Stylistic classification of English and Ukrainian vocabulary

The word stock of any language is not homogeneous and from the stylistic point of view is subdivided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The literary and colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups united according to a certain aspect. The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words: 1. common literary; 2. terms and learned words; 3. poetic words; 4. archaic words; 5. barbarisms and foreign words; 6. literary coinages including nonce-words.

The colloquial vocabulary falls into the following groups: 1. common colloquial words; 2. slang; 3. jargonisms; 4. professional words; 5. dialectal words; 6. vulgar words; 7. colloquial coinages.

The neutral layer of vocabulary is universal in its character. That means it is unrestricted in its use. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity. It is this that makes the layer the most stable of all. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. It is the neutral stock of words that is so prolific in the production of new meanings. Unlike all other groups, the neutral group of words cannot be considered as having a special stylistic colouring, whereas both literary and colloquial words have a definite stylistic colouring. The following synonyms illustrate the relations that exist between the neutral, common literary and common colloquial words in the English language.

Colloquial: kid, daddy, chap, get out, go on, teenager, flapper, go ahead, get going make a move

Neutral: child father, fellow, go away, continue, boy (girl), young girl, begin, start

Literary: infant, parent, associate, retire, proceed, youth (maiden), maiden, commence

These stylistic differences may be of various kinds: they may lie in the emotional tension connoted in a word, or in the sphere of application, or in the degree of the quality denoted. Colloquial words are always more emotionally coloured than literary ones. The neutral stratum of words, as the term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.The stock of words forming the neutral stratum should in this case be regarded as an abstraction. The words of this stratum are generally deprived of any concrete associations and refer to the concept more or less directly. Synonyms of neutral words, both colloquial and literary, assume a far greater degree of concreteness. They generally present the same notions not abstractly but as a more or less concrete image, that is, in a form perceptible by the senses. This perceptibility by the senses causes subjective evaluations of the notion in question, or a mental image of the concept as e.g. in Ukrainian words .

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a markedly obvious tendency to pass into that layer. The same may be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer: it can very easily pass into the neutral layer. The lines of demarcation between common colloquial and neutral, on the one hand, and common literary and neutral, on the other, are blurred. It is here that the process of inter-penetration of the stylistic strata becomes most apparent. Though this is not the case with special literary and special colloquial vocabulary which has the clearly marked sphere of application and a definite stylistic function.


Special literary vocabulary


Terms are mostly and predominantly used in special works dealing with the notions of some branch of science. Therefore it may be said that they belong to the style of language of science where they fulfil their basic function, that of bearing exact reference to a given concept. This function of terms does not allow the development of polysemy and seldom do the terms have synonyms. Although the synonymy is uncharacteristic for this layer of vocabulary the cases of synonymic substitution are possible and even favourable for stylistic purposes especially in Ukrainian where the bulk of this layer consists of the loan words. Some loan terms in Ukrainian have their synonyms, e.g.: , , etc. There is a tendency to use the loaned term in official style and in scientific works and to use its synonym in publicistic, newspaper, colloquial, belles-lettres styles. The following extract exemplifies how the usage of terms contributes to the realistic description of the laboratory where the main heroine works:


In front of her were the instruments which she had been taught to readthere was a logarithmic amplifier, with faces like speedometers, which would give a measure she had picked up some jargon of the neutron flu.

On the bench was pinned the sheet of graph paper and it was there that she was to plot the course of the experiment. As the heavy water was poured in, the neutron flux would rise: the point on the graph would lead down the spot where the pile had started to run where the chain reaction had begun (Ch. Snow).


The use of terms in newspaper style, in publicistic and practically in all other existing styles of language may change their function. The function of terms, if encountered in other styles, is either to indicate the technical peculiarities of the subject dealt with, or to make some reference to the occupation of a character whose language would naturally contain special words and expressions. When a term occurs in the belles-lettres style, for instance, it may simultaneously actualize its direct and figurative meaning and may acquire a definite stylistic value:


"What a fool Rawdon Crawley has been," Clump replied, "to go and marry a governess. There was something about the girl too."

