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The term “style” is polysemantic (has many meanings): a Latin word “stilus” originally meant a writing instrument used by ancient people. Already in classical Latin the meaning was extended to denote the manner of expressing one’s ideas in written or oral form. Jonathan Swift defined style as “ proper words in proper places ”. In present day English the word “style” is used in about a dozen of principle meanings:
  • the characteristic manner in which a writer expresses his/her ideas (e.g. style of Byron )
  • the manner of expressing ideas, characteristic of a literary movement or period
  • the use of language typical of a literary genre (e.g. the style of a comedy , drama , novel ).
  • the selective use of language that depends on spheres / areas of human activity (e.g. style of fiction , scientific prose , newspapers , business correspondence, etc.).
    Stylistics – is the study of style. The very term “stylistics” came in more common use in English only some 45 years ago. Stylistics is a part of style; it studies principles of selecting and using different linguistic means (grammatical and phonetic ) that serve to render shades of meaning.
    The Stylistics of language studies stylistic devices and expressive shades of linguistic units ( words , construction of phrases ).
    The Stylistics of speech studies individual texts viewing the way the message or content is expressed.
    Literary Stylistics concentrates on artistic expressiveness that characterizes a literary work , a writer, or a whole time period.
    Linguistic Stylistics studies linguistic facts from the point of view of their ability to convey extra shades of meaning (connotations – we call them ).
    Stylistics has no fixed single unit of study. Stylistics studies everything that makes the utterance of the text expressive.
    Stylistics is regarded as a relatively new branch of philology, yet its roots go back as far as ancient Greece and Rome.
    In the 18th century there emerged an individualistic psychological view of style and stylistics. According to this view style bears the stamp of individual usage .
    The late 19th century and early 20th century saw the appearance of the pragmatic approach to stylistics: the tendency to regard stylistics as an applied science . It was believed that the chief aim of the stylistics is to improve the style of the reader, to teach him to express his thoughts better.
    In the 50s and 60s there was a rapid growth of interest in stylistics. The methods of structural linguistics were most popular in 70s and 80s.
    Present day stylistic studies have gradually taken a more systematic course . Computer assisted stylistic analysis seems quite promising (e.g. the study of cases of disputed authorship). Although still somewhat chaotic and unorganized stylistics is a vigorous young science with wide potential and prospects.


    Meaning of a word has: a denotation (meaning proper, we find it in dictionaries) and a connotation (an additional shade of meaning). Connotation may be a permanent part of word meaning – it is then called inherent connotation. Connotation is ever present when the word is used. Adherent connotation is the shade of meaning the word requires in a particular context only. Outside this context this shade of meaning is not present.


  • IC may be secured by the very object , quality or notion that word denotes. Positively charged words are: noble , manly, virtue , beauty , love, etc. Negatively charged words: nasty , vulgar, greedy, sin, death , fool , etc.). This connotation is called referential; it depends on the referent ( mean the thing the word stands for).
  • IC may depend on the structure of the word. Such words normally have a transparent structure and more often negative affixes are used (e.g. unkind, impolite, injustice, heartless, etc.). This kind of connotation is purely linguistic.
  • Emotional connotation characterizes words in synonymic sets that occupy the so-called final position (e.g. big – tremendous – “tremendous” has emotional colouring; interesting – amazing; good – marvelous, etc.). The expressive use of language depends on the ability to choose the proper word among those that denote the same thing .
  • IC may comprise the stylistic colouring of the word that is the word belonging to a certain style of language. Words are then either neutralformalinformal (or: neutral – colloquial – literary). This colouring (formal – informal) is always present in a word (e.g. “ drink ” (neutral) – “beverage” (literary) – “ pull ” (colloquial); “home” (neutral) – “ residence ” (literary) – “digs” (colloquial).
    Phonestheme is a subtype of IC. This is a repeated combination of sounds that has a more or less clearly perceived meaning.
    E.g. “fl” combination of sounds conveys the idea of airiness, brightness with the implication of insecurity;
    “sl” has the meaning of slowness and inactivity;
    “spr” conveys the idea of energetic, risk, and lively motion .
    Meaning of a word has: a denotation (meaning proper, we find it in dictionaries) and a connotation (an additional shade of meaning). Connotation may be a permanent part of word meaning – it is then called inherent connotation. Connotation is ever present when the word is used. Adherent connotation is the shade of meaning the word requires in a particular context only. Outside this context this shade of meaning is not present.
    - is evoked only to create a particular context. AC may be positive or negative.
    Negative adherent connotation
  • Grammatical negation results in words becoming negatively charged (e.g. “Science has not got a soul . Cannot help itself.” – science here becomes negative).
  • The neighbourhood or closeness of words bearing adherent negative connotation.
  • Vulgar words in the context lend their negative charge normally to the following word.
  • The same do certain intensifiers, such as: merely, only, too, too much, horribly, perfectly, so, etc.
  • Repetition of a word in a sentence makes the negative charge stronger.
  • Graphic presentation – the inverted commas, quotation marks (e.g. “This ‘sweet’ lady has killed five husbands.”).
  • Uncommon use of punctuation.
  • Exclamatory and interrogatory sentences (e.g. “ Women and votes!).
  • The writer may indicate the quality of the character ’s voice (e.g. “Society,” she said blackly ( shows speaker’s negative attitude ). “Society” becomes negatively because of “blackly”).
    Positive adherent connotation
  • The closeness and neighbourhood of words with inherent positive overtones.
  • We may have comparison a part of which the word becomes.
  • Words “ hope ”, “ wish ”, etc. may affect a word in the context.
  • Repetition of a word.
  • Complementary words.
  • Character’s voice (e.g. “Hatred”, she said, her voice trembling with pleasure .” – “pleasure” turns “hatred” into positive).
    NOUNS : the expressive features of nouns are based on non-typical use of the number, the case , and pronoun substitution. On a transposition of nouns this is observed in personification, in which objects, natural phenomenon and animals are attributed with human feelings or speech (e.g. “The Wind laughed his evil laugh.” –“wind” is combined with typically human aspects). Another case of transposition is zoonymic metaphor. Names of animals, birds , fantastic beings when applied to people become emotionally coloured and often offensive: donkey, duck, mule , snake , wolf , angel, devil , etc. Negative colouring is made stronger by constant epithets and emphatic constructions (e.g. “You filthy swine”, “You lazy dog”). Adjectives when used as nouns become colloquial (e.g. “ come on, lovely ( noun )”). When abstract nouns begin to stand for people – they become emotional (metonymy) (e.g. “The little eccentricity.” – an eccentric child ). Possessive case – the suffix apostrophe “`s” may be added to a phrase or sentence and the result is humor or colloquial touch . The ending of the plural may be added to the sentence with the same effect . Abstract nouns when used with the plural become very expressive.
    ARTICLES : the article with a proper name ads a colloquial touch (e.g. “He was engaged to a Mrs. Haggard.”). Indefinite article:
    • with a family name creates evaluative meaning (e.g. “I do not claim to be a Caruso.”).
    • with names of common people suggests a contemptuous attitude toward them.
    • may convey a feeling of belonging to an aristocratic family (e.g. “Elisabeth was a Tudor .”).

