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Stylistic Differentiation of the Vocabulary


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Stylistic Differentiation of the Vocabulary.

1. Literary Stratum of words.

        Neutral, Literary and Colloquial Words.

2. Special Literary Words:

        a) terms;                      b) archaisms.

3. Special Colloquial Words:

        a) slang;                       b) jargonisms;

        c) vulgarisms;             d) dialectal words.

  The word stock of any language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups. They differ from each other by the sphere of its possible use.

   The biggest division is made up by neutral words. They possess no stylistic connotation and they are suitable for any communicative situation. Two smaller groups are literary and colloquial words. Literary words serve to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages. Colloquial words are employed in non-official everyday communication. There is no immediate communication between the written and the oral forms of speech, or between the literary and colloquial words. But for the most part literary words are mainly observed in the written form, as most literary messaged appear in writing. On the other hand, the usage of colloquial words is associated with the oral form of communication. Though there are many examples of colloquialisms in writing: informal letters, diaries, certain pages of memoirs, etc. If we take for analysis printed materials we shall find literary words in authorial speech, descriptions, and considerations. Colloquialisms will be observed in the types of discourse which copy everyday oral communication - in the dialogue of prose work, etc. Some speech or text fragment may be classified as literary or colloquial. But it does not mean that all the words of the fragment have a corresponding stylistic meaning. Words with a pronounced stylistic connotation are few in ant type of discourse. The overwhelming majority of its lexics is neutral. L.V.Shcerba once said that a stylistically coloured word is like a drop of paint which is added to a glass of pure water and coloures the whole of it. Literary and colloquial words possess a stylistic meaning, but they are not homogeneous as to the quality of the meaning, frequency of use, sphere of application, or the number and character of potential users. This is why each group is further divided into the general and special bulk. General literary words are also called learned, bookish, high-flown. Special literary words and general literary words contribute to the massage the tone on solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness.

   General ones are known to and used by most native speakers in generalized literary (formal) or colloquial (informal) communication. Special ones are subdivided into subgroups. Each one serves a rather narrow, specified communicative purpose. Two major subgroups among special literary words are terms and archaisms. Terms are words which denote objects, processes, phenomena of science, humanities, technique. Certain terms appear in a literary composition. They reveal the profession of a character, or they are used to secure the necessary exactness in the terminology of a science: “Eric withdrew his head from the barrel of a microscope, turned on his stool and started absently out of the window next to his experimental lathe”.

   Archaisms are ancient or obsolete words, gone out of current use:

                                         “He held him with his skinny hand,

                                          ‘There was a ship’, quoth he.

                                          ‘Hold off! Unhand me, grey-bead loon!’

                                          Eftsoone his hand dropt me”. (T.Coleridge).

   Archaisms may denote historical phenomena, which are no more in use: “yeoman”, “vassal”,falconet”. These are historical words. Archaisms are used in poetry of the 17-18th centuries (“steed” - “horse”, “quoth” - “said”, “woe” - “sorrow”). These are poetic words. Archaisms may be ousted by newer synonymic words or forms in the course of language history: ‘ whereof’ - “of which”, “deen” - “think”, “repast” - “meal”, “nay” - “no”, “maketh” - “makes”, “thou wilt” - “you will”, “brethren” - “brothers”. These words are called archaic words proper.

   General literary words are also called learned, bookish, high-flown. Special literary words and general literary words contribute to the massage the tone on solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness. They are used in official papers and documents, in scientific communication, in high poetry, in authorial speech of creative prose.

   Colloquial words, on the contrary, mark the passage as informal, non-official, and conversational. General colloquial words are widely used by all speakers of the language in their everyday communication: “dad”, “kid”, “ fan ”, “ folks”.

   Slang, jargonisms, vulgarisms, dialectal words form special subgroups of colloquial words.   

