General Notes on Stylistics. It’s subject and Object


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

It deals mainly with two interdependent tasks: The investigation of the inventory of special language media which secure the desirable effect of the utterance The investigation of certain types of texts which are distinguished due to the choice and arrangement of language means. The types of texts that are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of communication are called functional styles of language FS; the special media of language which secure the desirable effect of the utterance are called stylistic devices SD and expressive means...



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Основы теории изучаемого языка                                                                         Стилистика английского языка

                                                                Лекция 1

                                                                                                                                 General Notes on Stylistics. It’s Subject and Object


Lecture 1

General Notes on Stylistics. It’s subject and Object.

Stylistics, sometimes called lingo-stylistics, is a branch of general linguistics. It has now been more or less definitely outlined. It deals mainly with two interdependent tasks:

  1.  The investigation of the inventory of special language media which secure the desirable effect of the utterance
  2.  The   investigation of certain types of texts which are distinguished due to the choice and arrangement of language means.

The types of texts that are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of communication are called functional styles of language (FS); the special media of language which secure the desirable effect of the utterance are called stylistic devices (SD) and expressive means (EM).

Thus, the subject of stylistics can be outlined as the study of the nature, functions and structure of stylistics devices, on the one hand, and, on the other, the study of each style of language as classified, its aim, its structure, its characteristic features and the effect it produces, as well as its interrelation with other styles of language.

The first field of investigation, i.e. SDs and EMs, necessarily touches upon such general language problems as the aesthetic function of language, synonymous ways of rendering one and the same idea, emotional colouring in language, the interrelation between language and thought, the individual manner of an author in making use of language and a number of other issues.

The second field, i.e. functional styles, cannot avoid discussion of such most general linguistic issues as oral and written varieties of language, the notion of the literary (standard) language, the constituents of texts larger than the sentence, the generative aspect of literary texts, and some others.

However, stylistics is not equal to linguistics science, such as phonetics, linguistics disciplines – lexicology, morphology, syntax because they are level disciplines as they treat only one linguistic level and stylistics investigates the questions on all the levels and different aspects of the texts in general. The smallest unit of language is the phoneme. Several phonemes combined make a unit of a higher level – morpheme (morphemic level). One or more morphemes makes a word, a lexeme (lexical level). One or more than one words make an utterance, a sentence (sentence level). Words combinations are treated either on the lexical or syntactical level.

Stylistics must be subdivided into separate, independent branches – stylistic phonetics, Stylistic morphology, Stylistic lexicology, Stylistic syntax
Whatever level we take, stylistics is describes not what is in common use, but what is

specific in this or that respect, what differentiates one sublanguage from others.

Therefore, the following branches of stylistics are distinguished:

- Lexical stylistics – studies functions of direct and figurative meanings, also the way contextual meaning of a word is realized in the text. L.S. deals with various types of connotations – expressive, evaluative, emotive; neologisms, dialectal words and their behavior in the text.

So, Lexicology deals with stylistic classification (differentiation) of the vocabulary that form a part of stylistics (stylistics lexicology). In stylistic lexicology each units are studied separately, instead of as a whole text (group of words, word classification).

- Grammatical stylistics – is subdivided into morphological and syntactical
Morphological s. views stylistic potential of grammatical categories of different parts of speech. Potential of the number, pronouns…  
Syntactical s. studies syntactic, expressive means, word order and word combinations, different types of sentences and types of syntactic connections. Also deals with origin of the text, its division on the paragraphs, dialogs, direct and indirect speech, the connection of the sentences, types of sentences.

So, general (non-stylistic) morphology treats morphemes and grammatical meanings expressed by them in language in general, without regard to their stylistic value. Stylistic mor-gy is interested in grammatical forms and grammatical meanings that are peculiar to particular sublanguages, explicity or implicity comparing them with the neutral ones common to all the sublanguages.

General syntax treats word combinations and sentences, analyzing their structures and stating what is permissible and what is inadmissible in constructing correct utterances in the given language.
Stylistic syntax shows what particular constructions are met with in various types of speech, what syntactical structures are style forming (specific) in the sublanguages in question.

- Phonostylistics – phonetical organization of prose and poetic texts. Here are included rhythm, rhythmical structure, rhyme, alliteration, assonance and correlation of the sound form and meaning. Also studies deviation in normative pronunciation.

