Stylistics (field of study)
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Stylistics, a branch of
applied linguistics Applied linguistics is an interdisciplinary field which identifies, investigates, and offers solutions to language-related real-life problems. Some of the academic fields related to applied linguistics are education, psychology, Communication stud ...
, is the study and interpretation of texts of all types and/or spoken language in regard to their linguistic and tonal
style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or ...
, where style is the particular
variety Variety may refer to: Arts and entertainment Entertainment formats * Variety (radio) * Variety show, in theater and television Films * Variety (1925 film), ''Variety'' (1925 film), a German silent film directed by Ewald Andre Dupont * Varie ...
of language used by different individuals and/or in different situations or settings. For example, the
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language is in contrast with a "standard language". It refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, n ...
, or everyday language may be used among casual friends, whereas more formal language, with respect to
grammar In linguistics, the grammar of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such constraint ...
, pronunciation or accent, and
lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge (such as nautical or medical). In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word ''lexicon'' derives from Koine Greek language, Greek word (), neuter of () ...
or choice of words, is often used in a cover letter and résumé and while speaking during a job interview. As a discipline, stylistics links
literary criticism Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophical discussion of literature' ...
to
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
. It does not function as an autonomous domain on its own, and it can be applied to an understanding of
literature Literature is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to ...
and
journalism Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day" and that informs society A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social ...
as well as linguistics. Sources of study in stylistics may range from canonical works of writing to popular texts, and from
advertising Advertising is the practice and techniques employed to bring attention to a product or service. Advertising aims to put a product or service in the spotlight in hopes of drawing it attention from consumers. It is typically used to promote a ...
copy to
news News is information about current events. This may be provided through many different Media (communication), media: word of mouth, printing, Mail, postal systems, broadcasting, Telecommunications, electronic communication, or through the tes ...
, non-fiction, and
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of cultural practice, practices, beliefs, artistic output (also known as, popular art or mass art) and cultural objects, objects ...
, as well as to political and religious
discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to any form of communication. Discourse is a major topic in social theory, with work spanning fields such as sociology, anthropology, continental philosophy, and discourse analysis. F ...
. Indeed, as recent work in critical stylistics, multimodal stylistics and mediated stylistics has made clear, non-literary texts may be of just as much interest to stylisticians as literary ones. Literariness, in other words, is here conceived as 'a point on a cline rather than as an absolute'. Stylistics as a conceptual discipline may attempt to establish principles capable of explaining particular choices made by individuals and social groups in their use of language, such as in the literary production and reception of
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...
, the study of
folk art Folk art covers all forms of visual art made in the context of folk culture. Definitions vary, but generally the objects have practical utility of some kind, rather than being exclusively decorative art, decorative. The makers of folk art a ...
, in the study of spoken
dialects The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: One usage refers to a variety (linguisti ...
and registers, and can be applied to areas such as
discourse analysis Discourse analysis (DA), or discourse studies, is an approach to the analysis of written, vocal, or sign language use, or any significant semiotic event. The objects of discourse Analysis (discourse, writing, conversation, communicative symboli ...
as well as literary criticism. Plain language has different features. Common stylistic features are using
dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American and British English spelling differences, American English) is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literature, literary and theatrical form that depicts suc ...
, regional accents and individual idioms (or
idiolects Idiolect is an individual's unique use of language, including speech. This unique usage encompasses vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. This differs from a dialect, a common set of linguistics, linguistic characteristics shared among a group o ...
). Stylistically, also sentence length prevalence and language register use.


Early twentieth century

The analysis of literary style goes back to the study of
classical rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of human activity, and resulting product, that involves creative or imaginative talent expressive of technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no gene ...
, though modern stylistics has its roots in Russian Formalism and the related
Prague School The Prague school or Prague linguistic circle is a language and literature society. It started in 1926 as a group of linguist Linguistics is the science, scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it enta ...
of the early twentieth century. In 1909, Charles Bally proposed stylistics as a distinct academic discipline to complement Saussurean linguistics. For Bally, Saussure's linguistics by itself couldn't fully describe the language of personal expression. Bally's programme fits well with the aims of the Prague School. Taking forward the ideas of the Russian Formalists, the Prague School built on the concept of '' foregrounding'', where it is assumed that poetic language is considered to stand apart from non-literary background language, by means of '' deviation'' (from the norms of everyday language) or '' parallelism''. According to the Prague School, however, this background language isn't constant, and the relationship between poetic and everyday language is therefore always shifting.


