Archaic, Obsolescent and Obsolete Words

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Archaic, Obsolescent and Obsolete Words

The word-stock of a language is in an increasing state of change. Words change their meaning and sometimes drop out of the language altogether. New words spring up and replace the old ones. Some words stay in the language a very long time and do not lose their faculty of gaining new meanings and becoming richer and richer polysemantically. Other words live but a short time and are like bubbles on the surface of water — they disappear leaving no trace of their existence.

Barbarisms and Foreignisms: Barbarisms are words of foreign origin which have not entirely been assimilated into the English language. They bear the appearance of a borrowing and are felt as something alien to the native tongue. Nevertheless most of what were formerly foreign borrowings are now, from a purely stylistic position, not regarded as foreign. But still there are some words which retain their foreign appearance to a greater or lesser degree. These words, which are called barbarisms, are, like archaisms, also considered to be on the outskirts of the literary language.

Most of them have corresponding English synonyms; e. g. chic (=stylish); Weltanschauung (=world-view); en passant (= in passing); ad infinitum (= to infinity) and many other words and phrases.

Literary Coinages (Including Nonce-Words)

Neologism - 'a new word or a new meaning for an established word.'

Every period in the development of a language produces an enormous number of new words or new meanings of established words. Most of them do not live long. They are not meant to live long. They are coined for use at the moment of speech, and therefore possess a peculiar property —that of temporariness. The given word or meaning holds only in the given context and is meant only to "serve the occasion."


46Epic, long narrative poem recounting heroic deeds, although the term has also been loosely used to describe novels, such as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and motion pictures, such as Sergey Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. In literary usage, the term encompasses both oral and written compositions. The prime examples of the oral epic are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Outstanding examples of the written epic include Virgil’s Aeneid and Lucan’s Pharsalia in Latin, Chanson de Roland in medieval French, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemmeliberata in Italian, Cantar de mio Cid in Spanish, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene in English. There are also seriocomic epics, such as the Morgante of a 15th-century Italian poet, Luigi Pulci, and the pseudo-Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice. Another distinct group is made up of the so-called beast epics—narrative poems written in Latin in the Middle Ages and dealing with the struggle between a cunning fox and a cruel and stupid wolf. Underlying all of the written forms is some trace of an oral character, partly because of the monumental persuasiveness of Homer’s example but more largely because the epic was, in fact, born of an oral tradition. It is on the oral tradition of the epic form that this article will focus.

General characteristics

An epic may deal with such various subjects as myths, heroic legends, histories, edifying religious tales, animal stories, or philosophical or moral theories. Epic poetry has been and continues to be used by peoples all over the world to transmit their traditions from one generation to another, without the aid of writing. These traditions frequently consist of legendary narratives about the glorious deeds of their national heroes. Thus, scholars have often identified “epic” with a certain kind of heroic oral poetry, which comes into existence in so-called heroic ages. Such ages have been experienced by many nations, usually at a stage of development in which they have had to struggle for a national identity.

Oral Tradition of Epic Poetry

Lesky says the speeches might be a throwback to the oral tradition of epic, where the epic story was passed down, from master storyteller to pupil, possibly within a family. The storyteller or "rhapsode" played a lyre as he sang his improvised epic song. The epic song was composed of elements from myth and folklore welded into place by means of the rhapsode's skilled insertion of formulaic elements.

The Main Epic Poems of Ancient Literature.When we refer to epic poetry in the context of ancient literature, we usually refer to the two Greek poems attributed to

I. Homer

1. The Iliad (about the role of Achilles in the Trojan War), and

2. The Odyssey (about the misadventures of Odysseus trying to return from the Trojan War and the shenanigans of the suitors trying to usurp his place back in Ithaca),

II. Germanic epics: A typical heroic age occurred during the wanderings of the Germanic tribes from the 3rd to the 6th century ce. Out of this too came a rich oral tradition, from which developed in the Middle Ages many epic poems. One of the greatest of these is the Old English Beowulf, written down in the 8th century. Archetypal Indo-European themes also reappear in these epics.

