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NEUTRAL, COMMON LITERARY AND COMMON COLLOQUIAL VOCABULARY

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

We may represent the whole of the word-stock of the English language as being divided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups each of which has a property it shares with all the subgroups within the layer. This common property, which unites the different groups of words within the layer, may be called its aspect. The aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish character. It is this that makes the layer more or less stable. The aspect of thecolloquial layer of words is its lively spoken character. It is this that makes it unstable, fleeting. The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. That means it is unrestricted in its use. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity. It is this that makes the layer the most stable of all.

The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words:

1. common literary; 2. terms and learned words; 3. poetic words; 4. archaic words; 5. barbarisms and foreign words; 6. literary coinages including nonce-words.

The colloquial vocabulary falls into the following groups: 1. common colloquial words; 2. slang; 3. jargonisms; 4. professional words; 5. dialectal words; 6. vulgar words; 7. colloquial coinages.

The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term standard English vocabulary. Other groups in the literary layer are regarded as special literary vocabulary and those in the colloquial layer are regarded as special colloquial (non-literary) vocabulary.

 

Nеиtral words, which form the bulk of the English vocabulary, are used in both literary and colloquial language. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. It is the neutral stock of words that is so prolific in the production of new meanings. Unlike all other groups, the neutral group of words cannot be considered as having a special stylistic colouring, whereas both literary and colloquial words have a definite stylistic colouring.



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Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech. One can always tell а literary word froma colloquial word. This is especially apparent when pairs of synonyms, literary and colloquial, can be formed which stand in contrasting relation.

Colloquial Neutral Literary
kid child infant
chap fellow associate
go on continue proceed
teenage boy youth
     

It goes without saying that these synonyms are not only stylistic but ideographic as well, i. e. there is a definite, though slight, semantic difference between the words. The main distinction between synonyms remains stylistic. Colloquial words are always more emotionally coloured than literary ones. The neutral stratum of words, as the term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a markedly obvious tendency to pass into that layer. The same mау be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer: it can very easily pass into the neutral layer. Still the extremes remain antagonistic and therefore are often used to bring about a collision of manners of speech for special stylistic purposes. The difference in the stylistic aspect of words may colour the whole of an utterance.

The neutral vocabulary may be viewed as the invariant of the standard English vocabulary. The stock of words forming the neutral stratum should in this case be regarded as an abstraction. The words of this stratum are generally deprived of any concrete associations and refer to the concept more or less directly. Synonyms of neutral words, both colloquial and literary, assume a far greater degree of concreteness. They generally present the same notions not abstractly but as a more or less concrete image, that is, in a form perceptible by the senses. This perceptibility by the senses causes subjective evaluations of the notion in question, or a mental image of the concept. Sometimes an impact of a definite kind on the reader or hearer is the aim lying behind the choice of a colloquial or a literary word rather than a neutral one.

Comтоп colloquial vocabularу is represented as overlapping into the standard English vocabulary and is therefore to be considered part of it. It borders both on the neutral vocabulary and on the special colloquial vocabulary, e.g. the words teenager (a young girl or young man) and hippie (hippy) (ayoung person who leads an unordered and unconventional life) are colloquial words passing into the neutral vocabulary. They are gradually losing their non-standard character and becoming widely recognized. However, they have not lost their colloquial association and therefore still remain in the colloquial stratum of the English vocabulary.


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  4. This figure of identity consists in expressive comparison of two objects which have something in common.

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