The verb and its stylistic properties — КиберПедия 

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The verb and its stylistic properties

The verb is one of the oldest parts of speech and has a very developed grammatical paradigm. It possesses more grammatical categories that any other part of speech. All deviant usages of its tense, voice and aspect forms have strong stylistic connotations and play an important role in creating a metaphorical meaning. A vivid example of the grammatical metaphor of the first type (form transposition) is the use of 'historical present' that makes the description very pictorial, almost visible.

The letter was received by a person of the royal family. While reading it she was interrupted, had no time to hide it and was obliged to put it open on the table. At this enters the Minister D... He sees the letter and guesses her secret. He first talks to her on business, then takes out a letter from his pocket, reads it, puts it down on the table near the other letter, talks for some more minutes, then, when taking leave, takes the royal lady's letter from the table instead of his own. The owner of the letter saw it, was afraid to say anything for there were other people in the room. (Рое)

The use of 'historical present' pursues the aim of joining different time systems - that of the characters, of the author and of the reader all of whom may belong to different epochs. This can be done by making a reader into an on-looker or a witness whose timeframe is synchronous with the narration. The outcome is an effect of empathy ensured by the correlation of different time and tense systems.

The combination and unification of different time layers may also be achieved due to the universal character of the phenomenon described, a phenomenon that is typical of any society at any time and thus make the reader a part of the events described.

Various shades of modality impart stylistically coloured expressiveness to the utterance. The Imperative form and the Present Indefinite referred to the future render determination, as in the following example:

Edward, let there be an end of this. I go home. (Dickens)

The use of shall with the second or third person will denote the speaker's emotions, intention or determination:

If there's a disputed decision, he said genially, they shall race again. (Waugh)

The prizes shall stand among the bank of flowers. (Waugh)

Similar connotations are evoked by the emphatic use of will with the first person pronoun:

- Adam. Are you tight again?

- Look out of the window and see if you can see a Daimler waiting. - Adam, what haveyou been doing? I will be told. (Waugh)

Likewise continuous forms do not always express continuity of the action and are frequently used to convey the emotional state of the speaker. Actually ah 'exceptions to the rule' are not really exceptions. They should be considered as the forms in the domain of stylistic studies because they are used to proclaim the speaker's state of mind, his mood, his intentions or feelings.

So continuous forms may express:

• conviction, determination, persistence:

Well, she's never coming here again, I tell you that straight; (Maugham)

• impatience, irritation:

- I didn't mean to hurt you.

- You did. You're doing nothing else; (Shaw)

• surprise, indignation, disapproval:

Women kill me. They are always leaving their goddam bags out in the middle of the aisle. (Salinger)

Present Continuous may be used instead of the Present Indefinite form to characterize the current emotional state or behaviour:

- How is Carol?

- Blooming, Charley said. She is being so brave. (Shaw)

You are being very absurd, Laura, he said coldly. (Mansfield)

Verbs of physical and mental perception do not regularly have continuous forms. When they do, however, we observe a semi-marked structure that is highly emphatic due to the incompatible combination of lexical meaning and grammatical form.

Why, you must be the famous Captain Butler we have been hearing so much about - the blockade runner. (Mitchell)

I must say you're disappointing me, my dear fellow. (Berger)

The use of non-finite forms of the verb such as the infinitive and participle I in place of the personal forms communicates certain stylistic connotations to the utterance.

Consider the following examples containing non-finite verb forms: Expect Leo to propose to her! (Lawrence)

The real meaning of the sentence is It's hard to believe that Leo would propose to her!

Death! To decide about death! (Galsworthy)

The implication of this sentence reads He couldn't decide about death!

To take steps! How? Winifred's affair was bad enough! To have a double dose of publicity in the family! (Galsworthy)

The meaning of this sentence could be rendered as He must take some steps to avoid a double dose of publicity in the family!

Far be it from him to ask after Reinhart's unprecedented getup and environs. (Berger)

Such use of the verb be is a means of character sketching: He was not the kind of person to ask such questions.

