" is a text. A letter from a friend is a text. A caption to a picture is a text. A painting by Picasso can also be conditionally called a text. The term "text" is most used in linguistics and literary studies, where it was originally used as a synonym for "book", but it could just as easily be a poem, a letter, or a diary. This term is now in general use in other branches of the humanities such as cultural studies and film studies, where its meaning becomes "the thing being studied". In these other fields it could also be a video film, an advertisement, a painting, or a music score. Even a bus ticket may be called "a text". The term "text" is used so as to concen­trate attention on the object being studied, rather than its author.

The notion of context. Types of context. A linguistic context is the encirclement of a language unit by other language units in speech. Such encir­clement makes the meaning of the unit clear and unambiguous. It is especially important in case with polysemantic words. Microcontext is the context of a single utterance (sentence). Macrocontext is the context of a paragraph in a text. Megacontext is the context of a book chapter, a story or the whole book.

An extralingual (situational) context is formed by extralingual con­ditions in which communication takes place. Besides making the meaning of words well-defined, a situational context allows the speaker to economize on speech efforts and to avoid situationally redundant language signs. The com­mands of a surgeon in an operating room, such as "scalpel", "pincers" or "tampon", are understood by his assistants correctly and without any addi­tional explanations about what kind of tampon is needed.

Extralingual context can be physical or abstract and can significantly affect the communication. A conversation between lovers can be affected by

surroundings in terms of music, location, and the presence of others. Such surroundings form a physical context. A dialogue between colleagues can be affected by the nature of their relationship. That is, one may be of higher status than the other. Such nature forms an abstract context. Historical accounts are more easily understood when evoked in the context of their own time. Such context is called temporal or chronological. There would be a psychologi­cally advantageous context within which to tell one's spouse about that dent­ed bumper on the new car. Such context may be called psychological.

No linguistic unit exists in a vacuum and this is why dictionaries have only a limited function in conveying meaning devoid of context. Words do not have an absolute meaning. Shades of meaning emerge with variation in context. For example, if we say that "Peter the First was a great mon­arch", we are using great as an adjective to imply stately qualities and a large-scale impression of a historical figure. On the other hand, if we say "We had a great time at the party last night", the word great takes on a different meaning. The implication is that we enjoyed ourselves, and we wish to convey this in a rather exaggerated way. We are confident that our listener will understand. If we express our feelings to a sexual partner using the word love, that word means something quite different to the love we express to a two-year-old child. The context is different, and it affects the meaning of the word love.

In a detailed linguistic sense, a unit of meaning which we refer to as a morpheme can only be seen as such in context. For example, within the context of the word elephant, the fragment ant cannot be classed as a morpheme. This is because it is an integral part of that larger morpheme, elephant. However, considered on its own as a word, ant (the insect) is a morpheme. Here it is in a different context: Ants are industrious. Similarly, used as a prefix in a word such as antacid, it is a bound morpheme mean­ing against or opposite.

> context

• In poetry we find that context is crucial to meaning and its effect. If we take Robert Browining's use of disyllabic rhyme as used in 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin', we find the following sequence:

You hope because you're old and obese

To find in the furry civic robe ease.


• In this context the word 'obese' promotes a humorous and lighthearted effect. However, if our doctor warned us that we were overweight 1 obese j and stood a great risk of heart attack, it would not be such a laughingl matter.

• If it is at all helpful, the idea of context can be illustrated by use of an analogy with colour. |

• A flash of crimson on a white background looks very vivid, and it can] even make the white look slightly pink.

• However, crimson on a black background loses its radiance and almost disappears.

