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Stylistics of Units,or Paradigmatic Stylistics Stylistics of Sequences,or Syntagmatic Stylistics 2 страница

One should always bear in mind the fact that human perception of the outer world (language included) cannot be anything but apperception, i.e. reception through the prism of previous background knowledge. In language evaluation, everyone is bound to judge from the viewpoint of one's native language. Sounds and sound combinations of foreign languages produce a definite or an indefinite impression upon us due to various kinds of native semantic associations.


Perhaps the only point to be admitted is that certain internal qualities of sounds contribute to a very generalized evaluation. So, for instance, the plosives, both voiced and voiceless [b, g, p, к ] are abrupt in comparison with such sonorant consonants as [m], [n], [1]; the vowel [u: ] is hardly more " tender" than the vowel [i: ], rather the contrary.

A very curious experiment is described in The Theory of Literatureby L. Timof eyev, 5 a Russian scholar. Pyotr Vyazemsky, a prominent Russian poet (1792 -1878) once asked an Italian, who did not know a word of Russian, to guess the meanings of several Russian words by their sound impression. The words любовь ('love'), друг ('friend'), дружба ('friendship') were characterized by the Italian as " something rough, inimical, perhaps abusive". The word телятина ('veal'), however, produced an opposite effect: " something tender, caressing, appeal to a woman". No doubt, the Italian associated the word with signorina and the like.

The essence of the stylistic value of a sound (or a sound complex) for a native speaker consists in its paradigmatic correlation with phonetically analogous lexical units of expressly positive or (mostly) of expressly negative meaning. In other words, we are always in the grip of phonetic associations created through analogy. A well-known example: the initial sound complex Ы- is constantly associated with the expression of disgust, because the word bloody was avoided in print before 1914; as a result of it, other adjectives with the same initial sound-complex came to be used for euphemistic reasons: blasted, blamed, blessed, Mowed, blooming.

Expressions like Well, I'll be Mowed if I do! or Every blessed fool was present are frequently met with in everyday speech. Recall also Alfred Doolittle's complaining words when he learns from the housekeeper that Eliza's dirty clothes have been burnt, and she cannot be taken home at the moment (Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw):

" I can't carry the girl through the streets like a blooming mon­key, can I? "

He surely does not mean a monkey 'in blossom', 'in full bloom' (!), he merely avoids saying a bloody monkey.

Each of the bl - - words enumerated stands for bloody, and since this is known to everybody, very soon all such euphemistic substitutes become as objectionable as the original word itself. And, naturally, the negative tinge of the sound-combination remains unchanged.

According to McKnight's testimony, 6 other sounds in certain positions also have a more or less definite stylistic value. An English-speaking person (a native speaker, not a foreign student of English) can hardly fail to feel, George McKnight writes, a certain quality common to words ending in -sh: crush, bosh, squash, hush, mush, flush, blush. A little different in: crash, splash, rash, smash, trash, clash, dash. The scholar


does not expressly name that quality, but he probably means something negative and unpleasant in the first group. The second is presumably associated with deforming strength and quickness.

His further observations concern words beginning with fl-, as in: flame, flutter, flare, flicker, flash, flirt, and flag.

A similar stylistic phenomenon, McKnight thinks, is observable in the vowel [i] at the end of words. Here, the reason is quite obvious: this vowel is a diminutive suffix: Willie, Johnnie, birdie, kittie (" What does little birdie say? "). He also mentions whisky and brandy which, as he claims, contribute a certain popular quality to the ending; this is also seen in the words movie, bookie, newsie (= newsboy), and even taxi.

The author of the present book merely retells the foreign scholar's testimony without comment on it, and he shares McKnight's responsi­bility inasmuch as he repeats what his predecessor has stated, but cer­tainly any judgement of phonetic associations could well be subjective and misleading.

As distinct from what has been discussed, the unconditionally ex­pressive and picture-making function of speech sounds is met with only in onomatopoeia, that is, in sound imitation — in demonstrating, by pho-neticmeans, the acoustic picture of reality. First of all, the cries of beasts and birds are not only reproduced by each language in its own way (compare the English bow-wow, mew, cock-a-doodle-doo with their Russian counterparts), but even names of certain birds are onomatopoeic: cuckoo. Noise-imitating interjections bang, crack are onomatopoeia. Moreover certain verbs and nouns reflect the acoustic nature of the processes: hiss, rustle, whistle, whisper: each word contains the sibilant [s].

