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Functional Styles of the English Language

 

Functional styles (FS) are the subsystems of language, each subsystem having its own peculiar features in what concern vocabulary means, syntactical constructions, and even phonetics. The appearance and existence of FS is connected with the specific conditions of communication in different spheres of human life. FS differ not only by the possibility or impossibility of using some elements but also due to the frequency of their usage.

The classification of FS is a very complicated problem, that is why we will consider ideas of I.V.Arnold and I.R. Galperin, bearing in mind that Galperin treats functional styles as patterns of the written variety of language thus excluding colloquial FS. Both scholars agree that each FS can be recognized by one or more leading features. But Galperin pays more attention to the coordination of language means and stylistic devices whereas Arnold connects the specific features of each FS with its peculiarities in the sphere of communication.

According to I.R. Galperin, a functional style of language is a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication. A functional style should be regarded as the product of a certain concrete task set by the sender of the message. Functional styles appear mainly in the literary standard of the language. These represent varieties of the abstract invariant and can deviate from the invariant, even breaking away with it.

Each FS is a relatively stable system at the given stage in the development of the literary language, but it changes, and sometimes considerably, from one period to another. Therefore FS is a historical category. Thus, for example in the 17th century it was considered that not all words can be used in poetry, and that a separate poetic style exists. Later, in the 19th century romanticism rejected the norms of poetic style and introduced new vocabulary to poetry. The development of each style is predetermined by the changes in the norms of standard English. It is also greatly influenced by changing social conditions, the progress of science and the development of cultural life.

 

Every functional style of language is marked by a specific use of language means, thus establishing its own norms which, however, are subordinated to the norm-invariant and which do not violate the general notion of the literary norm.

Individual style is a unique combination of language units, expressive means and stylistic devices peculiar to a given writer, which makes that writer's works or even utterances easily recognizable. (Galperin, p.17) Naturally, the individual style of a writer will never be entirely independent of the literary norms and canons of the given period. But the adaptations of these canons will always be peculiar and therefore distinguishable. Individual style is based on a thorough knowledge of the contemporary language and allows certain justifiable deviations from the rigorous norms. Individual style requires to be studied in a course of stylistics in so far as it makes use of the potentialities of language means, whatever the characters of these potentialities may be.

All men of letters have a peculiar individual manner of using language means to achieve the effect they desire. Writers choose language means deliberately. This process should be distinguished from language peculiarities which appear in everyday speech of this or that particular individual (idiolect).

 

NEUTRAL STYLE :: COLLOQUIAL STYLE :: BOOKISH STYLE

 

The term neutral style is used mostly to denote the background for realizing stylistic peculiarities of stylistically colored elements. Neutral style is characterized by the absence of stylistic coloring and by the possibility to be used in any communicative situation. This style is deliberately simplified.

If neutral style serves any situation of communication colloquial style serves situations of spontaneous everyday communication (casual, non-formal). Bookish style corresponds to public speech (non-casual, formal). This division does not coincide with the division into spoken and written language because colloquial style can be used in fiction, bookish style represented for example by oratorical style exists in the oral form only. At the same time we should remember that colloquial speech which we meet in fiction has undergone some transformations: the writer usually compresses linguistic information choosing the typical and avoiding the accidental.

Colloquial style is divided into upper colloquial, common colloquial and low colloquial. The latter two have their own peculiar features connected with region, gender, age of the speaker.

Bookish style embraces scientific, official, publicistic (newspaper), oratorical, and poetic styles.

Arnold belongs to the group of scholars who reject the existence of belles-letres style. Her opinion is that each work of literature presents an example of the authors individual speech and thus follows its own norm, in the work of literature authors often use different FS.

She introduces the notion of language function characteristic for different FS. Intellectual-communicative function is connected with the transferring of intellectual ideas. Voluntary function serves for influencing the will-power and conscience of listener or reader.

 

Table

 

Function Style Intellectual-communicative Voluntary Emotive Contact-creating Aesthetic
Oratorical + + + + +
Colloquial + + + + -
Poetic + - + - +
Publicistic and Newspaper + + + - -
Official + + - - -
Scientific + - - - -

 

Having in mind the fact that FS is a historical category Arnold doubts that in the contemporary English language exists a separate poetic style. As it is clearly seen from the table oratorical and scientific styles are opposite to each other the first having all functions of language, the second only one.

There are no strict boundaries separating one FS from another. The oratorical style has much in common with a publicistic one. The publisictic newspaper style is close to the colloquial style. But if we consider this problem it will be evident that we are dealing with the combination of different FS in the speech of a given individual because each FS is characterized by certain parameters concerning vocabulary and syntax.

 

The Belles-Lettres Style

 

According to I.R. Galperin, this is a generic term for three substyles: the language of poetry; emotive prose (the language of fiction); the language of the drama. Each of these substyles has certain common features, and each of them enjoys some individuality. The common features of the substyles are the following:

1. The aesthetico-cognitive function (a function which aims at the cognitive process, which secures the gradual unfolding of the idea to the reader and at the same time calls forth a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction which a reader experiences because he is able to penetrate into the author's idea and to form his own conclusions).

