The Object of Stylistics

By | Januari 26, 2017

Problems of stylistic research. Stylistics of language and speech. Types of stylistic research and branches of stylistics. Stylistics and other linguistic disciplines. Stylistic neutrality and stylistic coloring. Stylistic function notion.

1. Problems of stylistic research

Stylistics deals with styles. Different scholars have defined style differently at different times. Out of this variety we shall quote the most representative ones that scan the period from the 50ies to the 90ies of the 20th century. In 1955 the Academician V. V. Vinogradov defined style as “socially recognized and functionally conditioned internally united totality of the ways of using, selecting and combining the means of lingual intercourse in the sphere of one national language or another…” (8, p. 73). In 1971 Prof. I. R. Galperin offered his definition of style “as a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication.” (36, p. 18).

According to Prof. Y. M. Skrebnev, whose book on stylistics was published in 1994, “style is what differentiates a group of homogeneous texts (an individual text) from all other groups (other texts)… Style can be roughly defined as the peculiarity, the set of specific features of a text type or of a specific text.” (47, p. 9).

Since functional styles will be further specially discussed in a separate chapter at this stage we shall limit ourselves to only three popular viewpoints in English language style classifications.

Prof. I. R. Galperin suggests 5 styles for the English language.

  1. belles-lettres style: poetry, emotive prose, and drama;
  2. publicist style: oratory and speeches, essay, articles;
  3. newspaper style: brief news items, headlines, advertisements, editorial;
  4. scientific prose style;
  5. official documents style.

Prof. I. V. Arnold distinguishes 4 styles:

  1. poetic style;
  2. scientific style;
  3. newspaper style;
  4. colloquial style.

Stylistics is that branch of linguistics, which studies the principles, and effect of choice and usage of different language elements in rendering thought and emotion under different conditions of communication. Therefore it is concerned with such issues as

  1. the aesthetic function of language;
  2. expressive means in language;
  3. synonymous ways of rendering one and the same idea;
  4. emotional coloring in language;
  5. a system of special devices called stylistic devices;
  6. the splitting of the literary language into separate systems called style;
  7. the interrelation between language and thought;
  8. the individual manner of an author in making use of the language (47, p. 5).

2. Stylistics of language and speech

One of the fundamental concepts of linguistics is the dichotomy of “language and speech” (langue – parole) introduced by F. de Saussure. According to it language is a system of elementary and complex signs: phonemes, morphemes, words, word combinations, utterances and combinations of utterances. Language as such a system exists in human minds only and linguistic forms or units can be systematized into paradigms.

So language is a mentally organised system of linguistic units. An individual speaker never uses it. When we use these units we mix them in acts of speech. As distinct from language speech is not a purely mental phenomenon, not a system but a process of combining these linguistic elements into linear linguistic units that are called syntagmatic.
Stylistics is a branch of linguistics that deals with texts, not with the system of signs or process of speech production as such. But within these texts elements stylistically relevant are studied both syntagmatically and paradigmatically (loosely classifying all stylistic means paradigmatically into tropes and syntagmatically into figures of speech).

Eventually this brings us to the notions of stylistics of language and stylistics of speech. Their difference lies in the material studied. The stylistics of language analyses permanent or inherent stylistic properties of language elements while the stylistics of speech studies stylistic properties, which appear in a context, and they are called adherent.

3. Types of stylistic research and branches of stylistics

Literary and linguistic stylistics

According to the type of stylistic research we can distinguish literary stylistics and lingua-stylistics. They have some meeting points or links in that they have common objects of research. Consequently they have certain areas of cross-reference. Both study the common ground of:

1) the literary language from the point of view of its variability;
2) the idiolect (individual speech) of a writer;
3) poetic speech that has its own specific laws.

Comparative stylistics

Comparative stylistics is connected with the contrastive study of more than one language. It analyses the stylistic resources not inherent in a separate language but at the crossroads of two languages, or two literatures and is obviously linked to the theory of translation.

Decoding stylistics

A comparatively new branch of stylistics is the decoding stylistics, which can be traced back to the works of L. V. Shcherba, B. A. Larin, M. Riffaterre, R. Jackobson and other scholars of the Prague linguistic circle. A serious contribution into this branch of stylistic study was also made by Prof. I.V. Arnold (3, 4). Each act of speech has the performer, or sender of speech and the recipient. The former does the act of encoding and the latter the act of decoding the information.

Functional stylistics

Special mention should be made of functional stylistics which is a branch of lingua-stylistics that investigates functional styles, that is special sublanguages or varieties of the national language such as scientific, colloquial, business, publicist and so on.

