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Lecture 2: Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary

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Post by log on Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Lecture 2: Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary
1. Neutral, common literary and common colloquial vocabulary
2. Special literary vocabulary
3. Special colloquial vocabulary Galperin pp. 70-121, cpc examples on all groups
1. Neutral, common literary and common colloquial vocabulary
The word-stock of any language may be represented as a definite system in which different aspects of words may be singled out as interdependent. Aspect- the most typical characteristic of a word.
The word-stock of any given language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups, differing from each other by the sphere of its possible use. The biggest layer of the English word-stock is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative situation, two smaller ones are and colloquial strata respectively.
Literary words serve to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages, while the colloquial ones are employed in non-official everyday communication. Though there is no immediate correlation between the written and the oral forms of speech on the one hand, and the literary and colloquial words, on the other, yet, for the most part, the first ones are mainly observed in the written form, as most literary messages appear in writing. And vice versa: though there are many examples of colloquialisms in writing (informal letters, diaries), their usage is associated with the oral form of communication. Consequently, taking for analysis printed materials we shall find literary words in authorial speech, descriptions, considerations, while colloquialisms will be observed in the types of discourse, simulating (copying) everyday oral communication-i.e., in the dialogue (or interior monologue) of a prose work.
When we classify some speech (text) fragment as literary or colloquial it does not mean that all the words constituting it have a corresponding stylistic meaning. More than that: words with a pronounced stylistic connotation are few in any type of discourse, the overwhelming majority of its lexis being neutral. As our famous philologist L.V. Shcherba once said- a stylistically coloured word is like a drop of paint added to a glass of pure water and colouring the whole of it.
The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups each of which has a property it shares with all the subgroups within the layer. This common property, which unites the different groups of words within the layer, may be called its aspect. The aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish character. It is this that makes the layer more or less stable. The aspect of the colloquial layer of words is its lively-spoken character. It is this that makes it unstable, fleeting. The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. That means it is unrestricted in its use. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity. It is this that makes the layer the most stable of all.
The literary layer of words consists of groups accepted as legitimate members of the English vocabulary. They have no local or dialectal character.
The colloquial layer of words as qualified in most English or American dictionaries is not infrequently limited to a definite language community or confined to a special locality where it circulates.
Each of the two named groups of words, possessing a stylistic meaning (literary and colloquial), is not homogeneous as to the quality of the meaning, frequency of use, sphere of application, or the number and character of potential users. This is why each one is further divided into the common (general), i.e. known to and used by native speakers in generalized literary (formal) or colloquial (informal) communication, and special bulks. The latter ones, in their turn, are subdivided into subgroups, each one serving a rather narrow, specified communicative purpose.
The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words:
1. common literary; 2. terms and learned words; 3. poetic words; 4. archaic words; 5. barbarisms and foreign words; 6. literary coinages including nonce-words.
The colloquial vocabulary falls into the following groups: 1. common colloquial words; 2. slang; 3. jargonisms; 4. professional words; 5. dialectal words; 6. vulgar words; 7. colloquial coinages.
The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term standard English vocabulary. Other groups in the literary layer are regarded as special literary vocabulary and those in the colloquial layer are regarded as special colloquial (non-literary) vocabulary.
Neutral words, which form the bulk of the English vocabulary, are used in both literary and colloquial language. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. It is the neutral stock of words that is so prolific in the production of new meanings new words by means of conversion, word compounding, word derivation.
Unlike all other groups, the neutral group of words cannot be considered as having a special stylistic colouring, whereas both literary and colloquial words have a definite stylistic colouring.
Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech.
The following synonyms illustrate the relations that exist between the neutral, literary and colloquial words in the English language: kid-child-infant, daddy-father-parent, chap-fellow-associate, go on, continue, proceed.
These synonyms are not only stylistic but ideographic as well, i.e. there is a definite, though slight, semantic difference between the words. But this is almost always the case with synonyms. There are very few absolute synonyms in English just as there are in any language. The main distinction between synonyms remains stylistic. But stylistic difference may be of various kinds: it may lie in the emotional colouring of a word, or in the sphere of application, or in the degree of the quality denoted. Colloquial words are always more emotionally coloured than literary ones. The neutral stratum of words, as the term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.
Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a markedly obvious tendency to pass into that layer. The same may be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer: it can very easily pass into the neutral layer. The borderlines between common colloquial and neutral, on the one hand, and common literary and neutral, on the other, are blurred.
Common colloquial vocabulary overlaps into the standard English vocabulary and is therefore to be considered part of it. It borders both on the neutral vocabulary and on the special colloquial vocabulary. Both common literary and common colloquial words are not homogenious. Some of them are closer to the non-standard groups while other words approach the neutral bulk of the vocabulary.
