English Grammar

Syntactical Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices

The principal criteria for classifying syntactical stylistic devices are:

1) The juxtaposition of the parts of an utterance;

2) The type of connection of the parts;

3) The peculiar use of colloquial constructions;

4) The transference of structural meaning.

1. The devices built on the principle of juxtaposition are:

a) Inversion (several types). Word-order is a crucial syntactical problem in many languages. The English affirmative sentence is regarded as neutral if it maintains the regular word-order, i.e. subject-predicate-object. If this order is changed, it is inversion. Stylistic inversion aims at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the surface meaning of the utterance.

The following patterns of stylistic inversion are most frequently met in both English prose and poetry:

1) The object is placed at the beginning of the sentence:

Example 1: «Talent Mr Micawber has; capitalMr Macawber has not».

2) The attribute is placed after the word it modifies (postposition of the attribute). This model is often used when there is more than one attribute.

Example 2: ‘with fingers, weary and worn…’

3) The predicative stands before the link-verb and both are placed before the subject.

Example 3: ‘Rude am I in my speech…’

4) The adverbial modifier is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Example 4: “My dearest daughter, at your feet I fall’.

5) Both modifier and predicate stand before the subject.

Example 5: ‘In wentMr Pickwick’

b) Detached construction

Detachment is a kind of inversion. Its essence lies in the separation of a secondary part of the sentence with the aim of emphasizing it. The separation is accompanied by violation of customary syntactical connections and leads to a certain logical break between the member detached and the main parts of the sentence. The aim of Detachment is the same as of Inversion — to make some words or phrases more prominent. In the text Detachment is usually marked by commas, dashes, brackets.

In fact any secondary member of the sentence may be detached:

1) attribute: 

Example 6: He never looked more than 14. Very small and child-like.

2) apposition: 

Example 7: He saved my life, brave boy.

3) adverbial modifier of reason: 

Example 8: I shall not see her, being so hurt.

4) adverbial modifier of manner: 

Example 9: He entered the room, pipe in mouth.

5) adverbial modifier of time: 

Example 10: She was crazy about her. In the beginning.

6) direct object: 

Example 11: He was very talented, capital he had not.

7) prepositional object: 

Example 12: It was, to Forsyte’s eye, a strange house.

c) Parenthesis is a variant of detachment. It is a qualifying or appositive word or word-combination which interrupts a syntactical construction and introduces some additional information. Its function is to emphasize something or explain and specify an utterance. It may create the background to the events, reveal the inner state of the personage, show the author’s attitude to the events described, strengthen some facts and bare evaluative meaning.

Example 13: ‘The main entrance (she never ventured to look beyond that) was a combination of glass and iron’.

d) Parallel construction is a device in which the necessary condition is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence in close succession. Parallelism is usually observed in macro-images (paragraphs). There may be

a) complete parallelism — typical of poetry. The structures here have the same syntactical pattern.

Example 14:

‘The warm sun is failing

The bleak wind is wailing

The bare bushes are sighing

The pale flowers are dying’.

b) Partial parallelism, i.e. structural similarity of some parts of successive units.

Example 15:

‘The wind blew faster

It dragged now at his coat,

It blew its space about him

It echoedsilently a lonely spaciousness.’

e) Chiasmus is based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern, but it has a cross order of words and phrases. The structure of two successive sentences or parts of a sentence may be described as reversed parallel construction, e.g. in the 1st sentence we have a+b and in the 2ndb+a.  

Example 16: ‘As high as we have mounted in delight

In our dejection (depression, dismay) do we sink as low’ (Wordsworth).

Example 17: ‘But Tom’s no more. And so no more of Tom’

Example 18: ‘Pleasure is a sin. And sometimes sin a pleasure.’

The author emphasizes the 2nd part of the utterance. There is a pause after the 1st part of the utterance and then an unexpected change of word-order.

Chiasmusis often used for epigrams and paradoxes; it may have a humorous effect.

Example 19: ‘When we are happy we are always happy, but when we are good we’re not always happy’.

f) Repetition (reiteration) is the use of the same word or word-combination for two or more times. According to the place which the repeated unit occupies in a sentence repetition is classified into several types:

1) Anaphora. The beginning of the successive sentences or utterances is repeated.  

Example 20: ‘Once again he fingered the letter in his pocket, once again he read the letter.’

2) Epiphora. The end of the successive sentences or utterances is repeated. Example 21: ‘I wake up and I’m alone. I talk with people and I’m alone.’

3) Framing. The beginning of the sentence is repeated in the end of the successive syntactical unit. The function of framing is to stress the notion mentioned in the beginning of the sentence. Between the 2 appearances of the repeated unit there comes a developing middle part which explains the idea introduced in the beginning.

