Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

This is important for the course in as much as some SDs are based on the interplay of different stylistic aspects of words. The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words: common literary; terms and learned [′ lə:nid] words; poetic words; archaic words; barbarisms and foreign words; literary coinages and noncewords. The colloquial vocabulary includes the following groups of words: common colloquial words; slang; jargonisms; professionalisms; dialectal words; vulgar words; colloquial coinages. The common...



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Основы теории изучаемого языка                                                                         Стилистика английского языка

                                                                Лекция 3

                                                                                                                             Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary


Lecture 3

Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary

General consideration

Like any linguistic issue the classification of the vocabulary here suggested is for purely stylistic purposes. This is important for the course in as much as some SDs are based on the interplay of different stylistic aspects of words. It follows then that a discussion of the ways the English vocabulary can be classified from a stylistic point of view should be given proper attention.

The word-stock of any language may be presented as a system, the elements of which are interconnected, interrelated and yet independent. Then the word-stock of the English language may be divided into three main layers (strata): the literary layer (stratum), the neutral layer, and the colloquial layer. The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups. Each subgroup has a property it shares with all the subgroups within the layer. This common property which unites the different groups within the layer is called its aspect.

The aspect of the literary layer is its bookish character, which makes the layer more or less stable.

The aspect of the colloquial layer is its lively spoken character, which makes it unstable, fleeting.

The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity. This makes the layer the most stable of all.

The classification given by I.R.Galperin reflects to a great extent the mobility of the lexical system so characteristic of the English language at its present stage of development.

The vocabulary has been divided here into two basic groups: standard and non-standard vocabulary. The diagram on p.2 demonstrates the aforementioned layers and their subgroups.

The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words:

  1.  common literary;
  2.  terms and learned [′ lə:nid] words;
  3.  poetic words;
  4.  archaic words;
  5.  barbarisms and foreign words;
  6.  literary coinages and nonce-words.

The colloquial vocabulary includes the following groups of words:

  1.  common colloquial words;
  2.  slang;
  3.  jargonisms;
  4.  professionalisms;
  5.  dialectal words;
  6.  vulgar words;
  7.  colloquial coinages.

The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term Standard English Vocabulary.

Other groups in the literary and colloquial layers are called special literary (bookish) vocabulary and special (non-standard) colloquial vocabulary.

Neutral words

Neutral words form the bulk of the English Vocabulary and are used in both literary and colloquial language. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. Unlike all other groups, neutral words don’t have a special stylistic colouring and are devoid of emotional meaning.

Common standard literary words

Common standard literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech. They are used in formal communication. Literary words are mainly observed in the written form. One can always tell a literary word from a colloquial word, because literary words are used to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages, while colloquial words are employed in non-official everyday communication.

Literary words stand in opposition to colloquial words forming pairs of synonyms which are based on contrasting relations.

Colloquial                          Neutral                   Literary    

      kid                               child                            infant

   daddy                            father                           parent

   get out                           go away                        retire

    go on                           continue                        proceed

Common standard colloquial words

Common colloquial words are always more emotionally colored than literary ones. They are used in informal communication.

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a tendency to pass into that layer. The upper range of the colloquial layer can easily pass into the neutral layer too. The lines of demarcation between common colloquial and neutral and common literary and neutral are blurred. Here we may see the process of interpenetration of the stylistic layers. The stylistic function of the different layers of the English Vocabulary depends in many respects on their interaction when they are opposed to one another. It is interesting to note that anything written assumes a greater degree of significance than what is only spoken. If the spoken takes the place of the written or vice versa, it means that we are faced with a stylistic device.