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Chapter II. The most general (binary) division of language

From the somewhat lengthy discussion of classifications reviewed above, we should draw certain conclusions. No classification whatever can be exhaustive, universally applicable, and reflecting the innumerable relationships between common features and distinctions of all text types. The smaller the classes after segmenting the whole, the less practicable and logically reliable the result is bound to be. On the contrary, the division into smaller numbers diminishes the explanatory force of the procedure, but secures more definite results. Resorting to the binary division, i.e. to establishing only two varieties (units possessing a certain feature and those deprived of it), one achieves at least simplicity and safety of the system.

There is actually nothing new in the statement. The ancient and mediaeval rhetoric opposed, in a metaphorical manner, 'high' and 'low' styles ('medial' style in between could be regarded as what is 'stylistic neutrality' in the present book). The three-style gradation is known in Russia owing to our great encyclopaedist and enlightener Mikhail Lomonosov since the middle of the eighteenth century.

Natural as the figurative representation of social importance as 'high' and its opposite as 'low' might have been (the present author has himself used this scheme in classifying the vocabulary, see above, p. 56), this is not yet an answer to the question of why it seems reasonable to prefer this confrontation to others.

As a matter of fact, some of the stylists whose theoretical premises and classifications have been analysed, came very close to such a di­chotomy — in fact, formulating a similar one, each using terms of his (her) own, and put it in first place, without, however, giving reasons for his (her) choice and perhaps scarcely aware of his (her) achieve­ment. Characteristically, each seems (and must have been) independent of the others; the wording never coincides and the notions opposed differ considerably: in one opposition it is the type of social relations that come to the foreground; another proposes two oppositions, making use (in the first) of purely stylistic terms with their sense extended, and merely opposing (in the second) the two forms of lingual mani­festation, which makes sense only if the reader can see the metonymy he is meant to; still another operates with axiological concepts of op­posing what is good to what is bad. Some of them (or all of them) may have had their reasons, but none has expressly formulated them, or appeared to try.

Let us turn our attention to the positions of those authors whose primary division of the material is a variety of what has just been de-


scribed. Of the twelve books discussed only three put the dichotomy in question in first place.

Thus, in V. A. Maltzev's book the main division of lingual material is into 'informal' and 'formal' varieties1 (it was specially underlined above that he prefers this opposition to that of 'artistic — non-artistic' put forward by A.N. Morokhovsky).

Quite significant too are V. A. Kukharenko's oppositions within the frames of Functional Styles: hers is " Colloquial vs. Literary" and " Oral vs. Written".2 The author of the present book still insists on what he criticized on p. 15, but these oppositions are very indicative indeed. Practically speaking, what we observe here are two versions of the same opposition.

Nearly identical with those of Maltzev and Kukharenko is Y.S. Ste-panov's opposing (after Vinay and Darbelnet) of bon usage and langue vulgaire (literary and popular speech).3

Among those whose concepts have not been discussed above, N. Y. Shve-dova is worth mentioning. In her Outlines on Syntax of Russian Colloquial Speech4 Shvedova divides language into 'written' and 'colloquial'. The division is obviously wrong in its wording (more or less tolerable would be dividing the forms of lingual manifestations into 'written' and 'oral', 'colloquial' being only part of 'oral'), but the underlying sense, the basis of this linguistically faulty opposition is ultimately coincident with those actually proclaimed by V. A. Maltzev, V.A. Kukharenko, and Y.S. Stepanov (as a follower of the two French linguists mentioned).

What unites these oppositions of different sense and wording? They are not so much differentiated aesthetically, nor by the mere form they take (vocal or visual).

The common feature of all the oppositions discussed here is (no matter
what notions are employed or what wording used) the following

One member of the opposition is the well regulated speech types, subject to many kinds of rules, the violation of which is inadmissible and liable to punitive social sanctions (ostracism or at least minimizing communicative contacts with the transgressor).

The other member is made up of unregulated, uncultivated types of speech, untouched by grammarian. They are learnt, but hardly ever taught. Being informal, they are often viewed as illegitimate progeny of language never looked after, as the outlaws of the linguistic world.

The user of the first speech type is fully aware of his social re­sponsibility, aware of the existing requirements he is expected to meet as best he can. Many conventions must be observed.

The selfsame person in an informal situation changes his lingual behaviour completely. Now he is free from stylistic restrictions; the only

trouble is to get himself understood, or even less: to express himself. The words and forms of constructions used are often unpredictable, chosen or made up on the spot. Here, stereotyped conventional formulas are also very much in use, but they differ from those of the former type.

