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Figures of Quality 4 страница

There are practically no rules to diagnose whether the recurrence of a word is a stylistic fault or an intentional stylistic device. Our judgement can be facilitated if we have sufficient data concerning the personality of the writer: he who generally writes good English can hardly be suspected of stylistic defects when he uses the same word several times in a paragraph. On the whole, unconscious defects and deliberate effects are closely interwoven in stylistic matters.


The distinctive features of syntagmatic syntax, the traits differentiat­ing it from paradigmatic syntax, are obvious. Paradigmatic syntax deals with the structure of the sentence, the number and position of its con­stituents, compared with other choices. Syntagmatic syntax deals mainly with a chain of sentences, the sequence of sentences constituting a text. Here we search for stylistic functions in the sequence of sentence forms.

Sentences in sequence often show no regular alternation of form. We say that such syntax is stylistically neutral. Often, however, certain regular alternations or reiterations are conspicuous and stylistically rele­vant.

For example, regular alternation of interrogative and declarative sentences characterizes the text as a dialogue (if questions and answers belong to different speakers) or as an inner monologue (if there is one speaker).

Regular interchange or repetition may not only concern communicative types of sentences, but their syntactic structure as well. Adjacent sentences are often identical or analogous by their syntactical (or morpho-syntactical) structures. Assimilation or even identity of two or more neighbouring sentences (or verse lines) is called 'parallelism' ('parallel constructions'). As a matter of fact, parallelism is a variety of repetition, but not a repetition of lexically identical sentences, only a repetition of syntactical constructions: John kept silent; Mary was thinking. The reader will be convinced that the two sentences are syntactically identical —


subject and predicate consisting of two words. It should be stressed that lexically they are different.

Still, much more often it happens that parallel sentences contain the same lexical elements. See, for instance:

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods... (Burns) See also:

The cock is crowing,

The stream is flowing... (Wordsworth)

Parallelism contributes to rhythmic and melodic unification of adja­cent sentences. But not only that. As everywhere in language, semantics is the predominant factor. It is only with regard to lexical meanings that the constructive function of parallelism can be defined. It serves either to emphasize the repeated element, or to create a contrast (see the next chapter), or else underlines the semantic connection between sentences. Purely syntactical repetitions, with which we have classed parallelism, should be distinguished from lexico-syntactical repetitions. In these, the lexical identity of certain parts of neighbouring sentences is not an optional occurrence (as is the case with parallelism), but quite obligatory. Among them we can discern the following lexico-syntactical devices: anaphora, epiphora, symploca, anadiplosis, chiasmus.

Anaphora. This term implies identity of beginnings, of one or several initial elements in adjacent sentences (verse lines, stanzas, paragraphs). This device, often met with, serves the purpose of strengthening the element that recurs:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer...

Farewell to the forests and wild hanging woods!

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods... (Burns) In the second example, the anaphoric " Farewell to the..." is accom­panied by complete parallelism of the rest of each line. This, however, is by no means obligatory with anaphora. Compare with an extract from Hard Times by Charles Dickens:

" For the first time in her life, Louisa had come in the first of the dwellings of the Coketown hands; for the first time in her life she was face to face with anything like individuality in connection with them. She knew of their existence by hundreds and thousands. She knew what results in work a given number of them would produce, in a given space of time. She knew them in crowds passing to or from their nests, like ants or beetles. But she knew from her reading infinitely more of the ways of toiling insects, than of these toiling men and women." (Dickens)

Anaphoric recurrence of words or word combinations helps the reader (hearer) to fix the recurring segment in his memory. It also imparts a certain rhythmical regularity to the prosodic system of the text.

Anaphoric function may be fulfilled not only by a word or word-group, but also by whole sentences, paragraphs, or even greater units. Recall what we have discussed above: the very beginning of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (" Dusk — of a summer night... — And the tall walls of a commercial heart of...") which coincides with the first lines of the epilogue.

Hence, the most general definition could read thus: anaphora is identity of the initial parts of two or more autonomous syntactical segments, adjacent or at a distance in the text, yet obviously connected semantically.

