STYLISTIC LEXICOLOGY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
(Методичні вказівки до семінарських занять зі стилістики англійської мови для студентів IV курсу. (Видання 2) / Уклад. Воробйова О.П., Бойцан Л.Ф., Ганецька Л.В. та інш. – К.: Вид. центр КНЛУ, 2001. – С. 13–19.)
1. Every notional word of a natural language carries some definite information. This information may be basic or denotative and additional or connotative.
The majority of words of the English language possesses denotative information only. So, they are stylistically neutral: man, house, to run, red etc.
This does not mean that they cannot be used for stylistic purposes. A
word in fiction acquires new qualities depending on its position,
distribution, etc. Practically any word, depending on its context, may
acquire certain connotations (honey-bum, sugar-plum).
In the English language, there are many words which possess not only basic information but additional information as well.
The additional information or connotative meaning may be of four types:
a) functional stylistic meaning which is the result of the constant usage of the word in definite speech spheres or situations: foe, maiden, realm are mostly used in poetry; terms and nomenclature words are used in scientific prose style and in official documents;
b) evaluative meaning which bears reference to things, phenomena, or ideas through the evaluation of the denotate: out-of-date-method-time-tested method, firm-obstinate-pig-headed;
c) emotive meaning which expresses the speaker's emotional attitude to the denotate (chit, puppet, jade). Neutral words that name emotions like anger, pleasure, and pain should be distinguished from the above mentioned emotionally coloured words;
d) expressive meaning which
does not refer directly to things or phenomena of the objective
reality, but to the feelings and emotions of the speaker, it is based
on the metaphoric transfer (speaking of a man – cockerel, bully, buck).
There are no strict rules for distinguishing between
functional-stylistic and other connotative meanings. Moreover, the
functional-stylistic meaning which is connected with a certain sphere
of communication may serve as a starting point for the word acquiring
other connotative meanings.
2. Stylistic classification of the
vocabulary of any language is a very complicated problem. The existing
classifications are based on different criteria, which take into
account common semantic and stylistic characteristics of words in the
given period of time (synchronic approach). The two criteria used for
our classification are as follows:
1) paradigmatic criterion, i.e. the absence or presence in the word semantics of the additional information (evaluative, emotive, or expressive meaning);
2) syntagmatic criterion, i.e. the character of syntagmatic relations between the lexical or lexical-stylistic meaning of the word and its context.
Both criteria are interconnected. Proceeding from them and using
N.D.Arutyunova’s ideas of the word semantics, we may divide all words
of the English vocabulary into two major groups:
1. words having a lexico-stylistic paradigm which are characterized by:
a) an indirect reference to the object: fat cat (coll.) => a provider of money for political uses (neutral) => denotate;
b) subjective evaluative connotations;
c) referential borders which are not strict: these words are of a
qualifying character so they may be used to characterize different
e) possible antonyms.
To this group we refer poetic diction; archaisms (archaic words);
barbarisms and foreign words; stylistic neologisms; slangisms;
colloquialisms; jargonisms (social and professional); dialectal words;
2. words having no lexico-stylistic paradigm are characterized by:
a) a direct reference to the object;
b) the absence of subjective evaluative connotations,
c) strict referential borders;
d) the lack of synonyms. Synonyms that they may have are purely denotative;
e) the lack of antonyms.
Here we refer stylistically neutral words; terms; nomenclature words;
historical words; lexical neologisms; and exotic words.
Words having a lexico-stylistic paradigm are not homogeneous; they may enter the following oppositions: vocolloquial cabulary – bookish vocabulary
non-literary words – literary words
general literary vocabulary – social or dialectal elements special vocabulary
contemporary vocabulary — archaic vocabulary.
However, the mentioned groups of words are not closed; they are
intersecting – one and the same word may belong to two or more groups.3. STYUSTIC FUNCTIONS OF THE WORDS HAVING A LEXICO-STYUSTIC PARADIGM
Lexical expressive means of the English language are words which do not
only have denotative meaning but connotative as well. Depending on
their connotative meaning such words fall into two major groups: literary (high-flown) words which are traditionally linked with poetic, bookish, or written speech and conversational (low-flown)
words that are most often used in oral, colloquial speech. Literary
words are more stable due to the traditions of the written type of
speech. Conversational words are constantly changing. Within a period
of time they can become high-flown or neutral, e.g. bet, mob, trip, fun, chap.