It must be rather evident that the first type comprises the over­whelming majority of varieties known to the reader: " officialese" and " headlineese", science and technology, poetry and fiction, newspaper texts, and a church service, oratory and " cablese", etc. It goes without saying that many of the varieties are further subdivided into numerous classes: thus, the scientific or technological sphere, type, sublanguage, and style can be divided into more sublanguages than there are sciences and branches of technology: not only chemistry and physics consist of numberless branches, but even taking our own speciality, linguistics, one can hardly be sure that every reader knows what is investigated by such branches of it as 'glottochronology', 'ethnonymics', 'cryptology', 'kinesics', 'pasimology', 5etc.

In the second type we shall find not so many varieties as in the first. The most important sphere (type, sublanguage, style) is colloquial, i.e. used by educated people in informal situations, without trying to be offensive or jocular. The same people, when expressing their negative attitude to somebody or something, use jargon or slang, or even vulgar words and expressions (the number of jargons is unlimited). Uneducated (or only formally educated) people speak 'common parlance', or 'popular, ungrammatical English'. The common parlance of this country, i.e. non-literary Russian, is spoken by poorly educated inhabitants of cities, deviations from the literary norm being practically the same everywhere. Dialects are current in the countryside; cities are nearly unaffected by them. In nineteenth century England some of the aristocracy were not ashamed of using their local dialects. Nowadays, owing to the sound media (radio, cinema and television), non-standard English in Britain is nearly, as in this country, a sure sign of cultural inferiority (e.g., the social status of Cockney).

What is certainly worth mentioning is that folklore (folk-songs, and folk-tales in particular) do not belong to the second type of speech, since they follow perhaps much stricter formal prescriptions than does overcultivated modernistic poetry.

The next problem is: how should we regard other forms of binary systems in stylistics? Can we criticise them as illogical or stylistically inessential? By no means. As already suggested, everything that is not utterly absurd deserves our attention. Is, for instance, the separation of 'artistic texts' from 'non-artistic' ones of any consequence for stylistics? Yes, certainly; moreover, it serves to create an independent branch of humanitarian studies. In our country, the research on poetic language, its image-creating



devices, its connection with cultural tradition and the experience of a nation and humanity in the appreciation of the beautiful, is called 'linguistic poetics'. In a way, it is a modern continuation of the poetics of antiquity. Its general aim is finding out the interrelation of the word and the image. According to V.P. Grigoryev, this science combines linguistics with the theory of literature.6 Perhaps one would not be mistaken in mentioning also aesthetics as an important ingredient of poetics.

Note. One should not be misled (by what has just been said about linguistic

poetics) into believing that the revival of poetics deprives stylistics of its legitimate

right to analyse poetry. Just as a grammar teacher may take a stanza to point out

certain syntactical features to his students, or a phonetician to teach types of

intonation by making them recite poems, so the stylist is entitled to study poetic

texts. The difference in the approach of both the adherent of poetics and the

ordinary stylist is that the former would relish the beauty, discussing what it is

and how it is created; the latter would be engaged first and foremost in describing

lingual features, explaining, if necessary, what he sees to be the writer's intentions.

As suggested above, the surest way of characterizing the problems of

stylistic classification is to take the two extremes, that is, the most

regularized speech type, predetermined by social requirements, and its

direct opposite: the type of speech which is characterized by such liberty

in the use of forms that run counter to what is preached in grammars and

books of recommended usage, the result being somewhat unpredictable

'deviations' from what is required by common sense logic and school

grammar rules. The first of the two types mentioned might be verdicted

by one word as 'overpedantic' ('hypercareful'). The second is inofficial

oral speech, lingual intercourse known for its carelessness with regard to

puritan propriety, or, to make it more linguistically worded, with regard

to literary norms of speech taught at school.

As for the terms usually employed to denote the most conspicuous examples of the two varieties, the one referring to the former is 'Officialese' (a jocular form by analogy with Chinese от Portuguese — cf. Cablese — the sublanguage of cablegrams; Headlineese — the sublanguage of headlines in newspapers, or Newspaperese itself, for that matter). The latter is known to the learner of English as 'Colloquial'.


1 Maltzev VA. Essays on English Stylistics. — Minsk, 1984.

2 Kukharenko VA. A Book of Practice in Stylistics. — M., 1986.

3 Степанов Ю.С. Французская стилистика. — M., 1965.

* Шведова Н.Ю. Очерки по синтаксису русской разговорной речи. — М., 1960.

5 Glottochronology: a branch of lexicology studying the rate of linguistic changes; its findings help to establish the time depth of divergence and convergence of cognate languages; cryptology, linguistic study of social jargons aiming at secrecy; kinesics, that part of paralinguistics that deals with expressive gestures; paslmology * kinesics.

* Григорьев В.П. Поэтика слова. — M., 1979.

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