1 a special effort to finish a job or to deal with a problem quickly and thoroughly:
blitz on: It's time we had a blitz on the paperwork.
2 a sudden military attack
The stylistic function of the different strata of the English vocabulary depends mostly on their interaction when they are opposed to one another.
2. Special literary vocabulary
Literary words, both general (also called learned, bookish, high-flown) and special, contribute to the message the tone of solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness. They are used in official papers and documents, in scientific communication, in high poetry, in authorial speech of creative prose.
a) Terms i.e. words denoting objects, processes, phenomena of science, humanities, technique.
The most essential characteristics of a term are
1) its highly conventional character. A term is generally very easily coined and easily accepted; and new coinages as easily replace out-dated ones.
2) its direct relevance to the system or set of terms used in a particular science, discipline or art, i. e. to its nomenclature. When a term is used our mind immediately associates it with a certain nomenclature. A term is directly connected with the concept it denotes. A term, unlike other words, directs the mind to the essential quality of the thing, phenomenon or action.
Terms are mostly and predominantly used in special works dealing with the notions of some branch of science. Therefore it may be said that they belong to the style of language of science. But their use is not confined to this style. They may as well appear in other styles—in newspaper style, in publicistic and practically in all other existing styles of language. But their function in this case changes. They do not always fulfill their basic function, that of bearing exact reference to a given concept. When used in the belles-lettres style, for instance a term may acquire a stylistic function and consequently become a (sporadical – единичный)
SD. This happens when a term is used in such a way that two meanings are materialized simultaneously.
The function of terms, if encountered in other styles, is either to indicate the technical peculiarities of the subject dealt with, or to make some reference to the occupation of a character whose language would naturally contain special words and expressions, to create the environment of a special atmosphere.
Moreover, such an accumulation of special terminology often suggests that the author is displaying his erudition. Maxim Gorki said that terms must not be overused. It has been pointed out that those who are learning use far more complicated terms than those who have already learned. But when terms are used in their normal function as terms in a work of belles-lettres, they are or ought to be easily understood from the context so that the desired effect in depicting the situation will be secured. Whenever the terms used in the belles-lettres style set the reader at odds with the text, we can register a stylistic effect caused either by a specific use of terms in their proper meanings or by a simultaneous realization of two meanings.
With the increase of general education and the expansion of technique many words that were once terms have gradually lost their quality as terms and have passed into the common literary or even neutral vocabulary. This process may be called "de-terminization". Such words as 'radio', 'television' and the like have long been in common use and their terminological character is no longer evident.
b) Poetic and Highly Literary Words
Poetic words are mostly archaic or very rarely used highly literary words which aim at producing an elevated effect. Poetic words and expressions are called upon to sustain the special elevated atmosphere of poetry. This may be said to be the main function of poetic words.
V. V. Vinogradov gives the following properties of poetic words: poetic words and images veil the reality, stylizing it according to the established literary norms and canons. A word is torn away from its referent.
Poetical tradition has kept alive such archaic words and forms as yclept (p. p. of the old verb clipian—to call, name); quoth (p. t. of cweð-an — to speak); eftsoons (eftsona,— again, soon after), thee (you) which are used even by modern ballad-mongers.
Poetical words in an ordinary environment may also have a satirical function, showing them as conventional metaphors and stereotyped poetical expressions.
Poetical words and word-combinations can be likened to terms in that they do not easily yield to polysemy. They evoke emotive meanings. They colour the utterance with a certain air of loftiness, but generally fail to produce a genuine feeling of delight: through constant repetition they gradually become hackneyed for the purpose, too stale. And that is the reason that the excessive use of poeticisms at present calls forth protest and derision towards those who favour this conventional device. The use of poetic words does not as a rule create the atmosphere of poetry in the true sense; it is a substitute for real art.
c) Archaic, Obsolescent and Obsolete Words
The word-stock of a language is in an increasing state of change. Words change their meaning and sometimes drop out of the language altogether. New words spring up and replace the old ones. Some words stay in the language a very long time and do not lose their faculty of gaining new meanings and becoming richer and richer polysemantically. Other words live but a short time and are like bubbles on the surface of water — they disappear leaving no trace of their existence.
We shall distinguish three stages in the aging process of words:
The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. To this category first of all belong morphological forms belonging to the earlier stages in the development of the language. In the English language these are the pronouns thou and its forms thee, thy – ‘your’ and thine - 'yours'; the corresponding verbal ending -est and the verb-forms art, wilt (thou makest, thou wilt); the ending -(e)th instead of -(e)s (he maketh) and the pronoun ye - 'you', used especially when you are speaking to more than one person
The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are still recognized by the English-speaking community: e. g. methinks (=it seems to me); nay (—no). These words are called obsolete.
