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Stylistic theory and classification of expresssive means by G. Leech



One of the first linguists who tried "to modernize" traditional rhetoric system was a British scholar G. Leech. In 1967 his contribution into stylistic theory in the book "Essays on Style and Language" was published in London (39). Paying tribute to the descriptive linguistics popular at the time he tried to show

how linguistic theory could be accommodated to the task of describing such rhetorical figures as metaphor, parallelism, alliteration, personification and others in the present-day study of literature.

Proceeding from the popular definition of literature as the creative use of language Leech claims that this can be equated with the use of deviant forms of language. According to his theory the first principle with which a linguist should approach literature is the degree of generality of statement about language. There are two particularly important ways in which the description of language entails generalization. In the first place language operates by what may be called descriptive generalization. For example, a grammarian may give descriptions of such pronouns as I, they, it, him, etc. as objective personal pronouns with the following categories: first/third person, singular/plural, masculine, non-reflexive, anunate/inanimate.

Although they require many ways of description they are all pronouns and each of them may be explicitly described in this fashion.

The other type of generalization is implicit and would be appropriate in the case of such words as language and dialect. This sort of description would be composed of individual events of speaking, writing, hearing and reading. From these events generalization may cover the linguistic behaviour of whole populations. In this connection Leech maintains the importance of distinguishing two scales in the language. He calls them "register scale" and "dialect scale". "Register scale" distinguishes spoken language from written language, the language of respect from that of condescension, advertising from science, etc. The term covers linguistic activity within society. "Dialect scale" differentiates language of people of different age, sex, social strata, geographical area or individual linguistic habits (ideolect).

According to Leech the literary work of a particular author must be studied with reference to both - "dialect scale" and "register scale".

The notion of generality essential to Leech's criteria of classifying stylistic devices has to do with linguistic deviation.

He points out that it's a commonplace to say that writers and poets use language in an unorthodox way and are allowed a certain degree of "poetic licence". "Poetic licence" relates to the scales of descriptive and institutional delicacy.

Words like thou, thee, thine, thy not only involve description by number and person but in social meaning have "a strangeness value" or connotative value because they are charged with overtones of piety, historical period, poetics, etc.

The language of literature is on the whole marked by a number of deviant features. Thus Leech builds his classification on the principle of distinction between the normal and deviant features in the language of literature.

Among deviant features he distinguishes paradigmatic and syntagmatic deviations. All figures can be initially divided into syntagmatic or paradigmatic. Linguistic units are connected syntagmatically when they combine sequentially in a linear linguistic form.

Paradigmatic items enter into a system of possible selections at one point of the chain. Syntagmatic items can be viewed horizontally, paradigmatic - vertically.

Paradigmatic figures give the writer a choice from equivalent items, which are contrasted to the normal range of choices. For instance, certain nouns can normally be followed by certain adverbs, the choice

dictated by their normal lexical valency: inches/feet/yard + away, e. g. He was standing only a few feet away.

However the author's choice of a noun may upset the normal system and create a paradigmatic deviation that we come across in literary and poetic language: farmyards away, a grief ago, all sun long. Schematically this relationship could look like this

inches normal away
feet
yards
farmyard deviant away

The contrast between deviation and norm may be accounted for by metaphor which involves semantic transfer of combinatory links.



Another example of paradigmatic deviation is personification. In this case we deal with purely grammatical oppositions of personalI impersonal; animateIinanimate; concreteIabstract.

This type of deviation entails the use of an inanimate noun in a context appropriate to a personal noun.

As Connie had said, shehandled just like any other aeroplane, except that she had better mannersthan most. (Shute). In this example she stands for the aeroplane and makes it personified on the grammatical level.

The deviant use of she in this passage is reinforced by the collocation with better manners, which can only be associated with human beings.

aeroplane train car normal inanimate neuter It
aeroplane deviant animate female She

This sort of paradigmatic deviation Leech calls "unique deviation" because it comes as an unexpected and unpredictable choice that defies the norm. He compares it with what the Prague school of linguistics called "foregrounding".

Unlike paradigmatic figures based on the effect of gap in the expected choice of a linguistic form syntagmatic deviant features result from the opposite. Instead of missing the predictable choice the author imposes the same kind of choice in the same place. A syntagmatic chain of language units provides a choice of equivalents to be made at different points in this chain, but the writer repeatedly makes the same selection. Leech illustrates this by alliteration in the furrow followed where the choice of alliterated words is not necessary but superimposed for stylistic effect on the ordinary background.

This principle visibly stands out in some tongue-twisters due to the deliberate overuse of the same sound in every word of the phrase. So instead of a sentence like "Robert turned over a hoop in a circle" we have the intentional redundancy of "r" in "Robert Rowley rolled a round roll round".

Basically the difference drawn by Leech between syntagmatic and paradigmatic deviations comes down to the redundancy of choice in i lie first case and a gap in the predicted pattern in the second.

This classification includes other subdivisions and details that cannot all be covered here but may be further studied in Leech's book.

This approach was an attempt to treat stylistic devices with refer­ence to linguistic theory that would help to analyse the nature of stylistic function viewed as a result of deviation from the lexical and grammatical norm of the language.






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