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Stylistics of Units,or Paradigmatic Stylistics Stylistics of Sequences,or Syntagmatic Stylistics 3 страница

All the immeasurable richness of the vocabulary of any civilized language cannot be memorized or even understood by an individual native speaker; it is only the most common words that are widely used in actual communication. A very essential part of the lexicon, its greater part in fact, belongs to special spheres of human intercourse. Nearly half a million words have been registered by the famous New English Dictionary of 13 volumes as belonging to the English language, but of course not all of them fully deserve the title of English words: many of them are never heard, or uttered, or written by the average Englishman.

The fact that different words are of different importance for language users can be best seen if we recall certain statistics. It is possible, by

applying statistical methods, to find the most current words, moreover, to make known their frequency in speech. Such calculations have in fact been undertaken for the purpose of teaching foreigners: to find out what should be taught and learned first, what words ought to be included in primary handbooks of English.

The results of these calculations are astonishing if we believe George McKnight, whose name is already familiar to the reader. The scholar says (in his book English Words and Their Background) that exactly one-fourth of the task of expression in English (of actual linguistic performance) is fulfilled by nine words, namely by the words AND, BE, HAVE, IT, OF, THE, TO, WILL, YOU. To put it otherwise, the nine words enumerated are so often used that they comprise 25% of all the words actually used in the process of communication. These nine words with thirty-four others form half (50%) of what we hear or say. Here they are: ABOUT, ALL, AS, AT, BUT, CAN, COME, DAY, DEAR, FOUR, GET, GO, HEAR, HER, IF, IN, ME, MUCH, NOT, ON, ONE, SAY, SHE, SO, THAT, THESE, THEY, THIS, THOUGH, TIME, WE, WITH, WRITE, YOUR.

Even though these estimates may have been exaggerated, the very high frequency of the words is obvious. On the other hand, such words as, for instance, statuesque, theurgy, viviparous are used extremely seldom.

It was explained in the introductory part of this book that indispensable words, those in use everywhere, are stylistically neutral. Words used only in special spheres are stylistically coloured. Thus, we must draw a line of demarcation, first of all, between neutral words and stylistically coloured ones.

But this division is too general and therefore insufficient. Evidently, we must divide the vocabulary into smaller groups. Here we come again to the problem of the existing classifications. More often than not, it is mentioned that stylistic distinctions are revealed by archaisms, bookish words, foreign words, euphemisms, etc.

To be sure, words belonging to these groups reveal stylistic distinc­tions, yet these groups do not make a classification. A logically infallible classification is a set of classes which do not intersect: every item of the object classified can occupy only one section, i.e. belongs (or must belong) to only one class; it cannot belong to two or three classes simultaneously. If it does, the classification is fallacious. Besides, classes are always to be established on the same dividing principle (Lat. principium divisionis). For instance, if the dividing principle of a certain classification is people's age, we are at liberty to establish such classes as 'up to 18 years' (or 'up to 21 years'), 'from 19 to 25 years' (or 'from 22 to 27'), 'from 26 to 30' (or 'from 28 to 33'), and so on. But it would be absurd to include in this classification the class of 'tall people', or 'fair-haired people', or to change anything whatever except age boundaries.


In our particular case, saying that a word is archaic, we mean it is obsolete, no more in current use; the term 'bookish' informs us about the sphere in which the word mostly occurs; the label 'foreign' pertains to the origin of the word; 'euphemism' is a term of speech ethics. Each class has a foundation of its own. Just because of this a word can be bookish, and foreign, and euphemistic simultaneously. The word to perspire, for instance, is a bookish one, as compared with to sweat (cf.: Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow); at the same time it is a borrowed word (of Latin origin) and a euphemism.

Therefore we may state that the items (classes of words) discussed are stylistically different from one another, but it is wrong to try combining them in a general, common classification: each item belongs to a classification of its own, each class is opposed only to classes singled out on the same dividing principle, namely:

Since it is stylistically relevant (essential for stylistics) to distinguish between what is obsolete, i.e. practically dead, what is normal, habitual, unconditionally acceptable, and what is new, i.e. only being born, we can establish a system comprising three classes: 1) archaisms; 2) current words of the epoch; 3) new creations, or neologisms, i.e. words that appeared recently, are still felt to be new and not yet accepted by all.

As the origin of words affects their stylistic value, we may propose two classes differentiating foreign words from native ones.

