Functional Styles of the English Language.


  1. Introduction.
  2. The Belles-Lettres Style.

2.1. Language of poetry.

2.1.1. Compositional patterns of rhythmical arrangement.

2.1.2. Lexical and syntactical features of verse.

2.2. Emotive prose.

2.3. Language of the drama.

3. Publicistic Style.

3.1. Oratory and speeches.

3.2. The essay.

3.3. Journalistic articles.

4. Newspaper Style.

4.1. Brief news items.

4.2. Advertisements  and announcements.

4.3. The headline.

4.4. The editorial.

5. Scientific Prose Style.

6. The Style of Official Documents.

1. Introduction.

Functional styles should be distinguished from varieties of language. The main difference is that the written and oral varieties of language are merely forms of communication which depend on the situation in which the communication is maintained, i.e. on the presence or absence of an interlocutor, whereas FSs are patterns of the written variety of language calculated to secure the desired purport of communication. Each FS of the literary language makes use of language means, the interrelation of which is peculiar to the given FS.

Each FS, however, can be recognized by 1 or more leading features. For instance, the use of special terminology is a lexical characteristic of the FS of scientific prose, and one by which it can easily be recognized. The address “Dear sirs” will be a signal to refer the message to the FS of official documents.

However, as any FS presents a system in which various features are mixed in a particular manner, one group of language means, a leading feature though it may be, will not suffice to determine the FS, as

a FS is a patterned variety of literary text characterized by the greater or lesser typification of its constituents, supra-phrasal units  (SPU), in which the choice and arrangement of interdependent and interwoven language media are calculated to secure the purport of the communication.

Each FS is a relatively stable system at the given stage in the development of the literary language, but it changes form one period to another. Therefore FS of language is a historical category. For instance, the FS of emotive prose actually began to function as an independent style after the 2nd half of the 16th century; the newspaper style budded off from the Publicistic style; the oratorical style has undergone considerable fundamental changes, and so with other FSs.

The development of each style is influenced by the changes in the norms of standard English and in social conditions, by the progress of science and the development of cultural life in the country. For instance, the emotive elements of language were often used in scientific prose in the 18th century. It was due to the fact that scientists in many fields used the emotional language instead of one more logically precise and convincing, because they lacked the scientific data obtainable only by deep and prolonged research.


2. The Belles-Lettres Style

The belles-letters style is a generic term for three substyles in which the main principles and the most general properties of the style are materialized. These three substyles are:

  1. The language of poetry, or simply verse.
  2. Emotive prose, or the language of fiction.
  3. The language of the drama.

Each of these substyles has certain common features, typical of the general belles-lettres style, which make up the foundation of the style, by which the particular style is made recognizable and can therefore be singled out. Each of them also enjoys some individuality or some features typical only of one or another substyle.

The common features of all the substyles are as follows.

1. They have the common function which may broadly be called “aesthetico-congnitive”. This is a double function which aims at the cognitive process, which secures the gradual unfolding of the idea to the reader and at the same time calls forth a feeling of pleasure, derived from the form in which the content is wrought. This pleasure is caused not only by admiration but also by the fact that the reader is led to form his own conclusion about the thing he reads. Nothing gives more pleasure and satisfaction than realizing that one has the ability to penetrate into the hidden tissue of events, phenomena and human activity, and to perceive the relation between various seemingly unconnected facts brought together by the creative mind of the writer.

2. The purpose of the belles-lettres style is not to prove but only to suggest a possible integration of the phenomena of life by forcing the reader to see the viewpoint of the writer. This is the cognitive function of the belles-lettres style.

3. The belles-lettres style rests on certain indispensable linguistic features which are:

  • Genuine, not trite, imagery, achieved by purely linguistic devices.
  • The use of words in contextual and very often in more than one dictionary meaning, or at least greatly influenced by the lexical environment.
  • Vocabulary which will reflect to a greater or lesser degree the author’s personal evaluation of things or phenomena.
  • A peculiar individual selection of vocabulary and syntax, a kind of lexical and syntactical idiosyncrasy.
  • The introduction of the typical features of colloquial language to a full degree (in plays) or a lesser one (in emotive prose) or a slight degree, if any (in poems).

4. The belles-lettres style is individual in essence. This is one of its most distinctive properties. Individuality in selecting language means (including stylistic devices), extremely apparent in poetic style, becomes gradually less in publicistic style, is hardly noticeable in the style of scientific prose and is entirely lacking in newspapers and in official style.

There may be a greater or lesser volume of imagery (but not an absence of imagery); a greater or lesser number of words with contextual meaning (but not all words without contextual meaning); a greater or lesser number of colloquial elements (but not a complete absence of colloquial elements).


2.1. language of poetry

The first substyle we shall consider is verse. Its first differentiating property is its orderly form, which is based mainly on the rhythmic and phonetic arrangement of the utterances. The rhythmic aspect calls forth syntactical and semantic peculiarities which also fall into a more or less strict orderly arrangement. Both the syntactical and semantic aspects of the poetic substyle may be defined as compact, for they are held in check by rhythmic patterns. Both syntax and semantics comply with the restrictions imposed by the rhythmic pattern, and the result is brevity of expression, epigram-like utterances, and fresh, unexpected imagery. Syntactically this brevity is shown in elliptical and fragmentary sentences, in detached constructions, in version, asyndeton and other syntactical peculiarities.

Rhythm and rhyme are immediately distinguishable properties of the poetic substyle provided they are wrought into compositional patterns. They can be called the external differentiating features of the substyle, typical only of this one variety of the belles-lettres style. The various compositional forms of rhyme and rhythm are generally studied.

2.1.1. Compositional Patterns of Rhythmical Arrangement. Metre and Line

The most observable and widely recognized compositional patterns of rhythm making up classical verse are based on:

  1. alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables;
  2. equilinearity, that is, an equal number of syllables in the lines;
  3. a natural pause at the end  of the line, the line being a more or less complete semantic unit;
  4. identily of stanza pattern;
  5. established patterns of rhyming.

Less observable are all kinds of deviations from these rules, some of them going so far that classical poetry ceases to be strictly classical and becomes what is called free verse, which in extreme cases borders on prose.

Classic English verse is called syllabo-tonic. Two parameters are taken into account in defining it: the number of syllables (syllabo) and the distribution of stressed (tonic).

There are five of them:

1. Iambic metre, in which the unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed one. Its graphically represented thus:     (ᴗ ‒).

2. Trochaic metre, where the order is reversed, i.e. a stressed syllable is followed by one unstressed thus (‒ᴗ).

3. Dactylic metre - one stressed syllable is followed by framed by two untressed (‒ᴗᴗ).

4. Amphibrachic metre - one stressed syllable is framed by two unstressed (ᴗ‒ᴗ).

5. Anapaestic metre - two unstressed syllables are followed by one stressed (ᴗᴗ‒)

These arrangements of qualitatively different syllables are the units of the metre, the repetition of which makes verse. One unit is called a foot. The number of feet in a line varies, but has its limit; it rarely exceeds eight.

If the line consist of only one foot it’s called a monometer; a line consisting of two feet is a dimeter; three-trimeter; four—tetrameter; five-pentameter; six-hexameter; seven-septameter; eight-octameter. In defining the measure, that is the kind of ideal metrical scheme of a verse, it’s necessary to point out both the type of metre and length of the line. Thus, a line that consists of four iambic feet is called iambic tetrameter; correspondingly a line consisting of eight trochaic feet will be called trochaic octameter, and so on.

English verse is predominantly iambic. This is sometimes explained by the iambic tendency of the English language in general. Most of the English words have a trochaic tendency, that is the stress falls on the first syllable of two-syllabic words. But in actual speech these words are preceded by non-stressed articles, prepositions, conjunctions or by unstressed syllables of preceding words thus imparting an iambic character to English speech. As a result iambic metre is more common in English verse than any other metre.

Sometimes we find irregularities or modifications of its normal metrical pattern. These modification generally have some special significance, usually connected with the sense, though in some cases they may be due to the nature of the language material itself. This is called a pyrrhic foot, for example:

So,   that   now   to   still   the   beating   of   my   heart   I   stood   repeating (Poe)

Of the units of verse rhythm the following have been named: the syllable, the foot, the line and the stanza.

The stanza is the largest unit in verse. It is composed of a number of lines having a definite measure and rhyming system which is repeated throughout the poem.

  1. The heroic couplet – a stanza that consists of 2 iambic pentameters with the rhyming pattern aa.

“Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes,

And screams of horror rent the affrighted skies.

Not louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast,

When husbands or when lapdogs breathe their last”.

  1. The Spencerian stanza, that consists of 9 lines, the first eight of which are iambic pentameters and the ninth is one foot longer, that is, a iambic hexameter. The rhyming scheme is ababbcbccc. Byron’s “Childe Harold” is written in this stanza.
  2. The stanza named ottava rima has also been popular in English poetry. It is composed of 8 iambic pentameters, the rhyming scheme being abababcc. This type of stanza was borrowed from Italian poetry and was widely used by Philip Sidney and other poets of the 16th century.
  3. A looser form of stanza is the ballad stanza. This is generally an alternation of iambic tetrameters with iambic dimeters (or trimesters), and the rhyming scheme is abcb; that is, tetrameters are not rhymed – the trimesters are.

“They took a plough and plough’d him down (a)

Put clods upon his head;(b)

And they had sworn a solemn oath (c)

John Barleycorn was dead.(b)”

  1. One of the most popular stanzas, which bears the name of stanza only conventionally, is the sonnet. It is a complete independent work of a definite literary genre. The English sonnet is composed of 14 iambic pentameters with the following rhyming scheme: ababcdcdefefgg, that is, 3 quatrains with cross rhymes and a couplet at the end.

Verse remains classical if it retains its metrical scheme. There are, however, types of verse which are not classical. One of the most popular is free verse. It departs considerably from the strict requirements of classical verse, but its departures are legalized. Free verse is recognized by lack of strictness in its rhythmical design. It is characterized by:

  1. a combination of various metrical feet in the line;
  2. absence of equilinearity;
  3. varying length.

Rhyme, however, is generally retained.

“I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In the noonday dreams”.

Accented verse is a type of verse in which only the number of stresses in the line is taken into consideration. Accented verse is not syllabo-tonic but tonic. In its extreme form the lines have no pattern of regular metrical feet not fixed length, there is n o notion of stanza, and there are no rhymes.


Till the brain begins to swim!


Till the eyes are heavy and dim!

Seam, and gusset, and band,

Band, and gusset, and seam,-

Till over the buttons  I fall asleep,

And sew them on in a dream.”

Accented verse (tonic verse) has a long folklore tradition.  Old English verse was tonic but not syllabo-tonic. The latter appeared in English poetry as a borrowing from Greek and Latin poetry, where the alternation was not between stressed and unstressed but between long and short syllables.


2.1.2. Lexical and syntactical features of verse.

The phonetic features of the language of poetry constitute its external aspect. They immediately strike the ear and the eye and therefore are easily distributed. Lexical and syntactical peculiarities will present the substyle as a stylistic entity.

Among the lexical peculiarities of verse the 1st to be mentioned is imagery, the generic feature of the belles-letters style, that assumes in poetry a compressed form: it is rich in associative power, frequent in occurrence and varied in methods and devices of materialization.

Imagery is a use of language media which will create a sensory perception of an abstract notion by arousing certain associations ( sometimes very remote) between the general and the particular, the abstract and the concrete, the conventional and the factual.

The image, as a purely linguistic notion, is something that must be decoded by the reader. It can be decoded through a fine analysis of the meanings of the given word or word-combination. In decoding a given image, the dictionary meanings, the contextual meanings, the emotional colouring and, last but not least, the associations which are awakened by the image should all be called into play.


2.2. Emotive prose.


The substyle of emotive prose has the same common features as the belles-lettres style in general; but all these features are correlated differently in emotive prose. The imagery is not so rich and the percentage of words with contextual meaning is not so high as in the poetry; it contains a combination of the spoken and written varieties of the language. There are always 2 forms of communication present – monologue (the writer’s speech) and dialogue (the speech of the characters).

The language of the writer follows the literary norms of the given period in the development of the English literary language. The language of the hero of a novel or a story will be chosen in order to characterize the person himself.

The colloquial language in the belles-lettres style is not a pure and simple reproduction of what might be the natural speech of living people. The colloquial speech has been made “literature-like” by the author. Only the most striking elements are made use of, and even these have undergone some kind of transformation.

Emotive prose allows the use of elements from other styles as well.