Special mention should be made of functional stylistics which is a branch of lingua-stylistics that investigates functional styles, that is special sublanguages or varieties of the national language such as scientific, colloquial, business, publicist and so on.

However many types of stylistics may exist or spring into existence they will all consider the same source material for stylistic analysis sounds, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and texts.

Stylistic lexicology

Stylistic Lexicology studies the semantic structure of the word and the interrelation (or interplay) of the connotative and denotative meanings of the word, as well as the interrelation of the stylistic connotations of the word and the context.

Stylistic Phonetics (or Phonostylistics) is engaged in the study of style-forming phonetic features of the text. It describes the prosodic features of prose and poetry and variants of pronunciation in different types of speech (colloquial or oratory or recital).

Stylistic grammar

Stylistic Morphology is interested in the stylistic potentials of specific grammatical forms and categories, such as the number of the noun, or the peculiar use of tense forms of the verb, etc.

Stylistic Syntax is one of the oldest branches of stylistic studies that grew out of classical rhetoric. The material in question lends itself readily to analysis and description. Stylistic syntax has to do with the expressive order of words, types of syntactic links (asyndeton, polysyndeton), figures of speech (antithesis, chiasmus, etc.). It also deals with bigger units from paragraph onwards.

4. Stylistics and other linguistic disciplines

Stylistics interacts with such theoretical discipline as semasiology. This is a branch of linguistics whose area of study is a most complicated and enormous sphere – that of meaning. The term semantics is also widely used in linguistics in relation to verbal meanings. Semasiology in its turn is often related to the theory of signs in general and deals with visual as well as verbal meanings.

Meaning is not attached to the level of the word only, or for that matter to one level at all but correlates with all of them – morphemes, words, phrases or texts. This is one of the most challenging areas of research since practically all stylistic effects are based on the interplay between different kinds of meaning on different levels. Suffice it to say that there are numerous types of linguistic meanings attached to linguistic units, such as grammatical, lexical, logical, denotative, connotative, emotive, evaluative, expressive and stylistic.

Onomasiology (or onomatology) is the theory of naming dealing with the choice of words when naming or assessing some object or phenomenon. In stylistic analysis we often have to do with a transfer of nominal meaning in a text (antonomasia, metaphor, metonymy, etc.)

The theory of functional styles investigates the structure of the national linguistic space – what constitutes the literary language, the sublanguages and dialects mentioned more than once already.

Literary stylistics will inevitably overlap with areas of literary studies such as the theory of imagery, literary genres, the art of composition, etc.

Decoding stylistics in many ways borders culture studies in the broad sense of that word including the history of art, aesthetic trends and even information theory.

5. Stylistic neutrality and stylistic coloring

Speaking of the notion of style and stylistic colouring we cannot avoid the problem of the norm and neutrality and stylistic colouring in contrast to it.

Most scholars abroad and in this country giving definitions of style come to the conclusion that style may be defined as deviation from the lingual norm. It means that what is stylistically conspicuous, stylistically relevant or stylistically coloured is a departure from the norm of a given national language. (G. Leech, M. Riffaterre, M. Halliday, R. Jacobson and others).

The stylistic colouring is nothing but the knowledge where, in what particular type of communication, the unit in question is current. On hearing for instance the above-cited utterance “I don’t know nothing” (“I ain’t never done nothing”) we compare it with what we know about standard and non-standard forms of English and this will permit us to pass judgement on what we have heard or read.

6. Stylistic function notion

Like other linguistic disciplines stylistics deals with the lexical, grammatical, phonetic and phraseological data of the language. However there is a distinctive difference between stylistics and the other linguistic subjects. Stylistics does not study or describe separate linguistic units like phonemes or words or clauses as such. It studies their stylistic function. Stylistics is interested in the expressive potential of these units and their interaction in a text.

Accordingly stylistics is first and foremost engaged in the study of connotative meanings. In brief the semantic structure (or the meaning) of a word roughly consists of its grammatical meaning (noun, verb, adjective) and its lexical meaning. Lexical meaning can further on be subdivided into denotative (linked to the logical or nominative meaning) and connotative meanings. Connotative meaning is only connected with extra-linguistic circumstances such as the situation of communication and the participants of communication. Connotative meaning consists of four components: 1) emotive; 2) evaluative; 3) expressive; 4) stylistic.


Znamenskaya, Т. A. (2004). Stylistics of the english language. Mocba: Библиотека

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