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  Stylistic Morphology of the English Language Приветствую Вас Гость | RSS



(taken from  "Методичні вказівки до семінарських та практичних 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. 8-11.)


The main unit of the morphological level is a morpheme – the smallest meaningful unit which can be singled out in a word. There are two types of morphemes: root morphemes and affix ones. Morphology chiefly deals with forms, functions and meanings of affix morphemes.

            Affix morphemes in English are subdivided into word-building and form-building morphemes. In the latter case affixation may be: 1) synthetical (boys, lived, comes, going); 2) analytical (has invited, is invited, does not invite); 3) based on the alteration of the root vowel (write-wrote); 4) suppletive (go-went).

            There are few language (or paradigmatic) synonyms among English morphemes and only some of them form stylistic oppositions, e.g, he lives – he does live. Come! – Do come! Don’t forget – Don’t you forget. This scarcity of morphological EM which is predetermined by the analytical character of the English language is compensated by a great variety of SD.

            Morphological SD as a deliberate shift in the fixed distribution of morphemes can be creted by means of: a) the violation of the usual combinability of morphemes within a word, e.g. the plural of uncountable nouns (sands, waters, times), or the Continuous forms of the verbs of sense perception (to be seeing, to be knowing, to be feeling); b) the violation of the contextual distribution of morphemes, which is called form transposition.



            The invariant grammatical meaning of the noun, that of substance, is realized through grammatical categories of number, case definiteness/ indefiniteness which can be used for stylistic purposes.

            Such SD may be based on a) repeating the same words in a syntactical construction, e.g. women are women, or b) using metaphorically nouns which belong to different lexico-grammatical classes, e.g. He is a devil with the women (S.Barstow).

            In the opposition of singular :: plural the latter is a marked member, and, accordingly, the possibilities of its stylistic use are greater. Nevertheless, singular forms can also acquire stylistic meaning, e.g. to shoot dark, to hunt pig. The formant ‘s’ as the marker of the category of possessiveness constantly widens the sphere of its usage and its combinability. It frequently combines with inanimate and abstract nouns, e.g. kitchen’s work, the plan’s failure. Sometimes it refers to a word group or a sentence, e.g. The blonde I had been dancing with’s name was Bemice Crabs or Krebs (J. Salinger). As a result, the opposition N1 of N2 :: N2’s N1 loses its stylistic character.



            Articles which form the nucleus of the category of definiteness / indefiniteness in modern English may be regarded as analytical formants that might impact to the noun a stylistic coloring.

            There are two ways of achieving a stylistic effect through the usage or non-usage of  articles:

1) the violation of usual combinability of the definite and indefinite articles with proper names and the nouns denoting unique objects (sun, moon, sky, earth). The indefinite article with proper names might acquire evaluative meaning. While the definite article indicates a temporary or permanent quality of the person in question. Names of unique objects while used with the indefinite article acquire the meaning "one of many”;

2) the transposition of the meaning of an article in context. In this case the objects or phenomena are introduced by the narrator as if they are familiar to the reader. This device is sometimes called in medias res (the beginning from the middle).




In contrast with nouns, adjectives have only one grammatical category, that of comparison. The violation of morphemic combinability in adjectives which express different degree of comparison are typical of advertising techniques, e.g. the most Italian car. The meaning of comparison can be also expressed lexically through equonisms, e.g. senior – junior, and adjectives with the –ish suffix, e.g. mannish, womanish, which are occasional words which sound less categoric.   




Being very abstract, pronouns in contrast with nouns and adjectives are rarely used stylistically, which makes their stylistic usage especially expressive.

Pronouns may acquire stylistic value if they denote persons or objects that have not been named or introduced but are still represented as familiar. This device, in media res plunges the reader into the midst of  events, making the author’s narrative more intimate (see E. Hemingway’s stories Now I Lay Me and In Another Country).

