Functional Style of the English Language

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Functional Style of the English Language

Functional style appeared mainly in the literary standard of a language. In fact the standard literary English language in the course of its development has fallen into several functional styles; each of them has acquired its own peculiarities which are typical of the given functional style. Each functional style can be characterized by a number of distinctive features leading or subordinate, constant or changing, obligatory or optional. Each functional style is subdivided into a number of sub-styles. Each variety has basic features common to all the varieties of the given functional style and peculiar features typical to this variety alone. Each functional style is a relatively stable system at the given stage in the development of the literary language but it changes from one period to another. Therefore functional style is a historical category. Thus, the functional style of emotive prose actually began to function as an independent style in the second half of the 16th century; the newspaper style budded off from the Publicistic style, etc.

The classification of functional styles is a disputable issue. Most of the Russian linguists single out the following functional styles:

I. Galperin I.R.: 1) the Belles-Lettres Style with the sub-styles of

a. poetry

b. emotive prose

c. drama

                  2) the Publicistic Style

                      a. oratory

                b. essays

                c. feature articles (очерки) in newspapers and journals

              3) the Newspaper Style

                       a. brief news items

                       b. newspaper headlines

                       c. notices and advertisements

              4) the Scientific Prose Style

                       a. the language style of Humanitarian sciences

                       b. the “exact” science

                       c. Popular Science Prose

              5) the Official Document Style

                       a. the style of diplomatic documents

                       b. legal documents

                       c. business documents

                       d. military documents

II. V. L. Naer adds two more styles: 1) the Professional Technical Style; 2) the Religious Style. Thus, he separates 7 Functional Styles.

III. M.D. Kuznets separates: 1) the Literary Refined Style (Bookish):

a. the Publicistic Style;

b. the Scientific-technical Style;

c. the Style of official documents;

2) Free (colloquial) Style:

a. Literary Colloquial Style;

b. Familiar Colloquial Style.

Thus, the author rejects the idea that imaginative literature has a functional style.   

The Belles-Lettres Functional Style (the Style of Fiction)

Its purpose is to suggest a possible interpretation of the phenomena of life as the writer himself sees them. This is the cognitive function of the style. When the idea of the book is gradually unfolding the reader feels pleasure. This pleasure is caused not only by admiration of the selected language means but by the fact that he (the reader) can form his own conclusions. This function can be called aesthetical-cognitive.

The Functional style of fiction rests on certain indispensable linguistic features:

a) the use of words in contextual (metaphor, metonymy) and very often in more than one dictionary meanings (zeugma, pun);

b) a vocabulary which will reflect the author’s evaluation of things;

c) a peculiar individual selection of vocabulary and syntax (which mark this style as individual in essence), etc. Individuality is less noticeable in Publicistic style, is hardly noticeable in the style of scientific prose and is lacking in official style. Elements from other styles may be used in emotive prose. Thus, we find elements of the style of scientific prose in the story “The Cholera Bacillus” by H.G. Wells. But these elements of other styles under the influence of emotive prose undergo a kind of transformation.

The Scientific Prose Style

 The language of science is governed by the aim to create new concepts, to disclose the internal laws of existence, etc. The language means therefore tend to be objective, unemotional, devoid of individuality.

1) The most noticeable feature of this style is the logical sequence of sentences with clear interrelations. Such syntactical speech divisions are frequent: as, thus, on the one hand, on the other hand, therefore, firstly, second, etc. Final or partial completion of an idea is marked by so, the fact is, thus, etc.

2) From the lexical point of view scientific style is characterized by the excessive use of terms; complete absence of colloquial and dialect words, etc.

3) The next characteristic feature is what we may call sentence patterns. They are of three types: a) postulatory; b) argumentative; c) formulative.

4) The use of quotations and references is yet another characteristic feature. The references have the name of the writer referred to, the title of the work quoted, the publishing house, the place and year it was published and the page referred to.

The enumerated features do not cover all the peculiarities of scientific prose but they are the most essential ones.

Popular Science prose

In popular scientific works the author wants to be understood by people who might not be well acquainted with the subject of his article. So, besides adhering to all typical phenomena of the scientific style he avoids using too many complicated terms and makes the syntactical structure of the sentence simpler. He might use stylistic devices.

E.g. Some of the waste kill fish.

Newspaper Style

Newspaper English is one of the forms of the English literary language. It is characterized by a definite communicative aim and its own system of means. The modern newspaper carries material of diverse character. Not all the printed material comes under newspaper style. Stories and poems, crossword puzzles, chess problems, etc. can’t be considered specimens of newspaper style. News and comment on it, press reports and articles, advertisements and the like inform the reader and provide him with an evaluation of the information published.  

To understand the language peculiarities of the newspaper style let’s name the basic features: a) brief news items;

                   b) advertisements and announcements;

              c) the headlines;

              d) the editorial.