Epiphora. This stylistic figure is the opposite of anaphora. It is re­currence of one or several elements concluding two (or more) syntacti­cal units (utterances, verse lines, sentences, paragraphs, chapters). Ex­ample:

" Now this gentleman had a younger brother of still better ap­pearance than himself, who had tried life as a cornet of dragoons, and found it a bore; and afterwards tried it in the train of an En­glish minister abroad, and found it a bore; and had then strolled to Jerusalem, and got bored there; and had then gone yachting about the world, and got bored everywhere." (Dickens) Epiphora, to a still greater extent than anaphora, regularizes the rhythm of the text and makes prose resemble poetry (see the above example). In the next illustration, what we observe is three sentences, all having the same beginnings (" If he wishes...") and identical ends (" he reads a book"). In other words, three sentences are connected both anaphorically and epiphorically. A combination of anaphora and epiphora in two or more adjacent utterances (or stanzas, paragraphs, etc.) is sometimes termed 'symploca':

" If he wishes to float into fairyland, he reads a book; if he wishes to dash into the thick of battle, he reads a book; if he wishes to soar into heaven, he reads a book." (Chesterton) Note the nearly complete parallelism of the three sentences.

Framing. This term is used here to denote the recurrence of the initial segment at the very end of a syntactic unit (sentence, paragraph, stanza): " Money is what he's after, money! " (Galore) " Those kids were getting it all right, with busted heads and bleeding faces — those kids were getting it." (Griffith)

" Never wonder. By means of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, settle everything somehow, and never wonder." (Dickens)




Anadiplosis (from the Greek 'doubling'): the final element (or ele­ments) of a sentence (paragraph, stanza) recur at the very beginning of the next sentence (paragraph, stanza, etc.). The concluding part of the proceeding syntactic unit serves the starting point of the next:

" With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy; happy at least in my own way." (Bronte)

Three fishers went sailing out into the West,

Out into the West, as the sun went down. (Kingsley)

But why do I talk of Death -

That phantom of grisly bone?

I hardly fear its terrible shape,

It seems so like my own —

It seems so like my own,

Because of the feasts I keep... (Hood)

The extract below demonstrates several syntactic devices; the eighth and ninth lines demonstrate anadiplosis; besides, we can see there two cases of anaphora, two of epiphora, and three cases of framing:

John Anderson, my jo, John, When we were first acquent, Your locks were like the raven, Your bonnie brow was brent; But now you brow is bled, John, Your locks are like the snow; But blessing on your frosty pow, John Anderson, my jo! John Anderson, my jo, John, We clamb the hill thegither; And monie a canty day, John We've had wi 'ane anither; Now we maun totter down, John, But hand in hand we'll go, And sleep thegither at the foot, John Anderson, my jo. (Burns)

Note, The words of the Highlands dialect: 1) jo = joy; 2) acquent = acquainted; 8) bonnie = beautiful; 4) brent = high, proud; 5) bled = bald; 6)pow = hoar-frost; 7) clamb = climbed; 8) thegither = together; 9) monie - many; 10) canty = gay; 11) wi 'ane anither = with one another; 12) maun = must. The word totter means 'walk

with difficulty'.

Chiasmus (from the Greek letter X= Chi) means 'crossing'. The term denotes what is sometimes characterized as 'parallelism reversed': two syntactical constructions (sentences or phrases) are parallel, but their members (words) change places, their syntactical positions. What is the

subject in the first, becomes an object or a predicative in the second; a head-word and its attribute change places and functions likewise.

The segments that change places enter opposite logical relations, which fact produces various stylistic effects (depending on the meanings of words and the forms of chiasmatic members). Examples:

That he sings, and he sings, and for ever sings he -

" I love my Love and my Love loves me! " (Coleridge)

" The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might

have been the jail..." (Dickens)

"... the public wants a thing, therefore it is supplied with it; or

the public is supplied with a thing, therefore it wants it."


Chiasmus is not infrequently met with in titles of books or articles. Thus Roman Jacobson entitles one of his essays The Poetry of Grammar and the Grammar of Poetry. P. Proudhon, whose book treated " Philosophie de la misere" (" Philosophy of Poverty"), was severely criticized by Karl Marx, who called Proudhon's theory " Misere de la philosophie" (" Poverty of Philosophy").

Certain witticisms (puns) are based upon chiasmus:

Soldiers face powder, girls powder faces.

