Stylistic neutrality and stylistic colouring — КиберПедия 

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Stylistic neutrality and stylistic colouring



Speaking of the notion of style and stylistic colouring we cannot avoid the problem of the norm and neutrality and stylistic colouring in contrast to it. Most scholars abroad and in this country giving definitions of style come to the conclusion that style may be defined as deviation from the lingual norm. It means that what is stylistically conspicuous, stylistically relevant or stylistically coloured is a departure from the norm of a given national language. (G. Leech, M. Riffaterre, M. Halliday, R.Jacobson and others).

There are authors who object to the use of the word "norm" for various reasons. Thus Y. M. Skrebnev argues that since we acknowledge the existence of a variety of sublanguages within a national language we should also acknowledge that each of them has a norm of its own. So the sentence "I haven't ever done anything" (or "I don't know anything") as juxtaposed to the sentence "I ain't never done nothing" ("I don't know nothing") is not the norm itself but merely conforms to the literary norm.

The second sentence ("I ain't never done nothing") most certainly deviates from the literary norm (from standard English) but if fully conforms to the requirements of the uncultivated part of the English speaking population who merely have their own conception of the norm. So Skrebnev claims there are as many norms as there are sublanguages. Each language is subject to its own norm. To reject this would mean admitting abnormality of everything that is not neutral. Only ABC-books and texts for foreigners would be considered "normal". Everything that has style, everything that demonstrates peculiarities of whatever kind would be considered abnormal, including works by Dickens, Twain, О'Henry, Galsworthy and so on (47, pp. 21-22).

For all its challenging and defiant character this argument seems to contain a grain of truth and it does stand to reason that what we often call "the norm" in terms of stylistics would be more appropriate to call "neutrality".

Since style is the specificity of a sublanguage it is self-evident that non-specific units of it do not participate in the formation of its style; units belonging to all the sublanguages are stylistically neutral. Thus we observe an opposition of stylistically coloured specific elements to stylistically neutral non-specific elements.

The stylistic colouring is nothing but the knowledge where, in what particular type of communication, the unit in question is current. On hearing for instance the above-cited utterance "I don't know nothing" ("I ain't never done nothing") we compare it with what we know about standard and non-standard forms of English and this will permit us to pass judgement on what we have heard or read.

Professor Howard M. Mims of Cleveland State University did an accurate study of grammatical deviations found in American English that he terms vernacular (non-standard) variants (44). He made a list of 20 grammatical forms which he calls relatively common and some of them are so frequent in every-day speech that you hardly register them as deviations from the norm, e.g. They ready to go instead of They areready to go; Joyce has fifty cent in her bank account instead of Joyce has fifty cents in her bank account; My brother, he's a doctor instead of My brother is a doctor, He don't know nothing instead of He doesn't know anything.

The majority of the words are neutral. Stylistically coloured words-bookish, solemn, poetic, official or colloquial, rustic, dialectal, vulgar - have each a kind of label on them showing where the unit was "manufactured", where it generally belongs.

Within the stylistically coloured words there is another opposition between formal vocabulary and informal vocabulary.

These terms have many synonyms offered by different authors. Roman Jacobson described this opposition as casual and non-casual, other terminologies name them as bookish and colloquial or formal and informal, correct and common.

Stylistically coloured words are limited to specific conditions of communication. If you isolate a stylistically coloured word it will still preserve its label or "trade-mark" and have the flavour of poetic or artistic colouring.

You're sure to recognise words like decease, attire, decline (a proposal) as bookish and distinguish die, clothes, refuse as neutral while such units as snuff it, rags (togs), turn down will immediately strike you as colloquial or informal.



In surveying the units commonly called neutral can we assert that they only denote without connoting? That is not completely true.

If we take stylistically neutral words separately, we may call them neutral without doubt. But occasionally in a certain context, in a specific distribution one of many implicit meanings of a word we normally consider neutral may prevail. Specific distribution may also create unexpected additional colouring of a generally neutral word. Such stylistic connotation is called occasional.

Stylistic connotations may be inherent or adherent. Stylistically coloured words possess inherent stylistic connotations. Stylistically neutral words will have only adherent (occasional) stylistic connotations acquired in a certain context.

A luxury hotel for dogs is to be opened at Lima, Peru a city of 30.000 dogs. The. furry guests will have separate hygienic kennels, top medical care and high standard cuisine,including the best bones.(Mailer)

Two examples from this passage demonstrate how both stylistically marked and neutral words may change their colouring due to the context:

cuisine-> inherently formal (bookish, high-flown);

-> adherent connotation in the context - lowered/humorous; bones-> stylistically neutral;

-> adherent connotation in the context - elevated/humorous.