The principal function of the brief news item is to inform the reader. News items are essentially matter of fact and stereotyped forms of the expression prevail. Newspaper style has its specific vocabulary features and is characterized by an extensive use of:

1) Special political and economic terms, such as socialism, constitution, etc.

2) Newspaper clichés, such as vital issue, danger of war, to escalate a war.

3) Abbreviations. News items and headlines abound in abbreviation of all kinds: NATO, UNO, etc.

4) Neologisms: glasnost, a splash-down, lunik.

But the basic peculiarities lie in their syntactical structure such as specific word order: “the 5 w – and – h – pattern” rule (who-what-why-where-when-and-how).

Headlines is to inform the reader but at the same time it often contains an element of evaluation, i.e. it shows the reporter’s or the newspaper’s attitude to the facts reported. English headlines are short and catching. Syntactically headlines are short sentences or phrases:

a) full declarative sentences e.g. The lesson of the last war should not be forgotten;    

b) imperative sentences e.g. Stop before it’s too late.

Paper 1

1. General notes on Style and Stylistics. The subject matter and the aims of the course of Stylistics.

2. Stylistics and other linguistic sciences.

3. Style in imaginative literature and style in language.

4. Expressive means and Stylistics Devices. Fresh and trite EM and SD.

5. Lexical meaning of the word and its components

a) emotive charge

b) stylistic reference

c) nominal meaning.

6. EM and SD based on the interaction of primary (dictionary) and contextual meanings (metaphor and metonymy)

a) What are peculiarities of metaphor?

b) What is metonymy? Give a detailed description of the device.

c) What do metaphor and metonymy differ in?

d) What types of relations between the contextual and the dictionary are metaphor and metonymy based on?

e) What is personification?


8. Answer the questions in writing.

“Will he ever come down those stairs again?” this thought lanced Constance’s heart.

1) Find word in the text that builds up (directly or indirectly) the feeling of grief. What other means that create that feeling?

1) Interpret the interplay of the literary and the metaphorical meanings in the word “lance”. State whether the metaphor is original or dead, simple or sustained.

2) Does the author reveal Constance’s emotional attitude towards the man? Prove your point.

3) Speak of the implication contained in the word “ever”. Does it speak of the man’s state of health?

4) What facts about Constance and the man do you come to know while reading the text? What might their relations be? Did she suffer? Why? Was he in danger? Was she hopeful?


9. Translate the sentences and analyze the given cases of metaphor

1. She looked down on Gopher Prairie. The snow stretching without break from street to devouring prairie beyond, wiped out the town’s pretence of being a shelter. The houses were black specks on a white sheet (S.L.).

2. And the skirts! What a sight were those skirts! They were nothing but vast decorated pyramids; on the summit of each was stuck the upper half of the princess (A.B.).

3. I was staring directly in front of me, at the back of the driver’s neck, which was a relief map of boil scars (S.).

4. She was handsome in a rather leonine way. While this girl was a lioness, the other was a panther – lithe and quick (Ch.).

5. His voice was a dagger of corroded brass (S.L.).

6. Wisdom has reference only to the past. The future remains for ever an infinite field for mistakes. You can’t know beforehand (D.H.L.).

7. He felt the first watery eggs of sweat moistening the palms of his hands (W.S.).

8. At the last moment before the windy collapse of the day, I myself took the road down (J.H.).

9. Leaving Daniel to his fate she was conscious of joy springing in her heart (A.B.).

10. He smelled the ever-beautiful smell of coffee imprisoned in the can (J.St.).

11. We talked and talked and talked, easily, sympathetically, wedding her experience with my articulation (Jn.B.).

12. We need you so much here. It’s dear old town, but it’s a rough diamond, and we need you for the polishing, and we’re ever so humble…(S.L.).

13. They walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate (W.G.).

14. Geneva, mother of the Red Cross, hostess of humanitarian cogress for the civilizing of warfare! (J.R.).

15. She and the kids have filled his sister's house and their welcome is wearing      thinner and thinner (U.).

16. Notre Dame squats in the dusk (H.).

17. I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned during the last twelve months about life. All that you sought the past year and failed to find is hidden in me; I am waiting for you to search it out again and with more determination. All the good that you tried to do for others and didn't achieve last year is mine to grant - providing you have fewer selfish and conflicting desires. In me lies the potential of all that you dreamed but didn't dare to do, all that you hoped but did not perform, all you prayed for but did not yet experience. Those dreams slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of an enduring purpose. I am your opportunity (Т.Н.).

18. Autumn comes

And trees are shedding their leaves,

And Mother Nature blushes

Before disrobing (N.W.).

19. He had hopped that Sally would laugh at this, and she did, and in a sudden   mutual gush they cashed into the silver of laughter all the sad secrets they could find in their pockets (U.).



Paper 2

1. What is the difference between the original and the hackneyed SDs?

2. What are Lexical SDs?

3. What is metaphor, metonymy, personification irony, sarcasm based on?


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