2. Definite linguistic features:

Genuine, not trite, imagery, achieved by purely linguistic devices.

The use of words in different meanings, greatly influenced by the lexical environment.

A vocabulary which will reflect to a certain degree the author's personal evaluation of things or phenomena.

A peculiar individual selection of vocabulary and syntax.

The introduction of the typical features of colloquial language to a full degree (drama), to a lesser degree (in prose), to a slight degree (poetry).

The belles-lettres style is individual in essence. This is one of its most distinctive properties.

The language of poetry is characterized by its orderly form, which is based mainly on the rhythmic and phonetic arrangement of the utterances. The rhythmic aspect calls forth syntactic and semantic peculiarities.

Emotive prose shares the same common features, but these features are correlated differently than in poetry. The imagery is not so rich as in poetry; the percentage of words with contextual meaning is not so high. Emotive prose features the combination of the literary variant of the language, both in words and in syntax, with the colloquial variant.

Language of the drama is entirely dialogue. The author's speech is almost entirely excluded except for the playwright's remarks and stage directions. But the language of the characters is not the exact reproduction of the norms of colloquial language. Any variety of the belles-lettres style will use the norms of the literary language of the given period. The language of plays is always stylized, it strives to retain the modus of literary English.

Publicistic Style

 

The publicistic style of language became a separate style in the middle of the 18th century. Unlike other styles, it has two spoken varieties, namely the oratorical substyle and the radio and TV commentary. The other two substyles are the essay (moral, philosophical, literary) and journalistic articles (political, social, economic). The general aim of publicistic style is to influence the public opinion, to convince the reader or the listener that the interpretation given by the writer or the speaker is the only correct one and to cause him to accept the expressed point of view.

Publicistic style is characterized by coherent and logical syntactical structure, with an expanded system of connectives and careful paragraphing. Its emotional appeal is achieved by the use of words with the emotive meaning but the stylistic devices are not fresh or genuine. The individual element is not very evident. Publicistic style is also characterized by the brevity of expression, sometimes it becomes a leading feature.

The oratorical style is the oral subdivision of the publicistic style. Direct contact with the listeners permits a combination of the syntactical, lexical and phonetic peculiarities of both the written and spoken varieties of language. The typical features of this style are: direct address to the audience; sometimes contractions; the use of colloquial words.

The essay is rather a series of personal and witty comments than a finished argument or a conclusive examination of the matter. The most characteristic language features of the essay are: brevity of expression; the use of the first person singular; a rather expanded use of connectives; the abundant use of emotive words; the use of similes and sustained metaphors.

The language of journalistic articles is defined by the character of newspaper, magazine, as well as subjects chosen. Literary reviews stand closer to essays.

Newspaper Style

 

Not all the printed materials found in newspapers comes under newspaper style. Only materials which perform the function of informing the reader and providing him with an evaluation of information published can be regarded as belonging to newspaper style. English newspaper style can be defined as a system of interrelated lexical, phraseological and grammatical means which is perceived by the community as a separate linguistic unity that serves the purpose of informing and instructing the reader. Information in the English newspaper is conveyed through the medium of:

1) brief news items;

2) press reports;

3) articles purely informational in character;

4) advertisements and announcements.

The newspaper also seeks to influence public opinion on political and other matters. Elements of appraisal may be observed in the very selection and way of presentation of news, in the use of specific vocabulary, casting some doubt on the facts recorded, and syntactical constructions indicating a lack of assurance of the reporter or his desire to avoid responsibility. The principle vehicle of interpretation and appraisal is the newspaper article and the editorial in particular. Editorial is a leading article which is characterized by a subjective handling of facts. This purpose defines the choice of language elements which are mostly emotionally colored.

Newspaper style has its specific vocabulary features and is characterized by an extensive use of:

1) special political and economic terms (president, election);

2) non-term political vocabulary (nation, crisis, agreement, member);

3) newspaper cliches (pressing problem, danger of war, pillars of society);

4) abbreviations (NATO, EEC);

5) neologisms.

 

The Style of Official Documents

 

This FS is not homogeneous and is represented by the following substyles or variants:

1) the language of business documents;

2) the language of legal documents;

3) the language of diplomacy;

4) the language of military documents.

Like other styles of language, this style has a definite communicative aim and its own system of interrelated language and stylistic means. The main aim of this type of communication is to state the conditions binding two parties and to reach agreement between two contracting parties. The most general function of the style of official documents predetermines the peculiarities of the style. The most striking feature is a special system of cliches, terms and set expressions by which each substyle can be easily recognized. Thus in finance we find terms like extra revenue, liability. In diplomacy such phrases as high contracting parties, memorandum, to ratify an agreement are found. In legal language, examples are to deal with a case, a body of judges.

All these varieties use abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions, for example, M.P. (Member of Parliament), Ltd (Limited), $. Abbreviations are especially abundant in military documents. They are used not only as conventional symbols, but also as signs of military code. Another feature of the style is the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning. There is no room here for the realization of any other meaning here.

 

 

 

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