Epic Features:These book-long poems are unlike most other poems we are familiar with, and not just for their length. They are different in that:

1. they switch around from scene to scene and

2. there is dialogue, like a play.Epic = Drama + Narrative; Epic Hero-The central figure of ancient epic poetry is the hero. In the 3 major ancient classical epics, the heroes are the Greek Achilles, in the Iliad,the Greek Odysseus in the Odyssey, and the Trojan Aeneas in the Aeneid.

Characteristics of Epic Poetry:

· Epic heroes come from the heroic era, which precedes the Archaic Age in ancient Greece and the founding of Rome by the legendary king Romulus.

· The heroes of epic literature are bound by a code of honor.

· The form of the epic is verse -- Dactylic Hexameters -- marking it immediately as poetry.

· The language of epic poetry is often formulaic.

· The material of epic poetry is elevated; it does not dwell on the banal details of life.

· Epic poetry tends to have catalogues. Catalogues (of things like ships or booty) tend to be long.

· Speeches are frequent.

Reference: AlbinLesky, A History of Greek Literature, translated by James Willis and Cornelis de heer. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company. 1966.

Uses of the epic

The main function of poetry in heroic-age society appears to be to stir the spirit of the warriors to heroic actions by praising their exploits and those of their illustrious ancestors, by assuring a long and glorious recollection of their fame, and by supplying them with models of ideal heroic behaviour.


Oral heroic poetry, at its origin, usually deals with outstanding deeds of kings and warriors who lived in the heroic age of the nation. The personages are necessarily transformed into ideal heroes and their acts into ideal heroic deeds that conform to mythological or ideological patterns. Some of these patterns are archetypes found all over the world, while others are peculiar to a specific nation or culture. Thus, in many epic traditions, heroes are born as a result of the union of a maiden with a divine or supernatural being; because these unions occur outside the usual social norms, the heroes are exposed at birth, fed by an animal, and brought up by humble foster parents in a rustic milieu; they grow up with marvellous speed, fight a dragon—in their first combat—to rescue a maiden whom they marry, and die young in circumstances as fabulous as those that surrounded their birth.


48 Lyric poetry is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person.[1] The term derives from a form of Ancient Greek literature, the lyric, which was defined by its musical accompaniment, usually on a stringed instrument known as a lyre.[2] The term owes its importance in literary theory to the division developed by Aristotle between three broad categories of poetry: lyrical, dramatic and epic.

Types of Poetry

When studying poetry, it is useful first of all to consider the theme and the overall development of the theme in the poem. Obviously, the sort of development that takes place depends to a considerable extent on the type of poem one is dealing with. It is useful to keep two general distinctions in mind (for more detailed definitions consult Abrams 1999 and Preminger et al 1993): lyric poetry and narrative poetry.

A lyric poem is a comparatively short, non-narrative poem in which a single speaker presents a state of mind or an emotional state. Lyric poetry retains some of the elements of song which is said to be its origin: For Greek writers the lyric was a song accompanied by the lyre.

Subcategories of the lyric are, for example elegy, ode, sonnet and dramatic monologue and most occasional poetry:

In modern usage, elegy is a formal lament for the death of a particular person (for example Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.). More broadly defined, the term elegy is also used for solemn meditations, often on questions of death, such as Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

An ode is a long lyric poem with a serious subject written in an elevated style. Famous examples are Wordsworth’s Hymn to Duty or Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn.

The sonnet was originally a love poem which dealt with the lover’s sufferings and hopes. It originated in Italy and became popular in England in the Renaissance, when Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey translated and imitated the sonnets written by Petrarch (Petrarchan sonnet). From the seventeenth century onwards the sonnet was also used for other topics than love, for instance for religious experience (by Donne and Milton), reflections on art (by Keats or Shelley) or even the war experience (by Brooke or Owen). The sonnet uses a single stanza of (usually) fourteen lines and an intricate rhyme pattern (see stanza forms). Many poets wrote a series of sonnets linked by the same theme, so-called sonnet cycles (for instance Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, Drayton, Barret-Browning, Meredith) which depict the various stages of a love relationship.

In a dramatic monologue a speaker, who is explicitly someone other than the author, makes a speech to a silent auditor in a specific situation and at a critical moment. Without intending to do so, the speaker reveals aspects of his temperament and character. In Browning's My Last Duchess for instance, the Duke shows the picture of his last wife to the emissary from his prospective new wife and reveals his excessive pride in his position and his jealous temperament.