Since the sentences containing the infinitive have no explicit doer of the action these sentences acquire a generalized universal character. The world of the personage and the reader blend into one whole as if the question is asked of the reader (what to do, how to act). This creates empathy. The same happens when participle I is used impersonally:

The whole thing is preposterous - preposterous! Slinging accusations like this! (Christie)

But I tell you there must be some mistake. Splendor taking dope! It's ridiculous. He is a nonchemical physician, among other things. (Berger)

The passive voice of the verb when viewed from a stylistic angle may demonstrate such functions as extreme generalisation and deperson-alisation because an utterance is devoid of the doer of an action and the action itself loses direction.

...he is a long-time citizen and to be trusted... (Michener)

Little Mexico, the area was called contemptuously, as sad and filthy a collection of dwellings as had ever been allowed to exist in the west. (Michener)

The use of the auxiliary do in affirmative sentences is a notable emphatic device:

I don't want to look at Sita. I sip my coffee as long as possible. Then I do look at her and see that all the colour has left her face, she is fearfully pale. (Erdrich)

So the stylistic potential of the verb is high enough. The major mechanism of creating additional connotations is the transposition of verb forms that brings about the appearance of metaphors of the first and second types.

3.3.6. Affixation and its expressiveness

Unlike Russian the English language does not possess a great variety of word-forming resources.

In Russian we have a very developed system of affixes, with eval­uative and expressive meanings: diminutive, derogatory, endearing, exaggerating, etc.

Consider such a variety of adjectives малый - маленький - махонь­кий - малюсенький; большой - большеватый - большущий, преог-ромнейший; плохой - плоховатенький - плохонький. There are no morphological equivalents for these in English.

We can find some evaluative affixes as a remnant of the former morphological system or as a result of borrowing from other languages, such as: weakling, piglet, rivulet, girlie, lambkin, kitchenette.

Diminutive suffixes make up words denoting small dimensions, but also giving them a caressing, jocular or pejorative ring.

These suffixes enable the speaker to communicate his positive or negative evaluation of a person or thing.

The suffix -ianI-ean means 'like someone or something, especially connected with a particular thing, place or person', e. g. the pre-Tolstoyan novel. It also denotes someone skilled in or studying a particular subject: a historian.

The connotations this suffix may convey are positive and it is frequently used with proper names, especially famous in art, literature, music, etc. Such adjectives as Mozartean, Skakespearean, Wagnerian mean like Mozart, Shakespeare, Wagner or in that style.

However some of these adjectives may possess connotations connected with common associations with the work and life of famous people that may have either positive or negative colouring. For instance The Longman Dictionary of the English Language and Culture gives such

definitions of the adjective Dickensian: suggesting Charles Dickens or his writing, e. g. athe old-fashioned, unpleasant dirtiness of Victorian England: Most deputies work two to an office in a space of Dickensian grimness. bthe cheerfulness of Victorian amusements and customs: a real Dickensian Christmas.

The suffix -ish is not merely a neutral morpheme meaning a small degree of quality like blue - bluish, but it serves to create 'delicate or tactful' occasional evaluative adjectives - baldish, dullish, biggish. Another meaning is 'belonging or having characteristics of somebody orsomething'.

Most dictionaries also point out that -ish may show disapproval (self­ish, snobbish, raffish) and often has a derogatory meaning indicating the bad qualities of something or quahties which are not suitable to what it describes (e.g. mannish in relation to a woman).

Another suffix used similarly is-esque, indicating style, manner, or distinctive character: arabesque, Romanesque. When used with the names of famous people it means 'in the manner or style of this particular person'. Due to its French origin it is considered bookish and associated with exquisite elevated style. Such connotations are implied in adjectives like Dantesque, Turneresque, Kafkaesque.

Most frequently used suffixes of the negative evaluation are: -ard, -ster, -aster, -eer or half-affix -monger, drunkard, scandal-monger, black-marketeer, mobster.

Considering the problem of expressive affixes differentiation should be made between negative affixes such as in-, un-, ir-, поп-, etc. (unbending, irregular, non-profit) and evaluative derogatory affixes. Evaluative affixes with derogatory connotations demonstrate the

speaker's attitude to the phenomenon while negative affixes normally represent objects and phenomena that are either devoid of some quality or do not exist at all (e. g. a non-profit organization has mostly positive connotations).

