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Stylistics of Units,or Paradigmatic Stylistics Stylistics of Sequences,or Syntagmatic Stylistics 5 страница

Among the elevated phrases we can discern the same groups as among the elevated words:

a) archaisms — the iron in one's soul ('permanent embitterment');
Mahomet's coffin ('between good and evil'); to play upon advantage ('to

b) bookish phrases — to go to Canossa ('to submit'); the debt of nature
('death'); the knight of the quill ('writer'); gordian knot ('a complicated

c) foreign phrases — apropos de bottes ('unconnected with the pre­
ceding remark'); mot juste ('the exact word').

Subneutral phrases can also be divided into:

a) colloquial phrases — alive and kicking ('sate and sound'); a pretty
kettle of fish

b) jargon phrases — a loss leader ('an article sold below cost to attract

c) old slang phrases — to be nuts about ('to be extremely fond of);
to shoot one's grandmother ('to say a non-sensical or commonplace
thing'); to keep in the pin ('to abstain from drinking'); to kick the bucket,
to hop the twig
('to die').


Even what might be called neutral phrases produce a certain stylis­tic effect as opposed to their non-phrasal semantic equivalents (to complete absence of phrases in the whole text). Correct English and good English are most certainly not identical from the viewpoint of stylistics. Idioms and set expressions impart local colouring to the text; besides, they have not lost their metaphorical essence to the full extent as yet — hence, they are more expressive than unidiomatic statements.

Compare the following extracts containing set phrases with their 'translations' (equivalents) devoid of phraseology:

" Come on, Roy, let's go and shake the dust of this place for good..." (Aldridge)

Cf.... let us go and leave this place for ever.

If she could not have her way, and get Jon for good and all she felt like dying of privation. By hook or by crook she must and would get him! (Galsworthy)

Cf. If she could not act as she liked, and get Jon for herself for her whole life... By whatever means she must and would get him.

Absence of set phrases makes speech poor and in a way unnatural: something like a foreigner's English. On the other hand, excessive use of idioms offends the sense of the appropriate. Recall Soames Forsyte's apparent incomprehension of the slang phrase to have the bird used by his son-in-law, Mont (see above).

A very effective stylistic device often used by writers consists in intentionally violating the traditional norms of the use of set phrases (some authors call it 'breaking up of set expressions'7). The writer discloses the inner form of the phrase; he either pretends to understand the phrase literally (every word in its primary sense), or reminds the reader of the additional meanings of the components of which the idiom is made, or else inserts additional components (words), thus making the phrase more concrete and more vivid, as in the following example in which the phrase shifting from, foot to foot is altered:

He had been standing there nearly two hours, shifting from foot to unaccustomed foot. (Galsworthy)

Often the key-words of well-known phrases are purposely replaced. Thus, unmasking the inhuman 'philosophy of facts' in his novel Hard Times, Dickens ironically exclaims Fact forbid! instead of God forbid!.

Mark Twain replaces the epithet in the expression The Golden Age, naming satirically his contemporary epoch The Gilded Age.

In the following instances the humorous treatment of the idioms consists in pretending to understand them literally:

" Then the hostler was told to give the horse his head, and his head being given him, he made a very unpleasant use of it: tossing it into the air with great disdain, and running into the parlour win­dows over the way..." (Dickens)

(To give the horse his head means 'to loosen the reins'.) " Soames bit his lip. " God knows! " he said. " She's always saying something, " but he knew better than God." (Galsworthy)

0. Henry writes that he had so many new schemes up his sleeve that he " had to wear kimonos to hold them".

Two examples in which one of the components of the idiom is taken at its face value as a separate word and treated accordingly, which provides a humorous effect:

"... the miserable little being [an illegitimate child] was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this." (Dickens)

(To go to one's fathers is a euphemistic phrase that means 'to die'.)

In what follows, the boy's mouth is described in passing just after the phrase to be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth.

" Little Jon was born with a silver spoon in a mouth which was rather curly and large." (Galsworthy)

On the basis of the ancient admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child (= if you do not punish your offspring, you will spoil him) the viewpoint of the new educational trend at the beginning of the twentieth century is thus summarized by Galsworthy:

" They spoiled their rods, spared their children and anticipated the results with enthusiasm."

See also the title of Bernard Shaw's play Too True to Be Good saying just the opposite of what it is the custom to say: too good to be true (— unbelievable).

Observe, finally, a scornful word-for-word treatment of the current phrase in response to a gangster's reassuring verbosity:

" Alfred, he's my nephew. My sister's child. Sort of his guardian, I am. He wouldn't harm a fly, I assure you."

