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Stylistic devices

A stylistic device is a literary model in which semantic and structural features are blended so that it represents a generalised pattern.

Prof. I. R. Galperin calls a stylistic device a generative model when through frequent use a language fact is transformed into a stylistic device. Thus we may say that some expressive means have evolved into stylistic devices which represent a more abstract form or set of forms. A stylistic device combines some general semantic meaning with a certain linguistic form resulting in stylistic effect. It is like an algorithm employed for an expressive purpose. For example, the interplay, interaction, or clash of the dictionary and contextual meanings of words will bring about such stylistic devices as metaphor, metonymy or irony.

The nature of the interaction may be affinity (likeness by nature), proximity (nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, relation) or contrast (opposition).

Respectively there is metaphor based on the principle of affinity, metonymy based on proximity and irony based on opposition.

The evolution of a stylistic device such as metaphor could be seen from four examples that demonstrate this linguistic mechanism (interplay of dictionary and contextual meaning based on the principle of affinity):

1. My new dress is as pink as this flower: comparison (ground for comparison - the colour of the flower).

2. Her cheeks were as red as a tulip: simile (ground for simile - colour/beauty/health/freshness)

3. She is a real flower: metaphor (ground for metaphor - frail/ fragrant/tender/beautiful/helpless...).

My love is a red, red rose: metaphor (ground for metaphor - passionateIbeautifulIstrong...).

4. Ruby lips, hair of gold, snow-white skin: trite metaphors so frequently employed that they hardly have any stylistic power left because metaphor dies of overuse. Such metaphors are also called hackneyed or even dead.

A famous literary example of an author's defiance against immoderate use of trite metaphors is W. Shakespeare's Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

The more unexpected, the less predictable is the ground for comparison the more expressive is the metaphor which in this case got a special name of genuine or authentic metaphor. Associations suggested by the genuine metaphor are varied, not limited to any definite number and stimulated by the individual experience or imagination.

2.2. Different classifications of expressive means

In spite of the belief that rhetoric is an outmoded discipline it is in rhetoric that we find most of the terms contemporary stylistics generally employs as its metalanguage. Rhetoric is the initial source of information about metaphor, metonymy, epithet, antithesis, chiasmus, anaphora and many more. The classical rhetoric gave us still widely used terms of tropes and figures of speech.

That is why before looking into the new stylistic theories and findings it's good to look back and see what's been there for centuries. The problems of language in antique times became a concern of scholars because of the necessity to comment on literature and poetry. This necessity was caused by the fact that mythology and lyrical poetry was the study material on which the youth was brought up, taught to read and write and generally educated. Analysis of literary texts helped to transfer into the sphere of oratorical art the first philosophical notions and concepts.

The first linguistic theory called sophistry appeared in the fifth century 3. C. Oration played a paramount role in the social and political life of Greece so the art of rhetoric developed into a school.

Antique tradition ascribes some of the fundamental rhetorical notions to the Greek philosopher Gorgius (483-375 В. C). Together with another scholar named Trasimachus they created the first school of rhetoric whose principles were later developed by Aristotle (384-322 В. C.) in his books "Rhetoric" and "Poetics".

Aristotle differentiated literary language and colloquial language. This first theory of style included 3 subdivisions:

• the choice of words;

• word combinations;

• figures.

1. The choice of words included lexical expressive means such as foreign words, archaisms, neologisms, poetic words, nonce words and metaphor.

2. Word combinations involved 3 things:

a) order of words;

b) word-combinations;

c) rhythm and period (in rhetoric, a complete sentence).

3. Figures of speech. This part included only 3 devices used by the antique authors always in the same order:

a) antithesis;

b) assonance of colons;

c) equality of colons.

A colon in rhetoric means one of the sections of a rhythmical period in Greek chorus consisting of a sequence of 2 to 6 feet.

Later contributions by other authors were made into the art of speaking and writing so that the most complete and well developed antique system, that came down to us is called the Hellenistic Roman rhetoric system. It divided all expressive means into 3 large groups: Tropes, Rhythm (Figures of Speech) and Types of Speech.

A condensed description of this system gives one an idea how much we owe the antique tradition in modern stylistic studies.

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