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Figures of Quality 6 страница

Tautology pretended and tautology disguised. As a general rule, most isolated utterances contain the 'theme' ('topic') pointing out the subject to be discussed, and the 'rheme' ('comment') expressing what the speaker has to say concerning it. The rheme is presumed to bear information as yet unknown to the recipient (listener, reader). There are cases, however, when an utterance, quite acceptable grammatically, seems to convey no information, or at least very little of it.

Thus, a well-known type of sayings is formed by mere repetition of the same word or word combination: the theme and the rheme are lexically identical. Even those ignorant of French are familiar with the saying A la guerre, comme a la guerre («На войне, как на войне»); quite popular is also the German Befehlist Befehl(« Приказ есть приказ»), of ten used by war criminals who tried to justify their atrocities by shifting their own responsibility to their superiors. Every student of English ought to know Rudyard Kipling's famous words 'For East is East, and West is West...',

Sentences of this kind seem, at first glance, devoid of any informative force: the formula 'A is A' (A=A) appears to be a clear case of tautology, of mentioning the same thing twice. And yet they are current, so there must be some sense in it:

" 'Well, ' he said vaguely, 'that's that, ' and relapsed into a thoughtful silence." (Christie)

On closer inspection it becomes clear that the pattern discussed is by no means devoid of information. The form 'A is A' implies something different from what it seems to say. Its second part (a Russian scholar said once) is presumed to make sense. Used as topic (theme) the word is a deictic element; occupying the position of the comment (rheme) it becomes informative and requires no further elucidation. One is expected to know what such notions as 'war', 'command', 'order', 'East' (as opposed to 'West') are, and what they imply. Hence, the tautology we observe in such cases is tautology pretended, or sham tautology.

Directly opposed to these are utterances expressing practically the same statement twice, notwithstanding the completely new wording or even an attempt to look at the matter from a different angle. In the two

examples that follow the reader will see: a seemingly new turn of thought is a fake; it is only a paraphrase of the previous one. Compare:

" Make yourself an honest man and then you may be sure there is one rascal less in the world." (Carlyle)

A no less obvious platitude can be seen in the following reasoning of one of O. Henry's cowboy characters:

" I rode over to see her once every week for a while; and then I figured it out that if I doubled the number of trips I would see her twice as often."

Examine also a jocular bet: " Heads, I win, tails, you lose" (which means: whether the coin falls face upward or the reverse side upward, I'll be the winner either way).

However different the two devices discussed may be, there are certain grounds to class them as figures of inequality, while differentiating recurrence of identical forms with different meanings (sham tautology) from the intentional display of identical assertions in different forms (tautology disguised). Inequality is stylistically conspicuous in both.

3. Figures of Contrast

They are formed by intentional combination, often by direct juxtaposition of ideas, mutually excluding, and incompatible with one another, or at least assumed to be. They are differentiated by the type of actualization of contrast, as well as by the character of their connection with the referent. We remember from previous sections of this chapter that presentation may be passive (implied) or active (expressed or emphasized).

Oxymoron. The etymological meaning of this term combining Greek roots ('sharp-dull', or 'sharply dull') shows the logical structure of the figure it denotes. Oxymoron ascribes some feature to an object incompatible with that feature. It is a logical collision of notional words taken for granted as natural, in spite of the incongruity of their mean­ings. The most typical oxymoron is an attributive or an adverbial word combination, the members of which are derived from antonymic stems or, according to our common sense experience, are incompatible in other ways, i.e. express mutually exclusive notions. It is considered by some that an oxymoron may be formed not only by attributive and adverbial, but also by predicative combinations, i.e. by sentences. The following example illustrates all the three of syntactical connection — predicative, attributive, and adverbial in succession:

His honour rooted in dishonour stood

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true. (Tennyson)


бЗак. 169

It seems more consequent, however, not to class predicative combi­nations (sentences) as oxymorons, since (a) predication is active asser­tion or negation; (b) there is no illogicality in honour rooted in dishonour, merely a certain contradiction, quite common to dialectics.

Evidently an attributive or an adverbial combination forming oxy­moron is not devoid of sober sense despite its outward illogicality: it probably would be but for the fact that one of its two components is used figuratively. Just look at the flood of contrastive notions in the monologue of the philosophizing Romeo, who meditates on intrinsic contradictions of human nature:

О brawling love! О loving hate!

