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Among other informal words, colloquialismsare used by everybody, and their sphere of communication is comparatively wide, at least of literary colloquial words. These are informal words that are used in everyday conversational speech both by cultivated and uneducated people of all age groups. The sphere of communication of literary colloquial words also include the printed page.
Vast use of informal words is one of the prominent features of 20th century English and American literature. It is quite natural that informal words appear in dialogues in which they realistically reflect the speech of modern people.
However, in modern fiction informal words are not restricted to conversation in their use, but frequently appear in descriptive passages as well. In this way the narrative is endowed with conversational features. The author creates an intimate, warm, informal atmosphere.
“Fred Hardy was a bad lot (пользовался дурной славой). Pretty women and
an unlucky knack for backing the wrong horse had landed him in the
bankruptcy court by the time he was twenty-five…” (From W.S. Maugham).
Here are some more examples of literary colloquial words. Pal (кореш, друг) and chum (приятель, дружок) are colloquial equivalents of friend; girl, when used colloquially, denotes a woman of any age; bite and snack (quick meal – перекусить) stand for meal; hi, hello are informal greetings, and so long a form of parting; start, go on, finish and be through (покончить) are also literary colloquialisms.
A considerable number of shortenings are found among words of this type. E.g. pram, exam, fridge, flu, zip, movie.
Verbs with post-positional adverbs are also numerous among colloquialisms: put up, put over, make up, make out, turn up, etc.
Literary colloquial wordsare to be distinguished from familiar colloquialandlow colloquial.
The borderline between the literary and familiar colloquial is not always clearly marked. Yet the circle of speakers using familiar colloquial is more limited: these words are used mostly by the young and the semi-educated. This vocabulary group closely verges on slang and has something of its coarse flavour.
E.g. doc (for doctor), ta-ta (for good-bye), to kid smb.(for tease, banter – подшутить), to pick up smb. (for make a qick and easy acquaintance), shut up (for keep silent).
Low colloquial(просторечие) is defined as uses characteristic of the speech of persons who may be broadly described as uncultivated. This group is stocked with words of illiterate (неграмотный) English which do not present much interest for our purposes.
The problem of functional styles is not one of purely theoretical interest, but represents a particularly important aspect of the language-learning process. Students often misunderstand the term “colloquial”and use it for “conversational”.The marker “colloquial”is a sign of restricted usage – not in formal circumstancesor in reports. But literary colloquial words should be included in functional vocabulary, presented and drilled in suitable contexts and situations, mainly in dialogues. It is important to associate these words with informal, relaxed situations.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines slang as “language of a highly colloquial style, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.”
All or most slang words are current words whose meanings have been metaphorically shifted. Each slang metaphor is rooted in a joke, but not in a kind or amusing joke. This is the criterion for distinguishing slang from colloquialisms: most slang words are metaphors and jocular, often with a coarse, mocking, cynical colouring.
Then why do people use slang?
For a number of reasons. To be picturesque, arresting, striking and, above all, different from others. To demonstrate one’s spiritual independence and daring. To sound “modern” and “up-to-date”.
It doesn’t mean that all these aims are achieved by using slang. But these are the main reasons for using it.
The circle of users of slang is more narrow than that of colloquialisms. It is mainly used by the young and uneducated.