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Stylistic Differentiation of the Vocabulary

Ranez.Ru > Помощь в учебе абитуриентам и студентам > Студенту > Английский язык > Стилистика >

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Literary Stratum of Words. Colloquial Words

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 division is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative , situation, two smaller ones are literary and colloquial strata respectively.

Literacy 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, certain passages of memoirs, etc.), 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. Each of the two named groups of words, possessing a stylistic meaning, 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 general, i. e. known to and used by most 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. So, among special literary words, as a rule, at least two major subgroups are mentioned.

They are:

1. Terms, i. e. words denoting objects, processes, phenomena of science, humanities, technique.

2. Archaisms, i. e. words,

  • a) denoting historical phenomena which   are   no   more   in   use   (such   as   "yeoman",   "vassal", falconet"). These are historical words.
  • b) used in poetry in the XVII-XIX cc. (such as "steed" for "horse";  "quoth" for "said";  "woe" for "sorrow").  These are poetic words.
  • c) in the course of language history ousted by newer syn onymic words (such as "whereof = of which; "to deem" = to think;   "repast" - meal;    "nay" = no)    or   forms    ("maketh" = makes;    "thou wilt" = you will;  "brethren" = brothers). These are called archaic words (archaic forms) proper.

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.

Colloquial words, on the contrary, 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"), such special subgroups may be mentioned:

1. Slang forms the biggest one. 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, irreverence to a girl: "cookie", "tomato", "Jane", "sugar", "bird", "cutie", etc.

The substandard status of slang words and phrases, through universal usage, can be raised to the standard colloquial: "pal", "chum," "crony" for "friend"; "heavies", "woolies" for "thick panties"; "booze" for "liquor"; "dough" for "money"; "how's tricks" for "how's life"; "beat it" for "go away" and many many more-are examples of such a transition.

2. Jargonisms stand close to slang, also being substandard, expressive and emotive, but, unlike slang they are used by limited groups of people, united either professionally (in this case we deal with professional jargonisrns, or professionalisms}, or socially (here we deal with /argon/sins proper). In distinction from slang, jargonisrns of both types cover a narrow semantic field: in the first case it is that, connected with the technical side of some profession. So, in oil industry, e. g, for the terminological "driller" (буровик) there exist "borer", ^"digger", "wrencher", "hogger", "brake weight"; for "pipeliner" (трубопроводчик), "bender", "cat", "old cat", "collar-pecker", "hammerman"; for "geologist"-"smeller", "pebble pup", "rock hound", "witcher", etc From all the examples at least two points are evident: professionalisms are formed according to the existing word-building patterns or present existing words in new meanings, and, covering the field of special professional knowledge, which is semantically limited, they offer a vast variety of synonymic choices for naming one and the same professional item
Jargonisrns proper are characterized by similar linguistic features, but differ in function and sphere of application. They originated from the thieves' jargon (1'argo, cant) and served to conceal the actual significance of the utterance from the uninitiated. Their major function thus was to be cryptic, secretive. This is why among them there are cases of conscious deformation of the existing words. The so-called back jargon (or back slang) can serve as an example: in their effort to conceal the machinations of dishonest card-playing, gamblers used numerals in their reversed form: "ano" for "one", "owt" for "two", "erth" for "three".

Anglo-American tradition, starting with E. Partridge, a famous English lexicographer, does not differentiate between slang and jargonisrns regarding these groups as one extensive stratum of words divided into general slang, used by all, or most, speakers and special slang, limited by the professional or social standing of the speaker . This debate appears to concentrate more on terminology than on essence. Indeed slang (general slang) and jargonisrns (special slang) have much in common, are emotive, expressive, unstable, fluctuating, tending to expanded synonymity within certain lexico-semantic groups and limited to a highly informal, substandard communication So it seems appropriate to use the indicated terms as synonyms.

3. Vulgarisms are coarse words with a strong emotive meaning, mostly derogatory, normally avoided in polite conversation. History of vulgarisms reflects the history of social ethics. So, in Shakespearean times people were much more linguistically frank and disphemistic in their communication than in the age of Enligtenment, or the Victorian era, famous for its prudish and reserved manners. Nowadays words which were labelled vulgar in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are considered such no more. In fact, at present we are faced with the reverse of the problem: there are practically no words banned from use by the modern permissive society. Such intensifies as "bloody", "damned", "cursed", "hell of", formerly deleted from literature and not allowed in conversation, are not only welcomed in both written and oral speech, but, due to constant repetition, have lost much of their emotive impact and substandard quality. One of the best-known American editors and critics Maxwell Perkins, working witn tne serialized 1929 magazine edition of Hemingway's novel A. Farewell to Arms found that the publishers deleted close to a dozen words which they considered vulgar for their publication. Preparing the hardcover edition Perkins allowed half of them back ("son of a bitch", "whore", "whorehound," etc.). Starting from the late 'fifties no publishing house objected to any coarse or obscene expressions. Consequently, in contemporary West European and American prose all words, formerly considered vulgar for public use (including the four-letter words), are even approved by the existing moral and ethical standards of society and censorship.

4. 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. In Great Britain four major dialects are distinguished: Lowland Scotch, Northern, Midland (Central) and Southern. In the USA three major dialectal varieties are distinguished: New England, Southern and Midwestern (Central, Midland). These classifications do not include many minor local variations. Dialects markedly differ on the phonemic level: one and the same phoneme is differently pronounced in each of them. They differ also on the lexical level, having their own names for locally existing phenomena and also supplying locally circulating synonyms for the words, accepted by the language in general. Some of them have entered the general vocabulary and lost their dialectal status ("lad", "pet", "squash", "plaid"). Each of the above-mentioned four groups justifies its label of special colloquial words as each one, due to varying reasons, has application limited to a certain group of people or to certain communicative situations.

 


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