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STYLISTIC LAYERS OF ENGLISH VOCABULARY

1. Functional styles

2. Stylistic aspects of formal English

3. Colloquialisms as a characteristic feature of informal vocabulary

4. Dialectal and territorial vocabulary variations

5. Different varients of English.

 

1. Functional styles

The term stylistics denotes a new discipline surveying the entire system of expressive resources available in a particular language. Linguistically a functional style may be defined as a system of peculiar expressions which belong to a specific sphere of communication. By the sphere of communication is meant the circumstances attending the process of speech in each particular case: a professional communication, a formal letter, a lecture, an informal talk, etc. All these circumstances or situations can be classified into two types: formal and informal.

The term formal English is used to cover those varieties of the English vocabulary that occur in books and magazines, what we hear from a lecturer, a public speaker or, possibly, in formal official talk. Informal vocabulary is used in personal everyday communication and may be determined socially or regionally (dialect).

Accordingly, functional styles are classified into two groups, with further subdivision depending on different situations.

 

2. Stylistic aspects of formal English

Formal style is restricted to formal situations. Literary-bookish words (the so-called learned words) belong to the formal style and fall into further subgroups:

1) officialese words of the official, bureaucratic language (they should be avoided in speech and in print), e.g. assist (for help), endeavour (for try), proceed (for go), inquire (for ask), etc. An official letter from a Government Department may serve as a typical example of officialese. It goes: You are authorized to acquire the work in question by purchase through the ordinary trade channel. Such sentence can be translated into plain English as: We advise you to buy the book in a shop.

2) literary words are mostly polysyllabic drawn from the Romance languages and, though fully adapted to the English phonetic system, some of them continue to sound foreign. They are associated with the lofty contexts in which they have been used for centuries. Their sounds create complex and solemn associations, e.g. solitude, fascination, felicity, illusionary, etc.




3) poetic diction lofty words, as a rule more abstract in their denotative meaning, sometimes archaic, colouring and traditionally used only in poetry. The following examples are given in oppositions with their stylistically neutral synonyms, e.g. array::clothes, gore::blood, hapless::unhappy, ye::you, albeit::althoug.

4) archaic and obsolete wordswhich are no longer in general use or out of use for at least a century, e.g. morn (for morning), eve (for evening), damsel (for girl), kin (for relatives), etc.

5) barbarisms are words or expressions borrowed without any change in form and not accepted by native speakers as current in the language, e.g. entre nous (confidential), en regle (according to rules), bon mot (witticism), etc.

6) literary neologisms are words and word-groups that denote new concepts, e.g. roam-a-phone (a portable telephone), graviphoton (a hypothetical particle), NIC (newly-industrializing country), etc. Among neologisms we can find the so-termed occasional words (or nonce-words) coined for a particular situation or context and aimed at a certain stylistic effect; some nonce-words coined by famous English authors have penetrated to the Standard English vocabulary and are registered in dictionaries, e.g. Lilliputian (J.Swift), snob (W.M.Thackeray), etc.

7) potential words are words based on productive word-formation patterns and devoid of any stylistic colouring. Most of them compose numerals (e.g. thirty five, four hundred and sixteen), adjectives with the semi-suffix like (e.g. moth-like, soldier-like) and some other widely distributed patterns. Being easily coined and understood, potential words are not registered in dictionaries.

8) professional terminology includes special medical vocabulary, special terminology for psychology, botany, music, linguistics, teaching methods and many others. Term is a word or a word-group which is specially employed by a particular branch of science, conveying a concept peculiar to this particular activity, e.g. bilingual, palatalization, labialization (terms of theoretical phonetics).

3. Colloquialisms as a characteristic feature of informal vocabulary

Colloquial words are charecteristic feature of the informal style of spoken English. We distinguish literary and non-literary colloquial words.

Literary colloquial words are informal words that are used in every day conversational speech both by cultivated and uneducated people of all age groups and also met in written literary texts.They are closer to neutral words, both etymologically and structurally than to bookish words, e.g. pal and chum are colloquial equivalents of friend, bit and snack stand for meal, to have a crush on somebody is a colloquial equivalent of to be in love. Affixation predominates here, especially suffixation forming diminutives like -ie, -y, -kin, -ette, -let, -ish, etc. For example, birdie, kitty, daughterkin, kitchenette, piggish and others. A considerable number of shortenings, post-positional adverbs, hyperbolic expressions are found among the words of this type, e.g. pram, exam, phone, lab, zip (shortenings); put up, put over, make up, make out, do away (post-positional adverbs); awfully nice, terribly sweet, unutterably exotic (hyperbolic expressions), etc.

Literary colloquial words are to be distinguished from familiar or non-literary colloquialwords. It is possible to discern slang, jargonisms, professionalisms and vulgarisms.