All these examples show that stylistic potentials of grammatical forms are great enough. Stylistic analysis of a work of art among other things should include the analysis of the grammatical level that enables a student to capture the subtle shades of mood or rhythmical arrangement or the dynamics of the composition.

Stylistic syntax

Syntactical categories have long been the object of stylistic research. There are different syntactical means and different classifications. The classifications discussed earlier in this book demonstrate different categorization of expressive means connected with syntax. However there are a few general principles on which most of the syntactical expressive means are built. The purpose of this paragraph is to consider the basic techniques that create styUstic function on the syntactical level common for most styUstic figures of this type and illustrate them with separate devices.

The major principles at work on the sentence level are

I. The omission or absence of one or more parts of the sentence. II. Reiteration (repetition) of some parts.

III. The inverted word order.

IV. The interaction of adjacent sentences.


I, The omission of the obligatory parts of a sentence results in ellipsis of various types. An elUptical sentence is a sentence with one or more of the parts left out. As a rule the omitted part can be reconstructed from the context. In this case ellipsis brings into relief typical features of colloquial English casual talk.

The laconic compressed character of elliptical sentences lends a flavour of liveliness to colloquial English. In fiction elliptical sentences have a manifold stylistic function. First of all they help create a sense of immediacy and local colour. Besides they may add to the character's make up, they lead to a better understanding of a mood of a personage.

Wish I was young enough to wear that kind of thing. Older I get the more I like colour. We're both pretty long in the tooth, eh? (Waugh)

Often elliptical sentences are used in represented speech because syntactically it resembles direct speech. The use of elliptical sentences in fiction is not limited to conversation. They are sometimes used in the author's narration and in the exposition (description which opens a chapter or a book).

I remember now, that Sita's braid did not hurt. It was only soft and heavy, smelling of Castile soap, but still I yelled as though something terrible was happening. Stop! Get off! Let go! Because I couldn't stand how strong she was. (Erdrich)

A variety of ellipsis in English are one-member nominal sentences. They have no separate subject and predicate but one main part instead. One-member sentences call attention to the subject named, to its existence and even more to its interrelations with other objects. Nominal sentences are often used in descriptive narration and in

exposition. The economy of the construction gives a dynamic rhythm to the passage. One-member sentences are also common in stage remarks and represented speech.

Matchbooks. Coaster trays. Hotel towels and washcloths. He was sending her the samples of whatever he was selling at the time. Fuller brushes. Radio antennas. Cans of hair spray or special wonder-working floor cleaners. (Erdrich)

Break-in-the narrative is a device that consists in the emotional halt in the middle or towards the end of an utterance. Arnold distinguishes two kinds: suppression and aposiopesis. Suppression leaves the sentence unfinished as a result of the speaker's deliberation to do so. The use of suppression can be accounted for by a desire not to mention something that could be reconstructed from the context or the situation. It is just the part that is not mentioned that attracts the reader's attention. It's a peculiar use of emphasis that lends the narration a certain psychological tension.

If everyone at twenty realized that half his life was to be lived after forty... (Waugh)

Aposiopesis means an involuntary halt in speech because the speaker is too excited or overwhelmed to continue.

But Mr. Meredith, Esther Silversleeves said at last, these people are heathens! Esther was the most religious of the family. - Surly you cannot wish... her voice trailed off. (Rutherfurd)

Decomposition is also built on omission, splitting the sentences into separate snatches. They are the result of detachment of parts of sentences. This device helps to throw in the effect of relief or express

ahighly dynamic pace of narration. Decomposition may be combined with ellipsis.

Him, of all things! Him! Never! (Lawrence)

II. Reiteration is never a mechanical repetition of a word or structure. It is always accompanied by new connotations. The repetition stresses not the denotative but the connotative meaning.

The usage area of reiteration is casual and non-casual speech, prose and poetry.

Different types of reiteration may be classified on the compositional principle:

Anaphora is the repetition of the same element at the beginning of two or more successive clauses, sentences or verses.

They were poor in space, poor in light, poor in quiet, poor in repose, and poor in the atmosphere of privacy - poor in everything that makes a man's home his castle. (Cheever)

Framing is an arrangement of repeated elements at the beginning and at the end of one or more sentences that creates a kind of structural encasement.

