The main categories of stylistics

The notion of style

The term style originated from the Greek stylos that meant a short stick used for writing on wax tablets. Now the word style is used in so many senses that it has become the breeding ground for ambiguity. The Oxford dictionary registered about thirty meanings of this word. The usage of this word by different sciences aesthetics, linguistics, philosophy, art, history of culture only favours the development of its polysemy.

Ancient and medieval rhetoric understood style as a perfection of speech, as clarity, propriety, beauty of expression, as a manner of a speaker to use language for a certain purpose. Later on the definition of style was developed by different scholars and writers. Among the most widely employed notions of this term that reigned almost up to the beginning of XX-th century were the following:

- style as a deviation from a recognized norm of the standard language.

This definition of style arose under the influence of formalism a trend in 1920s European literature. The representatives of this trend maintained the idea that language sometimes imposes intolerable constraints on the freedom of thought. Hence all kinds of innovations were introduced into the language of poetry and prose that in most cases not only disagree from the norms but actually depart from them in principle;

- style as embellishment on language; language can easily dispense with

style because style likened to the trimming on dress only hinders understanding;

- style as technique of expression, the ability to write clearly, correctly

and in a manner calculated to interest the reader. The followers of this particular point of view presumed that style could be taught as standardized form of language;

- style as literary form.

So what is linguistically relevant definition of style? The treatment of style by modern linguistics and literary studies is based on the assumption that style is an integral significance of any expression, its functional and semantic property. Style is a socially recognized and functionally determined unity of methods of choice, usage and arrangement of language means within a certain sphere of national language, the unity of methods which correlates with other similar ways of expression that serve for other purposes and perform other functions in language social practice of a certain nation[1]. The very nature of style lies in the creative aspect of human verbal activity because it is hardly ever possible to produce an utterance devoid of any stylistic characteristics. On the one hand style is social and historic category. It is being created by native speakers in accordance with the aim of communication. On the other hand style is a reflection of an individual verbal experience. Consequently the abstract tern style being complex and heterogeneous has been regarded depending on what particular aspect of style is dealt with.

Individual style is a unique combination of language units, expressive means and stylistic devices peculiar to a certain writer which makes that writers works or even utterances easily recognizable. The term individual style is applied in that sphere of linguistics and literary studies that deals with the peculiarities of a writers individual manner of using language means to achieve a desirable effect.

Each highly developed language is streamed into several functional styles. Functional style is a system of coordinated, interrelated and interconditioned language means intended to fulfill a specific function of communication and aiming at a definite effect. The problem of functional styles classification is the most disputable among the style theoreticians. The rather widely recognized classification (accepted for both English and Ukrainian) singles out the following functional styles:


official style (- ) represented in all kinds of official documents;

scientific style ( ) found in articles, monographs and other scientific and academic publications ;

publicistic style ( ) covering such genres as essays, feature article, public speeches, etc;

newspaper style ( ) observed in the majority of information materials printed in newspapers;

belles-lettres style ( ) embracing numerous and versatile genres of imaginative writings;

colloquial style ( ) realized in all kinds of everyday communicative situations.


Each of the enumerated style is exercised in two forms written and oral: an article and a lecture are examples of the two forms of the scientific style; news broadcast on the radio and TV or newspaper information materials of the newspaper style; an essay or public speech of the puiblicistic style.

It is only the first three styles that are invariably recognized in all stylistic treatises. As for the newspaper style, it is often regarded as a part of the publicistic domain and is not always treated individually. But the biggest controversy is flaming around the colloquial style. According to V.A.Kukharenko the latter is a special type colloquial type of language, a separate language subsystem opposed to the literary type. Literary type of the language is characterized by the intentional approach of the speaker towards the choice of language means suitable for a particular communicative situation and the official, formal, preplanned nature of the latter. The colloquial type of the language, on the contrary, is characterized by the unofficiality, spontaneity, informality of the communicative situation. The colloquial speech is shaped by the immediacy, unpremeditativeness of expression. The both above mentioned tendencies to treat the colloquial speech as an individual language subsystem with its independent set of language units and rules of their connection and to regard it as a separate style coexist in modern linguistics.


The notion of norm


Norm is the invariant of the phonemic, lexical and syntactical pattern circulating in language in action at a certain period of time. It is a set of language rules which are considered to be the most standard and correct. It is practically impossible to work out universal language norms because each functional style has its own regularities. The sentence I aint got any news from nowbody should be treated as nongrammatical from the point of view of the literary grammar though it is in full accordance with the special colloquial grammar rules. The possibility of variations within the boundaries of traditionally stable, culturally and historically acknowledged norm resulted in its heterogeneity. Thus the notion of norm can be differentiated into:

- language norm

- literary norm

- norm of a certain style

- stylistic norm


Language norm includes all language elements and rules of their organization that have communicative value for native speakers irrespective of the functional style. Elements that are obsolete or non-understandable for a number of speakers exist outside the language norm.