A handsome man kisses misses, an ugly one misses kisses.


As distinct from syntagmatic semasiology investigating the stylistic value of nomination and renaming, syntagmatic semasiology deals with stylistic functions of relationship of names in texts. It studies types of linear arrangement of meanings, singling out, classifying, and describing what is called here 'figures of co-occurrence', by which term combined, joint appearance of sense units is understood (compare with the term 'figures of replacement' in Paradigmatic Semasiology, Fig. 7).

The interrelation of semantic units is unique in any individual text. Yet stylistics, like any other branch of science, aims at generalizations.

The most general types of semantic relationships can be reduced to three. Meanings can be either identical, or different, or else opposite. Let us have a more detailed interpretation.

1. Identical meanings. Linguistic units co-occurring in the text either
have the same meanings, or are used as names of the same object (thing,
phenomenon, process, property, etc.).

2. Different meanings. The correlative linguistic units in the text are
perceived as denoting different objects (phenomena, processes, properties).


3. Opposite meanings. Two correlative units are semantically polar. The meaning of one of them is incompatible with the meaning of the second: the one excludes the other.

It must be underlined here that the first and the third types do not necessarily imply strictly logical, objective identity or, say, contrast, of co-occurrent meanings. More often than not, both the speaker and the listener, under the influence of circumstances, single out only one relation (identity or contrast) from a whole complex of relations. To put it another way, the correlative (co-occurrent) meanings are subjectively thought of as identical, coincident, or as opposed, contrastive. Similarity is treated as identity; identity is ascribed to not quite identical units. Thus the words child, kid, infant, not being " absolute" synonyms and certainly different stylistically, could, under some circumstances, be used alternately in the same text with reference to one and the same object. The identity between the units is relative: much depends on our treatment of the matter, on what we prefer to underline or to neglect, What we regard as identical must be accepted as such (and usually is) by our interlocutor or reader; whenever the speaker (writer) treats synonyms as different from one another, the listener (reader) is usually cognizant of that (see below).

To illustrate the possibility of contrasting notions which stand in no logical opposition to each other (as do antonyms longshort, youngold, up — down, etc.) we may resort to O. Henry's famous story A Service of Love in which he mentions a master painter, saying: " His fees are high; his lessons are lighthis highlights have brought him renown." Clearly the words high and light are not antonyms, yet charging high fees for his lessons is in obvious contrast with a careless, irresponsible, light manner of teaching (the humour of the sentence attains its culmination in the last clause comprising the compound word highlights that means both 'bright spots in a picture' and 'masterpieces'.

As for the second item discussed (difference, inequality of co-occur­ring meanings), it must be specially underlined that we are dealing here not with any kind of distinction or disparity, but only with cases when carriers of meanings are syntactically and/or semantically correlative. What is meant here is the difference manifest in units with homogeneous functions, e.g. by two or more units characterizing the same referent (object, phenomenon of reality). Thus, in / ask, I beg, I beseech youl the semantic differentiation of the verbs is obviously quantitative (the growing intensity of 'imploring', or, to be more explicit, not the intensity of action or state shows growth, but rather the degree of emotional expression encoded and emotional impression decoded.

To sum up, sometimes two or more units are viewed by both the speaker and the hearer — according to varying aims of communication — as identical, different, or even opposite.

The three types of semantic interrelations are matched by three groups of figures, which are the subject-matter of syntagmatic semasiology. They are: figures of identity, figures of inequality, and figures of contrast.

1. Figures of Identity

Human cognition, as viewed by linguistics, can be defined as recur­ring acts of lingual identification of what we perceive. By naming objects (phenomena, processes, and properties of reality), we identify them, i.e. search for classes in which to place them, recalling the names of classes already known to us.

There are two varieties of lingual identification. It is either active, i.e. making the aim of a communicative performance as in This is a table implying: " what you and I perceive at the moment is a material object, the shape, size, potential and/or actual functions of which permit me to put it, as an individual example, in the class of furniture collectively associated (by English speakers) with the sound combination [teibl], spelt table." The lingual identification may be called passive, presumed or granted when several notional words follow one another without any special communicative emphasis on most of them; the emphatic communicative stress marks usually only one word or word-group of the utterance: A tall young man wearing a grey suit was silent. As can easily be guessed, only the concluding two words (was silent) perform the act of identification; the preceding eight may contain important information, yet they are presented to the reader as something self-evident, or ready-made, as a block of notions already identified.