Emotive prose as a separate form of imaginative literature, that is fiction, came into being rather late in the history of the English literary language. The first were translations from Latin of stories from the Bible, in the 12th and 13th centuries there appeared “Tales of King Arthur and his Round Table”, but actually it began in the 2nd half of the 15th century with bringing of printing to Britain.


2.3. Language of the drama.

The 3rd subdivision of the belles-lettres style is the language of plays. It is entirely a dialogue. The author’s speech is practically excluded except for the playwright’s remarks and stage directions.

But the language of the characters is in no way the exact reproduction of the norms of colloquial language, although the playwright  seeks to reproduce actual conversation as far as the norms of the written language will allow. The language of plays is always stylized, that is, it strives to retain the modus of literary English. The playwright uses non-literary forms and expressions with particular aim, but he does it sparingly.

W. Shakespeare was the 1st to use prose in his plays; before him all the plays were written in the form of a verse.


3.  Publicistic style.

The publicistic style of language became a separate style in the middle of the 18th century. It also falls into 3 varieties , each having its own distinctive features. It has a spoken variety, namely, the oratorical substyle. The development of radio and television has brought into being another new spoken variety, namely, the radio and TV commentary. The other 2 substyles are the essay (moral, philosophical, literary) and journalistic articles (political, social, economic) in newspapers, journals and magazines. Book reviews in journals, newspapers and magazines and also pamphlets are generally included among essays. The general aim of publicistic style is to exert a constant and deep influence on public opinion,  to convince the reader or the listener that the interpretation given by the writer or the speaker is the only correct one and to cause him to accept the point of view expressed in the speech, essay or article not merely through logical argumentation but through emotional appeal as well. This brain-washing function is most effective in oratory, for here the most powerful instrument of persuasion, the human voice, is brought into play.

Due to its characteristic combination of logical argumentation and emotional appeal, publicistic style has features in common with the style of scientific prose, on the one hand, and that of emotive prose, on the other. Its emotional appeal is generally achieved by the use of words with emotive meaning, the use of imagery and other stylistic devices as in emotive prose; but they are not fresh or genuine. The manner of presenting ideas, however, bring this style closer to that of belles-lettres, in this case to emotive prose.

Further, publicistic style is characterized by brevity of expression. In some varieties of this style it becomes a leading feature. In essays brevity sometimes becomes epigrammatic.


3.1. Oratory and speeches.

The oratorical style of the language is the oral subdivision of the Publicistic style. Persuasion is the most obvious purpose of oratory.

Direct contact with the listener permits a combination of the syntactical, lexical and phonetic peculiarities of both the written and spoken varieties of language. But in its leading features oratorical style belongs to the written variety of language, though it is modified by the oral form of the utterance and the use of gestures. Typical features of the spoken variety of speech present in this style are: direct address to the audience (ladies & gentlemen, honourable members), contractions (I’ll, won’t, we’ve), the use of colloquial words.

This style is evident in speeches on political and social problems of the day, in orations and addresses on solemn occasions, in parliamentary debates, at meetings and in election  campaigns.


3.2. The essay.

As a separate form of English literature the essay dates back to the close of the 16th century. The name became common after the publication of Montaigne’s “Essays”, a literary form created by this French writer.

An essay is rather a series of personal and witty comments than a finished argument or a conclusive examination of any matter.

The most characteristic language features of the essay are:

  • Brevity of expression, reaching in good writers a degree of epigrammaticalness;
  • The use of the first person singular, which justifies a personal approach to the problems treated;
  • Ø A rather expanded use of connectives, which stress the process of correlation of ideas;
    • The abundant use of emotive words;
    • The use of similes and sustained metaphors.

It is in the interrelation of these constituents that the real secret  of the essay substyle consists. Some essays, depending on the writer’s individuality, are written in a highly emotional manner resembling the style of emotive prose, others resemble scientific prose, and the terms review, memoir and treatise indicate these peculiarities throughout the more profound study.


3.3. Journalistic articles.

All the already mentioned features of Publicistic style are to be found in any article irrespective of the character of the magazine and the article, though the latter affect the choice of stylistic devices. Words of emotive meaning, for example, are few, if any, in popular scientific articles. In a satiric article, on the contrary, their exposition is more consistent and the system of connectives more expanded. Literary reviews stand closer to essays both by their content and by their linguistic form.


4. Newspaper Style.


Newspaper style was the last of all the styles of written literary English to be recognized as a specific form of writing standing apart from other forms. English newspaper writing dates back to the 17th century. For more than a century writers and linguists have been vigorously attacking “the slipshod construction and the vulgar vocabulary” of newspaper English. Yet, for all its defects, this form of the English literary language cannot be reduced merely to a distorted form of literary English. As any other style, it is characterized by a definite communicative aim and its own system of language means.

Not all the printed matter found in newspapers comes under newspaper style. On the pages of modern newspapers we can find news, press reports and articles, advertisements and announcements, and also stories and poems, crossword puzzles, chess problems and the like. Here only those materials matter that perform the function of informing the reader and providing him with an evaluation of the information published.

Thus, English newspaper style can be defined as a system of interrelated lexical, phraseological and grammatical means which is perceived  by the community as a separate linguistic unity that serves the purpose of informing and instructing the reader.

Information and evaluation co-exist in the modern English newspaper.

Information in the English newspaper is conveyed, in the first place, through the medium of:

  1. brief news items;
  2. press reports (parliamentary, of court proceedings, etc.);
  3. articles purely informational in character;
  4. advertisements and announcements.

The newspaper also seeks to influence public opinion on political and other matters. Elements of appraisal may be observed in the very selection and way of presentation of news, in the use of specific vocabulary (allege, claim, etc.), casting some doubt on the facts reported and syntactic constructions indicating a lack of assurance on the part of the reporter as to the correctness of the facts reported or his desire to avoid responsibility (Mr. X was quoted as saying that…). The headlines of the  news items, apart from giving information about the subject-matter, also carry a considerable amount of appraisal (the size and the arrangement of the headline, the use of emotionally coloured words and elements of emotive syntax), thus indicating the interpretation of the facts in the news item that follows. But, of course, the principal vehicle of interpretation and appraisal is the newspaper article, and editorial in particular. Editorials (leading articles or leaders) are characterized by a subjective handling of facts, political or otherwise. They have much in common with Publicistic writing and are often looked upon as such.

It is possible to distinguish within this style the following substyles:

1. Brief news items.

2. Advertisements  and announcements.

3. The headline.

4. The editorial.

Let’s have a closer look at them.


4.1. Brief news items.

The principal function of a brief news item is to inform the reader. It states facts without giving explicit comments/ news items are essentially matter-of-fact, and stereotyped forms of expression prevail. But apart from this, newspaper style has its specific vocabulary features and is characterized by an extensive use of:

  • special political and economic terms (socialism, constitution, president, apartheid, gross output);
  • non-term political vocabulary (public, people, progressive, nation-wide, unity, peace);
  • newspaper clichés \stereotyped expressions; commonplace phrases familiar to the reader\ (vital issue, pressing necessity, informed sources, danger of war, to escalate a war, war hysteria, captains of industry,  pillars of society);
  • abbreviations (UNO, Trade Union Congress, NATO, UFO, European Economic Community, Foreign Office, MP, VIP);
  • neologisms. The newspaper is very quick to react to any new development in the life of society, science and technology. Hence, neologisms make their way into the language of the newspaper very easily and often even spring up on newspaper pages (lunic – a machine to study the Moon; a splash-down – a landing on water; a sit-in – a strike when the strikers sit on their places but do not work; stop-go policies – contradictory, indecisive and inefficient policies);
  • complex sentences with a developed system of clauses (“There are indications that BOAC may withdraw threats of all-out dismissals for pilots who restrict flying hours, a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots’ Association said yesterday”.);
  • verbal constructions (“…he set this example by announcing the disbanding of his faction numbering 47 of the total of 95 conservative members of the Lower House…”);
  • syntactical complexes, especially the nominative with the infinitive. These constructions are largely used to avoid mentioning the source of information or to shun responsibility for the facts reported (“The condition of Lord Samuel, aged 92, was said last night to be ‘a little better’”);
  • attributive noun groups are powerful means of effecting brevity (heart swap patient, the national income and expenditure figures, Labour backbench decision);
  • specific word-order. In one-sentence news paragraphs and in leads \the initial sentences in longer news items\ is more or less fixed. Journalistic practice has developed what is called the ‘five-w-and-h-pattern rule’ (who-what-why-how-where-when) and for a long time strictly adhered to it. (“A neigh- bour’s peep through a letter box led to the finding of a woman dead from gas and two others semiconscious in a block of council flats in Eccles New Road, Salford, Lanc., yesterday.”).


4.2. Advertisements  and announcements.

Advertisements made their way into the British press at an early stage of its development (in the 17th century). Their principal function is to inform the reader. There are two  basic types of advertisements and announcements in the modern English newspaper: classified and non-classified.

In classified advertisements and announcements various kinds of information are arranged according to subject-matter into sections, each bearing an appropriate name. in “The Times”, for example, the reader never fails to find several hundred advertisements and announcements classified into groups, such as BIRTHS, MARRIAGES, DEATHS, BUSINESS OFFERS, etc. (“CULHANE – on November 1st, to BARBARA and JOHN CULHANE – a son”).

The tendency to eliminate from the sentence  all elements that can be done without has no stylistic function; it is purely technical – to economize place, expensive in what newspaper men call ‘advertising hole’. The vocabulary of classified advertisements and announcements is on the whole neutral.


4.3. The headline.

The headline \the title given to a news item or an article\ is a dependent form of newspaper writing. It is in fact a part of a larger whole. The main function of it is to inform the  reader briefly what the text that follows is about. But apart from this, headlines often contain elements of appraisal, i.e. they show the  reporter’s of the paper’s attitude to the facts reported or commented on. English headlines are short and catching.  A skillfully turned out headline tells a story, or enough of it, to arose or satisfy the reader’s curiosity.

The practices of headline writing are different with different newspapers. In many papers there is, as a rule, but one headline to a news item, whereas such papers as ‘The Times’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘The New York Times’ often carry a news item or an article with two or three headlines, and smt as many as four. (FIRE FORCES AIRLINED TO TURN BACK

Cabin Filled With Smoke

Safe Landing For 97 Passengers

Atlantic Drama In Super VC 10 “The Times”)

Such group headlines are  almost a summary of the information contained in the news item or article. To attract the reader’s attention,  headline writers often resort to a deliberate breaking-up of set expressions and deformation of special terms, a stylistic device that produces a strong emotional effect (“Conspirator-in-chief Still at Large” ‘The Guardian’ – cf. commander-in-chief).

Syntactically headlines are very short sentences or phrases of variety of patterns:

  • full declarative sentences (‘Allies  Now Look to London’ – “The Times”);
  • interrogative sentences (‘Do You Love War?’- “Daily World”);
  • nominative sentences (‘Atlantic Sea Traffic’- “The Times”);
  • elliptical sentences (‘Still in danger’-“The Guardian”);
  • sentences with articles omitted (‘Step to Overall Settlement Cited in Text of Agreement’-“International Gerald Tribune”);
  • phrases with verbals (‘Keeping Prices Down’- “The Times”; ‘To Get US Aid’-“The Guardian”);
  • questions in the form of statements (‘Growl Now, Smile Later?’- “The Observer”);
  • complex sentences (‘Army Says It Gave LSD to Unknown GIs’- “International Gerald Tribune”);
  • headlines including direct speech, as a full sentence or elliptically (‘The Queen: “My Deep Distress”- -“The Guardian”);

The headline in British and American newspapers is an important thing both for information and appraisal; editors give it special attention. It takes a lot of skill on the part of the writer to make the reader look through the article or at least the greater part of it.


4.4. The editorial.

Its function is to influence the reader by giving an interpretation of certain facts. Editorials comment on the political and other events of the day. Their purpose is to give the editor’s opinion and interpretation of the news published and suggest to the reader that it is the correct one.

In addition to vocabulary typical of brief news items, writers of editorials make an extensive use of emotionally coloured vocabulary (‘The long-suffering British housewife needs a bottomless purse to cope with this scale of inflation’-“Daily Mirror”). The language of editorial articles is characterized by a combination of different strata of vocabulary, which enhances the emotional effect. Alongside political words and expressions, terms, clichés and abbreviations one can find colloquial words and expressions, slang and professionalisms. Emotional colouring in editorial articles is achieved with the help of various stylistic devices, the use of which is largely traditional.