So,  general (non-stylistic) phonetics investigates the whole articulatory - audial system of language. Stylistic ph-cs describes variants of pronunciation occuring in different types of speech. Special attention is also paid to prosodic features of prose and poetry.

- Functional S (s. of decoding) – deals with all subdivisions of the language and its possible use (newspaper, colloquial style). Its object - correlation of the message and communicative situation.
- Individual style study –studies the style of the author. It looks for correlations between the creative concepts of the author and the language of his work.
- stylistics of encoding - The shape of the information (message) is coded and the addressee plays the part of decoder of the information which is contained in message. The problems which are connected with adequate reception of the message without any loses (deformation) are the problems of stylistics of encoding.

In order to ascertain the borders of stylistics it is necessary to go at some length in to the question of what is style. The word style is derived from Latin Word “stylus” which meant a short stick sharp at one end and flat at the other used by Romans for writing on wax.

1. There is a widely held view that style is the correspondence between thought and expression. The notion is based on the assumption ; that of the two functions of language, (language is said to have two functions: it serves as a means of communication and also as a means of shaping one's thoughts). The first function is called communicative, the second - expressive, the latter finds its proper materialization in strings of sentences especially arranged to convey the ideas and also to get the desired response.

2. Another commonly accepted connotation of the term style is embellishment of language. This concept is popular and is upheld in some of the scientific papers on literary criticism. Language and style are regarded as separate bodies, language can easily dispense with style, which is likened to the trimming on a dress. Moreover, style as an embellishment of language is viewed as something that hinders understanding.

3. A very popular notion among practical linguists, teachers of language, is that style is technique of expression. In this sense style is generally defined as the ability to write clearly, correctly and in a manner calculated to the interest of the reader. Style in this utilitarian sense should be taught, but it belongs to the realm of grammar, and not to stylistics.

4. The term style also signifies a literary genre. Thus we speak of classical style or the style of classicism; realistic style; the style of romanticism and so on. On the other hand, the term is widely used in literature, being applied to the various kinds of literary work, the fable, novel, ballad, story etc. Thus we speak of a story being written in the style of a fable or we speak of the characteristic features of the epistolary style or the essay and so on.

        Now the word 'style1 is used in so many senses that it has become a breeding ground for ambiguity. The word is applied to the teaching of how to write a composition (see below); it is also used to reveal the correspondence between thought and expression; it frequently denotes an individual manner of making use of language; it sometimes refers to more general, abstract notions thus inevitably becoming vague and obscure, as, for example, "Style is the man himself" (Buffon), "Style is depth" (Derbyshire);* "Style is deviations" (Enkvist); "Style is choice", and the like.

Despite the great variations, all approaches to the word style point to some integral significance, namely, that style is a set of characteristics that belong exclusively to the plane of expression and not to the plane of content and by which we distinguish one author from another or members of one subclass from members of other subclasses, all of which are members-of the same general class.

Individual style is a unique combination of language units, expressive means and stylistic devices peculiar to a given writer, which makes that writer’s works or even utterances easily recognizable.

Language and speech

It is necessary to discuss the issue the importance of which has to be kept clearly in mind throughout the study of stylistics, that is the dichotomy of language and s p e e с h or, to phrase the issue differently, language- as -a-s у stem and language-in-action. It deserves at least a cursory discussion here not only because the issue has received a good deal of attention in recent publications on linguistic matters, but also because, as will be seen later, many stylistic devices stand out against the background of the distinctive features of these two above-mentioned notions. The simplicity of the issue is to some extent deceptive. On the surface it seems that language-in-action takes the signs of language-as-a-system and arranges them to convey the intended message. But the fact is that the signs of the latter undergo such transformations in the former that sometimes they assume a new quality imposing new signification on the signs of the language code. There is compelling evidence in favour of the theory which demands that the two notions should be regarded in their unity, allowing, however, that each of them be subjected to isolated observation.

Language-as-a-system may figuratively be depicted as an exploiter of language-in-action. All rules and patterns of language which are collected and classified in works on grammar, phonetics, lexicology and stylistics first appear in language-in-action, then they are generalized and framed as rules and patterns of language-as-a-system.