Since the term 'euphemism' implies the social practice of replacing the tabooed words by words and phrases that seem less straightforward, milder, more harmless (or at least less offensive), we naturally compare these to their opposites — the so-called 'dysphemisms'.1

Finally, the problem of bookish words, which is more complicated. The term 'bookish' (encompassing a very wide range of stylistic distinctions) implies, in a most general way, the sphere of employment. The reader is aware of the futility of search for a finite number of spheres. We surely can, however, oppose bookish words to colloquial words — with neutral words in between, thus obtaining a conventional three-member system of classification.

Along with the four classes discussed, we could mention further classes usually treated in handbooks on lexicology or stylistics: professionalisms, dialect words, specialist terms, slang words, colloquial words, popular words, vulgar words, poetic words, nonce-words. Like those discussed above, they are stylistically relevant, but the terms themselves do not disclose the stylistic value of each class, merely placing it in the corresponding sublanguage (except in case of nonce-words — see below).

And yet stylistics is interested not merely in what sublanguage a linguistic unit belongs to, but in its general aesthetic value. Stylistics is expected to give recommendations as to the use of words: whether a word

suits the sphere of speech, or whether it is either too high-flown (and would be out of place in the text) or too coarse, too low to be used at all.

The stylistic classification, or stratification, of the vocabulary must take into account the social prestige of the word. The primary division of the vocabulary, as we already know, is into neutral words and words stylistically coloured. It should be noted here that all the classes of words mentioned above are coloured and cannot be neutral (the very fact that they bear special names — 'bookish', 'colloquial', 'poetic' and so on is evidence of it). And of course all such classes can differ, aesthetically, from the neutral part of the vocabulary in one of two ways: each of them is either more valuable or less valuable than* the class of neutral units. There is no other way: not being neutral, they must be either better or worse. To show metaphorically these relations in space, we shall have to place words with positive connotations above the neutral layer, and those with negative connotations, below it:

Positive (elevated)


Negative (degraded)

Fig. 5

This differentiation has social grounding. 'Elevation' and 'degradation' do not exist by themselves, as self-sufficient characteristics, but as the result of evaluating at least three factors: the subject of speech, the character of the communicative sphere, and the participants of communication. The notions of elevation and degradation are correlative, in the sphere of morals, with the biblical concepts of good and evil; logically, they represent the opposition of the positive to the negative.

The three-member system 'elevated — neutral — degraded' illustrates the differentiation of the high medium, and low styles, well-known since ancient times. This is quite acceptable and theoretically irrefutable. At the same time we cannot help seeing its too general character: it makes no provision for any gradation of the elevated or degraded lexical units, yet there must be different degrees in both. Simple logical reasoning as well as actual analysis of words proves this assumption to be correct.

It appears feasible to consider that the number of 'degrees' of elevation or degradation is infinite, or at least indefinite. Theoretically, we may be sure that no two synonyms stand at the same level stylistically: one of them is either higher or lower, or stronger, or weaker, or implies


additional meanings. Taking, for instance, the nouns answerreplyresponserejoindeiretortreturn, we can state that the first word (answer) is undoubtedly neutral, whereas the rest of them more or less elevated; the last (return) is very rare; the last three imply a negative attitude to what has been asked (or proposed) by the interlocutor. Theoretically, we may assume that every synonym is necessarily, inevitably, by the very fact of its co-existence with its correlative, different from the latter stylistically (this idea, by the way, underlies the whole theory of the infinite number of sublanguages). And practically speaking, it is not always possible to give an unbiassed opinion upon the merits and demerits of a word (phrase, sentence, etc.).

Taking all this into account, we shall nevertheless try to establish a scheme, dividing both the superneutral (elevated) and subneutral (degraded) parts of the diagram into three gradations: minimal, medial, and maximal. What is proposed here is not exactly a classification of real facts, but rather an ethically- and aesthetically-oriented scale, a possibility, a frame, to be filled in with actualities.

The subdivision of the upper and lower parts of the scheme into three gradations, or degrees, is based on analytical inductive premises. The minimal degree presupposes absence of purpose: the speaker does not deliberately select one word or another to achieve a stylistic effect he has in view — on the contrary, he never notices the word, he is not aware of its being used, he


merely takes what comes handy. It is only upon second thought that the user of the word is able to class it. The medial degree implies deliberate selection (a conscious act of choice), realization of the stylistic properties of the word by its user. The maximal degree is what we attribute to highly expressive words possessing either very special (uncommon) aesthetic value (superneutral words) or words inadmissible ethically (subneutral words).