" Next time I'll have a fly caught — specially for him not to harm it." (Chandler)

A number of curious instances of distorting 'literalizing', combining and opposing phraseological expressions to achieve stylistic effects are adduced by L. A. Barkova, who studied commercial advertising.8 Here are florae of them.


Assuring the prospective buyer of the high quality of those metallic parts of a car which its users rarely see (the inside of the car), an ad­vertiser refers to it as to the other side of the metal. The expression is obviously derived from the internationally known phrase the other side of the medal.

A dealer in window blinds slightly alters the well-known saying Love is blind, advertising his merchandise thus: Our Love Is Blinds.

Changes in spelling (attaining a new meaning and at the same time preserving the phonetical form of the original set expression) are also resorted to. The well-known precept Waste not, want not (the idea of which is 'wasting will make one suffer from want of what has been wasted', or to put it shorter, 'wasting brings suffering') is used by the producer of dietary foods, hinting in his advertisement at the disadvantage of being fat: Waist not, want not.

A furniture shop praises its sofas: Sofa, So Good! (from so far, so good).

A special device is the interaction of set phrases in an ad for a new cookbook: The last word in French cookbooks by the first lady of French cooking. The phrases last word and first lady make an antithesis, thus enhancing the expressive force of the statement.

Sometimes allusions are made use of. The ad recommending Smirnoff's Silver (a famous brand of whisky) says that it is for people who want a silver lining without the cloud (the allusion is to the proverb Every cloud has a silver lining, i.e. 'everything that is bad has a good side to it'). The advertiser's assertion without the cloud could be a hint that the consumer will have no hang-over afterwards.

All the examples of phraseology in advertising were collected by L.A. Barkova. The author of the present book has only commented on some of them.


1 Properly speaking, the term euphemism does not characterize a definite lexical

group, denoting rather a certain stylistic result which can be achieved by various means, whenever a 'strong' expression cedes its place to a weaker one. Thus, every case of 'meiosis', or 'understatement' — see the next chapter — has euphemistic force.

2 Jespersen O. Growth and Structure of the English Language. — Heidelberg, 1931.

3 Bradley H. The Making of English: McMillan and Co. Ltd. — L., 1937.

4 McKnight G.H. English Words and Their Background. - N.Y. — L., 1931.

5 Koonin A.V. Phraseological Dictionary. — M., 1954.

6 Arnold I.V. The English Word. — M. — L., 1966.
\Galperin IЛ Stylistics. — M., 1971. P. 313.

8 Баркова Л А.. Прагматический аспект использования фразеологизмов в рекламных текстах (английский язык): Автореф. дисс.... канд. филол. наук. — М., 1983.


The onomasiological approach in stylistic syntax is aimed at finding out what sublanguage is involved and what expressive value a syntactical unit (sentence or other utterance) has, treated in abstraction from its environment. What is studied here is the syntactical paradigm, i.e. a set of parallel (more or less equivalent, interchangeable, though formally different) syntactical structures and their comparative stylistic significance.

It is known that the sentence, as distinct from units of lower levels, is a sequence of relatively independent lexical and phrasal units (words and word combinations). What differentiates a sentence from a word (we know that a word, too, may be used as a sentence) is the fact that the sentence structure is changeable: the sentence is not a unit of constant length possessing neither upper nor lower limitations —■ it can be shortened or extended; it can be complete or incomplete, simple, compound, or complex. Its constituents, length, word order, as well as communicative type (assertion, negation, interrogation, exhortation) are variable.

The reader will remember that every primary classification in stylistics (and in stylistic syntax just as in all the other branches) consists in differentiating neutral manifestations from specific ones. In terms of the sublanguage theory, we must decide first what should be in the central area formed by intersecting sublanguages and what in the peripheral areas.

Hence, the reader needs hardly any help from the author. Everything is just as before: look for what is common to all types of speech, and you shall find what is neutral.

In syntax, what is most popular and most current is the common two-member sentence, containing subject and predicate and perhaps a few secondary elements as well. The order of words should be normal; the function (the communicative purpose) of the sentence is expected to be consistent with its structure: thus a declarative sentence must express a statement, and not a question or a request. Nothing should be felt to be missing or superfluous.

Any kind of deviation from the said requirements are stylistically relevant. The problem of their classification may be dealt with as follows:

1. From the viewpoint of quantitative characteristics of the syntactic
structure, it is self-evident that there are only two possible varieties of
deviations — the absence of elements which are obligatory in a neutral
construction (a); excess of non-essential elements (b).