3.1. STYLISTIC FUNCTIONS OF LITERARY (HIGH-FLOWN) WORDS
Literary words of the English language can be classified into the
following groups: poetic diction, archaic words, barbarisms and foreign
words, bookish (learned) words. Poetic diction
Poetic words are stylistically marked, they form a lexico-stylistic
paradigm. In the 17th-18th centuries they were widely used in poetry as
synonyms of neutral words. In modern poetry such a vocabulary barely
Poetic words are diverse; they include:
Their main function is to mark the text in which they are used as
poetic, thus distinguishing it from non-fiction texts. In modern poetry
such words are seldom used. Their stylistic meaning gets more vivid
when they are contrasted to neutral words.
a) archaic words (commix – mix);
b) archaic forms (vale – valley);
c) historic words (argosy – large merchant ship);
d) poetic words proper (anarch, brine).
Archaic words, i.e. out-dated words that denote existing objects, are divided into two groups:
Speaking of archaic words we should distinguish "ageing/newness” of the
word form and "ageing/newness” of the denotate. And then, accordingly,
we may correlate archaic words and historic words on the one hand as
well as lexical and stylistic neologisms on the other.
a) archaic words proper: words which are no longer recognized in modern
English. They were used in Old English and have either dropped out of
language use entirely or completely changed (troth – faith, losel – worthless);
b) archaic forms of the words: corse instead of corpse, an instead of and, annoy instead of аnnоуаnсе.
Lexical neologisms are new words that denote new objects (laser shopping, pop promo, killer satellite). Stylistic neologisms are new names that denote already existing objects and notions (mole – a spy who successfully infiltrates an organization; ageism – discrimination of a person on the ground of age).
words are associated with definite stages in the development of a
society and cannot be neglected, though the things and phenomena to
which they refer no longer exist.
Historical words (yeoman, thane, baldric, goblef) have no synonyms as compared to archaic words which may be replaced by their modern synonyms.
Historical words and lexical neologisms having no stylistic meaning, do
not form lexico-stylistic paradigms. But archaic words and stylistic
neologisms mark the text stylistically, distinguishing if from neutral
speech. Barbarisms and foreign words
In fiction, together with historical words, archaisms
create the effect of antiquity, providing a true-to-life historical
background and reminding the reader of past habits, customs, clothes
etc. The usage of archaisms, incompatible with conversational words,
might in some cases lead to a humorous or satirical effect.
There are many borrowings in every language, some of them being
assimilated. We may distinguish four groups of such words in English:
foreign words, barbarisms, exotic words, and borrowings. Slang is
composed of highly colloquial words whose expressiveness and novelty
make them emphatic and emotive as compared to their neutral synonyms.
Foreign words are
close to barbarisms, but they are characterised by occasional usage
only, mainly in literary speech. They do not form a lexico-stylistic
paradigm, though they may be used to create some stylistic effect.
words of foreign origin which have not been entirely assimilated into
the English language preserving their former spelling and
pronunciation. Most of them (e.g. chic, chagrin, en passant) have corresponding English synonyms.
Exotic words are borrowed foreign words denoting objects characteristic of a certain country (canzonet, matador).
They have no synonyms in the language-borrower, do not form a
lexico-stylislic paradigm and therefore are not considered to be
lexical EM, but nevertheless they may be used for stylistic purposes.
if they are assimilated, do not differ much from native words as far as
their stylistic aspect is concerned. They are usually high-flown
synonyms of neutral native words (to commence – to begin, labour – work, female – woman).
The stylistic functions of barbarisms and foreign words are similar,
they are used to create a local colouring, to identify a personage as a
foreigner, or to show his/her mannerism.
Bookish (learned) words are mostly used in official or high-flown style (catenate, depicture, disimprove, dalliance).