Forms of active identification include statements actively expressing acts of claiming the identity, the equality of two notions (1). Identity implied is to be found in certain cases of the use of synonyms and synonymous expressions (2).

1. Simile, i.e. imaginative comparison. This is an explicit statement of partial identity (affinity, likeness, similarity) of two objects. The word identity is only applicable to certain features of the objects compared: in fact, the objects cannot be identical; they are only similar, they resemble each other due to some identical features.

The word explicit used in the definition distinguishes the simile from the metaphor. The learner remembers that every metaphor presupposes similarity of the notion expressed and the notion implied. However, when using a metaphor, we pretend to believe that the thing named is actually the thing referred to: calling a person pig, the speaker behaves as if he really believed what he said. In a simile, the speaker is always aware that the untidy, or greedy, or insolent person only looks or acts as does a pig.


The reader remembers that a metaphor is a renaming: a word, a phrase, a sentence, etc., used instead of another (more exact, but less picturesque). Simile, for its part, always employs two names of two separate objects (being a figure of co-occurrence, not that of replacement). Besides, and this is the most important point, it always contains at least one more component part — a word or a word-group signalizing the idea of juxtaposition and comparison. These formal signals are mostly the conjunctions like and as (as if, as though), than. They may also be verbs, such as to resemble, to remind one of, or verbal phrases to bear a resemblance to, to have a look of, and others.

Hence, the general formula for the simile includes the symbols of the object named, the object being used to name, as well as the element expressing the comparative juxtaposition of the two: the words like, as and their equivalents.

N1 is like N2, where N1 is called in Latin 'primum comparationis', N2, 'secundum comparationis' (i.e. the first and the second members of comparison). The reason why the two objects are compared, their feature(s) in common constitutes the so-called 'tertium comparationis' (the third member of comparison). The 'tertium comparationis' is either mentioned explicitly (a), or left to the ingenuity of the recipient (b).

A. " He is as beautiful as a weather-cock" (Wilde). The common feature,
the 'tertium comparationis' is expressly indicated: it is beauty that unites
him with a weather-cock.

B. " My heart is like a singing bird" (Rossetti). Here, the most probable
reason of likening a person's heart to a singing bird would be the feeling
of happiness: the poet's heart is as gay as a bird that enjoys the pleasures
of life.

Numerous assimilations have become all too current in everyday life — hackneyed phrases, in fact. Here are a few instances of trite phrases of this kind. To be more exact, the following enumeration only 'secundum et tertium comparationis' (i.e. the second and the third members of comparison) are given; the 'primum comparationis' (the first member — N1) language users are at liberty to supply (any personal pronoun or personal name will do):

as dead as a door-nail

as mad as a march hare

as bright as a button

as cool as a cucumber

as blind as a bat

as proud as a peacock

An attentive reader may have noticed alliterating words in all the phrases adduced. Sometimes the alliteration conceals the true sense of phrases. Thus, buttons (say, of a soldier's uniform) are admittedly bright,

but the word bright in the phrase is used metaphorically, denoting 'clever', 'of high mental ability', 'having uncommonly strong intellect'. The adjective cool in the next phrase is also used figuratively: it has nothing to do with temperature, only with a person's temperament (cool = 'collected'). The rest of the phrases seem clear enough, except the first, which is not exactly logical: possibly, alliteration was the only ground for mentioning the doornail.

To be sure, among ready-made similes there are many without a trace of alliteration:

to fit like a glove

to smoke like a chimney

as fat as a pig

as drunk as a lord

The last of the four phrases may seem to the learner of English rather unexpected or even abusive to British nobility, and yet the saying once had every reason to exist: excessive use of alcohol was an established custom among English noblemen of past centuries: a lord usually drank like a fish (another set phrase!), competing with other gentlemen of his circle.

It goes without saying that stylistic analysis of imaginative prose or poetry has very little to do with such trite similes as have just been discussed. A fresh simile, especially an elaborate one (discovering unex­pected and striking similarities) is one of the best image-creating devices.