   Slang forms the biggest subgroup. They are words in common colloquial use. In some or all of their senses they are outside of the literary language. But they continually force their way into it. Slang words are often humorous, witty. They add the picturesqueness of the language:”Elizabeth came to the flat with a fascinating young Swedish painter she had met at a Chelsea rag that evening. Besides she was a bit sozzled”. (Aldington); “Good bye, sir, and thank you! I’m so fearfully bucked”. (Galsworthy). Slang words are used by most speakers in very informal communication. They are highly emotive and expressive. As such they lose their originality rather fast and are replaced by newer formations. This tendency to synonymic expression results in long chains of synonyms. They are of various degrees of expressiveness and denote one and the same concept. The idea of the concept “a pretty girl” is worded by more than one hundred ways in slang: “cookie”, “tomato”, “Jane”, “sugar”, “bird”. The substandard status of slang words and phrases can be raised to the standard colloquial status through universal usage.

   Professional words are characteristic words and phrases which are used within the sphere of a particular profession. In fiction they are used to mark the speech of a character with certain peculiarities. They are used mostly figuratively. They should not be confused with terms (technical words): “Will she stay the course?” (Galsworthy).

   Jargonisms stand close to slang. They are substandard, expressive and emotive. But, unlike slang, they are used by limited groups of people. These groups of people may be united professionally. In this case we deal with professional jargonisms - professionalisms. They also may be united socially. Here we deal with jargonisms proper. In distinction from slang, jargonisms of both types cover a narrow semantic field.

   Professional jargonisms are connected with the technical side of some profession. In oil industry for the terminological word “driller” there exist “borer”, “digger”, “wrencher”, “hogger”, “brake weight”; for “pipeliner” - “swabber”, “bender”, “cat”, “old cat”, “hammerman”; for “geologist” - “smeller”, “pebble pup”, “rock hound”, “witcher”. Professionalisms are formed according to the existing word-building patterns or present existing words in new meaning. They cover the field of special professional knowledge which is semantically limited. They offer a vast variety of synonymic choices for naming one and the same professional item.

   Jargonisms proper are characterized by similar linguistic features. But they differ in function and sphere of application. They originated from the thieves “jargon” and served to conceal the actual significance of the utterance. Their major function was to be cryptic secretive. This is why among them there are cases of conscious deformation of the existing words.  The so-called “back jargon” (or “back slang”) can serve as an example. Dishonest card-players tried to conceal their machinations, so they used numerals in their reversed form: “ano” for “one”, “owt” for “two”, “erth” for “three”, etc.

   Anglo-American tradition does not differentiate between slang and jargonizes. It regards these groups as one extensive stratum of words. It divides it into general slang and special slang. General slang is used by all or most speakers. Special slang is limited to professional or social standing of the speaker. This debate concentrates more on terminology than on essence. Slang and jargonisms have much in common. They are emotive, expressive, and unstable. They tend to expand synonymity within certain lexico-semantic groups. They are limited to a highly informal, substandard communication. So it seems appropriate to use the indicated terms as synonyms.

   Vulgarisms are coarse words. They have a strong emotive meaning. It is mostly derogatory. They are normally avoided in polite conversation. History of vulgarisms reflects the history of social ethics. In Shakespearean times people were much more linguistically frank in their communication than in the age of Enlightment or the Victorian era. These periods were famous for their prudish and reserved manners. Nowadays words which were labeled vulgar in the 18th and 19th centuries are no more considered as such. At present we are faced with the reverse of the problem. There are practically no words which are banned from use by the modern society. Such intensifiers as “bloody”, “damned”, “cursed”, “hell of” were formerly deleted from literature. They were not allowed in conversation. Now they have lost much of their emotive impact and substandard quality. They may be used in both written and oral speech.

   Dialectal words are normative. They are devoid of any stylistic meaning in regional dialects. But they are used outside of them. In such cases they carry a strong flavour of the locality where they belong. In Great Britain four major dialects are distinguished: Lowland Scotch, Northern, Midland ( entral), Southern. In the USA three major dialects are distinguished: New England, Southern and Midwestern (Central, Midland). These classifications do not include many minor local variations. Dialects differ on the phonemic level. One and the same phoneme is differently pronounced in each of them. They differ also on the lexical level. They have their own names for local existing phenomena. They also supply locally circulating synonyms for the words which are accepted by the language in general. Some of them have entered the general vocabulary and lost their dialectal status: “lad”, “pet”, “squash”.

   Each of these four groups of colloquial words is used by a certain group of people or in certain communicative situation.

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