In official usage, they mark the text as belonging to this or that
style of written speech, but when used in colloquial speech or in
informal situations, they may create a comical effect.
3.2. STYLISTIC FUNCTIONS OF CONVERSATIONAL (LOW-FLOWN) WORDS
Here we refer colloquial words, general-slang words (interjargon),
special slang words (social and professional jargons), dialectal words
and vulgarisms. Some linguists differentiate slang and jargon, but the
difference is vague and is practically irrelevant for stylistics.
Generally, colloquial words according to their usage may be divided
into three big groups:
1) literary colloquial;
2) familiar colloquial;
3) low colloquial.
According to the relations between their form and meaning, all colloquial words may be divided into three subgroups:
a) words which are based on the change of their phonetic or
morphological form without changing their lexical and stylistic
b) words which are the result of the change of both their form and lexico-stylistic meaning;
c) words which resulted from the change of their lexical and/or lexico-stylistic meaning without changing their form.
The first subgroup comprises such varieties of word-form change as:
a) clipping (shortening): serge – sergeant, caff – caffeteria;
b) contamination of a word combination: leggo – let's go, kinna – kind of, c'mon – come on;
c) contamination of grammatical forms: I'd go, there's, we're going.
These words have no lexico-stylistic paradigms. They possess denotative meaning only.
Within the second group of colloquialisms, we may distinguish two
varieties of the word-form change leading to the alteration of its
a) the change of the grammatical form which brings the change of the lexico-stylistic meaning: heaps – very many, a handful – a person causing a lot of trouble;
b) the change of the word-building pattern which causes the emergence of another lexico-stylistic meaning through;
- affixation: oldie, tenner, clippie;
- compounding: backroom boy, clip-joint;
- conversion: to bag, teach-in;
- telescopy: swellegant, flush, fruice;
- shortening and affixation: Archie (Archibald);
- compounding and affixation: strap-hanger, arty-crafty.
All these words form a lexico-stylistic paradigm as they have synonyms
among neutral and literary words and are characterised by various
connotations while giving additional characteristics to the denotate.
The third subgroup of colloquial words is the most numerous and comprises:
a) words with emotive-expressive meaning only: oh, bach, ah as well as word combinations having a special expressive function: I never, Good (Great) heavens, God forbid;
b) words and word combinations having both connotative and denotative meaning where the former one prevails: terribly, you don't say so, did he really;
c) words in which denotative and connotative meanings interplay: bunny – a waitress, colt-team – young team;
d) words in which denotative meaning in certain contextual conditions gives rise to a new connotative meaning: affair – business, to have an affair – to be in love, beggar – poor person, lucky beggar – lucky person;
e) words denotative and connotative meanings of which are completely different from their former meanings: chanter (poetic) – a singer; chanter (col.) - a person who sells horses at the market.
We саn distinguish two varieties of slang; general slang (interjargon) and special slangs (social
as well as professional jargons). Some of the former slangisms may
enter the colloquial or even the neutral layer of the vocabulary (phone, flu, sky-scrapei). Novelty is the most impressive feature of slang. As it disappears, they lose their expressiveness. Vulgarisms are
the words which are not generally used in public. However, they can be
found in modern literature nowadays, though formerly they were tabooed
or marked by the initial letters only.
Dialectal words (‘ud – would, ‘im – him, ‘aseen – have seen, canna – cannot, dinna – don’t, sportin – sporting)
are used to intensify the emotive and expressive colouring of speech
which is primarily determined by the peculiarities of social or
Conversational words of all
kinds are widely used for stylistic purposes. There are four speech
spheres in which they are mostly largely used: everyday speech,
newspaper language, poetry, and fiction.
In newspaper language, colloquial words and word combinations, and
sometimes general slang words, are used to give an expressive
evaluation of facts and events. In modern poetry, words of all layers
are most widely used. Lyrical poetry allows the usage of various
non-poetic words to create the atmosphere of sincerity, confidence etc.
Slang words in fiction (mostly in dialogues) add to the informality and
emotiveness of the character’s speech alongside with indicating social
and speech peculiarities of the personages.
