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Phonographical Level and Morphological Level


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Wordsworth's nature poems — analyses
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Phonographical Level and Morphological Level
How to Read and Understand Poetry

Phonographical Level and Morphological Level

Phonographical Level

1.Sound Instrumentin.


3.Graphical Means.

A phoneme has a unilateral nature. This language unit helps to differentiate meaningful lexemes but has no meaning of its own. The sounds [ou], [ju:] do not have the meaning, but their sense-differentiating significance is obvious in “sew” [sou] and “sew” [sju:], or [au] and [ou] in “bow” « » and «

A phoneme is devoid of denotational or connotational meaning, but it has a strong associative and sound-instrumental power. In this case we speak of onomatopoeia [ ], that is when the sounds of the words imitate the sounds of the signified objects or actions. For example, “hiss” - « », “murmur” - « », “bump” - « », “sizzle” - « », ”cuckoo” - «

- “And now there came the chock-chock of wooden hammers!” (K.Mansfield).

- “The Germans heavies gave him a last amiable farewell…The train waited interminably. Zwiing, crash! to the right. Zwiing, crash! to the left. He sat there alone for thirty-five minutes - thirty-five Zwiing, crash!” (R.Aldington).

The acoustic form of the word imitates the sounds of nature, man, inanimate objects. This form foregrounds it and emphasizes its meaning. Thus the phonemic structure of the words is very important for the creation of expressive and emotive connotations. If a word contains an onomatopoeic word it does not transmit the logical information only. It also supplies the vivid portrayal of the situation described.

Poetry abounds in some specific types of sound-instrumenting. The leading role in it belongs to alliteration [ ] and assonance [ ].

Alliteration is a repetition of the same consonant at the beginning of neighbouring words or accented syllables. In Anglo-Saxon verse alliteration of the stressed syllables in a line was the chief metrical device. In modern times alliteration has been used for onomatopoeic or emphatic effects.

“There are twelve months in all the year,

As I hear many men say,

But the merriest month in all the year

Is the merry month of May.” (Popular Ballads)

Assonance is the repetition of similar vowels, usually in stressed syllables. It is sometimes combined with likeness in consonants.

“Once upon a midnight dreary

While I pondered, weak and weary,

And the Raven never flitting,

Still is sitting, still is sitting.” (E.Poe)

As alliteration as assonance may produce the effect of euphony [ ] or cacophony

].Euphony is a sense of ease and comfort in pronouncing or hearing. It is an effective combination of sounds which are capable of producing a certain artistic impression. It is a kind of sound-instrumenting. In it the meaning of the word or rather the general mood of the verse or prose passage is supported by a sound image.

“In notes with many a winding bout

Of linked sweetness long drawn out,

With wanton heed and giddy cunning

The melting voice through mazes running.” (J. Milton)

Cacophony is a sense of strain and discomfort in pronouncing or hearing.

“No soul helps flesh now

More than flesh helps soul.” (R.Browning)

Sound instrumenting is seldom used to create additional information in a prose discourse.

Sound may be foregrounded through the change of its accepted graphical representation. It is done mainly in contemporary advertising, mass media and, above all, creative prose. This intentional violation of the graphical shape of a word or word combination is called graphon. It is used to reflect the authentic pronunciation of a word or word combination. Graphons indicate irregularities or carelessness of pronunciation. They were occasionally introduced into English novels and journalism at the beginning of the 18th century. Since then they have acquired an ever growing frequency of usage, popularity among writers, journalists, advertisers.