It is important here to call attention to the process of formation of scientific notions. Whenever we notice a phenomenon that can be singled out from a mass of language facts we give it a name, thus abstracting the properties of the phenomenon. The phenomena then being collected and classified are hallowed into the ranks of the units of language-as-a-system. It must be pointed out that most observations of the nature and functioning of language units have been made on material presented by the written variety of language. It is due to the fixation of speech in writing that scholars of language began to disintegrate the continuous flow of speech and subject the functioning of its components to analysis.

So it is with stylistic devices. Being born in speech they have gradually become recognized as certain patterned structures: phonetic, morphological, lexical, phraseological and syntactical, and duly taken away from their mother, Speech, and made independent members of the family, Language.

The same concerns the issue of functional styles of language. Once they have been recognized as independent, more or less closed subsystems of the standard literary language, they should be regarded not as styles of speech but as styles of language, inasmuch as they can be patterned as to the kinds of interrelation between the component parts in each of the styles. Moreover, these functional styles have been subjected to various classifications, which fact shows that the phenomena now belong to the domain of language-as-a-system.

However, it must constantly be born in mind that the units which belong to this domain are abstract in their nature. Functional styles are merely models deprived of material substance, schemes which can be materialized in language forms. When materialized in language forms they 'become practical realizations of abstract schemes and signify the variants of the corresponding invariants of the models.

This relatively new science, stylistics, will be profitable to those who have a sound linguistic background. The expressive means of English and the stylistic devices used in the literary language can only be understood (and made use of) when a thorough knowledge of the language-as-a-system, i.e. of the phonetic, grammatical and lexical data of the given language, has been attained.

Expressive means and stylistics devices

In linguistics there are different terms to denote those particular means by which a writer obtains his effect. Expressive means, stylistic means, stylistic devices and other terms are all used indiscriminately For our purposes it is necessary to make a distinction between expressive means and stylistic devices. All stylistic means of a language can be divided into expressive means, which are used in some specific way, and special devices called stylistic devices. The expressive means of a language are those phonetic means, morphological forms, means of word-building, and lexical, phraseological and syntactical forms, all of which function in the language for emotional or logical intensification of the utterance. These intensifying forms of the language have been fixed in grammars and dictionaries. Some of them are normalized, and good dictionaries label them as intensifiers. In most cases they have corresponding neutral synonymous forms.

The most powerful expressive means of any language are phonetic. Pitch, melody, stress, pausation, drawling, drawling out certain syllables, whispering, a sing-song manner of speech and other ways of using the voice are more effective than any other means in intensifying the utterance emotionally or logically. Among the morphological expressive means the use of the Present indefinite instead of the Past Indefinite must be mentioned first. This has already been acknowledged as a special means and is named the Historical Present. In describing some past events the author uses the present tense, thus achieving a more vivid picturisation of what was going on.

The use of "shall" in the second and third person may also be regarded as an expressive means. Compare the following synonymous forms and you will not fail to observe the intensifying element in the sentence with "shall".

He shall do it = (I shall make him do it)

He has to do it = (It is necessary for him to do it)

Among word - building means we find a great many forms which serve to make the utterance more expressive and fresh or to intensify it.  The diminutive suffixes as - у (ie), - let, e. g. dear, dearie, stream, streamlet, add some emotional colouring to the words.

Certain affixes have gained such a power of expressiveness that they begin functioning as separate words, absorbing all of generalizing meaning they usually attach to different roots, as for example: -ism and ologies.

At the lexical level there are a great many words which due to their inner expressiveness, constitute a special layer There are words with emotive meaning only, like interjections, words which have both referential and emotive meaning, like some of the qualitative adjectives, words belonging to special groups of Literary English or of non - standard English (poetic, archaic, slang, vulgar, etc.) and some other groups.

-The same can be said of the set expressions of the language. Proverbs and sayings as well as catch - words for a considerable number of language units which serve to make speech more emphatic, mainly from the emotional point of view. Their use in everyday speech can hardly be overestimated. Some of these proverbs and sayings are so well - known that their use in the process of communication passes almost unobserved.

The expressive means of the language are studied respectively in manuals of phonetics, grammar, lexicology and stylistics. Stylistics, however, observes not only the nature of an expressive means, but also its potential capacity of becoming a stylistic device.

What then is a stylistic device? It is a conscious and intentional literary use of some of the facts of the language including EM in which the most essential features both structural and semantic of the  language forms are raised to a generalized level and thereby present a generative model. Most stylistic devices may be regarded as aiming at the further intensification in the corresponding EM.