Yet, the role of expressive language means and stylistic devices in the editorial should not be over-estimated. They stand out against the essentially neutral background. Broadly speaking, tradition reigns supreme in the language of newspapers. Original forms of expression and fresh genuine stylistic means are comparatively rare in newspaper articles, editorial included.


  1. 5. Scientific Prose Style.

The language of science is governed  by the aim of the functional style of scientific prose, which is to prove a hypothesis, to create new concepts, to disclose the internal laws of existence, development, relations between different phenomena, etc. the language means used, therefore, tend to be objective, precise, unemotional, devoid of any individuality; there is a  striving for the most generalized form of expression.

  1. The first and most noticeable feature of this style is the logical sequence  of utterances with clear indication of their interrelations and interdependence. It will not be exaggeration to say that in no other functional style we find such a developed and varied system of connectives as in scientific prose.
  2. The second equally important feature of this style is the use of terms specific to each given branch of science. Due to the rapid dissemination of scientific and technical ideas, we may observe the process of ‘de-terminization’, that is, some scientific and technical terms begin to circulate outside the narrow field they belong to and eventually begin to develop new meanings. But the overwhelming majority of terms do not undergo this process and remain the property of scientific prose. There they are born, may develop new terminological meanings, and there they die. No other field of human activity is so prolific in coining new words as science is. The necessity to penetrate deeper into the essence of things and phenomena gives rise to new concepts, which require new words to name them.                                                                                              Further, the general vocabulary employed in scientific prose bears its direct referential meaning, that is, words used in scientific prose will always tend to be used in their primary logical meaning. Nor will there be any words with contextual meaning. Even the possibility of ambiguity is avoided. Furthermore, terms are coined so as to be self-explanatory to the greatest possible degree. But neutral and common literary words used in scientific prose will be explained, even it their meaning is only slightly modified.                                                                                           In modern scientific prose an interesting phenomenon arises – the exchange of terms between various branches of science. Self-sufficiency in any branch of science is now a thing of the past. The exchange of terminology may be regarded as a neutral outcome of collaboration of specialists. Mathematics has priority in this respect. Mathematical terms have left their own domain and travel freely in other sciences, including linguistics.
  3. 3. A third characteristic feature  of scientific style is sentence – patterns. They are of 3 types: postulatory,  argumentative and formulative. A hypothesis must be based on facts already known. Therefore, every piece of scientific prose  will begin with postulatory pronouncements which are taken as self-evident and needing no proof. The writer’s own ideas are shaped in formulae, arguments, etc., that is, in sentences giving reasons for further conclusions. The definition sentence –pattern is the sentence which sums up the facts; it is generally a kind of clincher sentence.
  4. 4. A fourth observable feature of the style of modern scientific prose is the use of quotations and references. They sometimes occupy as much as half a page. They also have a definite compositional pattern, namely, 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 of the excerpt quoted or referred to.
  5. 5. A fifth feature of the style under discussion is the frequent use of foot-notes, not of the reference kind, but digressive in character. This is in full accord with the requirement of the style, which is logical coherence of ideas expressed.
  6. 6. The impersonality of scientific writings can also be considered a typical feature of this style. It is mainly revealed in the frequent use of passive constructions and impersonal scientific ‘we’ followed by the verbs suppose, assume, conclude, infer, point out, etc.


  1. 6. The Style of Official Documents.

There is one more style of language within the field of standard literary  English which has become singled out – the style of official documents, or ‘officialese’. It  can in its turn be divided into the language of business documents, the language of legal documents, the language of diplomacy, and the language of military documents.  But we shall examine the peculiarities of the style in the whole, without going into details and peculiarities of every substyle. This style has a definite communicative aim and, accordingly, its own system of interrelated language and stylistic means.

The main aim of this type of communication is to state  the conditions binding two parties in an undertaking. These parties may be: the state and the citizen, or citizen and the citizen; a society and its members; two or more  enterprises or bodies; two or more governments; a person in authority and a subordinate; a board or presidium and an assembly or general meeting, etc. the aim of communication in this style of language is to reach agreement between two contracting parties.

This most general function of the style of official documents predetermines the peculiarities of the style. The most essential feature  of it is a special system of clichés, terms and set expressions by which each  substyle can easily be recognized, for example: I beg to inform you, I second the motion, provisional agenda, the above-mentioned, hereinafter named, on behalf of, Dear Sir, your obedient servant.

Besides the special nomenclature characteristic of each variety of the style, there is a feature common  to all of them – the use of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions, for example: MP – Member of Parliament; gvt – government; HMS – Her Majesty’s Steamship; $, &,  £, §,  rsvp, PTO – Please Turn Over; e.g. – for example. There are so many of them that there are special addendas in dictionaries to decode them.

Another feature of the style is the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning. Just as in the    other matter-of-fact style, there is no room for contextual meanings or for any kind of simultaneous realization of two meanings.

Words with emotive meaning are not to be found in official documents either.

As in all other functional styles, the distinctive properties appear as a system.

The syntactical pattern of the style is as significant as the vocabulary, though not so immediately apparent. The most noticeable are the compositional patterns of the variants of this style. Thus, business letters have a definite compositional pattern, namely, the heading giving the address of the writer, the date, the name of the addressee and his address. Then come the address (either by name or impersonal), the theme of the letter, the main information itself, the final greeting, the signature, and then follow different appendixes if there are any.

It is also the established custom to divide separate utterances by numbers, maintaining, however, the principle of dependence of all the statements on the main part of the utterance. In no other style of language will such an arrangement of utterance be found.

As is seen from the different samples above, the over-all code of the official style falls into a system of subcodes, each characterized by its own variety of syntactical arrangements.  But the integrating features of all these subcodes remain the following:

  1. conventionality of expression;
  2. absence of any emotiveness;
  3. the encoded character of language symbols;
  4. a general syntactical mode of combining several pronouncements into the sentence.


Language means of the realization of a style.


  1. Introduction. Language, speech and text. Relations between stylistic units. Stylistic colouring and stylistic neutrality.
  2. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices:

2.1. graphons;

2.2. scanning;

2.3. onomatopoeia;

2.4. alliteration (assonance);

2.5. rhyme;

2.6. rhythm.

  1. Lexical expressive means and stylistic devices:

3.1. interaction of primary dictionary and contextually imposed meanings:


3.1.2. metonymy;


3.2. interaction of primary and derivative logical meaning:


3.2.2. pun.

3.3. interaction of logical and emotive meanings:

3.3.1. Interjections and exclamatory words;

3.3.2. epithets;

3.3.3. oxymoron;

3.4.  interaction of logical and nominal meanings (antonomasia);

3.5. intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:

3.5.1. simile;

3.5.2. periphrasis;

3.5.3. euphemism;

3.5.4. hyperbole\meiosis.

3.6. peculiar use of expressions:

3.6.1. clichés;

3.6.2. proverbs and sayings;

3.6.3. epigrams;

3.6.4. quotations;

3.6.5. allusions.

4. Morphological expressive means

5. Syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices:

5.1. compositional patterns of syntactical arrangement:

5.1.1. inversion;

5.1.2. detached constructions;

5.1.3. parallel constructions;

5.1.4. chiasmus;

5.1.5. repetition;

5.1.6. enumeration;

5.1.7. suspense;

5.1.8. climax;

5.1.9. antithesis.

5.2. particular ways of linkage:

5.2.1. asyndeton;

5.2.2. polysyndeton;

5.2.3. the gap-sentence link.

5.3. particular use of colloquial constructions:

5.3.1. ellipsis;

5.3.2. aposiopesis (break-in-the-narrative);

5.3.3. question-in-the-narrative;

5.3.4. represented speech;

5.4. stylistic use of structural meaning:

5.4.1. rhetorical questions;

5.4.2. litotes.

  1. Introduction. Language, speech and text. Relations between stylistic units. Stylistic colouring and stylistic neutrality.


Language is a system of mental associations of elementary and complex signs (sounds, morphemes, words, word combinations, utterances, combinations of utterances) with our mental picture of objective reality, a psychological phenomenon of social significance, that exists in individual minds, but serves the purpose of social intercourse through speech.

Speech is a momentary, fleeting psycho-physiological action, a process of sending acoustic signals (messages), perceptible to anyone within hearing.

Speech realizes itself in texts – written or oral utterances of various length.

There are different types of texts, and one and the same idea can be expressed in different ways. For example, from the informational point of view the sentences ‘The old man died.’‘The gentleman well advanced in years attained the termination of his terrestrial existence.’ and ‘The ole bean he kicked the bucket.’ are just the same, though their form is quite different.

The  phenomenon that differentiates a group of homogeneous texts from all other groups is called style.

Thus, style is the peculiarity, the set of specific features of a text type or of a concrete text that differentiates a group of homogeneous texts from other groups.

Within the text we can distinguish 3 classes of linguistic units:

  1. Non-specific or neutral.
  2. Relatively specific.
  3. Absolutely specific.

As for non-specific units, you can meet them in any text, irrespective of its style. They are used very frequently; there are no social limitations as to their use; every English-speaking child understands and uses them. That’s why they do not define the style of the text. As an example of such units you can take prepositions, pronouns, verbs that mean the main actions, basic nouns, etc. These words are normal to all the styles or stylistically neutral.

Taking, however, the words commencement, statement, differentiation, we observe that they are hardly ever used in everyday communication; they are unfamiliar to a child or an illiterate person. They are specific, but only relatively so.

Let’s take the word operation as an example. It arouses a more or less definite association with the cultivated sphere of social intercourse; it is somewhat a bookish word, very rare in the speech of uncultured people. You cannot as well meet it in slang or in low colloquial speech. Thus, it is specific; but its specificity is relative, not absolute, because the word is used in several spheres:  in medicine, criminology, mathematics, baking, military matters. Hence, we deal here with a relatively specific unit.

By absolutely specific units we mean those which belong to one style only. Thus, the word pulmonology is absolutely specific to  medical science and practice, words sylvan and morn – to poetic diction; words absolutely specific to the colloquial sublanguage are chap, daddy, gee, etc.

Relatively specific and specific words are not neutral; they define the style of the text they are used in.

Summing up everything mentioned above we can say, that style is a deviation from the lingual norm (pre-established and conventionally accepted parameters), if norm means neutrality.

Stylistics deals with the term functional style as main characteristics of the text. A functional style of language is a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication.

In the English literary standard we distinguish the following major functional styles:

  • The Belles-Lettres Style.
  • Publicistic Style.
  • Newspaper Style.
  • Scientific Prose Style.
  • The Style of Official Documents.

Each functional style is characterized by the use of special devices, which form its peculiarity. They are called stylistic devices.

All the stylistic devices can be divided into two large groups: tropes and figures of speech, though some linguists include tropes into figures of speech as well. Other linguists say that tropes are studied by stylistics of units, or paradigmatic stylistics, and figures of speech appear in stylistics of sequences, or syntagmatic stylistics.

The principle manifested in tropes is that of analogy. Some similar feature in otherwise dissimilar things is discovered and the discovered similarity suggests an image of that which described.

Figures of speech are stylistic devices based on interrelation of meanings in sequence of linguistic units.

Stylistic devices can occur on different levels of the language; thus, we speak about phonetic, lexical, morphological  and syntactical expressive means. Let’s examine them closer.


  1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices.


It is common knowledge, these devices occur on the phonetic level of the language. The sound of most words taken separately has no aesthetic value. It is in combination with other words that a word may acquire a desired phonetic effect.

These devices are considered to be the most expressive, because they deal with the form of the utterance and use human voice as the main expressive means. They are: graphons, scanning, onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, rhyme and rhythm. The first three of them are tropes, the rest are figures of speech.


2.1. Graphons.

We often treat language or speech as its written form, because it’s fixed, visible and easier to preserve. But written form creates difficulties if the author wants to show some peculiarities of the hero’s speech (dialect, illiteracy, private drawbacks) or to stress a word or group of words to show their special importance in the sentence. This task can be gained with the help of graphons – unusual, non-standard spelling of words, showing either deviations from Standard English  or some peculiarity in pronouncing words or phrases emphatically.

“Thquire! Your thervant! This ith a bad pieth of bithnith, thith ith…”(C. Dickens, ‘Hard Times’)

Most  graphons show features of territorial or social dialect of the speaker or his social standing. Highly typical in this respect is the reproduction, by many British writers, of cockney, the dialect of the lower classes of the London population. Here is a funny story of a cockney family trying to use correct English in their American visitor’s presence:

“Father,” said one of the children at breakfast, “I want some more ‘am, please.” – “You mustn’t say ‘am, my child, the correct form of the word is ‘am,” retorted his father, passing the plate with sliced ham on it. –“But I did say ‘am,” pleaded the boy. –“No, you didn’t: you said ‘am instead of ‘am.” The mother turned to the guest, smiling: ”Oh, don’t mind them, sir, pray. They are both saying ‘am and both think it is ‘am they are saying.”


