Sublanguages and styles

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Stylistics, as the term implies, deals with styles. Style, for its part, can be roughly defined here as the peculiarity, the set of specific features of a text type or of a concrete text. Style is just what differentiates a group of homogeneous texts (an individual text) from all other groups (other texts).

The idea - many of its constituents of language are not used in every sphere of communication, but delimited specific types of speech. ( ex water, morn, daddy, chap)

Here, only two types of speech, two sublanguages are opposed: the colloquial sublanguage and the sublanguage of official intercourse.

Since we also know what is non-specific (common to all, devoid of characterizing function) and what is specific (particular, characterizing) we can easily understand the most general linguistic definition of style. It reads: Style is specificity of sublanguage.

V.V. Vinogradov: “style - socially cognized and functionally conditioned internally united totality of the ways of using, selecting and combining the means of lingual intercourse in the sphere of one national language or another, a totality corresponding to other analogous ways of expression that serve different purposes, perform different functions in the social communicative practice of the given nation".

Vinogradov's definition of style, like many other definitions, identifies style with the totality of characteristics of the lingual form without differentiating relevant and irrelevant features of that form. Properly speaking, the definition makes no attempt at differentiating what characterizes the given type of speech from what is common to several types or even to every type of speech, to every sublanguage.

Stylistic colouring and stylistic neutrality. Since style is the specificity of a sublanguage, it is self-evident that non-specific units of it do not participate in the formation of its style. Units belonging to all the sublanguages are stylistically neutral. Thus we observe an opposition of stylistically coloured specific elements to stylistically neutral non-specific elements.

The stylistic colouring, in its turn, is nothing but the knowledge where, in what particular type of communication, the unit in question is current. On hearing, for instance, the above-cited utterance, I ain't never done nothing, we compare it with what we know about standard and non-standard forms of English, and this will permit us to pass judgment on what we have heard or read.

We can further state that stylistic colouring, as well as stylistic neutrality of linguistic units is the result of their distributional capacities. The term distribution, implies the possibilities of combining the given unit with its immediate environment. Distribution is the totality of environments of the unit.

Neutrality and norm. style may also be defined as deviations from the lingual norm. In their opinion, what is stylistically conspicuous, stylistically relevant, stylistically coloured is a departure from the norm of the given national language. norm for the word neutralit – difference?.

To answer this question, we ought to know the exact meaning of the word norm. Obviously the notion of norm implies pre-established and conventionally accepted parameters (i.e. characteristics) of what is •valuated.

There are as many norms as there are sublanguages. Each sublanguage is subject to its own norm. To reject this statement would mean admitting abnormality of everything that is not neutral. If style were departure from norm, in this case only ABC-books or the texts of the first lessons of English handbooks for foreigners would be considered "normal". Everything else, anything that manifests peculiarities of whatever kind, would have to be condemned as "abnormal". Shakespeare, Dickens, Galsworthy, O. Henry, Dreiser, scientific and technical texts, announcements and advertisements, orations, headlines, telegrams and everyday speech — all this would be for the most part "abnormal" if we were to believe M. Riffaterre and his colleagues.20

This is absurd, of course.

Borderlines or borderlands of sublanguages. First of all, there exist no objective criteria for classifying units that fit into more than one class. The greatest difficulties arise, of course, in the sphere of phonetics: we can never be sure whether a slight hange in the quality of a vowel or a consonant is an individual peculiarity of a native speaker or whether it is as far from normal as to be a foreigner's accent, a mispronunciation of speech sounds. The problem seems easier with morphemes, words, and word combinations, because they are discrete units: no one could mistake one unit for another. There is certainly no doubt as to stylistic colouring when we oppose the bookish morphemes sub-, super-, ultra- to the neutral ones: un-, re-, -less, -fuL The same is valid with regard to units of higher ranks. We remember that the word go is neutral, chap and daddy are colloquial, hereof or whereupon are unmistakably official and so on. It is, further, a well-known fact that the use of the so-called Nominative Absolute (My brother coming home, we sat down to dinner) is confined to written forms of speech.

Practically every language user has his own favourites and pet peeves in the world of words and expressions. Therefore we may come to the conclusion that there are no strict borderlines between sublanguages as well as within them (between absolutely specific, relatively specific, and neutral spheres).

Another circumstance which renders the stylistic status of certain units indefinite is the fact that they change their stylistic qualities with the lapse of time. On the other hand, the process of coining and borrowing new linguistic units (especially words and expressions) is always going on.


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