But before debating types of similes and savouring the strength of some of them, we have yet to draw, if possible, a line of demarcation between what is called a real simile, an image-forming stylistic device, and a logical comparison — a mere statement of identical (similar) or distinctive features of two objects, a statement of no stylistic value.


She sings like a professional soloist. She sings like a nightingale.

He talks French like a born Frenchman. He talks French like a ma­chine-gun.

The changes in agriculture are as slow Our agricultural reform is as

as they were last year. slow as a snail.

It is clear that the examples in the left-hand column are mere comparisons, while those in the right-hand column, are true similes.

It is also evident that something more definite differentiates one from the other: a simile is practically always created by juxtaposing two notions pertaining each to a semantic plane radically different from the other. In the above examples, a woman and a singing bird, a French speaker and a machine-gun, the rate of agricultural development and the motion of a snail. Quite different is the case with the amateur singer


and a professional, a person who can talk French fluently and a born Frenchman, the present-day rate of production and that of the previous year. As distinct from simile then, comparison proper deals with what is logically comparable, while in a simile there is usually a bit of fantasy. A simile is the stronger, someone has remarked, the greater the obvious disparity between the two objects. On the whole, it has been known since Roman Jacobson that the secret of any stylistic effect is defeated expectancy; the recipient is ready and willing for anything but what he actually sees.1

True, it is not always possible to tell a picturesque simile from a sober, modest-looking logical comparison. Sometimes, the two notions compared belong to the same semantic plane, and yet the result is a simile — due to some accompanying stylistic device. To say Oh, John could do this forty times better than I is to use a simile: both John and the speaker are human beings, but evident exaggeration (hyperbole) makes the utterance a simile. A simile has manifold forms, semantic features and expressive aims. It can be a simple sentence (She was like a tigress ready to jump at me), a complex sentence with an adverbial clause of comparison (She looked at him as uncomprehendingly as a mouse might look at a gravestone — O'Brian); often it is seen in a single compound word: dog-like, hungry-looking. In the following extract from one of O. Henry's stories the reader will find first two similes implied (or shortened) in of-phrases, then a metaphor followed by two ordinary similes with the conjunction like:

" Old Zizzbaum had the eye of an osprey, the memory of an elephant, and a mind that unfolded from him in three movements like the puzzle of a carpenter's rule. He rolled to the front like a brunette polar bear, and shook Platt's hand."

As already mentioned, a simile may be combined with or accompanied by another stylistic device, or it may achieve one stylistic effect or another. Thus it is often based on exaggeration of properties described. So, a young woman is presented by E. McBain as being " hotter than a welder's torch and much, much more interesting." Two more examples of hyperbolic similes:

" He held out a hand that could have been mistaken for a bunch of bananas in a poor light." (Gardner)

" She heaved away from the table like a pregnant elephant." (ibid.) The following negative simile is at the same time a litotes:

" His eyes were no warmer than an iceberg." (McBain) Irony:

" Brandon liked me as much as Hiroshima liked the atomic bomb." (McBain)

J.H. Chase, a well-known detective-story writer, has a propensity for

using detailed, 'extended', or 'sustained' similes (cf. 'sustained

metaphors' — see above); in them, he gives detailed descriptions of

imaginary situations. This is what the narrator says about what happened

after he was captured by gangsters, who then delivered him to their leader:

" They eased me through a door as if I were a millionaire invalid

with four days to live, and who hadn't as yet paid his doctor's bill."

And thus he describes his meal at a third-rate restaurant:

" The rye bread was a little dry and the chicken looked as if it had a sharp attack of jaundice before departing this earth." An effective simile is used by Chase to depict a talentless and voiceless woman singer:

" A little after midnight Dolores Lane came in and stood holding a microphone the way a drowning man hangs on to a lifebelt." It has been mentioned that the act of comparing in a simile has varied forms of expression. In the last example it is expressed by the conjunction-like phrase the way. It would be useless trying to discuss and classify even the main types of assimilation of two mental pictures creating an image: the number of classes is practically unlimited. Suffice it to say that in many cases the confrontation of the notions compared is expressed lexically: by means of verbs (1), verbal phrases (2), or merely implied since there are two allegedly parallel statements in an utterance.

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