2.2. Scanning.

Another way of intensifying a word or phrase, making it more prominent and expressive, is scanning, i.e., uttering each syllable or part of a word as a phonetically independent unit, in retarded tempo.

The graphic means of showing it is hyphenated spelling: ”Im-pos-sible!”

A speaker may strengthen, emphasize, make more prominent the word when he, for instance, intensifies its initial consonant, which is shown in the graphon as doubling letter: “N-no!”

Often a word or a word-group is emphatically stressed by the speaker without retardation of the tempo of speech and without  dividing it into the syllables. This part of the utterance is specially modulated (changing volume and pitch: rise-fall in monosyllabic and disyllabic words and, possibly, rise-fall-rise in polysyllables. Such words are printed in italics, capitalization or other ways of showing their special position within the sentence.

“She was simply beautiful”.

“I’ll NEVER see him again”.

“Appeeeee Noooooyeeeeeerrr!’ (Happy New Year).

“Then suddenly,  there sounded from behind the largest wool shed, … Mia-oo-oo-O-O!”(“Voyage”, K. Mansfield)


2.3. Onomatopoeia.

Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature (wind, sea,  thunder, etc.), by things (machines, tools, etc.),  people (singing, laughter, patter of feet, etc.),  and by animals.

There are two varieties of  onomatopoeia: direct and indirect.

Direct onomatopoeia is contained in words that imitate natural sounds (ding-dong, buzz, bang, mew, ping-pong, cuckoo, drip-drop, etc.).

Indirect onomatopoeia is a combination of sounds the aim of which is to make the sound of the utterance an echo of its sense. (thus, the repetition of the sound S in the following line of E. A. Poe gives us the idea of rustling of the curtains: ‘And the silken, sad, uncertain, rustling of each purple curtain…’;

and the lines ‘To the tintinabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells -

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells’ arose in our mind the idea of a chain of small bells that tinkle at one and the same time.)


2.4. Alliteration (assonance).

Alliteration is a phonetic stylistic device which aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance. The essence of this device lies in the repetition of similar sounds, in particular consonants, in close succession, particularly at the beginning of successive words:

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before’ (E. A. Poe)

Alliteration does not bear any lexical or other meaning, but, if repeated, the sounds produce an effect on the reader increasing the impression of the lines read.

The recurrence of the same vowel in close succession is called assonance and has the same aim as alliteration: ‘Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if within the distant Aiden,

I shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore…’ (E. A. Poe)

Alliteration in the English language is deeply rooted in the traditions of English folklore. Thus, in  Beowulf: Fyrst forð 3ewat: flota wæs on ÿðum,

bát under beor3e. Beornas 3earwe

on stefn sti3on:strêamas wundon,

sund wið sande: sec3as bæron

on bearm nacan beorhte frætwe…

Alliteration  in Old English verse was used to consolidate the sense within the line, leaving the relation between the lines rather loose.

The traditions of folklore are exceptionably stable and alliteration is very typical in it. It is frequently used as a well-tested means not only in verse, but in emotive prose, in newspaper headlines, in the titles of books, in proverbs and sayings (tit for tat, blind as a bat, to rob Peter to pay Paul; ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’).


2.5. Rhyme.

Rhyme is a repetition of identical or similar terminal sound combinations of words.

Rhyming words are usually placed at a regular distance from each other. In a verse they are usually placed at the end of corresponding lines. We distinguish between full rhymes and incomplete rhymes, compound and eye- rhymes.

The full rhyme presupposes identity of the vowel sound and the following consonant  sounds in a stressed syllable (night – right; light – plight; sun – done, etc.).

Incomplete rhymes may be vowel and consonant. In vowel rhymes the vowels of the syllables in corresponding words are identical, but the consonants may be different (flesh – fresh – press). Consonant rhymes, on the contrary, show concordance in consonants and disparity in vowels (tale – tool. Flunglong).

Sometimes one word can be rhymed with a combination of words, or two word combinations are rhymed together (bottom – forgot them – shot him). Such rhymes are called compound rhymes.

In eye- rhyme the letters but not the sounds are identical (love – prove; flood – brood; have – grave). It can be perceived in the written verse better than while reading aloud. Many eye-rhymes are the result of historical changes in the vowel sounds in certain positions. The words that were once rhyming began to sound differently for the time being. But on the analogy of such pairs, new eye-rhymes have been coined and the model now functions alongside ear-rhymes.

According to the way the rhymes are arranged within the stanza, certain models have crystallized, for instance:

  1. couplets – when the last words of two successive lines are rhymed. This is commonly marked  aa.
  2. triple rhymes -  rhymes aaa.
  3. cross rhymes -  abab.
  4. framing or ring rhymes – abba.

There is still another variety of rhyme which is called internal rhyme. The thyming words are placed not at the ends of the lines but within the line, as:

‘Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary…’ (E. A. Poe)

Internal rhyme breaks the line into two distinct parts, more strongly consolidating the ideas expressed in them.


2.6. Rhythm.

Rhythm is a flow, movement, procedure, characterized by basically regular recurrence of elements or features, as beat, or accent, in alternation with opposite or different elements or features. It is primarily a periodicity of different type. In speech it is a recurrence of stressed syllables within the same periods of time.

According to some investigations, rhythmical periodicity in verse “requires intervals of about three quarters of a second between successive peaks of periods”. It is a deliberating arrangement  of speech into regularly recurring units intended to be grasped as a definite periodicity which makes rhythm a stylistic device.

Thus, rhythm is the main factor which brings order into the utterance.

Prose rhythm, unlike verse rhythm, lacks consistency, as it follows various principles. But nevertheless a trained ear will always detect a kind of alternation of syntactical units. The task is then to find these units and to ascertain the manner of alternation. t is the feature that brings English speech its peculiarity.

  1. Lexical expressive means and stylistic devices.


We express our thoughts with the help of words, because words have meaning. But the majority of words have two meanings: direct, or vocabulary, and additional, or connotative meaning. Taking into consideration both meanings of a word, we may  represent the whole of the word-stock of the English language as being divided into 3 main layers:

  1. The literary layer.
  2. The neutral layer.
  3. The colloquial layer.

The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups.

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 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 as special colloquial (non-literary) ones.

Neutral words, which form the bulk of the English vocabulary, are used in all the layers. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy.

Most neutral English words are monosyllabic, as, in the process of development form Old English to Modern English, most of the parts of speech lost their distinguishing affixes. This phenomenon has led to the development of conversion as the most productive means of word-building.

Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech. Literary units stand in opposition to colloquial units. For example:











go away

get out






go on






go ahead




Opposing pairs

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has an obvious tendency to pass into that layer. And the upper range of the colloquial layer can very easily pass into the neutral one.

Common colloquial vocabulary is represented as overlapping into the standard English vocabulary and is to be considered as part of it. It borders both on the neutral vocabulary  and on the special colloquial one.

Some of the lexical items belonging to this stratum are close to the non-standard colloquial groups such as jargonisms, professionalisms, etc. They are on the border-line between the common colloquial vocabulary and the special colloquial or non-standard vocabulary. Other words approach the neutral bulk of the English vocabulary (teenager, hippie).

As it was already mentioned, special literary vocabulary contain terms and learned words, poetic words, archaic words, barbarisms and foreign words and literary coinages including nonce-words.

Terms and learned words.

Terminology is a skeleton language to talk about their subject-matter.

The essential characteristics of a term is its highly conventional character. A term is generally very easily coined and easily accepted.

A term is directly connected with the concept it denotes.

Terms are mostly and predominantly used in special works dealing with the notions of some branch of science. They belong to the style of language of science.

The function of terms, if encountered in other styles, is either to indicate the technical peculiarities of the subject dealt with, or to make some reference to the occupation of a character whose language would naturally contain special words and expressions. Scientists speak that way.

Poetic and highly literary words.

Poetic words form a rather insignificant layer of the special literary vocabulary. They are mostly archaic or very rarely used/ their aim is to produce an elevated effect. They have a marked tendency to detach themselves from the common literary word-stock and gradually assume the quality of terms denoting certain definite notions and calling forth poetic diction.

Poetic words and expressions are called upon to sustain the special elevated atmosphere of poetry.

Poetical tradition has kept alive such archaic words and forms as yclept –called; quoth-spoke; eftsoons-again, which are used even by modern ballad-mongers.

E.G. Deserted is my own good hall….(G. Byron)

A modern English literary critic has remarked that in journalese a policeman never goes, but proceeds to the appointed place; the picturesque reporter seldom talks of a horse, it is a steed or a charger; the sky is welkin, the valley is vale, etc.

Poetic words colour the utterance with a certain air of loftiness.

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. New words spring up and replace the old ones. Some words stay in the language a very long time and do not lose their meaning but gain new ones becoming richer and richer polysemantically. Other word live but a short time and disappear leaving no trace of their existence.

We shall distinguish 3 stages in the aging process of words:

1)              The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. In the English language these are the pronoun thou and its forms; the verbal ending –est (thou makest), the ending-th instead of –s (habeth, maketh) and the pronoun ye.

To the category of obsolescent words belong many French borrowings which have been kept in the literary language as a means of preserving the spirit of earlier periods, e.g. pallet (a straw mattress); a palfrey (a small horse); garniture (furniture).

2)        The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are  still recognized by the English-speaking community: e.g. methinks ( it seems to me); nay (no).  these words are called obsolete.

3)              The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern English, words that were in use in Old English and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e.g. troth – faith; a losel – an idler.

The border lines between the groups are not distinct.

Barbarisms and Foreignisms.

In the vocabulary of the English language there is a considerable layer of words called barbarisms. These 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.

These words are considered to be on the outskirts of the literary language.

Most of them have corresponding English synonyms, e.g. chic=stylish; bon mot=a clever witty saying; e.g.; i.e.; etc.

It is very important to distinguish between barbarisms and foreign words proper.  Barbarisms are words which have already become acts of the English language. They are part and parcel of the English word-stock, though they remain on the outskirts of the literary vocabulary. Foreign words, though used for certain stylistic purposes, do not belong to the English vocabulary.  They are not registered by English dictionaries, while barbarisms are generally  given in the body of the dictionary.

In printed works foreign words and phrases are generally italicized to indicate their alien nature or their stylistic value. Barbarisms, on the contrary, are not made conspicuous in the text unless they bear a special load of stylistic information.

Literary coinages (including nonce-words).

There is an ambiguous term in linguistics; this term is neologism. In dictionaries it is generally defined as ‘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 coined for use at the moment of speech, and therefore possess a peculiar property –that of temporariness. New coinages may replace old words and become established in the language as synonyms and later as substitutes for the old words.

The coining of new words generally arises first of all with the need to designate new concepts resulting from the development of science. It may also be the result of a search for a more economical, brief and compact form of utterance  which proves to be a more expressive means of communicating the idea.

The first type of newly coined words, i.e. those which designate new-born concepts, are named terminological coinages. The 2nd type, i.e. words coined because their creators seek expressive utterance are stylistic coinages.

Word-building by means of affixation is still predominant in coining new words. E.g.: orbiter=a spacecraft designed to orbit a celestial body; wreckologist=a person that studies shipwrecks to prevent them; moisturize=to make something wetter, anti-hero, freckledom;  askee=a person who asks a question and doesn’t wait for the answer; showmanship; bananarama; talkathon.

Another type of neologism is the nonce-word, i.e. a word coined to suit one particular occasion. Nonce-words remain on the outskirts of thee literary language and not infrequently remind us of the writers who coined them. They are created to designate some insignificant subjective idea or evaluation of a thing or phenomenon and generally become  moribund. They rarely pass into the language as legitimate units of the vocabulary, but they remain in the language as constant manifestations of its innate power of word-building. E.g. “I’m wived in Texas, and mother-in-lawed, and uncled, and aunted, and cousined…”(J. Steinbeck)

In modern English words are also coined to shorten the utterance, e.g. UNO, Unesco, NATO.

Special colloquial vocabulary.


It seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English. But originally it meant language peculiar to a particular group or the special and often secret vocabulary used by a class (as thieves, beggars); the jargon used by or associated with a particular trade, profession, or field of activity; a non-standard vocabulary composed of words and senses characterized primarily by connotations of extreme informality. E.g.: to go nuts – to become mad; to kick the bucket – to die; bread–basket  -  a stomach; to do a flit – to quit one’s flat at night without paying the rent or board; rot – nonsense.