Example 22: ‘Nothing ever happened in that little town left behind the civilization, nothing.’

4) Anadiplosis (catch repetition). The final word or words of the preceding sentence are repeated at the beginning of the next one. The emotional emphasis of the anadiplosis is very strong.

Example 23: ‘There was room, room to breathe.’

5) Chain repetition. It presents several successive anadiploses. The effect of it may be that of smoothly developing logical reasoning or emphasizing the emotional colouring.

Example 24: ‘The cook looked at the maid, the maid looked at the footman, the footman looked at the coachman, the coachman at the master.’

6) Synonymical repetition is the expression of the same idea by various synonyms which differ in their nominative meaning, in the degree of the expressed quality or idea and differ in connotative meaning.  Example 25:

‘The poetry of earth is never dead.

The poetry of earth is ceasing never.

7) Morphological repetition. It’s the repetition of the same morpheme.

Example 26: ‘It was waving and laughing, sobbing and growing, and ever and again it shouted.’

8) Tautological repetition and pleonasm.

Tautology is the repetition of the same statement; the repetition of the same word or phrase, or of the same idea or statement in other words. Pleonasm is defined as the use of more words in a sentence than are necessary to express the meaning.

Example 27: ‘It was a clear starry night, and not a cloud was to be seen.’

Tautology and pleonasm are considered to be a defect of style.

g) Enumeration is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, phenomena, properties, actions are named one by one so that they produce a chain, the links of which, being syntactically in the same position (homogeneous parts of speech) are forced to display some kind of semantic unity.

Example 28:

‘There Harold gazes on a work divine,

A blending (mixture, harmony) of all beauties; streams and dells,

Fruit, foliage, crag (rock), cornfield, mountain, vine …’ (Byron).

Enumeration is aimed to produce humorous effect and to reflect the personal attitude.

h) Suspense (retardation) is a deliberate delay in the completion of the expressed thought. What has been delayed is the loading task of the utterance and the reader awaits the completion of the utterance with an ever increasing tension. Suspense is achieved by a repeated occurrence of phrases or clauses expressing condition, supposition, time, and the like, all of which hold back the conclusion of the utterance.

i) Climax (gradation); anticlimax is based on the recurrence of a certain syntactic pattern. In each recurrent sequence the lexical unit is either emotionally stronger or logically more important. Climax aims at imparting logical, emotional and quantitative colouring to the utterance.

By logical coloring we mean that every successive concept is logically more important than the previous one.

Example 29: ‘He may lock himself away, hide himself away, get guards about him, if he likes — death, the unseen death is coming’.

With the use of synonyms with different emotive coloring authors usually achieve the increase in the emotional tension of the utterance.

Example 30:

— Grand view, isn’t it? — said Harris. ‘Magnificent! I agreed. ‘Superb! — remarked George’.

Quantitative coloring implies an increase in the volume, size and number of each succeeding concept.

Example 31:‘They looked at hundreds of houses, they climbed thousands of stairs, inspected innumerable kitchens’.

j) Anticlimax (bathos) is the reverse of climax. There are 2 types of anticlimax:

1) Each previous unit expressing a weaker quality so that emotion gradually decreases;

2) Emotion and logical importance gradually arises, but unexpectedly breaks and falls which produces humorous or ironic effect.

Example 32: ‘She felt that she did not really know these people, that she would never know them; she wanted to go on seeing them, being with them and living in their workaday world. But she did not do this’. (A. Coppard)

k) Antithesis is a phrase, a sentence or a group in which a thing (or a concept) is measured against, or contrasted to its opposite.

Example 33: ‘Life is much flattered. Death is much traduced.

Antithesis emerges as a result of a contraposition of two or more words, the words being either antonyms or contrastive in some of their meanings.

2. Particular ways of combining Parts of the Utterance (types of connection)

a) Polysyndeton is an insistent repetition of a connective between words, phrases or clauses in an utterance.

Example 34: ‘They were all 3 from Milan and one of them was to be a lawyer, and one was to be a painter, and one had intended to be a soldier, and after we were finished with the machines, sometimes we walked back together to the Cafe Cova.’ (Hemingway).

b) Asyndeton on the contrary is a deliberate avoidance of connectives.

Example 35: ‘Soames turned away; he had an utter disinclination for talk, like one standing before an open grave, watching a coffin slowly lowered.’

c) The ‘Gap-Sentence’ Link is a way of connecting two sentences seemingly unconnected and leaving it to the reader to grasp the idea implied, but not worded. In the gap-sentence-link the connection of sentences is not immediately apparent and it requires a certain mental effort to grasp the interrelation between the parts of the utterance, in other words, ‘to bridge’ the semantic gap.