Graphon is a brief but effective means. It supplies information about the speaker’s origin, social and educational background, physical and emotional condition, etc. The famous W.Thackeray’s character - buttler Yellowplush - impress his listeners with the learned words but he pronounces them as “sellybrated” (celebrated), “bennyviolent” (benevolent), “illygimit” (illegimate), “jewinile” (juvenile). No less famous S.Lewis’s Mr.Babbitt uses “pee-rading” (parading), “Eytalians” (Italians), “peepul” (people). The reader obtains not only the vivid image and the social, cultural, educational characteristics of the personages, but also the authors’ sarcastic attitude to them. On the other hand, “The b-b-b-b-bas-tud-he seen me c-c-c-coming” in R.P.Warren’s Sugar Boy’s speech or “You don’t mean to thay that thith is your firth time” (D.Cusak) show the physical defects of the speakers - the stumbling of one and the lisping of the other. Graphon individualizes the character’s speech. It adds to his plausibility, vividness, memorability. At the same time graphon is very good at conveying the atmosphere of the informality of the speech act.

Some amalgated forms are the result of strong assimilation. They became clichés in contemporary prose dialogue:”gimme” (give me), “lemme” (let me), “gonna” (going to), “gotta” (got to), “coupla” (couple of), “mighta” (might have), “willya” (will you), etc.

The flavour of informality and authenticity brought graphon popularity with advertisers. Eating places: “Pik-kwik store”, The Donut (doughnut) Place”,”Rite Bread Shop”. The same is true about newspaper, posters and TV advertising: “Super Class Model” cars, “Rite aid” medicine. On the flaps of big freight cars one can read: “Follo me”, etc.

Graphical changes may reflect not only the peculiarities of pronunciation. There are also to convey the intensity of the stress. They emphasize and thus foreground the stressed words. Such purely graphical means do not involve the violations. These are all changes of the type (italics, capitalization), spacing of graphemes (hyphenation, multiplication), and the changes of lines. The latter was widely used in Russian poetry by V.Mayakovsky (“steps” in verse line), or A.Voznesensky. In English the most often referred to “graphical imagist” was Edward Estein Cunnings: Grasshopper



a)s w(e loo)k upnowgath






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According to the frequency of usage, variability of functions, the first place among graphical means of foregrounding is occupied by italics. When we use italics, we add to the logical and emotive significance of the words. Besides this we may italicize separate syllables and morphemes emphasizing them.

Intensity of speech (often in commands) is transmitted through multiplication of a graphon or through capitalization of the word: “Alllll aboarrrrrd”, “Help! Help! HELP!”

Hyphenation of a word suggests the rhymed or clipped manner in which the word is pronounced: “grinning like a chim-pan-zee” (a humiliating comment from Fl. O’Connor’s story).

The varied application of the graphical arrangement of a word (a line, a discourse) re-creates the individual and social; peculiarities of the speaker, the atmosphere at revealing and emphasizing the author’s viewpoint.

Morphological Level

1.Morphemic Repetition

2. Extension of Morphemic Valency

The basic unit of the morphological level is a morpheme. A morpheme is foregrounded and it becomes vehicle of additional information - logical, emotive, and expressive.

One important way of promoting a morpheme is its repetition. Both roots and affixation morphemes can be emphasized through repetition. Especially vividly it is observed in the repetition of affixational morphemes. Normally they carry the main weight of the structural significance and not of the denotational significance. When repeated they come into the focus of attention. They stress their logical meaning: “She unchanged, unbolted and unlocked the door”. Such prefixes like a-, anti-, mis-, may stress contrast, negation, absence of a quality; such suffixes like -ling, -ette may stress the quality of smallness. The suffixes forming degrees of comparison stress their emotive and evaluative meaning, or they add to the rhythmical effect and text unity.

The second way of promoting a morpheme is extension of its normative valency. It results in the formation of new words. They are not neologisms in the true sense. They are created for special communicative situations only. They are not used beyond these occasions. This is why they are called occasional words. They are characterized by freshness, originality, lucidity of their inner form and morphemic structure: “His guest was washed, mended, brushed and branded”. Very often occasional words are the result of morphemic repetition: “I am an undersecretary in an underbureau”.

In case of repetition a morpheme gains much independence. It bears major responsibility for the creation of additional information and for the creation of stylistic effect. In case of occasional words an individual morpheme is only instrumental in bringing forth the impact of their combination, i.e. of new individual lexical unit.


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