In the non-literary vocabulary of the English language there is a group of words that are called jargonisms. Jargon  is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group. Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. E.g: grease - money; a loaf - head; a tiger hunter - a gambler. Cf. Russian: «не подмажешь – не поедешь»; «что у тебя на плечах – голова или кочан капусты?»; «медвежатник».

Almost any social group of people has its own jargon. The most well – known in English are cant (the jargon of thieves and vagabonds), military slang (the jargon of the army),  the jargon of jazz people, the jargon of sportsmen and many others.

Slang, contrary to jargon, needs no translation. It is not a secret code. It is easily understood by the English-speaking community and is only regarded as something not quite regular. Both jargon and slang differ from ordinary language mainly in their vocabularies. The structure of the sentences and the morphology of the language remain practically unchanged.

Jargonisms do not always remain in the possession of a given social group. Some of them migrate into other social strata and may become recognized in the literary language of the nation. E.g. fan, bluff, humbug.

That is why it is so difficult  to draw a hard and fast line between slang and jargon. When a jargonisms becomes common, it has passed on to a higher step on the ladder of word groups and becomes slang or colloquial. E. g. cash in the meaning of ‘metal money’; «бабки» и «капуста» in Russian in the meaning of ‘money’.


Professionalisms are words used in a definite trade, profession or calling by people connected by common interests both at work and at home.  Professionalisms are correlated to terms.

The main feature of a professionalism is its technicality. Professionalisms are special words in he non-literary layer of the English vocabulary, whereas terms are a specialized group of words belonging to the literary layer. Professionalisms generally remain in circulation within a definite community, as they are linked to a common occupation and common social interests. The semantic structure of the term is usually transparent and is therefore easily understood. The semantic structure of a professionalism is often dimmed by the image on which the meaning of it is based, particularly when the features of thee object in question reflect the process of the work, metaphorically or metonymically.  E. g. tin-fish=a submarine; block-buster = a bomb to destroy skyscrapers; a piper = a specialist who decorates pastry with the use of a cream-pipe.

Dialectal words.

This group of words is obviously opposed to the other groups of the non-literary English vocabulary. Dialectal words are those which in the process of integration of the English national language remained beyond its literary boundaries, and their use is confined to a definite locality. E.g. lass(ie)=girl.

Many of the words fixed in dictionaries as dialectal are of Scottish origin, because Scotland has struggled to retain the peculiarities of her language.


Vulgarisms are:

1) expletives and swear words which are of an abusive character, e.g. damn, bloody, to hell, goddam.

2) obscene words. These are known as four-letter words the use of which is banned in any form of intercourse as being indecent. They are called taboo words sometimes. Historians say that in Middle Ages they were accepted in oral speech and after Caxton even admitted to the printed page. All of these words are of Anglo-Saxon origin.

Vulgarisms are often used in conversation out of habit, without any thought of what they mean. Unfortunately in modern fiction these words have gained legitimacy, but they will never acquire the status of standard English vocabulary and will always remain on the outskirts.

The function of expletives is almost the same as that of interjections, that is to express strong emotions, mainly annoyance, anger, vexation and the like. They are not to be found in any functional style of language except emotive prose, and here only in the direct speech of the characters.

Colloquial coinages.

Colloquial coinages or nonce-words are spontaneous and elusive. This proceeds from the very nature of the colloquial words as such. Not all of the colloquial nonce-words are fixed in dictionaries or even in writing and therefore most of them disappear from the language leaving no trace in it.

Nonce-words of a colloquial nature are not built by means of affixes but are based on certain semantic changes in words that are almost imperceptible to the linguistic observer until the word finds its way into print. E.g. to be the limit = to be unbearable; cool=stylish.

New literary coinages will always bear the brand of individual creation and will therefore have more or less precise semantic boundaries. The meaning of literary coinages can easily be grasped by the reader because of the use of thee productive means of word-building, and also from the context, of course. E. g. weatherology; womenkind; hateship; housemadship; двухметроворостая.


No wonder then that many stylistic devices exist on lexical level. As it was already mentioned, words have two meanings: denotative, or direct, and connotative, or emotive; very often both meanings exist together and impose the word additional hint of notion. Besides, words in context may acquire additional lexical meanings not fixed in the dictionaries, what we call contextual meaning. While giving the classification of lexically based stylistic devices, we are to take into consideration the interaction between different meanings of a word.


3.1. Interaction of primary dictionary and contextually imposed meanings.

The interaction between the primary dictionary meaning and a meaning is imposed on the word by a micro-context may be maintained along different lines. One line is when the author identifies two objects which have nothing in common, but in which sees something that may make the reader perceive these two objects as identical. Another line is when the author finds it possible to substitute one object for another on the ground that there is some kind of interdependence between the two corresponding objects. A third line is when a certain property of an object is used in an opposite or contradictory sense.

Thus, we distinguish within this group of devices: metaphor; metonymy; irony.

3.1.1. metaphor.

This stylistic device is based on the principle of identification of two objects. It is a most widely used trope, based upon a traceable similarity. But, contrary to the simile, there is no formal element to indicate comparison. It denotes expressive renaming on the basis of similarity of two objects: the real object of speech and the one whose name is actually used, though there is no real connection between the two ( a film-star; a needle’ eye; a golden sunset; the last colours of sunset were dripping…).

Metaphors, like all stylistic devices, are classified according to their degree of unexpectedness. Absolutely unexpected (unpredictable) metaphors are called genuine metaphors. They are mainly used in literary texts.

Those which are commonly used in speech and therefore are sometimes even fixed in dictionaries as expressive means of language are trite or dead metaphors.

Genuine metaphors are regarded as belonging to language-in-action; trite metaphors belong to the language-as-a-system.

Trite metaphors are sometimes injected with new vigour, i.e. their primary meaning is re-established alongside the new (derivative) meaning. This is done by supplying the central image created by the metaphor with additional words bearing some reference to the main word (‘Mr. Pickwick bottled up his vengeance and corked it down’). Such metaphors are called sustained or prolonged.

3.1.2. metonymy.

The trope based on the principle of substitution of one object for another is called metonymy. Metonymic relations are varied in character.

  • The name of an instrument may stand for the name of the action (‘lend me your ears’- listen to me; …’the sword is the worst argument’…);
  • the name of a symbol may be used instead of which this symbol denotes (Washington attacked Iraqi);
  • something that a person possesses is named instead of the person himself ( He married money);
  • a quality of a thing may stand for the thing itself (‘The marble spoke’);
  • the container is named instead of a thing contained (The hall applauded.).

3.1.3. irony.

It is a stylistic device based on the simultaneous realization of two logical meanings – dictionary and contextual, but the two meanings stand in opposition to each other. Irony must not be confused with humor, although they have very much in common. Humour always causes laughter. But the function of irony is not confined to producing a humorous effect. In a sentence like ‘How clever of you!’ where, due to the intonation pattern, the word ‘clever’ conveys a sense opposite to its literal signification, the irony does not cause a humorous effect. It rather expresses a feeling of irritation, displeasure, pity or regret. A word used ironically may sometimes express very subtle nuances of meaning

(“I like the weather, when it is not rainy,

That is, I like two months of every year" – G.G. Byron).


3.2. Interaction of primary and derivative logical meaning.

These tropes are based on the polysemantic effect of the word. The problem of polysemy is one of the vexed questions of lexicology.  It is sometimes impossible to draw a line between a derivative meaning of a polysemantic word and a homonym.

3.2.1. zeugma.

It is the use of a word in the same grammatical but different semantic relations to two adjacent words in the context (‘She lost her heart and necklace at a ball’). This stylistic device is particularly favoured in English emotive prose. Zeugma is a strong and effective device to maintain the purity of the primary meaning when the two meanings clash.

3.2.2. pun.

It is another stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase. It is difficult to draw a vivid distinction between zeugma and the pun. The only reliable distinguishing feature is a structural one: zeugma is the realization of two meanings with the help of a verb which is made to refer to at least two different subjects or objects (direct or indirect). The pun is more independent. There need not necessarily be a word in the sentence to which the pun-word refers ( ‘There comes a period in every man’s life, but she is just a semicolon in his.’).


3.3. Interaction of logical and emotive meanings.

Different emotional elements may appear in the utterance depending on its character and pragmatic aspect. There are words the function of which is to arose emotion in the reader or listener. In such words emotiveness prevails over intellectuality. There are also words in which the logical meaning is almost entirely ousted. These words express feelings which have passed through our mind and therefore they have acquired an intellectual embodiment. Some emotive words have become the recognized symbols of emotions; but the emotiveness is not expressed directly but referred to.

Sometimes emotiveness is expressed by words which have emotive meaning in their semantic structure. The most highly emotive words are words charged with emotive meaning to the extent that the logical meaning can hardly be registered. These are interjections and all kinds of exclamations. Next come epithets, in which there is a kind of parity between emotive and logical meaning. Then come epithets of the oxymoronic type, in which the logical meaning prevails over the emotive but where the emotive is the result of the clash between the logical and illogical.

3.3.1. Interjections and exclamatory words.

Interjections are words we use when we express our feelings strongly and which may be said to exist in language as conventional symbols of human emotions.

In traditional grammars the interjection is regarded as a part of speech as well as the noun, adjective, verb, etc. but there is another view which regards the interjection as a sentence. Indeed, a word taken separately is deprived of any intonation which suggests a complete idea, whereas an interjection always manifests a definite attitude on the part of the speaker towards the problem and therefore has intonation. The pauses between words within a sentence are very brief, though the pause between the interjection and the words that follow is long and significant. Still, an interjection is not a sentence but a word with strong emotional meaning.

Interjections can be divided into primary and derivative. Primary interjections are devoid of any logical meaning (Oh! Ah! Bah! Pooh! Hush!).

Derivative interjections may retain logical meaning (Heavens! Dear me! Look here!). They are not interjections as such; a better name for them would be exclamatory words and word-combinations.

Some adjectives, nouns and adverbs can also take the function of interjections (Terrible! Awful! Great!). with proper intonation and with an adequate pause these words may acquire a strong emotional colouring and are equal in force to interjections. In that case we say that they have acquired an additional grammatical meaning of interjections.

3.3.2. epithets.

The epithet is a weaker expressive means than the above-mentioned ones, but it is still forceful.

It is a trope based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence used to characterize an object and pointing out to the reader, and frequently imposing on him, some of the properties or features of the object with the aim of giving an individual perception and evaluation of these features or properties.

The epithet is markedly subjective and evaluative. Thus, in ‘green fields’,’ white snow’, ‘round table’ we have attributes, but not epithets. But in ‘wild wind’, ‘heart-burning smile’ we see evaluation as well as description; hence, they are epithets.

the epithet makes a strong impact on the reader, that he unwittingly begins to see and evaluate things as the writer wants him to.

Epithets may be classified from different standpoints: semantic and structural.

Semantically, epithets may be divided into two groups: those associated with the noun following and those unassociated with it.

Associated epithets are those which point to a feature which is essential to the objects they describe: the idea expressed in the epithet is to a certain extent inherent in the concept of the object. The associated epithet immediately refers the mind to the concept in question due to some actual quality of the object it is attached to (dark forest, dreary midnight).

Unassociated epithets are used to characterize the object by adding a feature not inherent in it; a feature that may be so unexpected as to strike a reader by its novelty ( sullen earth, voiceless sands).

Structurally, epithets can be viewed from the angle of:

  • composition;
  • distribution.

From the point of view of their compositional structure epithets may be divided into simple, compound, phrase and sentence epithets.

Simple epithets are ordinary adjectives (sweet smile, deep thoughts).

Compound epithets are built like compound adjectives (heart-burning smile, sylph-like figure).

The tendency to cram into one language unit as much information as possible has led to new compositional models for epithets which we shall call phrase epithets. A phrase and even a whole sentence may become an epithet. But unlike simple and compound epithets, which may have pre- or post-position, phrase epithets are always placed before the nouns they refer to ( ‘ his go-to-hell-all-of-you expression irritated me mostly’). Sentence epithets are rather long sometimes ( “There is a sort of ‘Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something—to-make-it-better-and-nobler’ expression about Montmorency…”).

Another structural variety of the epithet is reversed epithet. It is composed of two nouns linked in an of-phrase. The subjective, evaluating, emotional element is embodied not in the noun attribute but in the noun structurally described (a devil of a job; a Little Flying Dutchman of a cab; a dog of a fellow; her brute of a brother). The noun to be assessed is contained in the of-phrase and the noun it qualifies is a metaphor.