This conscious transformation of a language fact into a stylistic devise has been observed by certain linguists whose interests in scientific research have gone beyond the boundaries of grammar.

The birth of a SD is not accidental. Language means which are used with more or less definite aims of communication and in one and the same function in various passage of writing, begin gradually to develop new features, a wider range of functions and become a relative means of the language. It would perhaps be more correct to say that/unlike expressive means, stylistic devices are patterns of the language whereas the expressive means do not form patterns. They are just like words themselves, they are facts of the language, and as such are, or should be, registered in dictionaries.

The interrelation between expressive means and stylistic devices can be worded in terms of the theory of information. Expressive means have a greater degree of predictability than stylistic devices. The latter may appear in an environment which may seem alien and therefore be only slightly or not at all predictable. Expressive means are commonly used in language, and are therefore easily predictable. Stylistic devices carry a greater amount of information because if they are at all predictable they are less predictable than expressive means. It follows that stylistic devices must be regarded as a special code which has still to be deciphered.

Not every stylistic use of a language fact will come under the term SD. There are practically unlimited possibilities of presenting any language fact in what is vaguely called it's stylistic use.

General notes on functional styles of language 

A functional style of language is a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication. A functional style is thus to be regarded as the product of a certain concrete task set by the sender of the message. Functional styles appear mainly in the literary standard of a language.

The literary standard of the English language, like that of any other developed language, is not so homogeneous as it may seem. In fact the standard English literary language in the course of its development has fallen into several subsystems each of which has acquired its own peculiarities which are typical of the given functional style. The members of the language community, especially those who are sufficiently trained and responsive to language variations, recognize these styles as independent wholes. The peculiar choice of language means is primarily predetermined by the aim of the communication with the result that a more or less closed system is built up. One set of language media stands in opposition to other sets .of language media with other aims, and these other sets have other choices and arrangements of language means.

What we here call functional styles are also called registers or d i s с о u r s e s.

In the English literary standard we distinguish the following major functional styles (hence FS):

1) The language of belles-lettres.

2) The language of publicistic literature.

3) The language of newspapers.

4) The language of scientific prose.

5) The language of official documents.

As has already been mentioned, functional styles are the product of the development of the written variety of language. l Each FS may be characterized by a number of distinctive features, leading or subordinate, constant or changing, obligatory or optional. Most of the FSs, however, are perceived as independent wholes due to a peculiar combination and interrelation of features common to all (especially when taking into account syntactical arrangement) with the leading ones of each FS.

Each FS is subdivided into a number of substyles. These represent varieties of the abstract invariant. Each variety has basic features common to all the varieties of the given FS and peculiar features typical of this variety alone. Still a substyle can, in some cases, deviate so far from the invariant that in its extreme it may even break away.

We clearly perceive the following substyles of the five FSs given above.

The belles-letters FS has the following substyles: a) style of poetry, b) of emotive prose, c) of drama

The   publicistic   F S comprises the following substyles: a) the language style of oratory; b) the language style of essays;

c) the language style of feature articles in newspapers and journals.*

The newspaper FS falls into a) the language style of brief news items and communications; b) the language style of newspaper headings and c) the language style of notices and advertisements.

The scientific prose FS also has three divisions: a) the language style of humanitarian sciences; b) the language style of "exact" sciences; c) the language style of popular scientific prose.

The official document FS can be divided into four varieties: a) the language style of diplomatic documents; b) the language   style of business documents; c) the language style of legal .documents;   d) the language style of military documents.

The classification presented here is by no means arbitrary. It is the result of long and minute observations of factual material in which not only peculiarities of language usage were taken into account but also extralinguistic data, in particular the purport of the communication. However, we admit that this classification is not proof against criticism. Other schemes may possibly be elaborated and highlighted by different approaches to the problem of functional styles. The classification of FSs is not a simple matter and any discussion of it is bound to reflect more  than one angle of vision. Thus, for example, some stylicists consider that newspaper articles (including feature articles) should be classed  under the functional style of newspaper language, not under the language of publicistic literature. Others insist on including the language of every-   ' day-life discourse into the system of functional styles. Prof. Budagov singles out only two main functional styles: the language of science and that of emotive literature.