Late twentieth century

Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,New Criticism New Criticism was a Formalism (literature), formalist movement in literary theory that dominated American literature, American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to dis ...
in his ''Closing Statement'' at a conference on stylistics at
Indiana University Indiana University (IU) is a state university system, system of Public university, public universities in the U.S. state of Indiana. Campuses Indiana University has two core campuses, five regional campuses, and two regional centers under the ...
in 1958. Published as ''Linguistics and Poetics'' in 1960, Jakobson's lecture is often credited with being the first coherent formulation of stylistics, and his argument was that the study of poetic language should be a sub-branch of linguistics. The ''poetic function'' was one of six general functions of language he described in the lecture. Michael Halliday is an important figure in the development of British stylistics. His 1971 study ''Linguistic Function and Literary Style: An Inquiry into the Language of William Golding's The Inheritors'' is a key essay. One of Halliday's contributions has been the use of the term register to explain the connections between language and its context. For Halliday register is distinct from
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
. Dialect refers to the habitual language of a particular user in a specific geographical or social context. Register describes the choices made by the user, choices which depend on three variables: ''field'' ("what the participants... are actually engaged in doing", for instance, discussing a specific subject or topic),Christopher S. Butler, ''Structure and Function: a Guide to Three Major Structural-Functional Theories'', John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003, p 373. ''
tenor A tenor is a type of classical music, classical male singing human voice, voice whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. It is the highest male chest voice type. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The lo ...
'' (who is taking part in the exchange) and ''mode'' (the use to which the language is being put). Fowler comments that different fields produce different language, most obviously at the level of
vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and learning, acquiring knowledge. Acquiring an extensive vocabulary is one ...
(Fowler. 1996, 192) The linguist
David Crystal David Crystal, (born 6 July 1941) is a British linguistics, linguist, academic, and prolific author best known for his works on linguistics and the English language. Family Crystal was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 6 July 1941 after h ...
points out that Halliday's 'tenor' stands as a roughly equivalent term for 'style', which is a more specific alternative used by linguists to avoid ambiguity (Crystal. 1985, 292). Halliday's third category, ''mode'', is what he refers to as the symbolic organisation of the situation. Downes recognises two distinct aspects within the category of mode and suggests that not only does it describe the relation to the medium: written, spoken, and so on, but also describes the
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...
of the text (Downes. 1998, 316). Halliday refers to genre as pre-coded language, language that has not simply been used before, but that predetermines the selection of textual meanings. The linguist William Downes makes the point that the principal characteristic of register, no matter how peculiar or diverse, is that it is obvious and immediately recognisable (Downes. 1998, 309).


Literary stylistics

In ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language'', Crystal observes that, in practice, most stylistic analysis has attempted to deal with the complex and 'valued' language within literature, i.e. 'literary stylistics'. He goes on to say that in such examination the scope is sometimes narrowed to concentrate on the more striking features of
literary language A literary language is the Register (sociolinguistics), form (register) of a language used in written literature, which can be either a nonstandard dialect or a standard language, standardized variety of the language. Literary language sometimes ...
, for instance, its 'deviant' and abnormal features, rather than the broader structures that are found in whole texts or discourses. For example, the compact language of poetry is more likely to reveal the secrets of its construction to the stylistician than is the language of plays and novels (Crystal. 1987, 71).


Poetry

As well as conventional styles of language there are the unconventional – the most obvious of which is
poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek '' poiesis'', "making"), also called verse, is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre The metre (Brit ...
. In ''Practical Stylistics'', HG Widdowson examines the traditional form of the
epitaph An epitaph (; ) is a short text honoring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves be ...
, as found on headstones in a cemetery. For example:
:His memory is dear today :As in the hour he passed away. :(Ernest C. Draper 'Ern'. Died 4.1.38) :(Widdowson. 1992, 6) Widdowson makes the point that such sentiments are usually not very interesting and suggests that they may even be dismissed as 'crude verbal carvings' and crude verbal disturbance (Widdowson, 3). Nevertheless, Widdowson recognises that they are a very real attempt to convey feelings of human loss and preserve affectionate recollections of a beloved friend or family member. However, what may be seen as poetic in this language is not so much in the formulaic
phraseology In linguistics, phraseology is the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units (often collectively referred to as ''phrasemes''), in which the component parts of the expression tak ...
but in where it appears. The verse may be given undue reverence precisely because of the sombre situation in which it is placed. Widdowson suggests that, unlike words set in stone in a graveyard, poetry is unorthodox language that vibrates with inter-textual implications (Widdowson. 1992, 4). Two problems with a stylistic analysis of poetry are noted by PM Wetherill in ''Literary Text: An Examination of Critical Methods''. The first is that there may be an over-preoccupation with one particular feature that may well minimise the significance of others that are equally important (Wetherill. 1974, 133). The second is that any attempt to see a text as simply a collection of stylistic elements will tend to ignore other ways whereby meaning is produced (Wetherill. 1974, 133).