The notion of speech. Speech and writing are two different systems. They are closely related, but not the same. Speech is normally a continuous! stream of sound. It is not broken up into separate parts like writing. People do not speak in sentences or paragraphs, they make up the content of what they are saying quite spontaneously, without any planning or long deliberation.! Conversations are often accompanied by other sign systems which aid un­derstanding. These might be physical gestures, facial expressions, even bodi­ly posture. Meaning in speech is also commonly conveyed by tone and other non-verbal means such as irony. Speech quite commonly includes false starts,] repetition, hesitation, "fillers" with no lexical or grammatical meaning, such as "um" and "er", and even nonsense words which replace terms which can not be recalled, such as "mingy" and "doodah".

Speech may often be quite inexplicit - because the participants in a con­versation can rely on the context for understanding. Speech can not be revised or edited in the same way as writing. Most people unconsciously or deliberately employ a wide range of speech varieties or functional styles in their everyday conversation. Linguists regard speech as primary and writing as secondary. Language changes take place far more rapidly in speech than in writing.

The notion of writing. Writing is the use of visual symbols which act as a code for communication between individuals or groups. Writing is a lan­guage variety and should be regarded as entirely separate from speech. The code of written language consists of letter-forms (the alphabet) used to form a visual approximation of spoken words. The spelling of most words in En­glish is now fixed. The relationship between spelling and pronunciation is consistent in Russian and Ukrainian but not consistent in English. Words are formed in accordance with the conventions of spelling, then combined ac­cording to the rules of syntax to form meaningful statements.

Mistakes in spelling and grammar might be tolerated in casual writing, uch as personal correspondence, but they are generally frowned on in all tvpes 0f public and formal writing. Writing cannot include any non-verbal Jestures or the communication features which accompany spoken language _ such as facial expression, physical gestures, or tone of voice. The written word has to rely on choice of vocabulary, punctuation and printed emphasis (italics, capital letters) to produce such effects.

The notion of expressive means. Expressive means of a language are those phonetic, lexical, morphological and syntactic units and forms which make speech emphatic. Expressive means introduce connotational (stylistic, non-denotative) meanings into utterances. Phonetic expressive means in­clude pitch, melody, stresses, pauses, whispering, singing, and other ways of using human voice. Morphological expressive means are emotionally co­loured suffixes of diminutive nature: -y (-ie), -let (sonny, auntie., girlie_, streamlet). The range of emotional suffixes is much wider in synthetic lan­guages than in English. Compare the following:


Suffix Ukrainian language words Russian language words
- OK дубок, деньок дубок, денек
- UK коник домик
- иця, - ица водиця водица
- ичка - ечка - очка водичка пічечка сіточка водичка печечка сеточка
- инка сніжинка снелсинка
- очок -ечка - ечко дубочок книжечка словечко дубочок книжечка словечко

То lexical expressive means belong words, possessing connotations, such as epithets, poetic and archaic words, slangy words, vulgarisms, and interjections. A chain of expressive synonymic words always contains at least one neutral synonym. For example, the neutral word money has the following stylistically coloured equivalents: ackers (slang), cly (jargon), cole (jar-8on), gelt (jargon), moo (amer. slang), moolah (amer. slang), mopus (slang), oof (slang), pelf (bookish), rhino (conversat.), spondulicks (amer. slang), cash (conversat.), boot (slang), brads (conversat.), chuck (amer. slang), lettuce (slang), lolly (slang), ante (slang), bread (slang), dumps Conversat.), beens (slang), blunt (slang), crap (slang), dough (conver-



sat.), etc. A chain of expressive synonyms used in a single utterance creates the effect of climax (gradation): "Знову дзвеніли, бриніли, сурмили комарі, допікали, дошкулювали, діймали, жерли, гризли " (Ю. Яновський).