Let us illustrate. Minimally elevated are slightly bookish words used automatically by cultivated speakers. The words prevail, activity, inher­ent are comprehensible, but not used actively by non-educated speakers.

To the medium class (expressively bookish words) the use of which betrays the user's propensity for being expressly elegant and rather high-flown: sagacity (= wisdom, cleverness), somnolent (— sleepy), expunge, expurgate (= strike out or wipe out parts of a text). The reader can easily feel the difference between this group of words and the previous one: the words prevail, activity, and the like are much more widely used than the representatives of the second group — somnolent or expurgate (which may be altogether unknown to people of little culture).

The maximum elevation can be found in words used in poetry and high prose: recall the words adduced on p. 10: morn, sylvan, ne'er — on the whole in the so-called 'poetic diction'.

Obviously the borderlines (or borderlands, as shown in the first part of the book) are very vague, more imaginary than real, still the general idea of dividing elevated words into three layers seems feasible enough: there certainly is a difference between what is used habitually, what is used on purpose, and what is employed as an exception. But all the same we must admit that as soon as we come to actual analysis of the elevated layers of the vocabulary, serious difficulties will arise, since we do not know for sure which is habitual and which is not; still less do we know which is intentionally expressive and which just happens to be.

Much simpler appears the analogous division of the subneutral part of the vocabulary. At any rate it is easier theoretically: here, the divergence can be more explicitly formulated. Here also, just as is the case with elevated words, the minimal degradation remains unobserved in the act of speaking. With the second layer (medial) just the opposite is the case: words of this class are created and used exactly because the speaker and the hearer know they are the wrong words. One might say their value for their user consists in their linguistic status as lexical outlaws — illegitimate progeny of word-building, units banned by polite usage. And, lastly, the maximal degradation characterizes words (and expressions) rejected by the whole system of morals and ethics of the linguistic community (indecent words, the very lexical meanings of which make them unmentionable, or words with more or less acceptable meanings, but with such coarse associations as to make them vulgar).


Again, as previously, we shall have to admit the arbitrary character of this division, the impossibility of strict differentiation of linguistic units.

Stylistic individuality of each word or, in any case, multiplicity of the classes to which it might belong prevents us from making generalizations in stylistic lexicology. Yet just because the stylistic scale demonstrates only the general principle of the aesthetic differentiation of the vocabulary, it is devoid of national concreteness, and is probably acceptable for an elementary simplified description of the vocabulary of any highly developed language possessing an infinite number of sublingual lexicons.

Let us examine, in a very general manner, the correlation of the word-classes singled out by traditional lexicology with our stylistic scale.

Among them we can find classes of quite definite stylistic value. We shall only enumerate them here; a detailed analysis will be given further.

Poetic words constitute the highest level of the scale; every poetic word pertains to the uppermost part of the scheme; it demonstrates the maximum of aesthetic value.

Official words of business and legal correspondence as can be seen in the diagram, occupy the middle level of the upper part of our scheme.

Colloquial words demonstrate the minimal degree of stylistic degra­dation.

Jargon words as well as slang and nonce-words (see below) must be placed at the second (medial) level of the lower part of the scale.

Vulgar words occupy the lowest step of the lower part.

Thus it can be stated that the classes enumerated are more or less homogeneous from the stylistic viewpoint.

Much greater difficulties arise as soon as we begin to deal with other classes of words singled out in lexicological descriptions. The classes we enumerate further are heterogeneous stylistically: one is never sure what place in the scale they occupy.

Bookish words. The epithet 'bookish' implies a very wide sphere of communication. Words traditionally referred to as 'bookish' occupy, as a matter of fact, the whole of the upper part of the stylistic scale: some of them are only slightly above the neutral sphere; others belong to the medial sphere; many bookish words are excessively high-flown.

Archaic words, or archaisms are also stylistically heterogeneous. They are usually thought to pertain to the upper strata of the vocabulary. As a general view this opinion is correct, but only with reference to the lexical units which, though obsolete, are not completely out of use. A high-flown archaic word must be popular enough not to become quite a stranger to the modern linguistic perception; besides, its meaning, its denotation must not collide with its highly positive connotation. Thus, the well-known pronominal forms thou, thee, ye or the words like knight, hauberk,

main (= ocean), etc. are high-flown archaisms. This is, however, hardly the case with words practically unknown to the public at large: they may produce the opposite stylistic impression, that of degradation (for detailed treatment see below).