The development of the English language

The Germanic tribes, Jutes (юты), Saxons (саксы) and the Angles (англы), came to England around the 5 th century AD and began to live in the Jutland, Holstein (Гольштейн) and Schleswig (Шлезгвиг) areas. Later the Jutes settled in Kent and the southern Hampshire (Гэмпшир), the Saxons in the rest of the south of the Thames and the modern Middlesex, and the Angles spread throughout the rest of England and as far as up to the Scottish lowlands. In Germanic, Angles were called the Angli, and that was transformed to Engle in Old English, and thus the land of all three tribes was collectively called (Engle+land) England. The Jutes, Saxons and Angles held their dialects separately. Later two separate Anglian dialects developed. The dialect of the North of Humber river was called Northumbrian (нортумбрский) and of the south was called the Mercian (мерсийский). Also the Saxons dialect was called West saxon as they were settled in the west, and the dialect of Jutes was called the Kentish who were on the southern and eastern sides of the river Thames. Thus there were four main dialects in England.  

In the beginning, the Northumbrians held prominence in literature and culture, but after the Viking invasions (793-865) the cultural leadership went to the West Saxon group. In the later part of 9th century the Parker Chronicle (or Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) was written, and thus, West Saxon’s dialect became the “Standard Old English”. According to the literary development of the English language, it could be classified as: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and Modern English.

Old English (9th and 10th centuries)

The English language uses the Latin alphabet of 26 consonants and vowels. In the beginning there were very few words of general use like, words of kinship: faedor, modor, brothor, sweostor; 25 names with their inflections like mon, men and some adjectives and verbs. There were two demonstratives: se, seo (that) and thes (this), but there were no articles. So the good man was written as se (that) goda mon, and a good man was an (one) goda mon. Verbs had only two tenses: present-future and past with inflections. There were three genders. The word order in a sentence was not of much importance in those days as long as the theme was understood. But Old English is totally incomprehensible for modern English knower. It was more like  the modern German of today. For example: Hie ne dorston forth bi th ere ea siglan (they dared not sail beyond that river).

Middle English is the name given by historical linguists to the diverse forms of the English language in use between the late 11th century and about 1470, when a form of London-based English began to become widespread, a process aided by the introduction of the printing press into England by William Caxton in the late 1470s. A great role in literary English played Chancery Standard which was a written form of English used by government bureaucracy and for other official purposes from the late 15th century. It is believed to have contributed in a significant way to the development of the English language as spoken and written today. Because of the different dialects of English spoken and written across the country at the time, the government needed a clear and unambiguous form for use in its official documents. Chancery Standard was developed to meet this need.

Although it is possible to overestimate the degree of culture shock which the transfer of power in 1066 represented, the removal from the top levels of society of an English-speaking political and ecclesiastical hierarchy, and their replacement with one speaking Norman French and using Latin for administrative purposes, opened the way for the introduction of Norman French as a language of polite discourse and literature, and fundamentally altered the role of Old English in education and administration. This period of tri-lingual activity developed much of the flexible triplicate synonymy of modern English.

Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period (the latter half of the 15th century) to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English. Prior to and following the accession of James I to the English throne the emerging English standard began to influence the spoken and written Middle Scots of Scotland.

Current readers of English are generally able to understand Early Modern English, though occasionally with difficulties arising from grammar changes, changes in the meanings of some words, and spelling differences. The standardization of English spelling falls within the Early Modern English period and is influenced by conventions predating the Great Vowel Shift, explaining much of the non-phonetic spelling of contemporary Modern English.

Modern English (1660 onward)

Until the eighteenth century the uniformity was the result of social pressure rather than of educational theory. Early English grammars   ( the first appeared in 1586 ) had been written either to help foreigners learn English or to prepare English students for study of Latin grammar. On the whole these books neither had nor were intended to have any influence on the use of English by native speakers. It was not until about 1750 that there was any general attempt to teach Englishmen systematically how to use their own language.

The grammarians of the 18th century like Ribert lowth and James Buchanan took a critical view and spent a lot of time in correcting the shortcomings and the impurities of the English language that were commonly in use. For example a third alternative, more perfect, you was – the term was frequently used among educated people.

During that time Lindley Murray published his Grammar in 1795 followed by English Reader in1799 and English Spelling Book in 1804.



The vocabulary of English language is a mixture of Germanic, Greek, Latin and French words. There are a number of dialects and subdialects in United Kingdom. For instance, Southeast England, Northern, Midland, Norfolk, South Western, Wales and Lowland Scottish.



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