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Stylistic Differentiation of Vocabulary
The word-stock of a language may be represented as a definite system in which different aspects of words may be singled out as interdependent. For linguistic stylistics a special type of classification, viz. stylistic classification, is the most important.
The word-stock of the English language may be divided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups each of which has a property (aspect) it shares with all the subgroups within the layer. The aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish character; the aspect of the colloquial layer of words is its lively spoken character. The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. That means it is unrestricted in its use.
The literary layer of words consists of groups accepted as legitimate members of the English vocabulary; they have no local or dialectal character. 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 layer of words is not infrequently limited to a definite language community or confined to a special locality where it circulates. 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 common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term standard English vocabulary. Other groups in the literary layer are regarded as special literary vocabulary and those in the colloquial layer are regarded as special colloquial (non-literary) vocabulary.
(Kucharenko) The word-stock of any given language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups, differing from each other by the sphere of its possible use. The biggest division is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative situation; two smaller ones are literary and colloquial strata respectively.
Literary words serve to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages, while the colloquial ones are employed in non-official everyday communication. Though there is no immediate correlation between the written and the oral forms of speech on one hand, and the literary and colloquial words, on the other, yet, for the most part, the first ones are mainly observed in the written form, as most literary messages appear in writing. And vice versa: though there are many examples of colloquialisms in writing (informal letters, diaries, certain passages of memoirs, etc.), their usage is associated with the oral form of communication.
Consequently, taking for analysis printed materials we shall find literary words in authorial speech, de-scriptions, considerations, while colloquialisms will be observed in the types of discourse, simulating (copying) everyday oral communication — i.e., in the dialogue (or interior monologue) pf a prose work.
When we classify some speech (text) fragment as literary or colloquial it does not mean that all the words constituting it have a corresponding stylistic meaning. More than that: words with a pronounced stylistic connotation are few in any type of discourse, the overwhelming majority of its lexis being neutral. As our fam-ous philologist L.V. Shcherba once said — a stylistically coloured word is like a, drop of paint added to a glass of pure water and colouring the whole of it.
Neither of the two named groups of words, possessing a stylistic meaning, is homogeneous as to the quality of the meaning, frequency of use, sphere of application, or the number and character of potential users. This is why each one is further divided into the general, i.e. known to and used by most native speakers in generalized literary (formal) or colloquial (informal) communication, and special bulks. The latter ones, in their turn, are subdivided into subgroups, each one serving a rather narrow; specified communicative purpose.
So, among special literary words, as a rule, at least two major subgroups are mentioned. They are:
1. Terms, i.e. words denoting objects, processes, phenomena of science, humanities, technique.
2. Archaisms, i.e. words, a) denoting historical phenomena which are no more in use (such as “yeoman”, “vassal”, “falconet”). These are historical words.
b) used in poetry in the XVII-XIX cc. (such as “steed” for “horse”; “quoth” for “said”; “woe” for “sor-row”). These are poetic words.
c) in the course of language history ousted by newer synonymic words (such as “whereof = of which; “to deem” = to think; “repast” = meal; “nay” = no) or forms (“maketh” = makes; “thou wilt” = you will; “breth-ren” = brothers). These are called archaic words (archaic forms) proper.
Literary words, both general (also called learned, bookish, high-flown) and special, contribute to the message the tone of solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness. They are used in official papers and documents, in scientific communication, in high poetry, in authorial speech of creative prose.
Colloquial words, on the contrary, mark the message as informal, non-official, conversational. Apart from general colloquial words, widely used by all speakers of the language in their everyday communication (e.g. “dad”, “kid”, “crony”, “fan”, “to pop”, “folks”), such special subgroups may be mentioned:
1. Slang words are highly emotive and expressive and as such, lose their originality rather fast and are replaced by newer formations. This tendency to synonymic expansion results in long chains of synonyms of various degrees of expressiveness, denoting one and the same concept. The substandard status of slang words and phrases, through universal usage, can be raised to the standard colloquial: “pal”, “chum,” “crony” for “friend”; — are examples of such a transition.
2. Jargonisms stand close to slang, also being substandard, expressive and emotive, but, unlike slang they are used by limited groups of people, united either professionally (in this case we deal with professional-Jargonisms, or professionalisms), or socially (here we deal with jargonisms proper). In distinction from slang, Jargonisms of both types cover a narrow semantic field: in the first case it is that, connected with the technical side of some profession. professionalisms are formed according to the existing word-building patterns or present existing words in new meanings, and, covering the field of specia lprofessional knowledge, which is semantically limited, they offer a vast variety of synonymic choices for naming one and the same professional item.
Jargonisms proper differ in function and sphere of application. They originated from the thieves’ jargon (l’argo, cant) and served to conceal the actual significance of the utterance from the uninitiated. Their major function thus was to be cryptic, secretive. This is why among them there are cases of conscious deformation of the existing words. The so-called back jargon (or back slang) can serve as an example.
Indeed slang (general slang) and jargonisms (special slang) have much in common: are emotive, expressive, unstable, fluctuating, tending to expanded synonymy within certain lexico-semantic groups and limited to a highly informal, substandard communication. So it seems appropriate to use the indicated terms as synonyms.
3. Vulgarisms are coarse words with a strong emotive meaning, mostly derogatory, normally avoided in polite conversation.
4. Dialectal words are normative and devoid of any stylistic meaning in regional dialects, but used out-side of them, carry a strong flavour of the locality where they belong.
Each of the above-mentioned four groups justifies its label of special colloquial words as each one, due to varying reasons, has application limited to a certain group of people or to certain communicative situations.
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