From the point of view of the distribution of the epithets in the sentence, the first model to be pointed out is the string of epithets ( ‘such was the background of the wonderful, cruel, enchanting, bewildering, fatal, great city’).

As in any enumeration, the string of epithets gives a many-sided depiction of the object. But in this many-sidedness there is always a suggestion of an ascending order of emotive elements, which culminates in the last epithet.

Another distributional model is the transferred epithet. Transferred epithets are ordinary logical attributes generally describing the state of a human being, but made to refer to an inanimate object (sick chamber, sleepless pillow, merry hours, restless pace). The meaning of the logical attributes in such combinations acquires a definite emotional colouring.

3.3.3. oxymoron.

It is a combination of two words (mostly an adjective and a noun or an adverb with an adjective) in which the meanings of the two clash, being opposite in sense (sweet sorrow, low skyscraper, horribly beautiful).

Oxymoron has one main structural model: adjective + noun.


3.4. Interaction of logical and nominal meanings (antonomasia).

The interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word is called antonomasia. Here the two kinds of meanings are realized in the word simultaneously  (“ Mr. Facing-Both-Ways does not get very far in this world.”) .

Sometimes authors use special names like Miss Blue-Eyes, Mr. Woodworm, Sobakevich to give additional characteristics to their heroes. Such names are called token or telling names.


3.5. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon.

In order to understand the linguistic nature of the stylistic devices (SDs) of this group, we must bear in mind that any definition can point out only one or two properties of a phenomenon, because the definer tries to single out the most essential features of the object.

3.5.1. simile.

The intensification of some one feature of the concept in question is realized in a device called simile.

This device compare two things or objects. But ordinary comparison and simile must not be confused. Comparison means weighing two objects belonging to one class of things with the purpose of establishing the degree of their sameness or difference. To use a simile is to characterize one object by bringing it into contact with another object  belonging to an entirely different class of things. Comparison takes into consideration all the properties of the two objects, stressing the one that is compared (the boy seems as clever as his mother. ‘Boy’ and ‘mother’ belong to the same class – human beings – so this is not a simile but ordinary comparison). Simile excludes all the properties of the two objects except one which is made common to them (“Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare” ‘Maidens’ and ‘moths’ belong to different classes of objects, and Byron has found the concept moth to indicate one of the secondary features of the concept maiden, i.e. being easily lured). Of the two concepts brought together in the simile – one characterized (maidens), and the other characterizing (moths) – the feature intensified will be more inherent in the latter than in the former. Moreover, the object characterized is seen in quite a new and unexpected light.

Similes set one object against another regardless of the fact that they may be completely alien to each other. Without our being aware of it, the simile gives rise to a new understanding of the object characterizing as well as of the object characterized.

3.5.2. periphrasis.

Periphrasis is a device which, according to Webster’s dictionary, denotes the use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter and plainer form of expression. It is also called circumlocution due to the round-about or indirect way used to name a familiar object or phenomenon (the cap and gown – student body; the fair sex – women; my better half – my wife. “But an addition to the little party now made its appearance” =  another person came in).

3.5.3. euphemism.

Euphemism is a word or phrase used to replace an unpleasant word or expression by a conventionally more acceptable one (to die = to pass away; to join the silent majority; to be no more; to be goneto kick the bucket; to go west, etc.)

3.5.4. hyperbole\meiosis.

Another sd  which also has the function of intensifying one certain property of the object described is hyperbole. It can be defined as a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feature essential (unlike periphrasis) to the object or phenomenon. In its extreme form this exaggeration is carried to an illogical degree, sometimes ad absurdum (“He was so tall that I was not sure he had a face”).

The antonym to hyperbole is meiosis, or understatement (intentional undervaluation of norm). It is lessening, weakening, reducing the real characteristics of the object of speech. In other words, it is a device serving to underline the insignificance of what we speak about (he knows a thing or two = something; it will cost you a pretty penny = much; just a moment = wait some time).


3.6. Peculiar use of expressions.

In language there are two clearly-marked tendencies:

  • The analytical tendency (seeks to dissever one component from another).
  • The synthetic tendency (seeks to integrate the parts of the combination into a stable unit).

3.6.1. cliché.

A  cliché is an expression that has become hackneyed and trite. “They lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long over-use”, as Random House Dictionary says. There is always a contradiction between what is aimed at and what is actually attained (rosy dreams of youth; the whip and carrot policy; let bygones be bygones).

3.6.2. proverbs and sayings.

They are facts of language. They have some typical features by which it is possible to determine whether or not we are dealing with one. These typical features are: rhythm, sometimes rhyme and\or alliteration, and brevity.

The utterance presents a pattern which can be successfully used for other utterances. The peculiarity of the use of a proverb lies in the fact that the actual wording becomes a pattern which needs no new wording to suggest extensions of meaning which are contextual. It presupposes a simultaneous application of two meanings: the primary meaning and an extended meaning drawn from the context.

Almost every good writer makes use of proverbs, sayings and idioms. They use them in the reduced form but their meaning is clearly seen (“Come! Milk is spilt”-from ‘it’s no use crying over spilt milk’).

3.6.3 epigrams.

An epigram is a stylistic device akin to a proverb, the only difference being that epigrams are coined by individuals whose names we know, while proverbs are the coinage of the people. In other words, we are always aware of the parentage of an epigram and therefore, when using one, we usually make a reference to its author.

Epigrams are witty, pointed statements, showing the ingenious turn of mind of the originator. They always have a literary-bookish air about them that distinguishes them from proverbs. Epigrams possess a great degree of independence and therefore, if taken out of the context, will retain the wholeness of the idea they express. They have a generalizing function and are self-sufficient. The most characteristic feature of an epigram is that the sentence gets accepted as a word-combination and often becomes part of the language as a whole.

Epigrams are often confused with aphorisms and paradoxes. It is difficult to draw a demarcation line between them, the distinction being very subtle. Real epigrams are true to fact and that is why they win general recognition and acceptance.

3.6.4. quotations.

A quotation is a repetition of a phrase or statement from a book, speech and the like used by way of authority, illustration, proof or as a basis for further speculation on the matter in hand. By repeating a passage in a new environment, we attach to the utterance an importance it might not have had in the context whence it was taken. Moreover, we give it the status, temporary though it may be, of a stable language unit. What is quoted must be worth quoting, since a quotation will inevitably acquire some degree of generalization. If repeated frequently, it may be recognized as an epigram, if, of course, it has at least some of the linguistic properties of the latter.

Quotations are usually marked off in the text by inverted commas (" "), dashes (—), italics or other graphical means.

They are mostly used accompanied by a reference to the author of the quotation, unless he is well known to the reader or audience. The reference is made either in the text or in a foot-note and assumes various forms, as, for instance: "as (so and so) has it"; "(So and so) once said that"...; "Here we quote (so and so)".

A quotation is the exact reproduction of an actual utterance made by a certain author. The work containing the utterance quoted must have been published or at least spoken in public; for quotations are echoes of somebody else's words.

Utterances, when quoted, undergo a peculiar and subtle change. They are rank-and-file members of the text they belong to, merging with other sentences in this text in the most natural and organic way, bearing some part of the general sense the text as a whole embodies; yet, when they are quoted, their significance is heightened and they become different from other parts of the text. If they are used to back up the idea expressed in the new text, they become "parent sentences" with the corresponding authority and respect and acquire a symbolizing function; in short, they not infrequently become epigrams, for example, Hamlet's "To be or not to be!"

3.6.5. allusions.

An allusion is an indirect reference, by word or phrase, to a historical, literary, mythological, biblical fact or to a fact of everyday life made in the course of speaking or writing. The use of allusion presup-poses knowledge of the fact, thing or person alluded to on the part of the reader or listener. As a rule no indication of the source is given. This is one of the notable differences between quotation and allusion. Another difference is of a structural nature: a quotation must repeat the exact wording of the original even though the meaning may be modified by the new context; an allusion is only a mention of a word or phrase which may be regarded as the key-word of the utterance. An allusion has certain important semantic peculiarities, in that the meaning of the word (the allusion) should be regarded as a form for the new meaning. In other words, the primary meaning of the word or phrase which is assumed to be known (i.e. the allusion) serves as a vessel into which new meaning is poured. So here there is also a kind of interplay between two meanings. (“The Ant and the Grasshopper” is not only the title of the Lafontaine’s fable, but of the W. S. Maugham’s story as well. It runs about two brothers, but, unless the reader knows the fable, he will not understand the implication embodied in this phrase.).


  1. Morphological expressive means.


As morphology is the study of grammatical changes of isolated words by means of affixation, we’ll examine morphological peculiarities of the language that form definite functional styles.

Among the problems of stylistic morphology, we shall distinguish two general trends. Of stylistic significance are:

1. synonymy (paradigmatic equivalence of different morphemes, e.g. dogs, cows – oxen, phenomena);

2. variability of use of morphological ‘categorial forms’ or of members of the opposition that constitute the grammatical category – ‘tense’, ‘person’, etc. E.g. He will come next Monday.// He is coming next Monday.

The synonymy is not very well developed (or, to be more exact, is nearly completely lost due to the loss of inflexion).  The opposition of remaining variants of grammatical morphemes is noticeable just because it is rare and is of high stylistic prominence. E.g.1. brothers(neutral) – brethren (archaic);

He has -   he hath;

You have - thou hast

2. BE Got        - gotten AE

At the corner – on the corner

Out of the window -  out the window

3. (formal) Whom are you talking to? – Who are you talking to? (informal)

If I were you…   -   If I was you…

4. (intelligent) “He doesn’t, say I..”  - “He don’t, says I”… (incorrect)

5. (absence of articles in headlines) “Police Seek Mystery Assailant”

6. (category of gender) it is practically non-existent in modern English.

  1. Syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices.


Within the language-as-a system there establish themselves certain definite types of relations between words, word-combinations, sentences and also between larger spans of utterances. The branch of language science which studies the types of relations between the units enumerated is called s у п t a x.

In the domain of syntax it is difficult to distinguish between what is purely grammatical, i.e. marked as corresponding to the established norms, and what is stylistic, i.e. showing some kind of deviation from these norms. This is particularly evident when wе begin to analyze larger-than-the-sentence units.

Generally speaking, the examination of syntax provides a deeper insight into the stylistic aspect of utterances.


5.1. Compositional patterns of syntactical arrangement.

When viewing the stylistic functions of different syntactical designs we must first of all take into consideration two aspects:

  1. the juxtaposition of different parts of the utterance and the way the parts are connected with each other.
  2. the peculiar use of colloquial constructions and the stylistic use of structural meaning.

5.1.1. inversion.

Word-order is an important syntactical problem in many languages. In English it has peculiarities which have been caused by the concrete and specific way the language has developed. It has developed a tolerably fixed word-order of  S – P – O (Subject –Predicate – Object).

The most conspicuous places in the sentence are considered to be the first and the last: the first place because the full force of the stress can be felt at the beginning of an utterance and the last place because there is a pause after it. This traditional word-order has developed a definite intonation design. Through frequency of repetition this design has imposed itself on any sentence even though there are changes introduced in the sentence of the component parts. Hence semantically insignificant elements of the sentence become significant when placed in structurally significant position.

Stylistic inversion aims at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the surface meaning of the utterance. Therefore a specific intonation pattern is the inevitable satellite of inversion (“Rude am I in my speech..”\W. Shakespeare\. “In went Mr. Pickwick”\Dickens\).

5.1.2. detached constructions.

Sometimes one of the secondary parts of a sentence by some specific consideration of the writer is placed so that it seems formally independent of the word it logically refers to. Such parts of structures are called detached.

The detached part, being torn away from its referent, assumes a greater degree of significance and is given prominence by intonation. The structural patterns of detached constructions have not yet been classified, but the most noticeable cases are those in which an attribute or an adverbial modifier is placed not in the immediate proximity to its referent, but in some other position ( “And he walked slowly past again, along the river – an evening of clear, quiet beauty, all harmony and comfort, except within his heart”.\Galsworthy\).

A variant of detached construction is parenthesis. It is a qualifying, explanatory or appositive word, phrase, clause, sentence, or other sequence which interrupts a syntactic construction without otherwise affecting it, having often a characteristic intonation and indicated in writing by commas, brackets or dashes.

Parenthesis sometimes embodies a considerable volume of predicativeness, thus giving the utterance an additional nuance of meaning or a tinge of emotional colouring.

5.1.3. parallel constructions.

Parallel construction is a device which may be encountered not so much in the sentence as in the macro-structures dealt with earlier. The necessary condition in parallel construction is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence in close succession (“There were real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same to hold the cakes and toast in” \Dickens\).