Implicature

In ' Poetic Effects' from ''Literary Pragmatics'', the
linguist Linguistics is the science, scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure ...
Adrian Pilkington analyses the idea of '
implicature In pragmatics, a subdiscipline of linguistics, an implicature is something the speaker suggests or implies with an utterance, even though it is not literally expressed. Implicatures can aid in communicating more efficiently than by explicitly sayi ...
', as instigated in the previous work of
Dan Sperber Dan Sperber (born 20 June 1942 in Cagnes-sur-Mer) is a French Social science, social and Cognitive science, cognitive scientist and philosopher. His most influential work has been in the fields of cognitive anthropology, linguistic pragmatics, ...
and Deirdre Wilson. Implicature may be divided into two categories: 'strong' and 'weak' implicature, yet between the two extremes there are a variety of other alternatives. The strongest implicature is what is emphatically implied by the speaker or writer, while weaker implicatures are the wider possibilities of meaning that the hearer or reader may conclude. Pilkington's ' poetic effects', as he terms the concept, are those that achieve most relevance through a wide array of weak implicatures and not those meanings that are simply 'read in' by the hearer or reader. Yet the distinguishing instant at which weak implicatures and the hearer or reader's conjecture of meaning diverge remains highly subjective. As Pilkington says: 'there is no clear cut-off point between assumptions which the speaker certainly endorses and assumptions derived purely on the hearer's responsibility.' (Pilkington. 1991, 53) In addition, the stylistic qualities of poetry can be seen as an accompaniment to Pilkington's poetic effects in understanding a poem's meaning.


Tense

Widdowson points out that in
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an English poetry, English poet, literary criticism, literary critic, philosopher, and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romanticism, Romantic ...
's poem "
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ''The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'' (originally ''The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere'') is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an English poetry, ...
" (1798), the mystery of the Mariner's abrupt appearance is sustained by an idiosyncratic use of tense. (Widdowson. 1992, 40) For instance, the Mariner 'holds' the wedding-guest with his 'skinny hand' in the
present tense The present tense (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated or ) is a grammatical tense whose principal function is to locate a situation or event in the present time. The present tense is used for actions which are happening now. In order to ...
, but releases it in the
past tense The past tense is a grammatical tense whose function is to place an action or situation in the past. Examples of verbs in the past tense include the English verbs ''sang'', ''went'' and ''washed''. Most languages have a past tense, with some hav ...
('...his hands dropt he.'); only to hold him again, this time with his 'glittering eye', in the present (Widdowson. 1992, 41).


The point of poetry

Widdowson notices that when the content of poetry is summarised, it often refers to very general and unimpressive observations, such as 'nature is beautiful; love is great; life is lonely; time passes', and so on (Widdowson. 1992, 9). But to say:
:Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, :So do our minutes hasten to their end ... :William Shakespeare, '60'. Or, indeed:
:Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, :Nor hours, days months, which are the rags of time ... :
John Donne John Donne ( ; 22 January 1572 – 31 March 1631) was an English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a recusant family, who later became a clergy, cleric in the Church of England. Under royal patronage, he was made Dean of St Paul's ...
, ' The Sun Rising', ''Poems'' (1633) This language gives the reader a new perspective on familiar themes and allows us to look at them without the personal or social conditioning that we unconsciously associate with them (Widdowson. 1992, 9). So, although the reader may still use the same exhausted words and vague terms like 'love', 'heart' and 'soul' to refer to human experience, to place these words in a new and refreshing context allows the poet the ability to represent humanity and communicate honestly. This, in part, is stylistics, and this, according to Widdowson, is the point of poetry (Widdowson. 1992, 76).