Occasional poetryis written for a specific occasion: a wedding (then it is called an epithalamion, for instance Spenser’s Epithalamion), the return of a king from exile (for instance Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis) or a death (for example Milton’s Lycidas), etc.

Narrative Poetry

Narrative poetry gives a verbal representation, in verse, of a sequence of connected events, it propels characters through a plot. It is always told by a narrator. Narrative poems might tell of a love story (like Tennyson's Maud), the story of a father and son (like Wordsworth's Michael) or the deeds of a hero or heroine (like Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel).

Sub-categories of narrative poetry:

Epics usually operate on a large scale, both in length and topic, such as the founding of a nation (Virgil’s Aeneid) or the beginning of world history (Milton's Paradise Lost), they tend to use an elevated style of language and supernatural beings take part in the action.

The mock-epic makes use of epic conventions, like the elevated style and the assumption that the topic is of great importance, to deal with completely insignificant occurrences. A famous example is Pope's The Rape of the Lock, which tells the story of a young beauty whose suitor secretly cuts off a lock of her hair.

A ballad is a song, originally transmitted orally, which tells a story. It is an important form of folk poetry which was adapted for literary uses from the sixteenth century onwards. The ballad stanza is usually a four-line stanza, alternating tetrameter and trimeter.

Descriptive and Didactic Poetry

Both lyric and narrative poetry can contain lengthy and detailed descriptions (descriptive poetry) or scenes in direct speech (dramatic poetry).

The purpose of a didactic poem is primarily to teach something. This can take the form of very specific instructions, such as how to catch a fish, as in James Thomson’s The Seasons (Spring 379-442) or how to write good poetry as in Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism. But it can also be meant as instructive in a general way. Until the twentieth century all literature was expected to have a didactic purpose in a general sense, that is, to impart moral, theoretical or even practical knowledge; Horace famously demanded that poetry should combine prodesse (learning) and delectare (pleasure). The twentieth century was more reluctant to proclaim literature openly as a teaching tool.


50 Literature as science- the science that studies the fiction as a phenomenon of human culture, the science that studies the fiction: its essence and specificity, origin, social function, the laws of the literary process.Literature as a science emerged in the early 19th century. Ever since the literary works of antiquity existed. Aristotle was the first to attempt to systematize them in his book, the first gave the theory of genres and kinds of literature theory (epic, drama, poetry). He also belongs to the theory of catharsis and mimesis. Plato created the history of ideas. In the 17th century N. Boileau, based on the earlier creation of Horace, he made his treatise "Poetic Art", which are isolated knowledge about literature, but it was not yet science. In the 18th century, German scientists tried to create educational treatises (Lessing "Laocoon. On the limits of painting and poetry," Gerber "critical forests"). In the early 19th century in philosophy, art, ideology begins the era of Romanticism. At this time, his theories have created the Grimm brothers. Literature is studied from the perspective of different sciences, because as an art form, it creates an aesthetic value. Literary fiction exploring the different peoples of the world in order to understand the characteristics and laws of its own content and express their forms.

Science of literature is divided into 3 main disciplines:

1) History of literature;

2) Literary criticism;

3) Theory of Literature

Theory of Literature (Literary theory) studies the general laws of the literary process, literature as a form of social consciousness, literary works as a whole, the specifics of the relationship of the author, the work and the reader. Develop common concepts and terminology. Literature Theory of literary works with other disciplines, as well as history, philosophy, aesthetics, sociology, linguistics. Poetics - part of the theory of literature, studying the composition and structure of the literary work. The theory of literary process – part of a literary theory, which studies patterns of development and delivery of genres. Literary Aesthetics - studying literature as an art form.