2. With regard to the distribution of the elements we should look for
and classify the stylistic value of various types of inversion.

3. By analysing general syntactic meanings, communicative aims of
sentences, stylistic effects of shifts in syntactic meaning, of changes in
the use of syntactic forms are established.




In the sections below, syntactical paradigmatics is discussed in the

same order as the items enumerated.


1-A. Stylistically significant are: elliptical sentences, nominative sen­tences, unfinished sentences, as well as sentences in which certain aux­iliary elements are missing.

Ellipsis. The term 'elliptical sentence' implies absence of one or both principal parts (the subject, the predicate). The missing parts are either present in the syntactic environment of the sentence (context), or they are implied by the situation. The question of whether elliptical sentences are incomplete, defective versions of complete two-member models (patterns), or of their own peculiar ('incomplete') models is irrelevant here. What is important paradigmatically is that elliptical sentences are correlative with complete ones, being, so to speak, their concrete 'syntactical synonyms'.

Ellipsis is, first and foremost, typical of colloquial speech. One should bear in mind that colloquial speech is the primary form of existence of language. Therefore it would hardly be correct to assume that colloquial ellipses are shortenings of basic complete forms. The opposite is, perhaps, more to the point: short, incomplete utterances were the first to appear in history of mankind; a child also first produces one-word utterances, only later learning to make its speech coherent. Why do we think, a linguist asked once, that " Slab! " is a shortened form of " Give me a slab! "? Why is not the latter a prolonged (extended) form of " Slab! "? Why, indeed?

In the following short dialogue two questions are answered elliptically. The first answer is a potential adverbial modifier of place used independently; the second, part of the simple predicate plus direct object.

ALICE (merrily): Where's the man I'm going to marry?

GENEVRA: Out in the garden.

ALICE (crossing to the windows): What's he doing out there?

GENEVRA: Annoying Father. (Gow and D'Usseau) Colloquial ellipses are variegated. Very often the subject is omitted, mostly when it is the pronoun of the first person (/), but not necessarily, as can be seen in the last sentence of the following example:

" Were they interesting books? "

" Don't know. Haven't read them. Looked pretty hopeless." (Christie)

Another variety with a very wide currency is the pattern in which the finite verb of the predicate is missing. The first sentence of the following example lacks the link-verb are; in the third, both the link-verb am and the subject Iare omitted.

" You Chester Scott? " " That's right." " Glad to know you." (Chase)


In careless speech the link-verb to be is dropped habitually: " I love that girl." " You what? " " I love her, you deaf? " (McBain) " That his daughter? " " That is Mrs.Aitken."

" You mean she's that old punk's wife? " (Chase) " Police sure he did it, eh? " (Christie) " Lucky you! " said Pinto. (Wallace)

In informal speech, the striving for brevity permits leaving out the subject and the modal verb of a complex predicate. As is shown in the next example, what is left in the answer makes the hearer guess un­mistakably that the pronominal subject and the verb are I should:

" Will you and Johnnie come in and have drinks with us this evening, Maureen? "

" Love to." (Christie)

Quite a different sort of ellipsis is observed in the following illus­tration: the only part present is the auxiliary verb in the negative form:

" Stop it, Ernie, " she said.

" Sha'n't, " said Ernie and continued. (Christie)

An extreme case of ellipsis can be observed in the sentence consisting of only three words, which sentence, however, is compound expressing alternative:

" Perhaps, perhaps not." (Clifford)

In works of fiction, elliptical sentences are made use of either to reproduce the direct speech of characters, or to impart brevity, a quick tempo and (sometimes) emotional tension to the author's narrative.

" He became one of the prominent men of the House. Spoke clearly, sensibly, and modestly, and was never too long. Held the House where men of higher abilities 'bored' it." (Collins) Beside oral speech and fiction (which aim at economy and expressiveness, respectively), ellipsis is common to some special types of texts.

For the sake of business-like brevity, elliptical sentences are very frequent in papers or handbooks on technology or natural sciences:

" The grindstone — a cylinder pole, diameter 2.0 dm, thickness 5.0 dm, a frustum hole in the centre, sides of the bases 10 cm and 5.0 cm respectively."



An imitation of a textbook on zoology was given above in the quotation from Hard Times by Dickens (see Ch. II).