Onomatopoeia, or elements of it, can sometimes be found in poetry. We shall analyse two lines from the famous poem The Raven by Edgar Allan Рое. The above-mentioned verb rustle, along with certain other words of similar phonetic qualities, is used in them. Pay attention also to the sound [s] at the beginning of the first line:

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me, filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before... This quotation can be found in virtually every book on stylistics of English. Their authors, however, seldom underline the circumstance that E.A. Рое was an American; hence the words uncertain, purple, and curtain had, for the poet and his American readers, the sound [r], not the British [э: ], in the stressed syllables (the so-called-American retroflexion), which certainly contributes to the expression of the idea of rustling. It may seem at first glance that we are beginning to deal with syntagmatics, with phonetics of sequences (see below). It is right, of course, that the repetition of the sounds [s] and [r] could be treated as a problem of sequences in phonetics; but here, in the present chapter, we are interested in the choice

between non-imitative or imitative words. And, perhaps, we should not have stressed the fact of the repetition of the same two sounds, but rather the fact that the sound [s] is employed to express 'softness', whereas the sound [r] helps to express, by direct imitation, the rustling of curtains.

Sound imitation may also be used for comical representation of for­eign speech. An example, not from English, but from Russian literature, will serve our purpose best. The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky makes one of the characters of his comedy The Bathhouse, Pont Kitch (an American businessman in the USSR), enunciate senseless sequences of Russian words, which sound very much like English word combinations — rather incoherent, disconnected, but still English enough. One must bear in mind that Mayakovsky's knowledge of English was less than poor: he knew at most several words. All the more astonishing appears his ability to demonstrate what English speech is like. 'Ай Иван шел в рай, а зве­ри обедали' is what Kitch says on entering the stage, and this certainly resembles the ungrammatical and actually meaningless utterance *I once shall rise very badly (!). The reader may be familiar with achievements in phonetic trickery of a similar kind often performed by Mikhail Derzhavin, a well-known Moscow actor, who, as he himself said on TV, does not speak or understand English — yet every student of English in this country will admit that Derzhavin's speech (when he imitates his foreigner) sounds very much like English, except that we cannot understand a word of it!

A peculiar phenomenon, in a way connected with onomatopoeia, but opposite to it psychologically (in the direction of associative processes), is mental verbalization of extralingual sounds (noises produced by animals, natural phenomena, industrial or traffic noises), that is turning non-human sounds into human words. One hears what one subconsciously wishes (or fears) to hear. Thus the croak of a stray raven seems to Edgar Poe's inflamed imagination to be the ominous verdict Nevermore.

On the whole we get (or think we get) what we expect to get. The expectation factor facilitates understanding of the text heard. Even the 'mush' in the channel (crackling noise in radio transmission) does not prevent listeners from understanding the message if it is ordinary, habitual, consists of well-known cliches, or is predictable. A paradox observed by Prof. O.B. Sirotinina:

People understand each other not just because they hear; on the contrary, they hear because they understand.7

A zero sound is often, due to the reasons discussed, paradigmatically equivalent to a real sound, which circumstance gives rise to processes of reduction of vowels or of vocalization of consonants in certain forms of speech, in dialects, and, ultimately, in the historical development of languages.



1 See: Kukharenko V. A. A Book of Practice in Slylistics. — M., 1986.

2 Туранский И.И. Средства интенсификации высказывания в английском языке. —

Куйбышев, 1987. С. 34, 35.

3 Воронин СВ. Основы фоносемантики. — Л., 1982.

4 See: Алексеев М. П. Восприятие иностранных литератур и проблема иноязычия //

Труды юбилейной научной сессии. Секция филологических наук. — Л., 1946.

5 Тимофеев Л.И. Теория литературы. — М., 1948.

6 McKnight G. English Words and Their Background. — New York — London, 1923.

7 Сирогпинина О.Б. Современная разговорная речь и ее особенности. — М., 1974. С. 49.


Stylistic morphology, both paradigmatic and syntagmatic, has not yet been given full attention, especially with regard to English. Besides, the term 'morphology' originally implies the study of grammatical changes of isolated words by means of affixation, while, as we know, English has very few inflexions, and most grammatical meanings are expressed analytically, i.e. by auxiliaries and by word-order.

In consequence, the discourse on stylistic morphology will be of ne­cessity brief, and it will concern not only morphemes, but any means of expressing grammatical meanings.