The history of literature examines the literary process in time, the chronological aspect of the history of a major. The historical approach to works gives the history of literature. Literary historian studying every work as an irreducible, integral unity, as an individual and self-sufficient phenomenon in a number of other individual events. By analyzing the individual parts and handwork, it seeks only to understand and interpret the whole. This study investigated is filled and combined, ie, historical lighting the establishment of relations between literary phenomena and their importance in the evolution of literature. Thus, the historian studying the grouping of literary schools and styles, their shift, the value of tradition in literature and degree of originality of individual authors and their works. Describing the general course of the development of literature, the historian interprets this distinction, discovering the causes of this evolution lies both within the literature and literature in relation to other phenomena of human culture, among whom literature is developing and which is in a permanent relationship. The history of literature is a branch of the general history of culture (See Tomaszewski BV Theory of Literature Poetics)

Literary criticism deals with the interpretation and evaluation of literary works from the modern point of view (as well as the urgent problems of social and spiritual life, therefore, is often journalistic, political and topical character), in terms of aesthetic value. It expresses consciousness of society and literature in their evolution; identifies and approves the creative principles of literary movements.It has an active influence on the literary process, as well as directly on the formation of public consciousness; based on the theory and history of literature, philosophy and aesthetics.

Auxiliary literary disciplines: a) textual - is studying the text itself: manuscripts, publications, editorial writing, time, author, place, translation and commentary; b) paleography - the study of ancient media of text, only the manuscript; c) Bibliography - supporting any discipline of science, scientific literature on a particular subject; d) library science - the science of funds, stores not only art, but also the scientific literature, union catalogs. e) Poetics - the science of the structure of products and their complexes: Writers in general, a literary movement, a literary epoch, etc... Studies the originality as a special form of spiritual and artistic activities, the structure of a literary text


Composition - the most important , organizing element of artistic form , giving the unity and integrity of the product , its components sopodchinyayuschy each other and to the whole. In fiction composition - a reasoned position of components of a literary work; component (unit composition) consider "segment" work in which the image is stored one way (characterization , dialogue , etc.д.) or one point of view (author, narrator, one of the heroes of) depicted on the. Interposition and interaction of these "segments" form a compositional unity of the work. The composition is often identified as the plot , system images, and with the structure of a work of art (sometimes synonymous composition and structure are the words: architectonics, construction, construction).


The sequence of external and internal actions and events in a literary work creates its structure, the pattern the plot follows. In most traditional plays and works of fiction, the plot structure is something like this:

- exposition;

- beginning of the plot;

- plot complications;

- climax (culmination);

- denouement;

- concluding part (ending).

The work usually opens with an introduction that lets us know whom the action will concern and where the action will take place. Next, we are given a complication or a series of complications (small or large problems, sometimes comic, sometimes serious) …


As you read a literary work and think about the structure of the plot – and particularly as you focus on the complications and climax – keep in mind that nearly all fiction and drama, and many poems, focus on a conflict, a struggle between opposing forces. The conflict or conflicts in a literary work are usually reflected or accompanied by the external and internal action.

The external actions suggest the internal action. The conflict here takes place within the speaker’s mind. The speaker wonders what he can write that will fulfil the assignment, that his instructor will understand, and that will still remain true to himself.

In addition to conflicts inside the mind, literary works may also focus on conflicts between:

- individuals;

- an individual and a social force (a community, school, church, workplace);


- an individual and a natural force (disease, fire, flood, cold, famine).

It is important to note that conflicts do not necessary belong in just one category.

Whatever the nature of conflict, it often forces characters to make a decision: to act or not to act, to behave according to a personal moral code or an external moral code, to compromise or to refuse to compromise, to grow and change or to remain more or less the same. The point at which characters make these choices is usually the climactic moment of the story, poem, or play. The effects or implications of this choice usually represent the conclusion of the literary work.


Irony of Situation

The actions and events in a work may generate a sense of irony. Irony of situation is a difference between what a character says and what a character does. Sometimes irony might well shock or sadden readers rather than amuse them.

Irony of situation also occurs when a character expects one thing to happen and instead something else happens. For instance, in "Butterflies”, the granddaughter expected that her story of the butterflies would please her teacher. The teacher’s reaction, however, was very different from the one the child expected. The grandfather’s final comment, "Because, you see, your teacher, she buy all her cabbages from the supermarket and that’s why,” underlines the irony. To the child, the butterflies are pests whose eggs will hatch into worms that destroy the cabbage crop. When she kills butterflies in her grandfather’s garden, she is acting practically and usefully. To the teacher, who does not have to grow her own food, the butterflies are simply beautiful creatures of nature.

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