Ellipsis (and abbreviation) is practically always employed in encyclopaedic dictionaries and reference books of the " Who's Who" type. What pretends to be a quotation from the latter can be found in A Modern Comedy by Galsworthy:

" Mont — Sir Lawrence (9th Bt., cr. 1620, e.s. of Geoffrey, 8th

Bt., and Lavinia, daur. of Sir Charles Muskham, Bt. of Muskham

Hall, Shrops; marr. 1890 Emily, daur. of Conway Charwell, Esq.,

of Condaford Grange, со. Oxon; I son, heir Michael Conway, b. 1895,

two daurs. Residence: Lippinghall Manor, Folwell, Bucks."

All kinds of elliptical constructions (including special ready-made

formulas) are resorted to in telegraphic messages. The reason is clear:

every word is paid for. Hence, along with ellipsis proper, some of the

operators (articles and prepositions) are sacrificed; participial predicates

(as in the following example) replace verbal ones. Here is the text of a

telegram sent by a boxer's sponsor:

" Trying for date and site London versus Patterson will inform you have patience." (Daily Worker)

In Mark Twain's story of the stolen white elephant, sensation-hunting reporters' telegrams run as follows:

" Just arrived. Elephant passed through half an hour ago, cre­ating wildest fright and excitement. Elephant ranged around streets; two plumbers going by killed one — other escaped. Regret general. O'Flaherty, Detective."

The reader has undoubtedly noticed all the gaps where articles should be. One might remark here in passing that the sentence 'Regret general' (= There is general regret) is purposely ambiguous: the addressee can never be sure if the sender regrets the death of the first plumber, or the fact that the second escaped the impending disaster.

To conclude the discussion of ellipsis, we shall quote a passage from the late Vitaly A. Maltzev's posthumous handbook on English stylistics: " The style of the language of... telegrams is very peculiar... A lot of money-saving discoveries have been made, including the very valuable prefix un- which goes for any kind of negative. Hence there are a lot of jokes about cablese; one of them concerns a very lazy correspondent who received the cable: WHY UNNEWS QUERY. He cabled back: UNNEWS GOOD NEWS. His office replied: UNNEWS UNJOB (MN, 1981, No 48). Thus we may say that one of the absolutely specific features of the sublanguage of cables and telegrams (cablese) is the unusually extensive use of the prefix un-, and the reason for this is the specificity of the sphere of discourse. " x

Aposiopesis. This term, which in Greek means 'silence', denotes intentional abstention from continuing the utterance to the end. The speaker (writer) either begins a new utterance or stops altogether. It goes without saying that an utterance unfinished due to external reasons (state of agitation, sudden change of circumstances) is not a stylistic device, as in the following case:

KEITH (letting go her arms): My God! If the police come — find me here -— (He dashes to the door. Then stops). (Galsworthy) Aposiopesis may be illustrated by such ready-made incomplete sentences as Of all the... and Well, I never! (both could have the same implication: 'Such impudence is quite unexpected'). A special variety of unfinished sentences is represented by conditional clauses used indepen­dently: If they only knew that! Examples of aposiopesis:

" Well, I must say that's a wonderful way of wasting tax-payers 'money', " Aitken growled. " Of all the damned nonsense I've run into..." (Chase)

" You heard what the guy said: get out or else." (Gardner)

This device is extensively made use of by O. Henry in one of his

masterpieces, which bears the significant title of Аn Unfinished Story.

Giving a sad account of the poverty-stricken life of a lonely shop-girl in

New York, the author ponders over the tragic alternatives of her wretched

fate and invites the reader to give vent to his own imagination (the girl

earns six dollars a week and is repeatedly tempted by a rich ladies' man):

" She had her lunches in the department-store restaurant at a

cost of sixty cents for the week; dinners were $ 1.05. The evening

paper... came to six cents; and two Sunday papers... were ten cents.

The total amounts to $ 4.76. Now, one had to buy clothes, and — "

(O. Henry)

" This story really doesn't get anywhere at all. The rest of it comes later — sometimes when Piggy asks Dulcie again to dine with him, and she is feeling lonelier than usual, and General Kitchener happens to be looking the other way; and then — " (O. Henry)

Nominative sentences. The communicative function of a nominative Hentence is a mere statement of the existence of an object, a phenomenon: " London. Fog everywhere. Implacable November weather." Though syntactically quite different from elliptical sentences, nomi­native sentences (which comprise only one principal part expressed by a noun or a noun equivalent) resemble the former because of their brevity. They arouse in the mind of the hearer (reader) a more or less isolated image




of the object, leaving in the background its interrelations, with other
objects. Being of a lesser importance, the interrelations are shown in
attributive word-groups: /

" Nothing — nothing! Just the scent of camphor, and dustmotes in a sunbeam through the fanlight over the door. The little old house! A mausoleum! " (Galsworthy)

Nominative sentences are especially suitable for preliminary descrip­tions introducing the reader to the situation which the narrative is to treat (the 'exposition'). Thus, the initial lines of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser run:

" Dusk — of a summer night.

