Linguistic basis of stylistics

1. The subject of Stylistics

Stylistics is a branch of linguistics which examines, analyses and classifies various phenomena of the vocabulary, grammar and phonetics from the point of view of their stylistic function. In other words it studies principles and effects of a choice and use of phonetic, lexical, grammatical language means for transmission of thought, attitudes and emotions in various situations of communication.

It’s conventional to distinguish between:

1) Stylistics of the language or linguistic stylistics

2) Stylistics of speech or literary stylistics.

Stylistics of the language or linguistic stylistics occupies itself with various questions of style peculiar to the national language, 1) i.e. it studies expressive, emotional, evaluative potential of various language units on the one hand, 2) on the other hand,deals with peculiarities of vocabulary, grammar, syntax of such subsystems of the language, which are known as functional styles.

Stylistics of speech or literary stylistics studies the style of various writers or literary movements, or certain stylistic phenomena taken in their chronological developments, it deals with study of real text with the aim of discovering how content is expressed not only according to the norm but also due to deviation (отклонение) of the norm.

In the literary language the norm is the invariant of the phonemic, morphological, lexical and syntactical patterns in circulation during a given period in the development of the given language.

2. Levels of Stylistics. Stylistics and other linguistic disciplines

Language presents a structure which implies the idea of hierarchy of levels.

Such well-known disciplines of linguistics as phonetics, morphology, lexicology and syntax can be called level disciplines, i.e. disciplines treating one linguistic level each. However, stylistics is not a level discipline, it belongs to all the levels. Stylistics must be subdivided into separate, quite independent branches, treating one level each.

We distinguish the following levels of stylistics: a) phonostylistics; b) lexical stylistics; c) grammatical stylistics; d) stylistic syntax. The basis of such differentiation is the hierarchical division of the language.

We shall now look for the difference between general phonetics, morphology, lexicology and syntax on the one hand and their stylistic counterparts.

a) General phonetics investigates the whole articulatory system of language.  Phonostylistics studies how separate sounds and sound combinations, rhythm, intonation patterns can be expressive and convey the author’s idea. The sound shape of the utterance becomes meaningful;

  • General morphology treats morphemes and grammatical meanings expressed by them in language in general, without regard to their stylistic value. Stylistic morphology occupies itself with the expressive values of grammatical categories, syntactical structures, various types of sentences, paragraphs.
  • Lexicology studies words and expressions from the point of view of their origin, word-building and semantics. Lexical stylistics studies stylistic functions of the vocabulary, analyses interrelation of primary and transferred meanings of words in context.
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3. Approaches to the analysis of text

We may study and analyse the text in two different ways.

1) We consider the text as the evidence of the writer’s intention that is what he means by the text, its message; it takes into account the biography of the writer, his world outlook, literary views, conditions of time, the historical background;

2) We should study only the effect of the text upon the reader, the author’s intentions are not so significant.

4. Basic notions of stylistics.

Any literary work of irrespective of its genre (poem, short story, novel, etc.), or its literary trend (realistic, naturalistic, romantic, etc.) is a unique and complete world, created by the author in precisely the way his imagination has urged him to create. Though it is a product of the author’s imagination, it is always based upon objective reality. A literary work is thus a fragment of objective reality arranged in accordance with the vision of the author and permeated by his idea of the world.

The Theme of a literary work may be understood to be an interaction of human characters under certain circumstances, such as some social or psychological conflict (war and peace, clash of ideologies and the like).

Within a single work the basic theme may alternate with rival themes and their relationship may be very complex.

Thus, for example, the basic theme of «The Forsyte Saga» may be defined as the life of the English middle class at the end of and after Victorian epoch. The by-themes in saga are numerous: the Boer and the 1st World War, the first Labour Government, the postwar generation, the arts and artists, etc.

The idea of a literary work can be defined as the underlying thought and emotional attitude transmitted to the reader by the whole poetic structure of the literary text.

Plot is a sequence of events in which the characters are involved, the theme and idea revealed. Each event that represents a conflict (the gist of the plot) has a beginning, a development and an end.

The plot accordingly consists of exposition, story, climax and denouement.

In the exposition the time, the place and the subject of the action are laid out. Some light may be shed on the circumstances that will influence the development of the action.

Story is that part of the plot which represents the beginning of the collision and the collision itself.

Climax is the highest point of the action.

Denouement is the event or events that bring the action to an end.

There is no uniformity as far as the above mentioned components of the plot and their sequence in the text are concerned. Some short stories may begin straight with the conflict without any exposition, while others have no denouement in the conventional sense of the word (E. Hemingway’s stories).

A work of narrative prose that has all the components mentioned above (exposition, story, climax and denouement) is said to have a closed plot structure.

A literary work in which the action is represented without an obvious culmination, which does not contain all the above mentioned components, is said to have an open plot structure.

Literary image is one of the fundamental notions both in literary and linguostylistics. It may refer a) to the way of reflecting the objective reality (text serves as the image of reality); b) to characters; c) to any meaningful unit (word, phrase, detail).

We should distinguish: 1) macroimage – the literary work itself understood as an image of life, visioned and depicted by the author; 2) character image; 3) event image; 4) landscape; 5) microimages – words within the poetic structure – which serve to build images of a higher level.

Literature is a medium for transmitting aesthetic information. To be operative, it must, like any other kind of communication, involve not only the addresser (the author) but also the addressee (the reader). Indeed, a literary work is always written for an audience. Whether the author admits it or not, he is urged on by a desire to impart his vision of the world, his attitude towards it, to someone, i.e. to an addressee. His attitude may be quite obviously expressed, or, on the contrary, be presented in a non-committal, impersonal way. Thus, the literary work is an act of communication of the author with the reader.

Language is the medium of literature, itis capable of transmitting practically any kind of information. It has names for all things, phenomena and relations of objective reality. It is so close to life that an illusion of their almost complete identity is created, for man lives, works and thinks in the medium of language; his behaviour finds an important means of expression primarily in language.

Language is closely connected with nationality. And even when a person speaks a language foreign to him, his own nationality can be clearly identified. Language is constantly changing. Changes in language are brought about by external, i.e. social causes (for language develops simultaneously with the culture of the people that speaks it) as well as by internal causes. The results of all these changes remain in the language.

The most peculiar features of the language are: expressive means (EM) and stylistic devices (SD).

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