The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern English, words that were in use in Old English and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e. g. troth (=faith); a losel (=a worthless, lazy fellow).
Both archaic and poetic words overlap and extend beyond the large circle "special literary vocabulary". This indicates that some of the words in these layers do not belong to the present-day English vocabulary.
The border lines between the groups are not distinct. In fact they interpenetrate. It is specially difficult to distinguish between obsolete and obsolescent words.
Another class of words here is historical words, denoting historical phenomena which are no more in use (such as "yeoman", "vassal", falconet"). They never disappear from the language. They have no synonyms, whereas archaic words have been replaced by modern synonyms.
Archaic words are used to create a realistic background to historical novels. They carry a special volume of information adding to the logical aspect of communication. They also appear in the poetic style as special terms and in the style of official documents to maintain the exactness of expression: hereby, aforesaid, therewith. The low predictability of an archaism when it appears in ordinary speech produces the necessary satirical effect.
Archaic words, word-forms and word-combinations are also used to create an elevated effect. Language is specially moulded to suit a solemn occasion: all kinds of stylistic devices are used, and among them is the
use of archaisms.
Stylistic functions of archaic words are based on the temporal perception of events described. Even when used in the terminological aspect, as for instance in law, archaic words will mark the utterance as being connected with something remote and the reader gets the impression that . he is faced with a time-honoured tradition.
(d) Barbarisms and Foreignisms:
Barbarisms are words of foreign origin which have not entirely been assimilated into the English language. They bear the appearance of a borrowing and are felt as something alien to the native tongue. Nevertheless most of what were formerly foreign borrowings are now, from a purely stylistic position, not regarded as foreign. But still there are some words which retain their foreign appearance to a greater or lesser degree. These words, which are called barbarisms, are, like archaisms, also considered to be on the outskirts of the literary language.
Most of them have corresponding English synonyms; e. g. chic (=stylish); Weltanschauung (=world-view); en passant (= in passing); ad infinitum (= to infinity) and many other words and phrases.
It is very important for purely stylistic purposes to distinguish between barbarisms and foreign words proper. Barbarisms are words which have already become facts of the English language. They are, part and parcel of the English word-stock, though they remain on the outskirts of the literary vocabulary. Foreign words though used for certain stylistic purposes, do not belong to the EV. They are not registered in dictionaries, whereas barbarisms are.
Foreign words are often italicized , barbarisms on the contrary, are not made conspicuous in the text.
There are foreign words in the EV which fulfil a terminological function (kolkhoz, ukase, udarnik) and reflect an objective reality of some country. Terminological borrowings have no synonyms; barbarisms- have.
Their functions: to express a concept non-existant in English reality, to supply local colour as a background to the narrative, reproduce actual manner of speech and environment of the hero, to elevate the language (words which we don’t quite understand have a peculiar charm), “exactifying” function – to express some exact meaning (au revoir vs. good-bye).
e) Literary Coinages (Including Nonce-Words)
Neologism - 'a new word or a new meaning for an established word.'
Every period in the development of a language produces an enormous number of new words or new meanings of established words. Most of them do not live long. They are not meant to live long. They are coined for use at the moment of speech, and therefore possess a peculiar property —that of temporariness. The given word or meaning holds only in the given context and is meant only to "serve the occasion."
However, such is the power of the written language that a word or a meaning used only to serve the occasion, when once fixed in writing, may become part and parcel of the general vocabulary.
The coining of new words generally arises first of all with the need to designate new concepts resulting from the development of science and also with the need to express nuances of meaning called forth by a deeper understanding of the nature of the phenomenon in question. It may also be the result of a search for a more economical, brief and compact form of utterance which proves to be a more expressive means of communicating the idea.
The first type of newly coined words, i.e. those which designate newborn concepts, may be named terminological coinages. The second type, i.e. words coined because their creators seek expressive utterance may be named stylistic coinages.
Among new coinages of a literary-bookish type must be mentioned a considerable layer of words appearing in the publicistic style, mainly in newspaper articles and magazines and also in the newspaper style— mostly in newspaper headlines.
Another type of neologism is the nonce-word – a word coined to suit one particular occasion. They rarely pass into the standard language and remind us of the writers who coined them.