Stylistic function notion

Like other linguistic disciplines stylistics deals with the lexical, grammatical, phonetic and phraseological data of the language. However there is a distinctive difference between stylistics and the other linguistic subjects. Stylistics does not study or describe separate linguistic units like phonemes or words or clauses as such. It studies their stylistic function. Stylistics is interested in the expressive potential of these units and their interaction in a text.

Stylistics focuses on the expressive properties of linguistic units, their functioning and interaction in conveying ideas and emotions in a certain text or communicative context.

Stylistics interprets the opposition or clash between the contextual meaning of a word and its denotative meaning.

Accordingly stylistics is first and foremost engaged in the study of connotative meanings.

In brief the semantic structure (or the meaning) of a word roughly consists of its grammatical meaning (noun, verb, adjective) and its lexical meaning. Lexical meaning can further on be subdivided into denotative (linked to the logical or nominative meaning) and connotative meanings. Connotative meaning is only connected with extra-linguistic circumstances such as the situation of communication and the participants of communication. Connotative meaning consists of four components:

1) emotive;

2) evaluative;

3) expressive;

4) stylistic.

A word is always characterised by its denotative meaning but not necessarily by connotation. The four components may be all presentat once, or in different combinations or they may not be found in the word at all.

1. Emotiveconnotations express various feelings or emotions. Emotions differ from feelings. Emotions like joy, disappointment, pleasure, anger, worry, surprise are more short-lived. Feelings imply a more stable state, or attitude, such as love, hatred, respect, pride, dignity, etc. The emotive component of meaning may be occasional or usual (i.e. inherent and adherent).



It is important to distinguish words with emotive connotations from words, describing or naming emotions and feelings like anger or fear, because the latter are a special vocabulary subgroup whose denotative meanings are emotions. They do not connote the speaker's state of mind or his emotional attitude to the subject of speech.

Thus if a psychiatrist were to say You should be able to control feelings of anger, impatience and disappointment dealing with a child as a piece of advice to young parents the sentence would have no emotive power. It may be considered stylistically neutral.

On the other hand an apparently neutral word like big will become charged with emotive connotation in a mother's proud description of her baby: He is a BIG boy already!

2. The evaluativecomponent charges the word with negative, positive, ironic or other types of connotation conveying the speaker's attitude in relation to the object of speech. Very often this component is a part of the denotative meaning, which comes to the fore in a specific context.

The verb to sneak means "to move silently and secretly, usu. for a bad purpose" (8). This dictionary definition makes the evaluative component bad quite explicit. Two derivatives a sneak and sneaky have both preserved a derogatory evaluative connotation. But the negative component disappears though in still another derivative sneakers (shoes with a soft sole). It shows that even words of the same root may either have or lack an evaluative component in their inner form.

3. Expressiveconnotation either increases or decreases the expressiveness of the message. Many scholars hold that emotive and expressive components cannot be distinguished but Prof. I. A. Arnold maintains that emotive connotation always entails expressiveness but not vice versa. To prove her point she comments on the example by A. Hornby and R. Fowler with the word "thing" applied to a girl (4, p. 113).

When the word is used with an emotive adjective like "sweet" it becomes emotive itself: "She was a sweet little thing". But in other sentences like "She was a small thin delicate thing with spectacles", she argues, this is not true and the word "thing" is definitely expressive but not emotive.

Another group of words that help create this expressive effect are the so-called "intensifiers", words like "absolutely, frightfully, really, quite", etc.

4. Finally there is stylisticconnotation. A word possesses stylistic connotation if it belongs to a certain functional style or a specific layer of vocabulary (such as archaisms, barbarisms, slang, jargon, etc). stylistic connotation is usually immediately recognizable.

Yonder, slumber, thence immediately connote poetic or elevated writing.

Words like price index or negotiate assets are indicative of business language.

This detailed and systematic description of the connotative meaning of a word is suggested by the Leningrad school in the works of Prof. I. V. Arnold, Z. Y. Turayeva, and others.

Gaiperin operates three types of lexical meaning that are stylistically relevant - logical, emotive and nominal. He describes the stylistic colouring of words in terms of the interaction of these types of lexical meaning. Skrebnev maintains that connotations only show to what part of the national language a word belongs - one of the sub-languages (functional styles) or the neutral bulk. He only speaks about the stylistic component of the connotative meaning.

Practice Section

1. Comment on the notions of style and sublanguages in the national language.

2. What are the interdisciplinary links of stylistics and other linguistic subjects such as phonetics, lexicology, grammar, and semasiology? Provide examples.

How does stylistics differ from them in its subject-matter and fields of study?

3. Give an outline of the stylistic differentiation of the national English vocabulary: neutral, literary, colloquial layers of words;

areas of their overlapping. Describe literary and common colloquial stratums of vocabulary, their stratification.