Parallel constructions are often backed up by repetition of words (lexical repetition) and conjunctions and prepositions (polysyndeton). Pure parallel construction, however, does not depend on any other kind of repetition but the repetition of the syntactical design of the sentence.

Parallel constructions may be partial or complete. Partial parallel arrangement is the repetition of some parts of successive sentences or clauses.

Complete parallel arrangement, also called balance, maintains the principle of identical structures throughout the corresponding sentences (“The seeds ye sow – another reaps,

The robes ye weave – another wears,

The arms ye forge – another bears”\P. B. Shelley\).

5.1.4. chiasmus.

Chiasmus belongs to the group of stylistic devices based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern, but it has a cross order of words and phrases. The structure of two successive sentences or parts of a sentence may be described as reversed parallel construction, the word-order of one of the sentences being inverted as compared with that of the other (“Down dropped the breeze,

The sails dropped down.”\Coleridge\).

Chiasmus is sometimes achieved by a sudden change from active voice to passive or vice versa (“The register of his burial was signed by a clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it.” \Dickens\).

It must be remembered that chiasmus is a syntactical, not a lexical device, i.e. it is only the arrangement of the parts of the utterance which constitutes the stylistic device.

5.1.5. repetition.

Repetition is an expressive means of language used when the speaker is under the stress of strong emotion. In the written language, before direct speech is introduced one can always find words indicating emotions, as sobbed, shrieked, etc. (“Stop! – she cried, “Don’t tell me! I don’t want to hear! I don’t want to hear what you’ve come for. I don’t want to hear.”)

It is purely syntactical whenever what is repeated is not a word, but an abstract syntactical position only. But it may concern not only the syntactical positions (parts of the sentence), but the meanings of recurrent parts as well. If the homogeneous parts are synonyms, we observe ‘synonymic repetition’ “Joe was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish dear fellow.”).

When used as a stylistic device, repetition acquires quite different functions. It aims at logical emphasis, necessary to fix the attention of the reader on the key-word of the utterance (“For that was it! Ignorant of the long…march of passion, … ignorant of how Soames had watched her; ignorant of Fleur’s reckless  desperation...—ignorant of  all  this,  everybody felt  aggrieved.” \Galsworthy\).

Repetition is classified according to compositional patterns. If the repeated word (or phrase) comes at the beginning of two or more consecutive sentences, clauses or phrases, we have anaphora, as in the example above. If the repeated unit is placed at the end of consecutive sentences, clauses or phrases, we have the type of repetition called  epiphora,as  in:

"I am exactly the man to be placed in a superior position: in such a case as that. I am above the rest of mankind, in such) a case as that. 1 can act with philosophy in such a case as that.


Here the repetition has a slightly different function: it becomes a background against which the statements preceding the repeated unit are made to stand out more conspicuously. This may be called the background function. The logical function of the repetition (to give emphasis) does not fade when it assumes the background function. This is an additional function.

Repetition may also be arranged in the form of a frame: the initial parts of a syntactical unit, in most cases of a paragraph, are repeated at the end of it, as in:

"Poor doll's dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when losing her way on the eternal road and asking guidance. Poor, little doll's dressmaker". (Dickens)

This compositional pattern of repetition is called framing. It makes the whole utterance more compact and more complete. Framing is most effective in singling out paragraphs.

Among other compositional models of repetition is linking or red и plica ti о n (also known as a n a d i p I o s i s). The structure of this device is the following: the last word or phrase of one part of an utterance is repeated at the beginning of the next part, thus hooking the two parts together. The writer, instead of moving on, seems to double back on his tracks and pick up his last word.

"Freeman and slave... carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common  ruin of the contending classes." (Marx, Engels)

Any repetition of a unit of language will inevitably cause some slight modification of meaning, a modification suggested by a noticeable change in the intonation with which the repeated word is pronounced.

Sometimes a writer may use the linking device several times in one utterance, for example: "A smile would come into Mr. Pickwick's face: the smile ex-tended into a laugh: the laugh into a roar, and the roar became general." (Dickens) or:

"For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs, sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter." (Byron)

This compositional pattern of repetition is also called с h a i n repetitiоn.

What are the most obvious stylistic functions of repetition?

The first, the primary one, is to intensify the utterance. Intensification is the direct outcome of the use of the expressive means employed in ordinary intercourse; but when used in other compositional patterns, the immediate emotional charge is greatly suppressed and is replaced by a purely aesthetic aim, as in the following example:


A weary lot is thine, fair maid,

A weary lot is thine!

To pull the thorn thy brow to braid,

And press the rue for wine.

A lightsome eye, a soldier's mien

A feather of the blue,

A doublet of the Lincoln green —

No more of me you knew

My Love!

No more of me you knew. (Walter Scott)

The repetition of the whole line in its full form requires interpretation. This repetition expresses the regret of the Rover for his Love's unhappy lot. Compare also the repetition in the line of Thomas Moore's:

"Those evening bells! Those evening bells!"

Meditation, sadness, reminiscence and other psychological and emotional states of mind are suggested by the repetition of the phrase with the intensifier 'those'.

The distributional model of repetition, the aim of which is intensification, is simple: it is immediate succession of the parts repeated.

Repetition may also stress monotony of action, it may suggest fatigue, or despair, or hopelessness, or doom, as in:

"What has my life been? Fag and grind, fag and grind. Turn the wheel, turn the wheel." (Dickens)

Here the rhythm of the repeated parts makes the monotony and hopelessness of the speaker's life still more keenly felt.

There are two terms frequently used to show the negative attitude of the critic to all kinds of synonymical repetitions. These are pleonasm and tautology.

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines pleonasm as “the use of more words in a sentence than are necessary to express the meaning; redundancy of expression.”

Tautology is defined as the repetition of the same statement; the repetition (especially in the immediate context) of the same statement; the repetition (especially in the immediate context) of the same word or phrase or of the same idea or statement in other words; usually as a fault of style” (“It was a clear and starry night, and not a cloud was seen.”).

Any repetition may be found faulty if it is not motivated by the aesthetic purpose of the writer. On the other hand, any seemingly unnecessary repetition of words or of ideas expressed in different words may be justified by the aim of the communication.

5.1.6.. enumeration.

Enumeration is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, phenomena, properties, actions are named one by one so that they produce a chain, the links of which, being syntactically in the same position (homogeneous parts of speech), are forced to display some kind of semantic homogeneity, remote though it may seem (“Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and his sole mourner.”).

5.1.7.. suspense.

Suspense is a compositional device which consists in arranging the matter of communication in such a way that the less important descriptive, subordinate parts are amassed at the beginning, the main idea being withheld till the end of the sentence. Thus the reader’s attention is held and his interest kept up (“Mankind, says the Chinese manuscript,… for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw.”)

Sentences of this type are called periodic sentences or periods. Their function is to create suspense, to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty and expectation.

Suspense always requires long stretches of speech or writing. Sometimes the whole of a poem is built on this stylistic device, as in the case with Kipling’s poem “If” where all the eight stanzas consist of if-clauses and only the last two lines constitute the principal clause.

5.1.8. climax.

Climax is an arrangement of sentences (or of the homogeneous parts of the sentence) which secures a gradual increase in significance, importance, or emotional tension in the utterance (“It was a lovely city, a beautiful city, a fair city, a veritable gem of a city”).

The minimum number of elements is two; a greater expressive effect is achieved by participation of three or more units of meaning. Since climax is formed by correlative notions, they are supposed to belong to the same semantic plane: participating words, phrases, sentences that express ‘ascendant’ notions may be what is called ‘ideographic synonyms’: their meanings demonstrate different degrees of the property expressed, a different intensity of the quality implied, different quantitative parametres involved (“I am sorry, I am so very sorry, I am so extremely sorry”).

A gradual increase in significance may be maintained in three ways: logical, emotional and quantitative.

Logical climax is based on the relative importance of the component parts evaluated both objectively and subjectively. (“Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him, and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails, as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!’”

Emotional climax is based on the relative emotional tension produced by words with emotive meaning. (“He was pleased when the child began to adventure across floors on hand and knees; he was gratified, when she managed the trick of balancing herself on two legs; he was delighted when she first said ‘ta-ta’; and he was rejoiced when she recognized him and smiled at him”).

Quantitative climax is the evident increase in the volume of the corresponding concepts (“They looked at hundreds of houses; they climbed thousands of stairs; they inspected innumerable kitchens.”\W. S. Maugham\).

5.1.9. antithesis.

In order to characterize a thing or phenomenon from a specific point of view, it may be necessary not to find points of resemblance or association between it and some other thing or phenomenon, but to find points of sharp contrast, that is, to set one against the other (‘a saint abroad, and a devil at home’; better to reign in hell than serve in heaven’).

Stylistic opposition, which is given a special name of antithesis, is of a different linguistic nature: it is based on relative opposition which arises out of the context through the expansion of objectively contrasting parts (“Youth is lovelyage is lonely,

Youth is fiery, age is frosty”\Longfellow\). The two opposed notions may refer to the same object of thought or to different objects.

However, it is essential to distinguish between antithesis and what is termed contrast. Contrast is a literary (not a linguistic) device based on logical opposition between the phenomena set one against another.


5.2. Particular ways of linkage.

Much light can be thrown on the nature of linkage of parts of the utterance.

5.2.1. asyndeton;

5.2.2. polysyndeton;

5.2.3. the gap-sentence link.

5.3. particular use of colloquial constructions:

5.3.1. ellipsis;

5.3.2. aposiopesis (break-in-the-narrative);

5.3.3. question-in-the-narrative;

5.3.4. represented speech;

5.4. stylistic use of structural meaning:

5.4.1. rhetorical questions;

5.4.2. litotes.
Litotes is a stylistic device consisting of a peculiar use of negative constructions. The negation plus noun or adjective serves to establish a positive feature in a person or thing. This positive feature, however, is somewhat diminished in quality as compared with a synonymous expression making a straightforward assertion of the positive feature.
Let us compare the following two pairs of sentences:

  1. It's not a bad thing.—It's a good thing.
  2. He is no coward.—He is a brave man.

Not bad is not equal to good although the two constructions are synonymous. The same can be said about the second pair, no coward and a brave man. In both cases the negative construction is weaker than the affirmative one. Still we cannot say that the two negative constructions produce a lesser effect than the corresponding affirmative ones. Moreover, the negative constructions here have a stronger impact on the reader than the affirmative ones. The latter have no additional connotation; the former have. That is why such constructions are regarded as stylistic devices. Litotes is a deliberate understatement used to produce a stylistic effect. It is not a pure negation, but a negation that includes affirmation. Therefore here, as in the case of rhetorical questions, we may speak of transference of meaning, i. e. a device with the help of which two meanings are materialized simultaneously: the direct (ne­gative) and transferred  (affirmative).

So the negation in litotes must not be regarded as a mere denial of the quality mentioned. The structural aspect of the negative combination backs up the semantic aspect: the negatives no and not are more emphatic­ally pronounced than in ordinary negative sentences, thus bringing to mind   the   corresponding   antonym.

The stylistic effect of litotes depends mainly on intonation. If we compare two intonation patterns, one which suggests a mere denial (It is not bad as a contrary to It is bad) with the other which suggests the positive quality of the object (It is not bad—it is good), the difference will become apparent. The degree to which litotes carries the positive quality in itself can be estimated by analysing the semantic structure of the word which is negated.

1. "Whatever defects the tale possessed—and they were not a few—it had, as delivered by her, the one merit of seeming like truth."

  1. "He was not without taste..."
  2. "It troubled him not a little...."
  3. "He found that this was no easy task."
    1. "He was no gentle lamb, and the part of second fiddle would
      never do for the high-pitched dominance of his nature." (Jack
    2. "She was wearing a fur coat... Carr, the enthusiastic appreciator
      of smart women and as good a judge of dress as any man to be
      met in a Pall Mall club, saw that she was no country cousin.
      She had style, or 'devil', as he preferred to call it."

The negation does not merely indicate the absence of the quality mentioned but suggests the presence of the opposite quality. Charles Bally, a well-known Swiss linguist, states that negative sentences are used with the purpose of "refusing to affirm".

In sentences 5 and 6 where it is explained by the context, litotes reveals its true function. The idea of 'no gentle lamb' is further strengthened by the 'high-pitched dominance of his nature'; the function and meaning of 'no country cousin' is made clear by 'as good a judge of dress...', 'she had style...'. Thus, like other stylistic devices, litotes displays a simultaneous materialization of two meanings: one negative, the other affirmative. This interplay of two grammatical meanings is keenly felt: the affirmation suppresses the negation, the latter being only the form in which the real pronouncement is moulded. Litotes is a means by which this natural logical and linguistic property of negation can be strengthened. The two senses of the litotic expression, negative and positive, serve a definite stylistic purpose.

