Meaning from a Stylistic Point of View

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Meaning from a Stylistic Point of View

It is more or less recognized that word-meaning is not homogeneous; it is made of various components. These components are usually described as types of meaning. The two main types are the grammatical meaning and the lexical meaning.




     the Grammar meaning          the Lexical meaning                           


The Denotational meaning                                   the Conotational meaning


                                 Emotive charge                                                      Nominal

                                                                                                                        Meaning                                                                          Stylistic Reference

              Grammatical meaning

Let’s consider such words as girls, tables, trees, etc. We notice that these words denote different objects of reality. That is their lexical meanings which are different but the above mentioned words have something in common. This common element is their grammatical meaning of plurality.

Let’s consider such words as go, goes, went, gone, going. We notice that the grammatical meanings of the words are different but they have something in common. This common element is their lexical meaning that is of movement

The lexical meaning is not homogeneous. It is analyzed as including the denotational and connotational components (meanings). One of the basic functions of the word is to denote things, concepts, and different phenomena, thus the word has a denotational meaning which is fixed in the dictionary and makes communication possible. Denotation conveys the primary or the basic information, but apart from it, words may have various additional meanings, collectively known as a connotation or an overtone. These overtones or connotations vary in character. They may express the speaker’s attitude to the things spoken about (emotive component of the meaning), or indicate the social sphere in which the communication takes place (stylistic reference), or indicate a particular object out of the class (nominal meaning).

e . g . smell - fragrance (приятный запах)

               reek ( вонь )

               odour ( аромат )

These variants illustrate the principle that words refer not only to things but to the uses of the feelings and the feelings he wishes his audience to share.

Emotive charge  

A word contains an element of emotional evaluation as a part of the connotational meaning. Let’s consider the two groups of words

              Tremendous - large

              Worship   - like

              Girlie       - girl

We see that the emotive charge of the words of the first group is heavier than that of the second. This doesn’t depend on the feelings of the individual speaker but it’s true for all the speakers of English. There are words of purely emotive charge – interjections.

    Stylistic reference

Words differ not only in their emotive charge but also in their stylistic reference. Verbal communication takes place in different spheres of human activity such as everyday life, business, science, etc. Each of these spheres has a particular mode of linguistic expression which is generally known as a functional style. Let’s consider the two groups of words

              Inquire - ask

              Obtain - get

              Proceed – go on

              Seek - look for

Each of these group represents a different stylistic layer, the first group contains words of a literary layer, the second – stylistically neutral.

    Nominal meaning

There are words which while denoting objects indicate a particular object out of the class. In other words they are proper names, such as Smith, Longfellow, Elbrus; they are said to have nominal meanings. The logical meaning which they originated from maybe forgotten.

Stylistic Devices

In linguistics there are different terms to denote particular means by which utterances are made more conspicuous, more effective and therefore imparting some additional information. They are called expressive means, stylistic means, stylistic markers, stylistic devices, tropes, figures of speech and other names. All these terms are used indiscriminately and are set against those means, which we shall call neutral. But some scholars, Galperin among them, define the notion of expressive means and stylistic devices.

The expressive means of the language are those phonetic, morphological, word-building, lexical, phraseological and syntactical forms which exist in language-as-a-system for the purpose of logical and/or emotional intensifications of the utterance.

What is a stylistic device? Stylistic device is a conscious and intentional intensification of some typical structural and semantic property of a language unit (neutral or expressive) promoted to a generalized status and thus becoming a generative model.

The main feature of a stylistic device is the binary opposition of two meanings of the employed unit. One of the two is fixed in the lg and does not depend on the context while the other originates within a certain context and is contextual. When the other suppresses one of the meanings, we speak of a trite stylistic device (стертый, избитый, банальный). When the opposition is clearly perceived and both indicating meanings are simultaneously realized within the same context, we speak of a fresh (original, genuine) stylistic device.

There are 3 groups of E.M. and S.D.: Phonetic E.M. and S.D.;

I. Lexical-phraseological E.M. and S.D.;

II. Syntactical E.M. and S.D.


Lexical Stylistic Devices

Lexical stylistic devices are stylistic devices based on the binary opposition of lexical meanings; regardless of syntactical organization of the utterance.

Lexical-phraseological EMs and SDs are grouped into the following classes:

1) SD based on the interaction of different lexical meanings of the word:

a) EMs and SDs based on the interaction of primary and contextual meanings (metaphor, metonymy, personification, irony, sarcasm);

b) EMs and SDs based on the interplay of primary (dictionary) and derivative meanings (zeugma, pun, violation of phraseological units);

2) SDs based on the interaction between the logical and the nominal meanings of a word (antonomasia);

3) SDs based on the interaction between the logical and emotive meanings (epithet, hyperbole, oxymoron);

4) SDs which give additional characteristics to the object described (simile, periphrasis);

5) the use of the phraseological units (this type is very popular in English fiction).


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