    While listing adjectives normally one article is enough, however the author may use an article with each of adjectives in order to emphasize every word. Absence of the article in the singular of concrete nouns is violation of the norm, yet is used for expressive purposes.
    PRONOUNS : instead of “I” the speaker may use: “one”, “you” to create a close contact with the reader or listener. In colloquial speech the same effect is achieved by “man”, “ chap ”, “fellow”. The speaker may use pronouns “he / she” meaning himself as if viewing himself from the distance and focusing more attention on the speaker. The archaic second personal pronoun “thou” and its forms may be used to create an elevated mood in poetry . In prose they may convey historical background. “It”, “he”, “she” may be involved in personification (e.g. “The Moon smiled her smile .”). “We” may be used to denote only a speaker. “We” – the Majestic Plural – that is used in king or queen ’s orders or manifesto. The Modest Plural – is when “we” is used out of modesty as if involving the audience , and it creates a true to life effect. “They” becomes emotional when used independently. “This / that” may express anger or irritation (“ These people!”). In certain constructions pronouns stand in the end and the phrase becomes very expressive (e.g. ”This idea of his!”).
    ADJECTIVES: expressing features of adjectives concern the degrees of comparison, especially when rules or norms are violated. We do not apply to relative adjectives a comparison, yet it is done for the sake of expressiveness. The ending –er or –est added to longer adjectives violates the norm and has different functions : to suggest excitement , humor, poor education (“She was the beautifulest woman .”). For the sake of humor or for efficient advertising the endings –er and –est are added to “bad”, “good”, “many”. Sometimes even double forms are used.
    VERBS : the Historical Present (present tense ) in the author’s narrative is used to render past events, creating the illusion of things happening at the present moment. Continuous tenses may express surprise , disbelief, indignation. Sometimes continuous tenses are more polite and mild . In the dialogue we may come across ungrammatical instances: I says ; we says; times has changed. These cases reflect ungrammatical, uneducated, original , or excited state of mind. Archaic verbal forms may be used to create the historical background or make the narrative more elevated. On the other hand they may suggest the colloquial speech, because these forms are preserved in dialects (e.g. ending –st (you live – you livest (second person Singular).
    ADVERBS : are expressive when used as intensifiers (e.g. terribly smart , horribly polite, awfully pleased, etc.). Such adverbs give a colloquial touch and their expressiveness depends on 2 incompatible clashing notions put together (oxymoron case). Also degrees of comparison may be involved (e.g. better – weller).
    NUMERALS: on the whole numerals are not expressive but become emphatic when used in exaggeration or hyperbole or when used independently standing for a person (metonymy) (e.g. “You are a beautiful 20.”).
    Words may acquire expressiveness due to their structure.
    Affixation: suffix –ish- with the adjective stem denotes a small degree of some quality (e.g. brownish). Together with nouns – ish – forms adjectives that are negative: doggish, sheepish, childish, etc. The negative colouring is even greater with compound stems (e.g. honeymoonish, etc.). Exception: the words “boyish” and “girlish” do not have negative evaluation. Suffixes may be added to proper names. The suffix –ish- adds a negative colouring.
    The suffixes –ien – and –ean – render the name as lofty (e.g. Shakespearean); suffix –esque- possesses positive connotation.
    The main noun forming suffixes that render negative evaluation are:
    -ard- (e.g. coward, drunkard, etc.),
    - ster - (e.g. gangster, hipster, oldster, etc.),
    -eer- (e.g. rocketeer, profiteer, blackmarketeer, etc.),
    semi affix: -monger (e.g. war-monger, panic-monger, etc.),
    Suffixes of young people slang are: -o- (e.g. kiddo (kid), oldo (old), coppo (cop), etc.); other:
    - happy (e.g. car-happy),
    -dog (e.g. handsome -dog),
    -ola (e.g. chair  chairola). Their effect is often irony or contempt.
    There are affixes that are negative, indicating the absence of some quality, they are very expressive (e.g. “motherless / fatherless” – are more expressive than
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