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Meaning from a Stylistic Point of View


Stylistics is a domain where meaning assumes paramount importance. The term is applied not only to words, word-combinations, sentences but also to the manner of expression. Meaning is what is intended to be or actually is expressed or indicated.

In stylistics it is important to discriminate shades of meaning, to atomize the meaning, the component parts of which are called the semes (the smallest units of which meaning of a word consists). It is important to discriminate between the meanings of a given word or construction in order to understand the idea of the text. A crucial issue for stylistic studies is the ability of a word to be polysemantic, i.e. to comprise several lexical meanings. Every word, no matter how rich in meanings, leaves the door open for new shades of meaning and even for independent meanings. Stylistics takes for granted that a word has an almost unlimited potentiality of acquiring new meanings. Stylistics is more subjective in the perception of meaning in words unlike other branches of linguistics.

The interplay of different meanings produces imagery. Concrete objects are easily perceived by the senses, abstract notions are perceived by the mind. When an abstract notion is by the force of the mind represented through a concrete object, an image is the result.

Contextual meaningis born in the context and disappear if the context is altered. There is also the notion of the dictionary meaning which is materialized in the context.

Grammatical meaning refers our mind to relations between words or to some forms of words or constructions bearing upon their structural functions in the language-as-a-system. There are no words deprived of grammatical meaning since all words belong to some system and consequently have their place in the system and function in speech.

Lexical meaning is a means by which a word-form is made to express a definite concept. Lexical meaning refers the mind to some concrete concept, phenomenon, or thing of objective reality, whether real or imaginary. Lexical meaning of any word presents a very complicated unity consisting of connotative and denotative meanings. Denotative (logical)meaning is connected with the extralinguistic reality. It is the precise naming of a feature of the idea, phenomenon, or object, the name by which we recognize the whole of the concept.

Connotative meaning is connected with the conditions and participants of communication. Connotation comprises four components: emotive, appraising, expressive and stylistic. If denotation is obligatory in any word, connotation is optional. All four components of connotation can be acting together, or in different combinations or can be entirely absent.


1) Emotional component of meaning can be usual or occasional. A word possesses emotional component of meaning if it expresses any emotion or feeling. Emotional component appears on the basis of logical meaning but tends to oust the logical meaning or modify it (f.e. honey). We should not confuse emotional meaning of the word with the words which name emotions (fear, delight, cheerful) or arouse associations because of the denotative meaning (death, tears). But we should pay attention to the amount of words in the text.

2) Appraising component appears when the word expresses positive or negative attitude to the object it names. Appraising component is closely connected with logical and can be the part of the dictionary meaning of the word (sneak – move silently and secretly for a bad purpose)

3) The word has an expressive component in its meaning if it underlines and enlarges on the object named by the word and words surrounding it. (She was a thin, frail little thing. Noun+adjectives)

4) The word possesses stylistic meaning or is stylistically colored if it is typical for definite functional styles and preserves this coloring even when used in non-typical situations of communication.

Interaction of different types of lexical meaning produces different kinds of stylistic devices. I.R. Galperin singles out four types of interaction:

1) interaction of primary dictionary and contextually imposed meanings;

2) interaction of primary and secondary (derivative) logical meanings;

3) interaction of logical and emotive meanings;

4) interaction of logical and nominal meanings.



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