То syntactic expressive means belong emphatic syntactic constructions. Such constructions stand in opposition to their neutral equivalents. The neu­tral sentence "John went away " may be replaced by the following expres­sive variants: "Away went John" (stylistic inversion), "John did go away" (use of the emphatic verb "to do"), "John went away, he did" (emphatic confirmation pattern), "It was John who went away" ("It is he who does it" pattern). Compare: «Это знают все» (neutral) = «Все это знают!» (exclamatory) = «Кто лее этого не знает?» (rhetorical). A number of Russian and Ukrainian expressive syntactic structures have no identical equiv­alents in English. It concerns impersonal sentences, denoting natural phe­nomena and physical conditions of living beings (Темнеет. Вечереет. Петру не спится. Что-то гнетет), infinitival sentences (Быть беде! Не быть тебе моим мужем! К кому обратиться за помощью?), generalized-personal statements (Что посеешь, то и пожнешь. С кем поведешься, от того и наберешься).

The notion of stylistic devices. Stylistic devices (tropes, figures of speech) unlike expressive means are not language phenomena. They are formed in speech and most of them do not exist out of context. According to principles of their formation, stylistic devices are grouped into phonetic, lexico-semantic and syntactic types. Basically, all stylistic devices are the result of revaluation of neutral words, word-combinations and syntactic structures. Revaluation makes language units obtain connotations and stylistic value. A stylistic de­vice is the subject matter of stylistic semasiology.

> figures of speech

• Figures of speech or rhetorical devices are present in all cultures. It seems that it is in the very nature of linguistic discourse for speakers to act creatively. Indeed, it is that creativity in language use which ultimate­ly divides language use in humans and animals.

• A child begins to be creative by using various figures of speech at the very beginning of the acquisition process. Words such as 'bang', 'smack', 'moo', and 'baa' are all onomatopoeic figures of speech common to a child's early vocabulary.


• It is useful to contemplate a continuum of which the two opposites are literal and non-literal in terms of linguistic expression. We could envisage a statement of fact towards one extreme and a metaphor towards the other.

• The statement of fact might be This is a wooden door.

• An example of a metaphor might be The sunshine of your smile.

• These two utterances comprise five words each, yet the metaphor says much more than the factual statement. Not only does it say more but it speaks of vast and abstract elements such as love, the sun, gesture, happiness, human warmth, pleasure and possibly more.

• Figures of speech are often used to express abstract emotional or philo­sophical concepts. The figure of speech attaches the abstract concept to a material object and thus is instrumental in creating powerful and dy­namic communication.

• Original figures of speech are valued in both speech and in writing. We respect the ability to generate these. Politicians for instance often use figures of speech, and are variously successful with this practice.

• Churchill's image of 'the iron curtain' has stayed with us for over fifty years, although the phenomenon it described no longer exists.'The cold war' superseded it, during which it was the threat of someone 'pressing the button' which was on everyone's mind.

• The 'rhetorical question' is a figure of speech favoured by politician and lay person alike. It is a powerful device because, although it has the appearance of being a question, it often acts as a form of persua­sion or criticism.

• 'Is our country in danger of becoming a hot-bed of sleaze?' we might hear a politician ask.'Are we going to stand by and let these atrocities continue?' Listening to our car radio we might mentally frame an answer to this kind of question — or at least we might be drawn into contemplat­ing the issue.

• At a more domestic level we might be asked 'What time do you call this?' or 'How many times have I told you...?' These are questions which actively discourage any answer. They are a form of rebuke which is an established ritual. As competent language users, we know them and participate in the ritual — by not answering, or responding to the 'real' (unstated) criticism.

• Another figure of speech which spans the social spectrum is the cliche. These are often derided, and the word itself has become a pejorative term. However, the cliche is very much 'alive and kicking', especially in


the context of football.'Over the moon' about a result and 'gutted' to hear the news, are just two such figures of speech heard almost daily over the popular media.

• The cliche proves its function by its prolific use. Perhaps it is its over­use, or its application in inappropriate contexts which may cause distaste.

• Figures of speech are also known as images. This indicates their func­tion well. The outcome of using them is that the listener or the reader receives a multi-dimensional communication. Lewis Carroll coined the term 'portmanteau' for words which are packed with layers of meaning. Although Carroll's usage is slightly different from that of figures of speech, it does illustrate that we have a strong drive as language users to convey meaning colourfully and economically.