And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400, 000 inhabitants — such walls as in time may linger as a mere fable."

The stylistic effect produced by a nominative sentence or by a suc­cession of nominative sentences is predetermined by the sense of the words of which they consist. The following sequence of laconic nominative sentences presents a kaleidoscopic range of images in Clyde Griffiths' imagination (An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser):

" The horror! The flight! The exposure! The police! The first to desert him — these — all save Sondra perhaps. And even she, too. Yes, she, of course. The horror in her eyes."

Nominative sentences are widely used in stage directions (especially in initial, opening remarks, serving the same purpose as expositions in novels or stories):

The living room of the Langdon home, on the outskirts of a small town in the Deep South. (Gow and D'Usseau)

Lady Sneerwell's dressing-room. Lady Sneerwell discovered at her toilet; Snake drinking chocolate. (Sheridan)

Absence of auxiliary elements. The term implies the form-words or 'operators' (as opposed to notional words): auxiliary verbs, articles, prepositions, conjunctions. All these elements, except conjunctions, are omitted in careless colloquial speech; conjunctions, both in colloquial speech and fiction.

The auxiliaries have, do, be, will, as well as the link-verb be are very often dropped in informal oral communication. A few examples were mentioned in the section on ellipsis. To be on the safe side grammatically, we had better make a certain correction here: a sentence comprising both subject and predicate (either complete or in part) is not elliptical: we might call a sentence with the subject and a nominal, a participial, or an infinitival part of the predicate morphologically incomplete, but not elliptical, as it has its both principal parts.

" I been waiting here all morning..." (Robbins)

" You feel like telling me? " (Salinger)

" She still writing poetry? " (Miller)

" That be enough? " (Markus)

The forms have, do, is, will are missing. The illustrations adduced have been taken from a research paper by N. A. Sitnova. The same author gives instances of omission of articles, both the definite and the indefinite: 2

" Third time lucky — that will be the idea." (Christie)

" Post here yet? " (Amis)

" Chair comfortable? " (Pinter) (the definite article)

" Beautiful woman, but no subtlety... " (Christie)

" Great man, Holmes." (Kanin)

" Fine class of friends you pick." (Robbins) (the indefinite article)

Both the definite and the indefinite articles may be dropped, as the author's material shows mostly when the noun or the nominal group occupy the initial position in the sentence. Prepositions are absent mostly in adverbial modifiers of place and time:

" Where was he born? "

" London." (Kanin)

" What time did you get in? "

" Four." (Amis)

" I told you we'll go Friday." (Hellmann)

The absence of conjunctions bears the name asyndeton (this Greek term means 'disconnected'). Asyndetic connection between words, clauses and sentences is based upon the lexical meanings of the parts connected. Absence of connecting elements imparts dynamic force to the text:

" He notices a slight stain on the window-side rug. He cannot

change it with the other rug, they are a different size." (Christie)

" Students would have no need to 'walk the hospitals' if they had

me. I was a hospital in myself." (Jerome) (absence of the

conjunction for or because)

The data obtained by N.A. Sitnova show that in colloquial speech the most frequent are conditional and temporal asyndetic adverbial clauses: " You want anything, you pay for it." (Osborne) " You get older, you want to feel that you accomplished some­thing." (Miller)3

It is a well-known fact that attributive and object clauses in English are very of ten joined to the principal clause asyndetically. What is the stylistic status of such sentences? Examples like " He said he had seen it before" or " The man he met yesterday was an old friend of his" are not to be regarded


as colloquial, and yet there is something slightly informal about them: in a formal text, sentences with conjunctions would be preferable.

1-B. Redundance of syntactical elements. Material and structural overloading occurs in various types of utterances. Thus, a complex sentence, as opposed to a simple one, is a type of utterance in which the 'addresser' (speaker, writer) intends to place as much information as possible. The sublanguage to which complex sentences belong is wide: they are typical of written texts in general, and much less frequently occur in oral (especially colloquial) speech. The reasons are clear: in oral communication, limitations of memory prevent the speaker from using prolonged elaborate constructions, whereas in writing (and reading) there is no time shortage.

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