Among the problems of onomasiological morphology, we shall dis­tinguish two general trends. Of stylistic significance are:

1) synonymy (paradigmatic equivalence or at least interchangeability
of different morphemes (cf.: dogs, cowsox-en, phenomena, etc.);

2) variability of use (or at least partial interchangeability) of mor­
phological 'categorial forms' (i.e. component parts of the category1) or of
members of the opposition that constitute the grammatical category —
'tense', 'person', etc.2 (He is coming next Monday; Well, are we feeling
better today?).

In both cases, there is a possibility of choice, of using only one of the two or several varieties that co-exist paradigmatically.

The synonymy is not very well developed (or, to be more exact, is nearly completely lost due to the loss of inflexion). The opposition of remaining variants of grammatical morphemes is noticeable just because it is scarce and is of high stylistic prominence. Compare, for example, the neutral brothers with the archaic (mostly religious) form brethren. The latter form is hardly used outside clerical literature or high-flown poetry and oratory of past centuries. Compare also he hath with he has, and the obsolete forms of pronoun and verb second person, singular: thou hast, thou doest.

Further, the localization of forms of the past participle of the verb to get. In Britain, it is got, in the USA, gotten. If we agree to class prepositions as morphemes because of their grammatical function (although we know that prepositions are words, constituting a separate part of speech) we shall be able to mark further Anglo-American distinctions in the manner of their use. In England they say at the corner, in America on the corner, the British compound preposition out of is replaced in the USA by just out in collocations like out the window, out the house.

As concerns inflexion proper, varieties can also be registered, although rather by way of exception than as a general rule. It must be known to the learner that formal English requires the use of whom (objective case of the interrogative pronoun), whereas informal colloquial speech permits (or even requires) using the form of this pronoun with the zero inflexion. Hence, Whom are you talking to? is formal, higher than neutral, perhaps a little pretentious, while Who are you talking to? seems more 'democratic' and probably already normal, neutral, not colloquial.

There is a strong tendency in modern colloquial English, both British and American, towards abolishing the morphological differentiation between subjunctive II of the verb to be, singular, and the corresponding form of the past tense indicative: If I was... instead of the more pedantic If I were.... As recently as the beginning of this century Martin Eden (see the novel of the same name by Jack London) was expressly reprimanded by Ruth Morse, a student of English philology, for saying If I was; nowadays this form seems far less 'criminal'. The reader should also be familiar with the characteristics of subjunctive I (he be, he have) in some grammar handbooks. Some authors call it obsolete; others are of opinion that subjunctive I is more often preferred in America than in England, where analytical forms with should and would prevail.

Completely 'ungrammatical' and thus showing the 'low' social status of the speaker are the forms we (you, they) was, he don't, says I, I (we, you, they) comes as well as attempts at regularizing irregular verbs by analogy: he corned, he seed (instead of he came, he saw). Often come stands for came or for has come.

We now pass on to the second problem, to variability of categorial forms, or, as explained above, to transposition of grammatically opposed member — in other words, neutralization of their grammatical meanings.

From the course of theoretical grammar it should be known to the learner that neutralization occurs when the weak (unmarked) member of the opposition comes to imply the specific meaning of the strong (marked) member, i.e. the relevant feature of the latter.3 This happens when the unmarked member is used instead (and in the function) of the marked one. It goes without saying that the substitution is stylistically relevant.


Let us examine the category of tense. It is known that one of the constituents of the category, to wit, the present tense, can express (at least in Germanic, Romance, as well as Slav languages) an action of the past and the future, not only that of the present. This is largely due to the indef initeness, 'weakness', the unmarked nature of both the notions 'present time' (logic) and 'present tense' (grammar). For that reason the present tense forms are often used with reference to past or future actions.

Here is what they call 'historical present' (praesens historicum in Latin):

What else do I remember? Let me see.

There comes out of the cloud our house, our house not new to me, but quite familiar, in its earliest remembrance. On the ground-floor is Peggoty's kitchen, opening into a back yard... (Dickens)

The extract reproduced is the author's narrative. Charles Dickens depicts past events as if they were in the present. An essentially different stylistic purpose will be observed in the following extract from a short story by O. Henry — a story told by a half-educated tramp, who uses high-flown words and expressions intermingled with the illiteracies of a ruffian. In what follows we also observe narration, only the narrator uses present-tense forms of verbs not for visualizing what he tells, but rather because he is ignorant of the difference between present and past tense forms. The stylistic purpose of the writer is to portray the story-teller (by showing peculiarities of his idiolect); the stylistic class to which the quotation belongs can be roughly characterized thus: the lines quoted pertain to the low colloquial sublanguage with a tinge of buffoonery about it.

