Paradigmatic Lexicology.

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The branch of stylistics thus named deals with the principles of stylistic

description of lexical and phraseological units of language in abstraction

from the context (or contexts) in which they function. This task

presupposes establishing a general stylistic classification of words. To

solve the problems arising, we must overcome certain basic difficulties.

1. Lexicology of units is expected to neglect contextual relations of

the word, describing it as a self-sufficient phenomenon, which is incon-

sistent with its nature. As we know, the stylistic value of a word is the

total of its distributions. Its analysis as an isolated unit is only feasible in

so far as we consider its connotations to be definite and relatively


2. Another difficulty lies in polysemy and polyfunctionality of words.

Various meanings of a polysemantic word used in varying functions have

quite different connotations. Therefore what we usually call one word

could be placed in several lexical classes at once. That is why to classify

words as sound complexes irrespective of their meanings would be

senseless: stylistic classification does not deal with the word as such (as

it is presented in dictionaries), but only its varieties, each with a meaning

of its own — the so-called 'lexical semantic variants', or LSV.

3. Besides, even the connotations of an isolated LSV are manifold; the

have a complex of features, and it is impossible to say with anything like

certainty which feature is dominant.

All the immeasurable richness of the vocabulary of any civilized

language cannot be memorized or even understood by an individual native

speaker; it is only the most common words that are widely used in actual

communication. A very essential part of the lexicon, its greater part i

fact, belongs to special spheres of human intercourse.

Evidently,we must divide the vocabulary into smaller groups. Here we come again

to the problem of the existing classifications. More often than not, it is

mentioned that stylistic distinctions are revealed by archaisms, bookish

words, foreign words, euphemisms, etc

To be sure, words belonging to these groups reveal stylistic distinc-

tions, yet these groups do not make a classification. A logically infallible

classification is a set of classes which do not intersect: every item of the

object classified can occupy only one section, i.e. belongs (or must belong)

to only one class; it cannot belong to two or three classes simultaneously.

In our particular case, saying that a word is archaic, we mean it is

obsolete, no more in current use; the term 'bookish' informs us about the

sphere in which the word mostly occurs; the label 'foreign' pertains to

the origin of the word; 'euphemism' is a term of speech ethics. Each class

has a foundation of its own. Just because of this a word can be bookish,

and foreign, and euphemistic simultaneously.

Therefore we may state that the items (classes of words) discussed are

stylistically different from one another, but it is wrong to try combining

them in a general, common classification: each item belongs to a

classification of its own, each class is opposed only to classes singled out

on the same dividing principle, namely:

Since it is stylistically relevant (essential for stylistics) to distinguish

between what is obsolete, i.e. practically dead, what is normal, habitual,

unconditionally acceptable, and what is new, i.e. only being born, we can

establish a system comprising three classes: 1) archaisms; 2) current words

of the epoch; 3) new creations, or neologisms, i.e. words that appeared

recently, are still felt to be new and not yet accepted by all.

Along with the four classes discussed, we could mention further classes

usually treated in handbooks on lexicology or stylistics: professionalisms,

dialect words, specialist terms, slang words, colloquial words, popular

words, vulgar words, poetic words, nonce-words. Like those discussed

above, they are stylistically relevant, but the terms themselves do not

disclose the stylistic value of each class.

This differentiation has social grounding. 'Elevation' and

'degradation' do not exist by themselves, as self-sufficient

characteristics, but as the result of evaluating at least three factors: the

iubject of speech, the character of the communicative sphere, and the

participants of communication. The notions of elevation and degradation

иге correlative, in the sphere of morals, with the biblical concepts of good

and evil; logically, they represent the opposition of the positive to the


Poetic words constitute the highest level of the scale; every poetic word

pertains to the uppermost part of the scheme; it demonstrates the

maximum of aesthetic value.

Official words of business and legal correspondence as can be seen in

the diagram, occupy the middle level of the upper part of our scheme.

Colloquial words demonstrate the minimal degree of stylistic degra-


Jargon words as well as slang and nonce-words (see below) must be

placed at the second (medial) level of the lower part of the scale.

^ Vulgar words occupy the lowest step of the lower part.

Thus it can be stated that the classes enumerated are more or less

homogeneous from the stylistic viewpoint.

Much greater difficulties arise as soon as we begin to deal with other

classes of words singled out in lexicological descriptions. The classes we

enumerate further are heterogeneous stylistically: one is never sure what

place in the scale they occupy.

Bookish words. The epithet 'bookish' implies a very wide sphere of

communication. Words traditionally referred to as 'bookish' occupy, as

a matter of fact, the whole of the upper part of the stylistic scale: some of

them are only slightly above the neutral sphere; others belong to the

medial sphere; many bookish words are excessively high-flown,

Archaic words, or archaisms are also stylistically heterogeneous. They

are usually thought to pertain to the upper strata of the vocabulary. As a

general view this opinion is correct, but only with reference to the lexical

units which, though obsolete, are not completely out of use.

Neologisms, or new creations. In most cases, newly coined words are

not easily accepted by the linguistic community due to its conservative

attitude towards every innovation. Therefore, a neologism seems, to the

majority of language users, a stranger, a newcomer, and hence a word of

low stylistic value, although the intention of the speaker (writer) maybe

finite the opposite. Obviously humorous are the so-called nonce-words (see

below), i.e. words created by the speaker (writer) to meet the needs of the

actual communicative situation. Their place is in the medial grade of the

lower part of the scale.


Barbarisms, or Foreign Words.

Archaic words.

Bookish (learned) words constitute the overwhelming majority of

elevated words.

Subneutral words.

Colloquial words.

Jargon words. 'holier-than-thou',

Vulgar words. 'low slang' — such as

old bean ('old man' — deprecatingly), smeller ('nose'), pay dirt ('money'),

and the like.


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