Expressive Resources of the Language

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Expressive Resources of the Language

Expressive means and stylistic devices. Different classifications of expressive means and stylistic devices from antique to modern times.

In my reading of modern French novels I had acquired the habit of underlining ex­pressions, which struck me as aberrant from general usage, and it often happened that the underlined passages taken together seemed to offer a certain consistency. I wondered if it would be possible to establish a common denominator for all or most of these devi­ations, could we find a common spiritual etymon or the psychological root of 'several' individual 'traits of style' in a writer.

Leo Spitzer. Linguistics and Literary History

Chapter 2. Expressive Resources of the Language

2.1. Expressive means and stylistic devices


2.1. Expressive means and stylistic devices

Expressive means

Expressive means of a language are those linguistic forms and properties that have the potential to make the utterance emphatic or expressive. These can be found on all levels—phonetic, graphical, morphological, lexical or syntactical.

Expressive means and stylistic devices have a lot in common but they are not completely synonymous. All stylistic devices belong to expressive means but not all expressive means are stylistic devices. Phonetic phenomena such as vocal pitch, pauses, logical stress, and drawling, or staccato pronunciation are all expressive without being stylistic devices

Morphological forms like diminutive suffixes may have an expres­sive effect: girlie, piggy, doggy, etc. An unexpected use of the author's nonce words like: He glasnostedhis love affair with th: movie star (People) is another example of morphological expressive means.

Lexical expressive means may be illustrated by a special group о intensifiers—awfully, terribly, absolutely, etc. or words that retain thei logical meaning while being used emphatically: // was a verysped e vening/event/gift.

There are also special grammatical forms and syntactical patterns attributing expressiveness, such as: / do know you! I'm really angry with that dog ofу ours! That you shoulddeceive me! If onlyI could help you!

Stylistic devices

A stylistic device is a literary model in which semantic and structural features are blended so that it represents a generalised pattern.

Prof. I. R. Galperin calls a stylistic device a generative model when through frequent use a language fact is transformed into a stylistic device. Thus we may say that some expressive means have evolved into stylistic devices which represent a more abstract form or set of forms. A stylistic device combines some general semantic meaning with a cer­tain linguistic form resulting in stylistic effect. It is like an algorithm employed for an expressive purpose. For example, the interplay, in­teraction, or clash of the dictionary and contextual meanings of words will bring about such stylistic devices as metaphor, metonymy or irony.

The nature of the interaction may be affinity (likeness by nature), proximity (nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, relation) or contrast (opposition).

Respectively there is metaphor based on the principle of affinity, metonymy based on proximity and irony based on opposition.

The evolution of a stylistic device such as metaphor could be seen from four examples that demonstrate this linguistic mechanism (interplay of dictionary and contextual meaning based on the principle of affinity):

1. My new dress is as pink as this flower: comparison (ground for comparison—the colour of the flower).

2. Her cheeks were as red as a tulip: simile (ground for simile— colour/beauty/health/freshness)

3. She is a real flower: metaphor (ground for metaphor—frail/ fragrant/tender/beautifu 1/helpless...).

Chapter 2. Expressive Resources of the Language

2.2. Different classifications of expressive means




My love is a red, red rose: metaphor (ground for metaphor— passionate/beautiful/strong...).

4. Ruby lips, hair of gold, snow-white skin: trite metaphors sofrequently employed that they hardly have any stylistic power left because metaphor dies of overuse. Such metaphors are aiso called hackneyed or even dead.

A famous literary example of an author's defiance against immoderate \ use of trite metaphors is W. Shakespeare's Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

The more unexpected, the less predictable is the ground for com­parison the more expressive is the metaphor which in this case got a special name of genuine or authentic metaphor. Associations sug­gested by the genuine metaphor are varied, not limited to any definite number and stimulated by the individual experience or imagination.

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