Example 36: ‘She and that fellow ought to be the sufferers, and they were in Italy’. (Galsworthy).

In this sentence the 2nd part, which is hooked on to the 1st by the conjunction ‘and’, seems to be unmotivated or, the whole sentence seems to be logically incoherent. The gap-sentence-linkis generally indicated by ‘and’ or ‘but’.

The gap-sentence-link has various functions. It may serve to signal the introduction of inner represented speech; it may be used to indicate the subjective evaluation of the facts, etc. On the whole it aims at stirring up in the reader’s mind the suppositions, associations and conditions under which the sentence uttered can really exist.

3. Peculiar Use of Colloquial Constructions

a) Ellipsis is a deliberate omission of one or more words for some stylistic purposes. In elliptic constructions the subject or the predicate may be omitted or both. Ellipsis is a typical feature of speech used for the sake of economy of language means and articulatory efforts. Ellipsis always imitates the common features of colloquial language and helps the author render the atmosphere of lively informal conversation, emotional condition of his personages (shock, astonishment, surprise).

Example 37: ‘Been home?’ instead of ‘Have you been home?’

Elliptic sentences may also be in the author’s narration to represent the inner speech of the personage, especially when he is in a difficult situation.

b) Break-in-the-narrative (aposiopesis)

In the spoken variety of the language a break-in-the-narrative is usually caused by unwillingness to proceed; or by the supposition that what remains to be said can be understood by the implication; or by uncertainty as to what should be said.

In the written variety a break in the narrative is always a stylistic device used for some stylistic effect.

In the sentence: ‘You just come home or I’ll …’ the implication is a threat, which without the context can only be vague. But when one knows that the words were said by an angry father to his son over the telephone the implication becomes apparent.

Break-in-the-narrative has a strong degree of predictability because of the structure of the sentence. It is used in complex sentences, especially in conditional sentences, the if-clause being given in full and the second part only implied.

c) Question -in-the-narrative

Questions in spoken language presuppose two interlocutors: the questioner is presumed not to know the answer.

A question in-the-narrative as a stylistic device is asked and answered by one person, usually the author. Example 38:

‘And starting, she awoke, and what to view?

Oh, Powers of Heaven. What dark eye meets she there?

‘Tis — ‘tis her father’s — fixed upon the pair.’ (Byron).

Question in-the-narrative may also remain unanswered.

d) Represented speech (несобственная речь).

There are 3 ways of reproducing actual speech:

1) direct speech (repetition of the exact utterance as it was spoken; it is characterized by the use of exclamatory  and interrogative forms of sentences, elliptical sentences, emotional words, interjections, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ words);

2) indirect speech (rendering of the exact utterance by the 2nd person: here passing through the mouth of the 2nd person it often changes the emotional colouring; besides sometimes only the main points of the utterance are given. The rules of the sequence of tenses are observed here.);

3) represented speech which combines the features of direct and indirect speech. It is that form of utterance which conveys the actual words of the speaker through the mouth of the author but retains the peculiarities of the speaker’s mode of expression.

Represented speech exists in 2 varieties:

1) uttered represented speech and 2) unuttered represented speech.

1) Uttered represented speech demands that the tense should be changed from present to past and that the personal pronouns should be changed from 1st and 2nd to 3rd person as in indirect speech, but the syntactical structure of the utterance does not change.

Example 39: ‘Could he bring a reference from where he was now? He could’. (Dreiser).

2) Unuttered or inner represented speech is the process of materializing one’s thoughts by means of language units. Now that inner speech has no communicative function it is very fragmentary, incoherent (disjoint), isolated and consists of separate units.

Inner represented speech unlike uttered represented speech expressed feelings and thoughts of the character which were not materialized in spoken or written language. That is why it abounds in exclamatory words and phrases elliptical constructions, breaks, etc.

In Inner represented speech also the tense forms are shifted to the past, the 3rd person pronouns replace the 1st and 2nd; the interrogative word order is maintained but there appear unfinished sentences, exclamations and one-member sentences.

Example 40: ‘Oh, love, love! Edward! Edward! Oh! He would not, could not remain away. She must see him — give him a chance to explain.’ (Ch. Bronte).

IV. Transferred Use of Structural Meaning.

Rhetorical Question is a special syntactical stylistic device which transforms a question into a statement expressed in a form of a question.

There are 2 types of rhetorical questions:

1) a rhetorical question with a negative predicate. The implication of such a negative question is a statement with an additional shade of meaning of doubt or assertion, or suggestion.

2) a rhetorical question with an affirmative predicate.

Example 41: ‘Did I say a word about money?’

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