See also

* Acrolect * Aureation *
Basilect A post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum of Variety (linguistics), varieties of a creole language between those most and least similar to the superstrate language (that is, a closely related language whose speaker ...
*
Classical language A classical language is any language with an independent literary tradition and a large and ancient body of written literature. Classical languages are typically Extinct language, dead languages, or show a high degree of diglossia, as the spoken ...
* Gender role in language * Gianfranco Contini * Internet linguistics *
Leo Spitzer Leo Spitzer (; 7 February 1887 – 16 September 1960) was an Austrian Romance studies, Romanist and Hispanist, Philology, philologist, and an influential and prolific literary critic. He was known for his emphasis on Stylistics (linguistics), styl ...
*
Liturgical language A sacred language, holy language or liturgical language is any language that is literary language, cultivated and used primarily in church service or for other religion, religious reasons by people who speak another, primary language in their da ...
* Media stylistics *
Official language An official language is a language given supreme status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciary, ...
*
Philology Philology () is the study of language in oral and writing, written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics (with especially strong ties to etymology). Philology is also defin ...
* Poetics and Linguistics Association *
Standard language A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a variety (linguistics), language variety that has undergone substantial Codification (linguistics), codification of grammar and usage, although occasionally the term ...
* Stylometry


Notes


References and related reading

*
David Crystal David Crystal, (born 6 July 1941) is a British linguistics, linguist, academic, and prolific author best known for his works on linguistics and the English language. Family Crystal was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 6 July 1941 after h ...
. 1998. ''Language Play'' (London: Penguin) *ed. David Birch. 1995. ''Context and Language: A Functional Linguistic Theory of Register'' (London, New York: Pinter) *Michael Burke. 2010. ''Literary Reading, Cognition and Emotion: An Exploration of the Oceanic Mind'' (London and New York: Routledge) *Richard Bradford. 1985. ''A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics'', 2nd edition (Oxford: Basil Blackwell) *Richard Bradford. 1997. ''Stylistics'' (London and New York: Routledge) *Richard Bradford. 1997. ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language'', 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) * Roger Fowler. 1996. ''Linguistic Criticism'', 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) *William Downes. 1995. ''The Language of George Orwell'' (London: Macmillan Press) *William Downes. 1998. ''Language and Society'', 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) *A McIntosh and P Simpson. 1964. ''The Linguistic Science and Language Teaching'' (London: Longman) *Adrian Pilkington. 1991. 'Poetic Effects', ''Literary Pragmatics'', ed. Roger Sell (London: Routledge) *Brian Lamont. 2005. ''First Impressions'' (Edinburgh: Penbury Press) *ed. Jean Jacques Weber. 1996. ''The Stylistics Reader: From Roman Jakobson to the Present'' (London: Arnold Hodder) *ed. Thomas A. Sebeok. 1960. ''Style in Language'' (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) * Geoffrey Leech and Michael H. Short. 1981. ''Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose'' (London: Longman) *
George Orwell Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, social criticism, opposition to totalit ...
. 1949. ''Nineteen Eighty-Four'' (London: Heinemann) * H. G. Widdowson. 1992. ''Practical Stylistics'' (Oxford: Oxford University Press) * * Katie Wales. 2001. ''A Dictionary of Stylistics'', 2nd edition, (Harlow: Longman) * MAK Halliday. 1964. ''Inside the Whale and Other Essays'' (London: Penguin Books) * MAK Halliday. 1978. ''Language as Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning'' (London: Edward Arnold) *Michael Toolan. 1998. ''Language in Literature: An Introduction to Stylistics'' (London: Hodder Arnold) *PM Wetherill. 1974. ''Literary Text: An Examination of Critical Methods'' (Oxford: Basil Blackwell)


External links


A CC licensed introductory course to Stylistics from Lancaster UniversityChecklist of American and British programs in stylistics and literary linguistics

Stylistics – Theoretical issues of stylisticsStylistics from Scratch: My 'Take' on Stylistics and How to Go About a Stylistic Analysis
Professor Mick Short
The ''Poetics and Linguistics Association''
{{DEFAULTSORT:Stylistics (Literature) Stylistics Applied linguistics Literature