4. How does stylistic colouring and stylistic neutrality relate to inherent and adherent stylistic connotation?

5.Can you distinguish neutral, formal and informal among the following groups of words.

  A В С
1. currency money dough
2. to talk to converse to chat
3. to chow down to eat to dine
4. to start to commence to kick off
5. insane nuts mentally ill
6. spouse hubby husband
7. to leave to withdraw to shoot off
  geezer senior citizen old man
9. veracious opens sincere
10. mushy emotional sentimental

6. What kind of adherent stylistic meaning appears in the otherwise neutral word feeling?

I've got no feeling paying interest, provided that it's reasonable. (Shute) I've got no feeling against small town life. Irather like it. (Shute)

7. To what stratum of vocabulary do the words in bold type in the following sentences belong stylistically? Provide neutral or colloquial variants for them:

I expect you've seen my hand often enough coming out with the grub.(Waugh)

She betrayed some embarrassment when she handed Paul the tickets, and a hauteurwhich subsequently made her feel very foolish. (Gather)

I must be off to my digs.(Waugh)

When the old boy popped offhe left Philbrick everything, except a few books to Gracie. (Waugh)

He looked her over and decided that she was not appropriately dressed and must be a fool to sit downstairs in such togs.(Cather)

It was broken at length by the arrival of Flossie, splendidly attiredin magenta and green. (Waugh)

8. Consider the following utterances from the point Of view of the grammatical norm. What elements can be labelled as deviations from standard English? How do they comply with the norms of colloquial English according to Mims and Skrebnev?

Sita decided that she would lay down in the dark even if Mrs. Waldvogel came in and bit her. (Erdrich)

Always popular with the boys, he was, even when he was so full he couldn't hardly fight. (Waugh)

...he used to earn five pound a night... (Waugh)

I wouldn't sell it not for a hundred quid, I wouldn't. (Waugh)

There was a rapping at the bedroom door. "I'll learn that Luden Sorrels to tomcat." (Chappel)

9. How does the choice of words in each case contribute to the stylistic character of the following passages? How would you define their functional colouring in terms of technical, poetic, bookish, commercial, dialectal, religious, elevated, colloquial, legal or other style?

Make up lists of words that create this tenor in the texts given below.

Whilst humble pilgrims lodged in hospices, a travelling knight would normally stay with a merchant. (Rutherfurd)

Fo' what you go by dem, eh? W'y not keep to yo'self? Dey don' want you, dey don' care fo' you. H' ain' you got no sense? (Dunbar-Nelson)

They sent me down to the aerodrome next morning in a car. I made a check over the machine, cleaned filters, drained sumps, swept out the cabin, and refuelled. Finally I took off at about ten thirty for the short flight down to Batavia across the Sunda straits, and found the aerodrome and came on to the circuit behind the Constellation of K. L. M. (Shute)

We ask Thee, Lord, the old man cried, to look after this childt. Fa­therless he is. But what does the earthly father matter before Thee? The childt is Thine, he is Thy childt, Lord, what father has a man but Thee? (Lawrence)

- We are the silver band the Lord bless and keep you, said the stationmaster in one breath, the band that no one could beat whatever but two indeed in the Eisteddfod that for all North Wales was look you.

I see, said the Doctor; I see. That's splendid. Well, will you please go into your tent, the little tent over there.

To march about you would not like us? Suggested the stationmaster, we have a fine flaglook you that embroidered for us was in silks. (Waugh)

The evidence is perfectly clear. The deceased woman was unfaithful to her husband during his absence overseas and gave birth to a child out of wedlock.

Her husband seemed to behave with commendable restraint and wrote nothing to her which would have led her to take her life... The deceased appears to have been the victim of her own conscience and as the time for the return of her husband drew near she became menially upset. I find that the deceased committed suicide while the balance of her mind was temporarily deranged. (Shute)

I say, I've met an awful good chap called Miles. Regular topper. You know, pally.That's what I like about a really decent party - you meet such topping fellows. I mean some chaps it takes absolutely years to know, but a chap like Miles I feel is a pal straight away. (Waugh)

She sang first of the birth of love in the hearts of a boy and a girl. And on the topmost spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. Pale was it, at first as the mist that hangs over the river - pale as the feet of the morning. (Wilde)

He went slowly about the corridors, through the writing - rooms, smoking-rooms, reception-rooms, as though he were exploring the chambers of an enchanted palace, built and peopled for him alone.

When he reached the dining-room he sat down at a table near a window.

The flowers, the white linen, the many-coloured wine-glasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danubefrom the orchestra, all flooded Paul's dream with bewildering radiance. (Cather)

Chapter 2






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