3. Special colloquial vocabulary
Colloquial words mark the message as informal, non-official, conversational. Apart from general colloquial words, widely used by all speakers of the language in their everyday communication (e. g. "dad", "kid", "crony", "fan", "to pop", "folks").
a) Slang
There is hardly any other term that is as ambiguous and obscure as the term slang. Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of, usage of present-day English.
Slang [origin unknown] - language peculiar to a particular group: as a: the special and often secret vocabulary used by a class (as thieves, beggars) and usu. felt to be vulgar or inferior: argot; b: the jargon used by or associated with a particular trade, profession, or field of activity; 2: a non-standard vocabulary composed of words and senses characterized primarily by connotations of extreme informality and usu. a currency not limited to a particular region and composed typically of coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, extravagant, forced or facetious figures of speech, or verbal novelties usu. experiencing quick popularity and relatively rapid decline into disuse.
- words or expressions that are very informal and are not considered suitable for more formal situations. Some slang is used only by a particular group of people (Macmillan).
Slang words, used by most speakers in very informal communication, are highly emotive and expressive and as such, lose their originality rather fast and are replaced by newer formations. This tendency to synonymic expansion results in long chains of synonyms of various degrees of expressiveness, denoting one and the same concept. So, the idea of a "pretty girl" is worded by more than one hundred ways in slang.
In only one novel by S. Lewis there are close to a dozen synonyms used by Babbitt, the central character, in reference to a girl: "cookie", "tomato", "Jane", "sugar", "bird", "cutie", etc.
b) Jargonisms
Jargonism is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group. Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. Most of the jargonisms of any language, and of the English language too, are absolutely incomprehensible to those outside the social group which has invented them. They may be defined as a code within a code, that is special meanings of words that are imposed on the recognized code—the dictionary meaning of the words.
Thus the word grease means 'money'; loaf means 'head'; a tiger hunter is 'a gambler'; a lexer is 'a student preparing for a law course'.
Jargonisms are social in character. They are not regional. In Britain and in the US almost any social group of people has its own jargon. The following jargons are well known in the English language: the jargon of thieves and vagabonds, generally known as cant; the jargon of jazz people; the jargon of the army, known as military slang; the jargon of sportsmen, and many others.
Jargonisms, like slang and other groups of the non-literary layer, do not always remain on the outskirts of the literary language. Many words have overcome the resistance of the language lawgivers and purists and entered the standard vocabulary. Thus the words kid, fun, queer, bluff, fib, humbug, formerly slang words or jargonisms, are now considered common colloquial. They may be said to be dejargonized.
c) Professionalisms
Professionalisms are the words used in a definite trade, profession or calling by people connected by common interests both at work and at home. Professionalisms are correlated to terms. Terms, as has already been indicated, are coined to nominate new concepts that appear in the process of, and as a result of, technical progress and the development of science. In distinction from slang, jargonisms and professionalisms cover a narrow semantic field, for example connected with the technical side of some profession.
Professional words name anew already-existing concepts, tools or instruments, and have the typical properties of a special code. The main feature of a professionalism is its technicality. Professionalisms are special words in the non-literary layer of the English vocabulary, whereas terms are a specialized group belonging to the literary layer of words. Professionalisms are not known to simple people.
d) Dialectal words
Dialectal words are those which in the process of integration of the English national language remained beyond its literary boundaries, and their use is generally confined to a definite locality. We exclude here what are called social dialects or even the still looser application of the term as in expressions like poetical dialect or styles as dialects.
Dialectal words are normative and devoid of any stylistic meaning in regional dialects, but used outside of them, carry a strong flavour of the locality where they belong. DW has application limited to a certain group of people or to certain communicative situations.
e) Vulgar words or vulgarisms
Vulgarisms are:
1) expletives and swear words which are of an abusive character, like 'damn', 'bloody', 'to hell', 'goddam' and, as some dictionaries state, used now, as general exclamations;
2) obscene words. These are known as four-letter words the use of which is banned in any form of intercourse as being indecent.
The function of expletives is almost the same as that of interjections, that is to express strong emotions, mainly annoyance, anger, vexation and the like. They are not to be found in any functional style of language except emotive prose, and here only in the direct speech of the characters.
f) Colloquial coinages (words and meanings)
Colloquial coinages (nonce-words), unlike those of a literary-bookish character, are spontaneous and elusive. Not all of the colloquial nonce-words are fixed in dictionaries or even in writing and therefore most of them disappear from the language leaving no trace in it.
Unlike literary-bookish coinages, nonce-words of a colloquial nature are not usually built by means of affixes but are based on certain semantic changes in words that are almost imperceptible to the linguistic observer until the word finds its way into print.
Kucharenko V.A. A book of practice in Stylistics pp. 25-28, questions, ex. 1, 2, 4.

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