Scientific Prose Style.

Distinctive linguistic features of the major functional styles of English

Functional Styles of the English Language.

According to Galperin: Functional Style is a system of interrelated language means serving a definite aim in communication. It is the coordination of the language means and stylistic devices which shapes the distinctive features of each style and not the language means or stylistic devices themselves. Each style, however, can be recognized by one or more leading features which are especially conspicuous. For instance the use of special terminology is a lexical characteristics of the style of scientific prose, and one by which it can easily be recognized.

A description of five major functional styles is based on their most distinctive features on each level of the language structure: phonetical (where possible), morphological, syntactical, lexical and compositional. A peculiar combination of these features and special emphasis on some of them creates the paradigm of what is called a scientific or publicist text, a legal or other official document, colloquial or formal speech.

As has been mentioned before there are a great many classifications of language varieties that are called sublanguages, substyles, registers and functional styles that use various criteria for their definition and categorisation. The term generally accepted by most Russian scholars is functional styles. A few classifications of the functional styles in modern English will be considered.

Books by I. R. Galperinon English Stylistics are among most acknowledged sources of stylistic research in this country.

Galperin distinguishes 5 functional styles and suggests their subdivision into substyles in modern English according to the following scheme:

1. The Belles-Lettres Style:

a) poetry;

b) emotive prose;

c) the language of the drama.

2. Publicist Style:

a) oratory and speeches;

b) the essay;

c) articles.

3. Newspaper Style:

a) brief news items;

b) headlines;

c) advertisements and announcements;

d) the editorial[1].

5. The Style of Official documents:

a) business documents;

b) legal documents;

c) the language of diplomacy;

d) military documents.

Prof. Galperin differs from many other scholars in his views on functional styles because he includes in his classification only the written variety of the language. In his opinion style is the result of creative activity of the writer who consciously and deliberately selects language means that create style. At the same time his classification contains such varieties of publicist style as oratory and speeches. What he actually means is probably not so much the spoken variety of the language but spontaneous colloquial speech, a viewpoint which nevertheless seems to give ground for debate.

Scholars' views vary on some other items of this classification. There is no common opinion about the belles-lettres style. In fact Galperin's position is not shared by the majority. This notion comes under criticism because it seems rather artificial especially in reference to modern prose. It is certainly true that many works of fiction may contain emotionally coloured passages of emotive writing that are marked by special image-creating devices, such as tropes and figures of speech.

At the same time many writers give an account of external events, social life and reproduce their characters' direct speech. Sometimes they quote extracts from legal documents, newspapers items, advertisements, slogans, headlines which do not belong to belles-lettres style in its traditional meaning.

As a matter of fact, in modern works of fiction we may encounter practicall any functional speech type imaginable. So most other classifications do not distinguish the language of fiction as a separate style.

In 1960 the book "Stylistics of the English Language" by M. D. Kuznetz and Y. M. Skrebnev appeared. The book was a kind of brief outline of stylistic problems. The styles and their varieties distinguished by these authors included:

1. Literary or Bookish Style:

a) publicist style;

b) scientific (technological) style;

c) official documents.

2. Free ("Colloquial") Style:

a) literary colloquial style;

b) familiar colloquial style.

As can be seen from this classification, both poetry and imaginative prose have not been included (as non-homogeneous objects) although the book is supplied with a chapter on versification.

Next comes the well-known work by I. V. Arnold"Stylistics of Modern English" (decoding stylistics) published in 1973 and revised in 1981. Speaking of functional styles, Arnold starts With the a kind of abstract notion termed 'neutral style'. It has no distinctive features and its function is to provide a standard background for the other styles. The other 'real' styles can be broadly divided into two groups according to the scholar's approach: different varieties of colloquial styles and several types of literary bookish styles.

1. Colloquial Styles:

a) literary colloquial;

b) familiar colloquial;

c) common colloquial.

2. Literary Bookish Styles:

a) scientific;

b) official documents;

c) publicist (newspaper);

d) oratorical;

e) poetic.

One type of sublanguages suggested by Arnold in her classification - publicist or newspaper - fell under the criticism of Skrebnev who argues that the diversity of genres in newspapers is evident to any layman: along with the "leader" (or editorial) the newspaper page gives a column to political observers, some space is taken by sensational reports; newspapers are often full of lengthy essays on economics, law, morals, art, etc. Much space is also given to miscellaneous news items, local events; some papers publish sequences of stories or novels; and most papers sell their pages to advertising firms. This enumeration of newspaper genres could go on and on. Therefore, Skrebnev maintains, we can hardly speak of such functional style at all.

Of course Arnold is quite aware of the diversity of newspaper writings. However what she really means is the newspaper material specific of the newspaper only: political news, police reports, press reviews, editorials.

In a word, newspaper style should be spoken of only when the materials that serve to inform the reader are meant. Then we can speak of distinctive style - forming features including a special choice of words, abundance of international words, newspaper cliches and nonce words, etc.

It should be noted however that many scholars consider the language of the press as a separate style and some researchers even single out newspaper headlines as a functional style.

One of the relatively recent books on stylistics is the handbook by A. N. Morokhovsky and his co-authors O. P. Vorobyova, N. I. Likhosherst and Z. V. Timoshenko"Stylistics of the English language" published in Kiev in 1984. In the final chapter of the book "Stylistic Differentiation of Modern English" a concise but exhaustive review of factors that should be taken into account in treating the problem of functional styles is presented. The book suggests the following style classes:


  1. Characteristics and features of scientific and technical texts
  2. Familiar colloquial style.
  3. Rendering of Form in Translating Emotive Prose

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 | Familiar colloquial style.

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