He had been good for me when I was a callow and an ignorant youth; he was good for me now. (Shute)

Anadiplosis is such a figure in which a word or group of wqrds completing a sentence is repeated at the beginning of a succeeding sentence. It often shows the interaction of different parts of a paragraph or text.

My wife has brown hair, dark eyes, and a gentle disposition. Because of her gentle disposition, I sometimes think that she spoils the children. (Cheever)

Epiphora consists in the repetition of certain elements at the end of two or more successive clauses, sentences or paragraphs.

Trouble is, I don't know if I want a business or not. Or even if I can pay for it, if I did want it. (Shute)

III. Inversion is upsetting of the normal order of words, which is an important feature of English.

By changing the logical order this device helps to convey new shades of meaning. The denotative meaning is the same but the emotive colouring is different.

Galperin describes five types of inversion that are connected with the fixed syntactical position of the sentence members. Each type of inversion produces a specific stylistic effect: it may render an elevated tone to the narration:

Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


I will make my kitchen, and you will keep your room, Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom.


- or make it quick-paced and dynamic: In he got and away they went. (Waugh)

Bang went Philbrick's revolver. Off trotted the boys on another race. (Waugh)

Sometimes inversion may contribute to the humorous effect of the description or speech characterisation:

To march about you would not like us? suggested the stationmaster, (Waugh)

IV. Interaction of adjacent sentences is a compositional syntactical technique.

One of the major emphatic means is the use of parallel con­structions. They are similarly built and used in close succession. It is a variety of repetition on the level of a syntactical mod­el. Parallel constructions more than anything else create a certain rhythmical arrangement of speech. The sameness of the structure stresses the difference or the similarity of the meaning. Some­times parallel constructions assume a peculiar form and the word order of the first phrase is inverted in the second. The resulting device is called chiasmus. It is often accompanied by a lexical repetition:

They had loved her, and she had loved them. (Caldwell)

Work - work - work!

From weary chime to chime!

Work - work - work

As prisoners work for crime!

Band, and gusset, and seam

Seam, and gusset, and band...


The climax is such an arrangement of a series of clauses or phrases that form an ascending scale, in which each of the sentences is stronger in intensity of expression than the previous one.

We're nice people and there isn't going to be room for nice people any more. It's ended, it's all over, it's dead. (Cheever)

Another device is the anticlimax, also called back gradation, which is a figure of speech that consists in an abrupt and often ludicrous descent, which contrasts with the previous rise. The descent is often achieved by the addition of a detail that ruins the elevated tenor of the previous narration.

Its main stylistic function is to give the thought an unexpected humorous or ironic twist.

I hate and detest every bit of it, said Professor Silenus gravely. Nothing I have ever done has caused me so much disgust. With a deep sigh he rose from the table and walked from the room, the fork with which he had been eating still held in his hand. (Waugh)

Practice Section

1. What are the basic principles of stylistic grammar? How does grammatical metaphor correlate with lexical metaphor?

2.What is the essence of the grammatical gradation theory? Describe the types of grammatical transposition and provide your own examples to illustrate each type.

3. Consider the following sentences and comment on the function of morphological grammatical categories and parts of speech that create stylistic function:

One night I am standingin front of Mindy's restaurant on Broadway, thinking of practically nothing whatever, when all of a sudden I feel a very terrible pain in my left foot. (Runyon)

It's good, that,to see you again, Mr. Philip, said Jim. (Caldwell)

Earth colours are his theme. When he shows up at the door, we see that he's even dressingin them. His pants are grey. His shirt is the same colour as his skin. Flesh colour. (Erdrich)

Now, the Andorrans were a brave, warlike people centuries ago, as everybody was at one time or another - for example, take yourAssyr­ians, who are now extinct; or yourSwedes, who fought in the Thirty Years' War but haven't done much since except lie in the sun and turn brown... (Berger)

A gaunt and Halloweenishgrin was plastered to her face. (Erdrich)

I walked past Mrs. Shumway, who jerked her head around in a startled woodpeckerishway... (Erdrich)

She's theHonourable Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde, you know - sister-in-law of Lord Pastmaster - a very wealthy woman, South American. (Waugh)