"Green eyes, fair skin, pretty figure, famous frontal development" Squill remarked. (W. M. Thackeray).

The combination 'frontal development' is terminological in character (used sometimes in anatomy). But being preceded by the word 'famous' used in the sense indicated by the Shorter Oxford Dictionary as "a strong expression of approval (chiefly colloquial); excellent, capital" the whole expression assumes a specific stylistic function due to the fact that 'frontal development' is used both in its terminological aspect and in its logical meaning 'the breast of a woman'.

The following lines of Lina Kostenko can also be cited as a bright example of the artistic employment of terms, where the words that belong to the domain of mathematics embody the image of intricate and complexity of individuals life:





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There is an interesting process going on in the development of any language. With the increase of general education and the expansion of technique to satisfy the ever-growing needs and desires of mankind, many words that were once terms have gradually lost their quality as terms and have passed into the common literary or even neutral vocabulary. This process may be called "de-terminization". Such words as 'radio', 'television' and the like have long been in common use and their terminological character is no longer evident. It is also interesting to know that in the Ukrainian language in certain times of its development the following words as (), (), (), ( ), ( ), (), (), (), (), (), (), (), (), (), (), () were terms.


Poetic words

Poetic words form a rather insignificant layer of the special literary vocabulary. They are mostly archaic or very rarely used highly literary words which aim at producing an elevated effect, like e.g. Ukrainian words , , , , , , etc.

In the epoch of classicism, for example, there was a tendency to create special poetic style in which simple, rough and plain words of the folk language were not allowed, whereas new lexical, morphological and syntactical norms were created. The following stanzas of S. Johnson which abounds in highly elevated metaphors, abstract nouns and adjectives with the strong evaluative component can be a vivid example of this style:


Friendship, peculiar boon of heaven,

The noble minds delight and pride,

To men and angels only given,

To all the lower world denied,

While love, unknowen among the blest,

Parent of thousand wild desires,

The savage and the human breast

Torments alike with raging fires


Nor shall thine ardours ceased to glow,

When souls to peaceful climes remove;

What raisd our virtue here below,

Shall aid our happiness above.

At the beginning of XIX-th century the classical canons of poetic diction were rejected by some poets-romanticists (G.G. Byron, P.B. Shelley, J. Keats) who strived to enrich the language of poetry using dialectal, archaic elements, new expressive means taken from ancient literature or built on the basis of live, colloquial forms of native language.

In modern English poetic words are not freely built in contrast to neutral, colloquial and common literary words, or terms. There is, however, one means of creating new poetic words still recognized as productive even in present-day English, viz. the use of a contracted form of a word instead of the full one, e. g. drear instead of dreary, scant scanty. Sometimes the reverse process leads to the birth of a poeticism, e. g. vasty vast. These two conventional devices are called forth by the requirements of the metre of the poem, to add or remove a syllable, and are generally avoided by modern English poets.

Alongside with the specific word-building models in modern English there are a certain number of words which have constant poetic connotations and are marked in the dictionaries by a special stylistic label poet.

In order to exemplify the usage of poetic vocabulary let us consider the humoristic poem of J. Updike in which the bigotry to the classical poetic canons is derided:




At verses she was not inept!

Her feet were neatly numbered.

She never cried, she softly wept,

She never slept, she slumbered.

She never ate and rarely dined

Her tongue found sweetmeats sour.

She never guessed but oft divined

The secrets of the flower.

A flower! Fragrant, pliant, clean,

More dear to her than crystal.

She knew what earnings dozed between

The stamen and the pistil

Dawn took her thither to the wood,

At even, home she hithered.

Ah, to the gentle Pan is god

She never died, she withered (J. Updike).

Poetic words (, , , , , etc) are not infrequent in modern Ukrainian poetic discourse.



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