Literary norm is the most correct, elaborated, cultivated variant of language norm that serves as an example of the written and oral communication. Literary norm takes socially high position that general language norm and is implemented into social usage though educational institutions, mess media and art. It has obligatory character and regulative function.

Norm of a style, compared with the language and literary norm is a narrower notion and is restricted to a certain functional style or to a written or oral form of communication. For example, such Ukrainian structures as , , , and , , , are absolutely acceptable from the point of view of language norm but inappropriate from the point of view of a specific sphere of application: the usage of the word combinations of the first group is possible within the domain of official and scientific styles; the usage of the word combinations of the second group is restricted to colloquial style only.

Stylistic norm correlates with literary norm and exists within its boundaries.But it aims not only at the correctness of expression but also at its appropriateness in a certain communicative act and its perfection. The ability of a speaker to express his or her thoughts not only in accordance with the language or literary norm but in accordance with the stylistic norm is the highest stage in a good command of language and is a summit of linguistic culture. Stylistic norm incorporates those language means that possess certain expressive or emotional colouring and which traditionally belong to special types of speech: styles, substyles, genres or types of texts.


The notion of image

Image is a certain picture of objective reality, a verbal subjective description of a person, event, state, occurrence, a sight made by the speaker with the whole set of expressive means and stylistic devices. Images are created to produce an immediate impression to human sight, hearing, and sense of touch or taste. Within the sphere of stylistics and literary criticism the term image is applied to:

- character of a literary work;

- result of the human perception of the world;

- means of figurative description of the character, event, action, condition, circumstances.


The second and the third of above-mentioned definitions are relevant for linguistic stylistics. Image is a word or phrase that renders not only objective, logical but figurative, sensual, emotional, evaluative information and is capable of evoking fillings and emotions. Image is created on the basis of multifold connections and associations between different objects and notions. The more distant these notions are, the more unpredictable and unexpected their likeness is, the brighter is the image. We can describe a flower by contrasting and comparing it with another one. Such comparison does not create the image. But when we compare the flower with the sun we create the image. Let us support this statement with examples:


. - . (. ).

It was six oclock on a winters evening. Thin dingy rain spat and drizzled past the lighted street lamps. The pavement shone long and yellow. In squeaking galoshes, with mackintosh collars up and bowlers and trilbies weepingyoungish men from offices bundled home against the thistly wind (D. Thomas. The followers).


Images are connected with persons mood, with nature and weather, events and states; they may be static or dynamic. The boundaries and the structure of the image are various; it can be embodied in a single word or comprise a phrase, sentence or even the whole literary work. The image has a special structure within which the following constituents are distinguished:

1. the tenor ( an object or notion described);

2. the vehicle ( an object to which the first object is compared);

3. the ground ( the common trait of compared objects);

4. the technique of comparison (type of the trope);

5. the relations between the objects;

6. the lexical and grammatical means of expressing the image.


E.g. Something seemed to break in Winterborns head. He felt he was going mad, and sprang to his feet. The line of bullets smashed across his chest like a savage steel whip.

The tenor is a burst of machine gun fire, the vehicle is a smash of a steel whip, the ground is the similarity of two actions, both notions described are concrete nouns, the technique of comparison the metaphor, lexico-syntactical way of expressing the image syntactic structure like .

Each highly developed national language like English or Ukrainian has its system of elaborated imagery. This system is influenced by different social and historic factors, reflects the speakers outlook, esthetic, philosophic, political concepts that reign in a certain epoch or in a certain social environment.

Images can be descriptive or symbolic. Symbol is a specific type of image. It embodies the most significant and abstract ideas and notions such as peace, eternity, fidelity, victory, life, death, etc.

Imagery is the universal feature of the living language. Practically each word can be a bearer of imagery information:


E.g. And heaved and heaved still unrestingly heaved the black sea as if its vast tides were a conscience (G. Melwil).



ѳ (. ).

Summing up everything that has been said about images and imagery it is important to bear in mind that these notions are the central ones both in stylistic analysis and within the domain of poetic language. Poetic language exists only owing to the existence of images; it is built up of images which are the potential ways of rendering the sense and the powerful means of perfecting the natural living language. To some extend this perfection can be viewed as a deviation from the norms of logic and nature. But these deviations always aim at finding a new, unpredictable mode of expression which in a long run becomes a new norm and favours an nontrivial view of the world. The function of image in this respect is to materialize feelings and experience that could not be verbalized in any other but figurative way.

This deviation creates so called semantic space which the reader should surmount by himself taking aesthetic delight on the way.


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