О any thing! of nothing first create.

О heavy lightness! serious vanity!

Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms! (Shakespeare)

Only the second line of this quatrain should not be qualified as oxymoronic: just as honour rooted in dishonour (see above), any thing of nothing first create(d), though dealing with incompatibles does not unite them, but expressly opposes them, thus making antithesis (see next section). The character of the fourth line is questionable; yet transforming mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms into the ugliness of beauty, we obtain an undisputed oxymoron.

This figure of speech is not too often met with; the more expressive is its stylistic effect. It is not absurd for absurdity's sake, but discloses the essence of the object full of seeming or genuine discrepancies.

A good instance of the figure discussed can be stated in J.B. Priestley accusation of many women's " desperate efforts to look their horrid best...". Classical cases of it are seen in Heinrich Heine's phrase dummkluges Gesicht (a foolishly intellectual face), or the title of the famous drama by Leo Tolstoy 'Живой труп' (The Living Corpse).

Graham Greene writes:

" I liked him better than I would have liked his father... We were fellow strangers."

Sometimes, oxymoron becomes obliterated, as in " I'm a great little kidder. Don't pay attention to it" (Chase). Here, the word little does not imply dimensions or importance of the person concerned, but rather the scale of kidding: What is meant is innocent, harmless cheating, 'fooling', deception, practical joking.

In certain cases oxymoron displays no illogicality and, actually, no internal contradictions, but rather an opposition of what is real to what is pretended:

" The Major again pressed to his blue eyes the tips of the fingers that were disposed on the ledge of the wheeled chair with careful carelessness..." (Dickens)

"... this Murkison... takes a letter out of his coat pocket in a careful, careless way and hands it to us to read." (O. Henry) Comical pomposity of the following self-estimation evidently needs no comment:

" I am preferably a man of mildness, but now and then, I find myself in the middle of extremities." (O. Henry)

Note. In expressions like awfully glad (kind), terribly nice, pretty dirty, etc. there is no oxymoron, as the adverbs have lost their primary meanings and become mere intensifiers, adverbs of degree, emphatic colloquial synonyms of the neutral 'very' (cf.: страшно интересно, ужасно весело).

Every act of deciphering a trope requires a mental effort. The recipient first realizes the incompatibility of the primary, straightforward meaning of a word (phrase) with the meaning of its surroundings, after which he searches for reasons of its use, for the actual meaning (sense) of the word (phrase). The semantic pattern of oxymoron makes the demand for the virtual sense very urgent, since the incongruence is strikingly obvious here. Hence, the exceptional force of the resulting effect.

Observe the following example from an essay by M. Richler, a Canadian writer and journalist:

" I also assure her that I'm an Angry Young Man. A black humorist. A white Negro. Anything."

The expressive oxymoron a white Negro is preceded by mentioning the generation of young English writers after World War II; the author then admits his propensity for what is known as 'black humour'. The word black engenders a natural association with the racial problems of 1960s. The oxymoron is doubtless the semantic peak of the short monologue, but the final one-word utterance 'Anything' keeps the climax intact, since logically (though not expressively) it is the strongest (all-embracing) statement.

In conclusion, we shall have two examples showing the way Raymond Chandler operates with the word nothing. In the first, what we observe is an absurd statement verging on oxymoron, in the second, a real one.

" California, the Warehouse of the States. The majority of ev­erything and best choice of nothing."

" Cops enjoy it, when a body looks timid, hat in hand, eyes full of nothing."

Antithesis. This phenomenon is incomparably more frequent than oxymoron. The term 'antithesis' (from Greek anti 'against'; thesis 'statement') has a broad range of meanings. It denotes any active con­frontation, emphasized co-occurrence of notions, really or presumably contrastive. The two opposed notions may refer to the same object of thought or to different objects. The former variety is logically related to



oxymoron (the same referent gets mutually exclusive characteristics).