A particular stylistic effect may be created due to the usage of archaic (thee, thou, thy) or low colloquial forms of pronouns. While archaic forms make the speech sound official, solemn, or poetical, low colloquial forms usually render some speech characteristics. Pronouns can also undergo various contextual transpositions:

1) when we is used instead of I (Iwe transposition):

a) Pluralis Auctoris ("editorial we”), when the author speaks on behalf of a certain group, party, or class;

b) Pluralis Majestatis, when we is used as a symbol of royal power;

c) Pluralis Modestial, when we is used as a means of involving the reader or listener into the author’s thoughts. It is typical of oral or written scientific prose;

d) when we is employed to impart to the utterance a jocular unceremonious coloring;

            2) I  → one transposition which gives an utterance a more general, impersonal character;

            3) I → you transposition which frequently occurs in reported speech and some descriptions;

            4) I → he/she transposition that takes place when:

                        a) the speaker tells his/her life story as an onlooker;

                        b) the speaker addresses himself/herself as an interlocuter;

                        c) the speaker overstresses his/her relevance;

                        d) the speaker laughs away what is said about him/her by the others;

            5) youwe ("clinical we”) transposition, which conveys a patronizing attitude of the senior superior to the junior/inferior. It can also create a humorous effect.



 Adverbs as one of the means of communicating intensity may be:

            a) stylistically neutral, typical of both written and oral speech (exceedingly, quite, too, utterly);

            b) stylistically marked, typical of oral speech only (awfully, terribly, dreadfully etc.).

            The latter are close to intensifying particles.

            Formal differentiation of suffix and non-suffix adverbs in Modern English is supported by their stylistic usage. The use of non-suffix adverbs is typical of the oral form of speech. In belles-lettres style they can become SD which impart greater vividness and expressiveness to the personage’s speech. Both types of adverbs may be found in the publicistic style.



The existing diversity of verb categories, forms and constructions makes this part of  speech the richest one as to its stylistic possibilities. The stylistic potential of the verb finds its obvious manifestations in the use of aspect, tense, voice, and mood forms.

            Verb aspect forms have a lot of synonyms which allow diverse synonymous substitutions. Present, Past and Future Continuous forms, being more emotional than Indefinite ones, are frequently used instead of the latter to emphasize the emotional tension of the utterance or to impart politeness to it.

            The interchange of verb tense forms (past with historic present or present with past or future) in the narrative makes the events, actions and situations described more vivid.

            Passive constructions which might have a greater emotional charge than active ones, because of their implicit agent, can make a literary text more expressive.

            Impersonality accounts for either expressive or habitual use of passive constructions in those texts (mostly scientific papers) which are characterized by impartiality of judgment and objectiveness. Passive forms are also wide spread in colloquial speech, in the publicistic and official styles.

            The category of mood, due to its modality, the expression of the speaker’s attitude to the events and phenomena described, also enjoys a great stylistic potential. While considering the stylistic usage of the imperative mood, it is important to take into account: social factors (age, social status, educational background, relations between the interlocutors) and different attitudinal overtones (categoric, pressing, mild, affectionate, threatening, ironical). These shades of meaning are chiefly rendered by means of intonation, but they can be also stressed by syntax (please, kindly, will you? the use of you to intensify the harshness of tone).

            Imperative mood forms in a literary text, especially in its title, are used to create an illusion of the author’s or the narrator’s immediate contract with the reader. Such forms are also frequent in the publicistic, oratorical, and newspaper texts.

            Semantics of the subjunctive mood forms which express wish, supposition, possibility, and unreality predetermine the use of these forms in all the styles of Modern English.

            Thus, the synthetical forms of the subjunctive mood which were looked upon as obsolete have gained currency especially in American English. Such forms impart to literary texts colloquial connotations. In the publicistic style do is preferred to the analytical form with should which is regarded as more formal.

            Subjective emotional evaluation may be also conveyed by means of the "emotional should” or the "would + infinitive” construction, which expresses supposition or the repetition of actions, e.g. "Why should I be ashamed of myself? – asked Gabriel” (J.Joyce); Now that there was something to be seen for his money, he had been coming down once, twice, even three times, a week and would mouse about among the debris for hours … And he would stand before them for minutes together (J.Galsworthy).   




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