Slang is a language of a highly colloquial style, considerd as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense (Oxford English Dictionary). All or most slang words are current words whose meaning have been metaphorically shifted. Each slang metaphor is rooted in a joke, but not a kind or amusing joke. This is the criterion for distinguishing slang from colloquialisms: most slang words are metaphors and jocular, often with a coarse, mocking, cynical colouring and figurative, e.g. attic (head), beans (money), saucers (eyes), soaked (drunk), etc. The circle of users of slang is more narrow than that of colloquialisms. It is mainly used by young and uneducated. A considerable part of slang may become accepted by nearly all groups of speakers because they are not specific for any social or professional group. Therefore, such terms as army slang, school slang, sea slang and such like are rather inaccurate.

Jargonisms are informal words peculiar for a certain social or professional group, for example such words as a bird (rocket, spacecraft), to grab (to make an impression on somebody) are words of newspapers jargon; grass, tea, weed (narcotic) drug addicts jargon.

Jargonisms should not be confused with the so-called professionalisms which are words connected with the producrive activities of people united by a common occupation or profession. They are understood only by the members of a certain professional group. Thus, for instance conversational expressions peculiar to physicists in M.Wilsoms Live with Lighting, e.g. to shoot holes through means to find drawbacks in the instalment, spark-over short circuit, to kick up to shift, a run an experiment, spotty unstable, etc.

Vulgarisms are rough words, oaths and curses. Some of them are very stable, established by long use. They include:

a) expletives and swear words of abusive character, e.g. the devil, the hell, damn, bloody, what the hell, go to the devil, etc.

b) obscene (or taboo, four-letter) words which are highly indecent.

 

4. Dialectal and territorial vocabulary variations

Standard English is defined by the Random House Dictionary as the English language written and spoken by literate people in both formal and informal usage and that is universally current while incorporating regional differences (Random House Dictionary of the English language. College Edition. N.Y., 1968).

Vocabulary of standard English is contrasted to dialect words or dialectisms belonging to various local dialects, which are varieties of the English language peculiar to some districts and having no normalized literary form. Regional varieties possessing a literary form are called variants. There are two variantsin Great Britain: Scottish English and Irish English. And there are five main groups of dialects: Nothern, Midland, Eastern, Western, Southern. Each of them contains several (up to 10) dialects.

One of the best known Southern dialects is Cockney or London language, the regional dialect of London. It has deep historical roots. In the 16th century, Cockney was simply the language of all Londoners who were not part of the Court, and was spoken by all sorts of people, craftsmen, clerks, shopkeepers and tradesmen. The transformation of Cockney into the working-class speech of East London occured in the 18th century. The City of London was quickly changing into the richest square mile in the world, and the old City dwellers street traders and artisans were driven out. They took their distinctive accents to the docklands of the East End, where they were joined by thousands of farmworkers driven out by the industrial revolution to London from neighbouring countries of Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Middlesex. These country immigrants added their speech traditions to the London language. During the Education Acts of the late 19th century, the emphasis on correct English and the three Rs (considered as forming the base of childrens education. The expression comes from the sound at the beginning of words reading, writing and (a)rithmetic) isolated the speech of the London working class. Cockney attracted the attention of many writers such as Charles Dickens (the street-talk of Mr. Pickwicks devoted servant in Pickwick Papers), Jack London (The People of the Abyss), George B. Shaw (from a Covent Garden flower seller Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion), etc.

The typical pronunciation features of Cockney are as follows:

a) th is replaced by f or v, e.g. barf for bath, bruvver for brother etc;

b) saying [ai] instead of [ei], e.g. [taik] instead of [teik], [`paiin] instead of [`peiin], etc;

c) finding the [n] missing from ing endings like eatin, drinkin, shootin, fishin;

d) the characteristic long [u:], for ew, e.g. [stu:] for stew, [nu:d] for nude, [nu:z] for news;

e) the characteristic rhyming slang, in which some words are substituted by other words rhyming with them, e.g. a bull and a cow for row, pot and pan for man, twist and twirl for girl, weeping willow for pillow.

 

5. Different varients of English

The variety of English spoken in the USA has received the name of American English. It cannot be called a dialect although it is regional variety, because it has a literary normalized form called Standard American whereas a dialect has no literary form.

An Americanisms may be defined as a word or set expression peculiar to the English language as spoken in the USA, e.g. cookie (a biscuit), guess (think), store (shop), etc. An American variant of the English language differs from British English in pronunciation, some minor features of grammar, but chiefly in vocabulary. Besides the American English there are Irish, Scottish, Australian, Canadian ones. Each of these variants has developed a literature of its own, and is characterized by peculiarities in phonetics, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Thus, for example, Canadian English is influenced both by British and American English, but it also has some specific features of its own. Specifically Canadian words are called canadianisms, e.g. shack (a hut), to fathom out (to explain).There are some examples of Australian English: stockman (herdsman), bullock (to work hard), a puncher (the man who conducts a team of oxen) and some others.




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