The purpose of using this device is to demonstrate the contradictory

nature of the referent, as in the following illustration:

" It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the era of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of Hope, it was the winter of Despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us... on the right and in front and behind..." (Dickens) Another variety of antithesis concerns two different objects opposed

to each other and being given opposite characteristics. The device serves

to underline their incompatibility:

" Large houses are still occupied while weavers' cottages stand empty." (Gaskell)

" His fees were high; his lessons were light. " (O. Henry) A special type of antithesis is confronting quite different things (not really opposite, but connected at will by the speaker); each one has its own characteristics that are not exactly opposed to each other — they are just different; yet the impression of confrontation is obvious:

" For the old struggle — mere stagnation, and in place of danger and death, the dull monotony of security and the horror of an un­ending decay! " (Leacock)

It must be admitted that classification of antitheses is on the whole risky due to the very general character of the notion of antithesis. The borderlines of the phenomenon are vague by their nature. Perhaps the surest way is to assume that antithesis is any identification of contrast meant to be perceived by the recipient. The most natural, or regular expression of contrast is the use of antonyms. We have already seen it: bestworst, wisdomfoolishness, lightdarkness, everythingnothing. And yet, as already suggested, the notions opposed may be only apparently contrasting, i.e. opposite (or essentially divergent) from the particular viewpoint of the speaker or writer. This is observable in high fees and light lessons. High and light are not antonyms; moreover, they denote incompatible qualities, the former primarily pertaining to vertical dimensions, the latter, to weight. But looking at the matter closer we acknowledge the writer's position as perfectly logical, in fact, irreproachable: the price of the lessons is high, i.e. they are expensive, their quality low, but if the quality is low, the price ought to be low. Thus the confrontation is thinly veiled, but quite legitimate.

Two more examples supplied by the same great American writer.

A poor shop assistant is miraculously rescued by her girl friend who gives up her own chance of happiness. This is how O. Henry makes an antithesis of two metaphors depicting a sudden change in the shop-girl's mood:

" 'You blessed darling, ' cried Grace, now a rainbow instead of sunset."

Quite different is the pretentious and clumsy antithesis in the mouth of a half-educated swindler paying homage to his companion's philanthropic intentions. The absurdity of using elaborate wording, the naivete of applying it to a commonplace situation, and, finally, the ob­vious discrepancy between a high estimation of his companion's morals which are diametrically opposite to his criminal schemes make the situation very funny. This is the speaker's verdict concerning his friend's magnanimity, honesty, and charitable disposition:

" You have a kind nucleus at the interior of your exterior after all." (O.Henry)

Antithesis is not only an expressive device used in every type of emotional speech (poetry, imaginative prose, oratory, colloquial speech), but also, like any other stylistic means, the basis of set phrases, some of which are not necessarily emphatic unless pronounced with special force: now or never, dead or alive, yes or no, black and white, from top to toe, the first and the last (a biblical expression), etc.

To conclude the chapter on semasiology of sequences, the devices outlined are presented below in a scheme showing their classification.




1 On the phenomenon of 'deceived expectancy', psychologically based on the direct

connection between the degree of unpredictability of a text component and its general informative force (its stylistic value included) see: Jacobson R. Linguistics and Poetics // Style and Language, 1960; Riffaterre M. Criteria for Style Analysis // Word, 1959; Maltzev VA. Essays on English Style. — Minsk, 1984; Kukharenko V.A. A Book of Practice in Stylistics. — M., 1986. See also: Арнольд И.В. Стилистика современного английского языка. — М., 1981. С. 69—73.

2 Скребнев Ю.М. Очерк теории стилистики. — Горький, 1975.

3 Мезенин СМ. Образные средства в языке Шекспира: Автореф. дисс... д-ра филол.

наук. — М., 1986.

4 Кузнец МД. Стилистические функции синонимов // Уч. зап. IЛГПИИЯ, т. 1.— Л


5 Fowler H.W. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. — Oxford, 1944.

" See: Уварова Н.Л. Логико-семантические типы языковой игры: Автореф. дисс... канд.

филол. наук. — Львов, 1986. 7 Idem.

SUBLANGUAGES AND STYLES Viewed as Objects of Linguistic Research

Every manual on stylistics acquaints the learner with specific features of various types of speech (various texts). Those published in this country just since the late 1950s contain collectively as much information of this kind as to make presumptuous any attempt at offering the reader anything more comprehensive than can be found elsewhere. Therefore the chapters to follow contain only a critical survey of some of the existing style classifications, analysis of the few concepts that disclose, in the author's opinion, the most essential 'principium divisionis', and finally, a brief description of several sublanguages singled out on the basis of that principle.




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