Just after Morpheus had got both my shoulders to the shuck mattress I hears a houseful of unbecoming and ribald noises like a youngster screeching with green-apple colics. I opens my door and calls out in the hall for the widow lady, and when she sticks her head out, I says: " Mrs. Peevy, ma'am, would you mind choking off that kid of yours so that honest people can get their rest? " (O. Henry)

Sentences like He is coming. She arrives to-morrow, i.e. with verbs in present continuous or present indefinite expressing an expected future action are widely used. It is hard to say though, whether they are neutral or whether we might characterize them as slightly colloquial. / Other categorial forms are similarly variable. The category of determination expressed by the articles is not universally manifestable. The categorial forms 'determination — indetermination' are neutralized when one of the articles (the definite or the indefinite) is omitted although it should precede the noun or the noun group. But the neutralization

(absence of the article) is stylistically heterogeneous. Much depends on the circumstances of communication showing explicitly what stylistic purpose has been attained, to what sublanguage the text belongs.

It is commonly known that absence of articles is typical of headlines to newspaper columns (the sublanguage used in newspaper headlines is jocularly called Headlinese — by analogy with Chinese, Portuguese, etc.):

Prime Minister Talks on Middle East Events Police Seek Mystery Assailant Miner Sentenced to Death Picket Tried to Hold up Train

Absence of articles can also be seen in the speech of an exemplary pupil of the famous 'school of facts', Bitzer by name (Hard Times by Charles Dickens). The boy, on being asked to define a horse, talks as if he were asked to reproduce word for word the text of some reference book (in books of this kind articles are often omitted):

" Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard but re­quiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth."

Sometimes articles are omitted in careless colloquial speech. In the well-known Scene I of Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw one of the by-standers says in Eliza Doolittle's defence: Girl never said a word to him (instead of The girl...).

The omission of articles can be discussed both in the chapter on morphology (since the articles express a grammatical category) and in the chapter on syntax — in the section that deals with the absence of elements usually expected by the recipient.

The morphological category of gender is practically non-existent in modern English. What actually remains is the differentiation of sexes (mostly in the personal and the possessive pronouns of the third person singular: hehis, sheher(s) as opposed to everything else, mostly inanimate objects, usually referred to as the neuter itits).

A foreign speaker of English is supposed to know from grammar books that a very young child of either sex (a baby) may be and usually is referred to as it; the same with grown-up animals if their sex is of no importance to the speaker. All this kind of detailization is of practical value in stylistics, especially the rules of personification. It is known, from handbooks on grammar, that the names of vessels (ship, boat, steamer) are feminine; sometimes other vehicles (carriage, coach, car) are also considered feminine by those who work on them.

Personification is often resorted to with reference to earth and moon (feminine), while sun is treated as masculine. Countries are often classed


as feminine nouns, especially when they are not considered as mere geographical territories: France sent her representative to the conference.* Abstract notions suggesting such ideas as strength or fierceness are personified as nouns of masculine gender, while the feminine is associated with gentleness or beauty.

Masculine: anger, death, fear, war.

Feminine: spring, peace, kindness, dawn (see M. Ganshina and N. Vasile vskaya).

As opposed to personification, a curious case of what we could term 'depersonification' (i.e. treating a person as a thing, an inanimate object) is discussed in the following instance:

" Where did you find it? " asked Mord Em'ly of Miss Gilliken with a satirical accent.

" Who are you calling 'it'? " demanded Mr. Barden aggressively. " P'r'aps you'll kindly call me 'im and not it." (W. Partridge /

Variability of categorial forms and their interchangeable character is also to be found in the grammatical category of person. It is known that the common form of expressing the idea of indefinite person is the pronoun one (One never knows what happens next). But one is often replaced by definite personal pronouns we and you expressing practically the same idea of indefinite reference: we never know, you never know (in certain collocations the pronoun they is used with the same meaning: they say). The pronoun we stands sometimes for the personal you, especially in the speech of physicians or nurses addressing their patients: Now, are we getting better today?. This insinuating manner is met with in other languages as well, Russian for one.