4. STYLISTIC FUNCTIONS OF WORDS HAVING NO LEXICO-STYLISTIC PARADIGM
To this group, we refer terms, nomenclature words, historical words, exotic words, and lexical neologisms. Terms are
words and word combinations expressing scientific and scholarly notions
in which essential properties of the object or phenomenon are
reflected. Terms are generally associated with a definite branch of
science and, therefore, with a set of other terms belonging to that
particular branch of science or humanities. For example, language and speech may be used as synonyms in everyday usage, but in de Saussure’s theory, they are opposed to each other as terms.
are very close to terms: they refer to a definite branch of human
activity, mainly professional, e.g. names of minerals, chemical
elements, types of cars etc.
All the words mentioned above, being used in special texts, have no
stylistic functions: their usage is determined by their nominative
function, i.e. to define the denotate. In fiction, they may acquire
connotative meaning due to their syntagmatic relations with both
stylistically marked and neutral words. For example, in Live with Lightning, Say No to Death, The Citadel, Airport,
they are used to create the life-like atmosphere of a laboratory,
hospital etc. When used in monologues or dialogues, terms become a
means of the speech characterisation. Sometimes, while incompatible
with their context, terms may be used to create a satirical or humorous
Historical words denote objects and notions referring to the past.
Exotic words denote notions and objects unknown or rarely met in the given language community.
Lexical neologisms are new (or old) words denoting new notions.
5. STYLISTIC FUNCTIONS OF PHRASEOLOGY
The question of the status of phraseological units (PhU) is very
complicated. There are many phraseological units which are quite
neutral: in fact, in turn, for instance, in order that, in principle. To this group we should also refer historical PhU: the secular aim, the Blue and the Grey, the common beam; lexical neologisms: oil crisis, energy crisis; and terminological PhU: supersentencial units, expressive means etc. Additional (connotative) information of PhU,
as that of any word, may be of four types, functional-stylistic,
emotional, evaluative, and expressive-figurative.
Accordingly, PhU may be divided into two similar classes: PhU having a lexico-stylistic paradigm, and those having no lexico-stylistic paradigms.
PhU having a lexico-stylistic paradigm also fall into literary (be in accord with somebody, play upon advantage, most and least, bring to mould,; ad ovo, ad hoc, a la carte,; a heart of oak, Achilles heel) and conversational ones (Adams ale, slit the bat, ask me another, monkey's allowance, to get on the ball, admiral of the red, grab for altitude, gef the bird, sell one's back, get the wind up, a bit of jam, get somebody on his ears).
Peculiar stylistic usage of PhU is accounted
for the possibility of their structural and contextual transformations
which are oriented to achieving a definite stylistic effect.
Structural transformations of PhU may be represented by: 1) expansion of PhU, e.g. When you had a weak case and knew it, Alan thought, even straws should be grasped at firmly (from to catch at a straw);
2) reduction of PhU as the result of the compression of proverbs, sayings, quotations etc, e.g. Howaden added severely: "Better too much too eariy than too little too late” (from better late than never);
3) inversion of the components of PhU. It implies the change of the PhU structure while preserving its original components, e.g. Fortunately, it's only the cat’s head and we still have a firm grip on the body (from to let the cat out of the bag).
Contextual transposition of PhU presupposes that a
PhU may be totally reconsidered and reinterpreted in context, e.g. Pooh
goes visiting and gets into a tight place (from to be in a tight comer).
POINTS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Stylistic differentiation of
the English vocabulary. Functional-stylistic and connotative meanings
of the word. Types of connotations: emotive, evaluative, and
expressive. Criteria for the stylistic differentiation of the English
2. Words which have a lexico-stylistic paradigm. Words which have no lexico-stylistic paradigm.
3. Stylistic functions of literary words; poetic diction, archaic words, barbarisms, bookish words, stylistic neologisms.
Stylistic functions of conversational words: colloquial words, general
slang, special slang, stylistic neologisms, vulgarisms.
Stylistic functions of words which have no lexico-stylistic paradigm:
historical words, exotic words, terms, lexical neologisms.
6. Stylistic functions of phraseology.