Neologisms, or new creations. In most cases, newly coined words are not easily accepted by the linguistic community due to its conservative attitude towards every innovation. Therefore, a neologism seems, to the majority of language users, a stranger, a newcomer, and hence a word of low stylistic value, although the intention of the speaker (writer) may be quite the opposite. Obviously humorous are the so-called nonce-words (see below), i.e. words created by the speaker (writer) to meet the needs of the actual communicative situation. Their place is in the medial grade of the lower part of the scale.

Special terms. This word-class constitutes the actual majority of the lexical units of every modern language serving the needs of a highly developed science and technology. Suffice it to say that the vocabulary of chemistry is practically boundless (chemistry being only one branch of the immense information accumulated by humanity). It is a common prejudice of linguistics to consider specialist terms at large as allegedly devoid of stylistic colouring. The reader will have guessed that this cur­rent opinion is false. To be sure, such terms do not contain any emotional, subjective connotations, or at least they are supposed not to contain such connotations. At the same time there is no denying the fact of their aesthetic (and, hence, expressive) value as compared with neutral words. A term is always associated by a layman with socially prestigeous spheres; it expresses an idea which otherwise requires a circumlocutional description in a non-professional sphere; hence, it gives the layman a kind of intellectual satisfaction. It goes without saying that the stylistic function of terms varies in different types of speech. In special (professional) spheres the term performs no expressive or aesthetic function whatever. In non-professional spheres (imaginative prose, newspaper texts, everyday oral speech) popular terms are of the first (minimal) or the second (medial) degree of elevation. The use of special non-popular terms, unknown to the average speaker, shows a pretentious manner of speech, lack of taste or tact.

Professionalisms. The linguistic status of 'professional' words, i.e. those which replace some official terms of a profession is not quite definite either. On the one hand, they are used by professionals habitually, automatically, without a stylistic purpose: just because their use is an established custom of the profession. In this, they resemble colloqui­alisms. On the other hand, their creation is largely the result of emphatic protest against official technical terms and common literary words. The


latter peculiarity of professionalisms makes them resemble j argon words, or jargonisms (see below). The only difference between the two is that professionalisms are unofficial terms in a special field, while jargonisms are only created by and current among the people of a profession, yet their meanings pertain to everyday life, not to the professional sphere. Thus, sewing-machine used by soldiers instead of machine-gun is a professional expression, the name of a military object. On the contrary, the expression big gun that means 'an important person' only employs a popular military term gun, but the phrase itself has nothing in common with military affairs: it expresses a notion of everyday life. As it appeared in military circles and is current there, we refer it to soldiers' jargon.

There is also another viewpoint, in stylistic tradition. Both informal substitutes for special terms and term-like substitutes for non terminological words and expressions are part of the jargon of the given profession. By professionalisms proper certain authors mean words and phrases 'betraying' professionals communicating with people outside their profession, or speaking on subjects which have nothing in common with their trade. These words and phrases are not necessarily substitutes for official terms: they may be real terms of the profession. The term 'professionalism' is thus a term of that stylistics which confines its field of investigation to poetry and (more often) imaginative prose. Here are a few examples of what researchers in belles lettres call 'professionalisms', e.g.: Val gave the Ford full rein (Galsworthy). The same personage promises to keep silent about what he is asked to: " Stable secret! " (the reader acquainted with The Forsyte Saga re­members Val Dartie's passion for horseracing — hence the metaphors). Martin Eden, a sailor, says to his new acquaintance: " I'm like a navigator on a strange sea without chart or compass" (London).

Probably this treatment of professionalisms is more convenient: we shall follow it later in our discussion of jargons.

Barbarisms, or Foreign Words. They should not be confused with 'loan­words ', or borrowed words in English. Words originally borrowed from a foreign language are usually assimilated into the native vocabulary, so as not to differ from its units in appearance or in sound. Their alien past is forgotten; often it is only a philologist that can tell their un-English origin. Such words are called 'denizens', i.e. words naturalized, words that long ago obtained all the rights of citizenship. Here is some jocular advice allegedly given to the students by a purist who fought against borrowed elements in English:

" Avoid using foreign lexical units! Employ terse, brief, easy na­tive monosyllables! "

The learner with even a vague knowledge of historical lexicology (etymology) will undoubtedly have noticed that the adherent of the pu-

rity of English has not, himself, used a single native word in his ultra-patriotic admonition: each word, from first to last, was borrowed from French, or Latin and Greek (through French).