The notion of image. Image is a certain picture of the objective world, a verbal subjective description of this or another person, event, occurrence, sight made by the speaker with the help of the whole set of expressive means and stylistic devices. Images are created to produce an immediate impression1 to human sight, hearing, sense of touch or taste.

When you look in a mirror, you see an image. You see a likeness of yourself. When you use a camera and take a picture of your girlfriend Masha in a flowered hat, the photograph you develop is an image of Masha. If you look at this photograph twenty years later, you will see an image of what Masha used to be like. You might ask a renowned painter to paint your por-i trait in oils. The picture he paints is an image of you. It may not be exactly like you. He may paint your nose bent round a bit the wrong way, or he may not capture the attractiveness and mystery of your green eyes. He may give you a figure of a kolobok, though you have always thought of yourself as slim and lithe. He has painted you as he sees you. He has put on to canvas his image of you. Perhaps he has tried to convey in his picture not only your physical likeness but also something of your inner character: how greedy or scandal­ous you are, for example. The same with words. Instead of painting you in oils, someone may prefer to paint you in words. If you really are greedy, untidy and have no table manners at all, you may one day find, at your table in the exclusive restaurant where you often dine, written on a small white card, the terse message: YOU'RE A PIG. It will be your image, created by a met-| aphor. You are not a pig, of course, even though your table manners arel dreadful. What the writer means is that you eat like a pig. You are like a pig in| this one respect. And your verbal image created on the card will possibly help you to understand it.

Image is the matter of stylistic analysis.

> stylistic analysis

ф Stylistic analysis is a normal part of literary studies. It is practised as a

part of understanding the possible meanings in a text. ф it is also generally assumed that the process of analysis will reveal the

good qualities of the writing.

• Take for example the opening lines of Shakespeare's Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

• A stylistic analysis might reveal the following points:

- the play is written in poetic blank verse

- that is — unrhymed, iambic pentameters

- the stresses fall as follows

- Now is the winter of our discontent

- [notice that the stress falls on vowel sounds]

- the first line is built on a metaphor

- the condition of England is described in terms of the season 'winter'

- the term 'our' is a form of the royal 'we'

- the seasonal metaphor is extended into the second line...

-... where better conditions become 'summer'

- the metaphor is extended even further by the term 'sun'

- it is the sun which appears, 'causing' the summer

- but 'sun' is here also a pun - on the term 'son'...

-... which refers to the son of the King

- 'York' is a metonymic reference to the Duke of York


• In a complete analysis, the significance of these stylistic details would be related to the events of the play itself, and to Shakespeare's presentation of them.

• In some forms of stylistic analysis, the numerical recurrence of certain stylistic features is used to make judgements about the nature and the quality of the writing.

• However, it is important to recognise that the concept of style is much broader than just the 'good style' of literary prose.

• For instance, even casual communication such as a manner of speaking or a personal letter might have an individual style.


However, to give a detailed account of this style requires the same de­gree of linguistic analysis as literary texts.

• Stylistic analysis of a non-literary text for instance means studying in detail the features of a passage from such genres as:


Instruction   notes for programming your video-recorder
Information   a history text book
Persuasion   an advertisement or a holiday brochure

• The method of analysis can be seen as looking at the text in great detail, observing what the parts are, and saying what function they perform in the context of the passage.

• It is rather like taking a car-engine to pieces, looking at each component in detail, then observing its function as the whole engine starts working.

• These are features which are likely to occur in a text whose function is to instruct:


imperative or command 'remove the outer covering'
direct address 'check voltage system before you install the unit'
numbered points [because sequencing is important in carrying out a procedure]
technical terms or jargon 'piston', 'carburettor', 'spark plug'
diagram with call-out labels [an extra level of communication to aid understanding]

• Features are dealt with in three stages, as follows:

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