...there are two kinds of people, which we may call the hurtersandthe hurtees.The first get their satisfaction by working their will on somebody else. The second like to be imposed upon. (Burger)

To hear her was to be beginningto despair. (Jarrell)

But they domanage the building? Mrs. Doubleday said to him. (Cheever)

A band indeed! You' ll be havingfireworks next. (Waugh)

I stare down at the bright orange capsules... I have to listen... so we look at each other,up and down, and up and down... Without us, they say,without Loise, it's the state hospital. (Erdrich)

Ah! That must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerianmanner. (Wilde)

I got nothing against Joe Chapin, but he's not me. I'm me, and anotherman is still anotherman. (O'Hara)

That's not theMr. Littlejohn I used to know. (Waugh)

I pronounce that the sentence on the defendants, Noelle Page and Lawrence Douglas, shallbe execution by a firing squad. (Sheldon)

They areall beingso formal. Let's play a game to break the ice. (Bell)

I wondered how the Moroccan boy... could stand meekly aside and watch her go off with another man.

Actors, I thought. They must divide themselves into compartments. (Shaw)

Oh, I guess I love you, I dolove the children, but I love myself, I love my life, it has some value and some promise for me... (Cheever)

Let him say his piece, thedarling. Isn't he divine? (Waugh)

It never was the individual sounds of a language, but the melodies behind them, that Dr. Rosenbaum imitated. For these his ear was Mozartian.(Jarrell)

They are allowed to have the train stoppedat every cross-roads... (Atkinson)

4. Arrange syntactical expressive means described in Galperin's classification into four groups according to the major principles of stylistic syntax in addition to the illustrations given in the chapter above.

5. Identify syntactical stylistic devices used in the examples below and comment on their meaning in the context:

I should have brought down a more attractive dress. This one, with its white petals gone dull in the shower steam, with its belt of lavender and prickling lace at each pulse point, I don't like. (Erdrich)

I begin my windshield-wiper wave, as instructed by our gym teacher, who has been a contestant for Miss North Dakota. Back and forth very slowly. Smile, smile, smile. (Erdrich)

Except for the work in the quarries, life at Egdon was almost the same as at Blackstone.

'Slops outside,' chapel, privacy. (Waugh)

ft was for this reason the rector had so abjectly curled up, still so abjectly curled up before She-who-was Cynthia: because of his slave's fear of her contempt, the contempt of a born-free nature for a base-born nature. (Lawrence)

The warder rang the bell - Inside, you two! he shouted. (Waugh)

- Old man, Miles said amiably, if I may say so, I think you're missing the point.

- If I may say so, sir, Philippe said, I think I am missing nothing. What is the point? (Shaw)

You asked me what I had going this time. What I have going is wine. With the way the world's drinking these days, being in wine is like having a license to steal. (Shaw)

How kind of you, Alfred! She has asked about you, and expressed her intention - her intention, if you please! - to know you. (Caldwell)

When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. (Wilde)

- There are lots of things I wanted to do - I wanted to climb the Matterhorn but I wouldn't blame the fact that I haven't on anyone else.

- You. Clime the Matterhorn. Ha. You couldn't even climb the Washington Monument. (Cheever)

There was no Olga. I had no consolation. Then I felt desperate, desolate, crushed. (Cheever)

- You get cold, riding a bicycle? he asked.

- My hands! she said clasping them nervously. (Lawrence)

If the man had been frightening before, he was now a perfect horror. (Berger)

My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you. (Wilde)

Trouble is, I don't know if I want a business or not. Or even if I can pay for it, if I did want it. (Shute)


A man has a right to get married and have children, and I'd earned the right to have a wife, both in work and money. A man's got a right to live in his own place. A man has a right to make his life where he can look after his Dad and Mum a bit when they get old. (Shute)

...already we were operating five aircraft of four different types, and if

we got a Tramp we should have six aircraft of five types...

A Tramp it would have to be, and I told them of my money difficulty.


Damrey Phong, though healthy, is a humid place. (Shute)

He's made his declaration. He loves me. He can't live without me. He'd walk through fire to hear the notes of my voice. (Cheever)

That's the foolest thing I ever heard. (Berger)


Chapter 4

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