It should be noted here that the pronoun we has several variants of meaning. Its primary meaning is 'the speaker plus another person, or plus other persons'. One of its secondary functions has just been mentioned: the intimate substitute of you (or rather something like you and I). This pronoun may also imply, exactly as in Russian, 'the plural of majesty' (mostly in royal rescripts like: By the grace of Our Lord, We, Charles the Second...); the plural of modesty (in scholarly texts, implying the author and his imaginary reader: Now, we come to the conclusion that...); the plural of humility (in the speech of uneducated people, as, for instance, in Eliza Doolittle's remark: Oh, we are proud; cf. the Russian «Мы, стало быть, деревенские...»).

The pronouns enumerated do not exhaust the ways of expressing impersonality — we resume the discussion. Instead of How is one to know that? in what is called 'popular speech', or 'low colloquial' we encounter How should a body know it?. See also in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (M. Twain): the money found in the cave by Tom and Huck was put

at interest " and it fetched us a dollar a day apiecemore than a body could tell what to do with". See, finally, the famous lines by Robert Burns: Gin a body meet a body Coming thro'the rye, Gin a body kiss a body, Need a body cry?

(Gin [gin] means 'if, thro' = 'through' and is pronounced the same.) The categorial forms constituting the category of number are also to a certain extent interchangeable, and the opposition of the singular to the plural is neutralized when a change of meaning is involved. Compare:

" Now, what's that? Reading books instead of working? " (the delinquent is certainly reading one book at the moment).

" How dare he talk like that to ladies? " (there is only one lady present).6

" This is what the student is supposed to know" (every student, a number of students, all those who study the subject: the singular stands for the plural).

It can be seen that in both cases (when the plural implies the singular and vice versa) the relation of the whole to its part comes to the foreground. The varieties of transfer ('whole-> part' and 'part—> whole' are called synecdoche, which itself is the simplest case of metonymy (see further, in the chapter on semasiology of units).

Characteristically, the problems discussed are not purely morphologi­cal, but mostly morphosyntactic.

Summing up, the subj ect of onomatological morphology is variability of the forms expressing identical grammatical meanings, as well as variability of the use of grammatical meanings, which are often shifted (present expressing a past or future action, first person implying second or any person, plural becoming 'emphatic singular'). So this branch of stylistics has as its goal learning what type of speech the varieties dis­cussed belong to.


1 See: Смирницкий AM. Морфология английского языка. — M., 1959.

2 Ilyish ВЛ. The Structure of Modern English. — M., 1965.

3 Ilyish В A., idem.

4 Ganshina M., Vasilevskaya N. English Grammar. — M., 1951.

" See: Kruisinga E. A Handbook of Present-Day English. English Accidence and Syntax. — Groningen, 1932.

" This observation concerned colloquial Russian and was made by E.A. Zemskaya (see: ЗемскаяЕА. Русская разговорная речь: лингвистический анализ и проблемы обу­чения. — М., 1979). The author of the present book has merely supplied analogous English examples.




The branch of stylistics thus named deals with the principles of stylistic description of lexical and phraseological units of language in abstraction from the context (or contexts) in which they function. This task presupposes establishing a general stylistic classification of words. To solve the problems arising, we must overcome certain basic difficulties.

1. Lexicology of units is expected to neglect contextual relations of
the word, describing it as a self-sufficient phenomenon, which is incon­
sistent with its nature. As we know, the stylistic value of a word is the
total of its distributions. Its analysis as an isolated unit is only feasible in
so far as we consider its connotations to be definite and relatively

2. Another difficulty lies in polysemy and polyfunctionality of words.
Various meanings of a polysemantic word used in varying functions have
quite different connotations. Therefore what we usually call one word
could be placed in several lexical classes at once. That is why to classify
words as sound complexes irrespective of their meanings would be
senseless: stylistic classification does not deal with the word as such (as
it is presented in dictionaries), but only its varieties, each with a meaning
of its own — the so-called 'lexical semantic variants', or LSV.

3. Besides, even the connotations of an isolated LSV are manifold; they
have a complex of features, and it is impossible to say with anything like
certainty which feature is dominant.

The traditional classification of the vocabulary to be found in hand­books on stylistics and lexicology are for the most part unsatisfactory, since their authors, copying or following one another, commit the same blunder: they intend their enumerations of word groups to be as com­prehensive as possible, disregarding the incompatibility of the con­stituents, such as archaisms and euphemisms or barbarisms and bookish words. We shall return to the existing classifications later; now a few preliminaries on the English vocabulary at large.

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