A variant of litotes is a construction with two negations, as in not unlike, not unpromising, not displeased and the like. Here, according to general logical and mathematical principles, two negatives make a positive. Thus in the sentence—"Soames, with his lips and his squared chin was not unlike a bull dog" (Galsworthy), the litotes may be interpreted as somewhat resembling.


Stylistic means of the language.


  1. 1. Style and stylistics.
  2. 2. Norm, invariant and variants.
  3. 3. Expressive means and stylistic devices.
  4. 4. General notes on functional styles of language.
  5. 5. Varieties of language.

  1. 1. Style and stylistics.

Stylistics is a branch of general linguistics. It deals mainly with 2 interdependent tasks:

-          the investigation of the inventory of special language media which by their features secure the desirable effect of the utterance;

-          certain types of texts (discourse) which due to the choice and arrangement of language means are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of the communication.

The types of texts that are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of the communication are called functional styles of the language (FS); the special media of language which secure the desirable effect of the utterance are called stylistic devices (SD) and expressive means (EM).


  1. 2. Norm, invariant and variants.


The treatment  of the selected elements brings up the problem of the norm. The notion of the norm mainly refers to the literary language and always presupposes a recognized or received standard. At the same time it likewise presupposes the deviation from the received standard.

There is no universally accepted norm of the standard literary language; there are different norms, and there exist special kinds of norm which are called stylistic norms. For example, the norms of the spoken and the written varieties of language differ in many respects. It is also perfectly apparent that the norms of emotive prose and of official language are heterogeneous. Even within the belles-lettres style we can observe different norms between, for instance, poetry and drama.

The fact that there are different norms for various types and styles of language does not exclude the possibility and even the necessity of arriving at some abstract notion of norm as an invariant, which embraces all variants with their most typical properties. Thus, each style of language will have its own invariant and variants.

The norm is regarded as the invariant of the phonemic, morphological, lexical and syntactical patterns circulating in language-in-action at a given period of time.

We are to distinguish between language-as-a-system and language-in-action.

Language-as-a-system may figuratively be depicted as an exploiter of language-in-action. All rules and patterns of language which are col­lected, and classified in works on grammar, phonetics, lexicology and stylistics first appear in language-in-action, whence they are genera­lized and framed as rules and patterns of language-as-a-system.

So it is with stylistic devices. Being born in speech they have grad­ually become recognized as certain patternized structures: phonetic, morphological, lexical, phraseological and syntactical, and duly taken away from their mother, Speech, and made independent members of the family, Language.

The same concerns the issue of functional styles of language. Once they have been recognized as independent, more or less closed subsys­tems of the standard literary language, they should be regarded not as styles of speech but as styles of language.

The expressive means of English and the stylistic devices used in the literary language can only be understood (and made use of) when a thorough knowledge of the language-as-a-system, i.e. of the phonetic, grammatical and lexical data of the given language, has been attained.


  1. 3. Expressive means and stylistic devices.


In linguistics there are different terms to denote particular means by which utterances are foregrounded, i.e. 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 language means contain meaning—some of them contain generally acknowledged grammatical and lexical meanings, others besides these contain specific meanings called stylistic. Such meanings go alongside primary meanings and, as it were, are superim­posed on them.

Stylistic meanings are so to say de-automatized. The process of automatization, i.e. a speedy and subconscious use of lan­guage data, is one of the ways of making communication easy and quickly decodable.

But when a stylistic meaning is involved, the process of de-automatization checks the reader's perception of the language. His attention is arrested by a peculiar use of language media and he begins to decode it. He becomes aware of the form in which the utterance is cast and as the result of this process a twofold use of the language – ordinary and stylistic – becomes apparent to him.

The category of expressiveness in its etymological sense may be understood as a kind of intensification of an utterance depending on the position in the utterance of the means that manifest this category.

It must not be confused with emotiveness. Emotiveness reveals the emotions of writer and speaker. It is designed to awaken co-experience of the reader.

Expressiveness is the broader notion than emotiveness. Emotiveness is an integral part of expressiveness and, as a matter of fact, occupies a predominant position in the category of expressiveness.

The expressive means of a 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 intensification of the utterance.

These intensifying forms have a special function of making the utterance emphatic. Some of these forms are normalized, and good dictionaries label them as “intensifiers”. In most cases they have corresponding neutral synonymous forms. (He shall do it! = I’ll make him do it.)

Expressiveness may also be achieved by compositional devices in utterances comprising a number of sentences.

The most powerful  expressive means of any language are phonetic. The human voice can indicate subtle nuances of meaning that no other means can attain. Pitch, melody, stress, pausation, drawling out certain syllables, whispering, a sing–song manner and other ways of using the voice are much more effective than any other means in intensifying an utterance emotionally or logically.

Professor Seymour Chatman introduces the term 'phonostylistics' and defines it as a subject the purpose of which is "the study of the ways in which an author elects to constrain the phonology of the language beyond the normal - requirements of the phonetic system." Phonetic expressive means and particu­larly phonetic stylistic devices are not deviations from "the normal requirements of the phonetic system" but a way of actualizing the typical in the given text. Vocal phenomena such as drawling, whisper­ing, etc. should be regarded as parts of the phonemic system on the same level as pitch, stress and tune.

Passing over to the morphological expressive means of the English language, we must point to set of media to which the quality of expressiveness can be attributed. However, there are some which alongside their ordinary grammatical function display a kind of emphasis and thereby are promoted to EMs. These are, for example, The Historical Present; the use of shall in the second and third person; the use of some demonstrative pronouns with an emphatic meaning as those, them ("Those gold candles fixed in heaven's air"—Shakespeare); some cases of nominalization, particularly when conversion of verbal stems is alien to the meaning of the verbs or the nominalization of phrases "and sentences and a number of other morphological forms, which acquire expressiveness in the context.

Among the word-building means we find a great many forms which serve to make the utterance more expressive by intensifying some of their semantic and/or grammatical properties. The diminutive suffixes -y (-ie), -let, e.g. 'dearie', 'sonny', 'auntie', 'streamlet', add some emotional colouring to the words. We may also refer to what are called neologisms and nonce-words formed with non-productive suffixes or with Greek roots, as 'mistressmanship', 'cleanorama'. Certain affixes have gained such a power of expressiveness that they begin functioning as separate words, absorbing all of the generalizing meaning they attach to different roots, as, for example, 'isms and ologies'.

At the lexical level there are a great many words which due to their inner expressiveness constitute a special layer. There are words with emotive meaning only (interjections), words which have both referential and emotive meaning (epithets), words which still retain a twofold meaning: denotative and connotative (love, hate, sympathy), words belonging to the layers of slang and vulgar words, or to poetic or archaic layers.

All kinds of set phrases (phraseological units) generally possess the property of expressiveness. Set phrases, catch words, proverbs, sayings comprise a considerable number of language units which serve to make speech emphatic, mainly from the emotional point of view. Their use in every-day speech is remarkable for the subjective emotional colouring they produce.

Due to the generally emotional character of colloquial language, all kinds of set expressions are natural in everyday speech. They are part and parcel of this form of human intercourse. But when they appear in written texts they become expressive means. The set expression is a time-honoured device to enliven speech, but this device is more sparingly used in written texts.

At the syntactical level there are many constructions which reveal a certain degree of logical or emotional emphasis.

To distinguish between expressive means and stylistic devices, it is necessary to bear in mind that expressive means are concrete facts of language.

Stylistics studies the expressive means of language, but from a special angle. It takes into account the modifications of meanings which various expressive means undergo when they are used in different functional styles. Expressive means have a kind of radiating effect. They noticeably colour the whole of the utterance no matter whether they are logical or emotional.

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

It follows then that an SD is an abstract pattern, a mould into which any content can be poured.

SDs function in texts as marked units. They always carry some kind of additional information, either emotive or logical.

The motivated use of SDs in a genuine work of emotive literature is not easily discernible, though they are used in some kind of relation to the facts, events, or ideas dealt with in the artistic message. Most SDs display an application of two meanings: the ordinary one, in other words, the meaning (lexical or structural) which has already been established in the language-as-a-system, and a special meaning which is superimposed on the unit by the text, i.e. a meaning which appears in the language-in-action.

Sometimes, however, the twofold application of a lexical unit is accomplished not by the interplay of two meanings but by two words (generally synonyms) one of which is perceived against the background of the other.


The birth of SDs is a natural process in the development of language media. Language units which are used with more or less definite aims of communication in various passages of writing and in various functional styles begin gradually to develop new features, a wider range of functions, thus causing polyfunctionality.

Expressive means have a greater degree of predictability than stylistic devices. They follow the natural course of thought, intensifying it by means commonly used in language. SDs carry a greater amount of information and therefore require a certain effort to decode their meaning and purport. SDs must be regarded as a special code which has to be well known to the reader in order to be deciphered easily.

SDs are used sparingly in motive prose.

It is necessary to distinguish between a stylistic use of a language unit, which acquires what we call a stylistic meaning, and a stylistic device, which is the realization of an already well-known abstract scheme designed to achieve a particular artistic effect. Thus many facts of English grammar are said to be used with stylistic meaning. But most of them have not yet been raised to the level of SDs because they remain unsystematized and so far perceived as nonce uses.


  1. 4. General notes on functional styles of language.


A functional style of language is a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication.

It is to be regarded as the product of a certain concrete task set by the sender of the message. FSs appear mainly in the literary standard of a language.

The standard English literary language in the course of its development has fallen into several subsystems each of which has acquired its own peculiarities which are typical of the given functional style. The members of the language community recognize these styles as independent wholes. One set of language media stands in opposition to other ones with other aims, and these other sets have other choices and arrangements of language means.

In the English literary standard we distinguish the following major FSs:

  1. The language of belles-lettres.
  2. The language of publicistic literature.
  3. The language of newspapers.
  4. The language of scientific prose.
  5. The language of official documents.

Each FS may be characterized by a number of distinctive features, leading or subordinate, constant or changing, obligatory or optional.

Each FS is subdivided into a number of substyles. These represent varieties of the abstract invariant. Each variety has basic features common to all the varieties of the given FS  and peculiar features typical of this variety alone. Still a substyle can, in some cases, deviate so far from the invariant that in its extreme it may even break away.

The belles-lettres style has the following substyles:

a) the language style of poetry;

b) the language style of emotive prose;

c) the language style of drama.

The   publicistic FS comprises the  following  substyles:

a) the language style of oratory;

b) the language style of essays;

c) the language style of feature articles in newspapers and journals.

The newspaper F S falls into:

a) the language style of brief news items and communiques;

b) the language style of newspaper headings;

c) the language style of notices and advertisements.

The scientific prose F S also has three divisions:

a) the language style of humanitarian sciences;

b) the language style of "exact" sciences;

c) the language style of popular scientific prose.

The official document F S can be divided into four varieties:

a) the language style of diplomatic documents;

b) the language style of business documents;

c) the language style of legal documents;

d) the language style of military documents.

The classification presented here is by no means arbitrary. It is the result of long and minute observations of factual material in which not only peculiarities of language usage were taken into account but also extralinguistic data, in particular the purport of the communication.

5. Varieties of language

The functioning of the literary language in various spheres of human activity and with different aims of communication has resulted in its differentiation. This differentiation is predetermined by two distinct factors, namely, the actual situation in which the language is being used and the aim of the communication.

The actual situation of the communication has evolved two varieties of language—the spoken and the written. The varying aims of the communication have caused the literary language to fall into a number of self-sufficient systems (functional styles of language).

Of the two varieties of language, diachronically the spoken is primary and the written is secondary. Each of these varieties has developed its own features and qualities which in many ways may be regarded as opposed to each other.

The situation in which the spoken variety of language is used and in which it develops, can be described concisely as the presence of an interlocutor. The written variety, on the contrary, presupposes the absence of an interlocutor. The spoken language is maintained in the form of a dialogue, the written in the form of a monologue. The spoken language has a considerable advantage over the written, in that the human voice comes into play. This is a powerful means of modulating the utterance, as are all kinds of gestures, which, together with the intonation, give additional information.

The written language has to seek means to compensate for what it lacks. Therefore the written utterance will inevitably be more diffuse, more explanatory. In other words, it has to produce an enlarged representation of the communication in order to be explicit enough.