Along with denizens (the stylistic value of which, like that of native words, may be of various kinds), there are borrowed words called 'aliens', i.e. 'strangers': words whose foreign look, or foreign sound, or both, have been preserved, although they are widely used in English. They are mostly late borrowings from French (bouquet, billet-doux, rouge, garage, idee fixe), Italian (dolce-far-niente), or Latin (dixi, alter ego, etc.). The words sputnik, perestroika, glasnost are known and felt to be Russian words, while bouquet or garage, though obviously French in origin, have become part of the English vocabulary.

To characterize various alien borrowings in one single formula is impossible. Much depends on the meaning of the word, on the func­tion it performs in social life, on the language from which it came to English. The stylistic value of a French or Italian borrowing, pertaining to higher spheres of life, to music, theatre, art in general, is stylistically incomparable with that of borrowings from exotic languages, such as those of American Indians (words like squaw, moccasin, opossum).

The use of foreign words and foreign expressions in books of fiction may have various aims in view. In the following example the sentence in French merely characterizes the lingual behaviour of Fleur Forsyte, who is French on her mother's side:

" Why don't you like those cousins, Father? "

Soames lifted the corner of his lip.

" What made you think of that? "

" Cela ce voit."

" That sees itself! What a way of putting it! " (Galsworthy)

But the French parting f ormula Аи revoir used by Fleur when she takes her leave thus addressing Jon Forsyte has a special stylistic value. This expression is occasionally used in England even by those ignorant of French, and it has something exquisite, a tinge of elegance about it. It is stylistically 'higher' than the commonplace English good-bye. Compare the Italian ciao, bambina current among Russian youngsters a few years ago. The same tinge of elegance is felt in the French word chic used by Winifred Dartie, whose husband informs her of his intention to call their first-born child Publius Valerius:

She had been charmed. It was so chic. (Galsworthy)

We shall now return to some of the word-classes singled out above. Up till now we have merely mentioned them, providing them with a passing, superficial characterization. Certain classes, however, among those

briefly enumerated deserve a much more explicit analysis. Let us take superneutral (elevated) words first.

Archaic words. The term 'archaisms' (from the Greek archaios 'ancient') denotes words which are practically out of use in present-day language and are felt to be obsolete, recalling bygone eras.

One of the reasons why words disappear is the disappearance of their referents, i.e. the objects they denoted. Such archaisms are called 'material archaisms', or 'historical archaisms', such as yeoman, hauberk and the like.

Another reason is the ousting of the word in question by a synonym (very often, a loan word). Thus, the noun main has been replaced by ocean; the verb tо deem, by to consider, etc.

The use of archaic words in fiction, for instance, in historical novels, serves to characterize the speech of the times, to reproduce its atmosphere, its couleur historique ('historical colour'). Numerous archaisms can be found in Walter Scott's novels (in the following examples the reader will find lexical archaisms, as well as archaic grammatical forms):

" Nay, we question you not, " said the burgher; " although hark ye — I say, hark in your ear — my name is Pavilion."

"... methinks it might satisfy you that I am trustworthy."

" Prithee, do me so much favour, as to inquire after my as­trologer, Martinys Galeotti, and send him hither to me presently."

" I will, without fail, my Liege, " answered the jester, " and I wot well I shall find him at Dopplethur's." (Scott)

Archaization of the works of fiction does not mean complete repro­duction of the speech of the past; it is effected by occasional use of archaic words and archaic forms.

More often than not, archaization is relative. So, in his description of twelfth century events, Walter Scott resorts to words which existed not in the twelfth, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (the words nay, methinks, prithee, etc.). The use of twelfth century words is completely out of the question: the modern reader simply would not understand them. Still more conventional is the use of archaic words in the satirical novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain, depicting the events of the fourth century A.D. We know that the English language did not exist at that time (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded the British Isles at the beginning of the fifth century, in 410). King Arthur and his subjects spoke Celtic, not English; yet the couleur historique is created by the use of English archaisms (words of the sixteenth century).

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