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The word style is derived from the Latin word 'stylus' which meant a short stick, sharp at one end
and flat at the other, used by the Romans for writing on wax tablets.

Stylistics is a double domain, comprising of two branches:

a. the investigation of the inventory of special language media which by their ontological
features secure the desirable effect of the utterance – essentially, the stylistic devices (SD)
and expressive means (EM)
b. the investigation of certain types of texts (discourse) which due to the choice and
arrangement of language means are distinguished by the pragmatic aspect of the
communication – essentially, the functional styles of language (FS)

The first field (SD & EM) deals with general language problems, among which are:

a. The aesthetic function of language

b. Synonymous ways of rendering the same idea
c. Emotional colouring of language
d. Interrelation between language and thought
e. Individual manner of an author of making use of language

The second field (FS) deals with general linguistic issues, such as:

a. Oral and written varieties of language

b. The notion of the literary (standard) language
c. Constituents of text larger than the sentence
d. The generative aspect of literary texts

Stylistics as a field of study overlaps in some aspects with other disciplines such as the theory of
information, literature, psychology and logic

The word style being used in many different ways, it has led to ambiguity and many definition, some
more precise and some more abstract – sometimes it is correlated with the teaching of how to write
a composition, or with the correspondence between thought an expression, and often used to make
reference to the individual manner of making use of language

Some memorable definitions:

a. "a quality of language which communicates precisely emotions or thoughts, or a

system of emotions or thoughts, peculiar to the author." (J. Middleton Murry)
b. "... a true idiosyncrasy1 of style is the result of an author's success in compelling
language to conform to his mode of experience." (J. Middleton Murry)
c. "a contextually restricted linguistic variation." (Enkvist)
d. "a selection of non-distinctive features of language." (L. Bloom-field)
e. "synonymous with form or expression and hence a superfluous term." (Benedetto

Manner of using language as an individual
f. "a citation process, a body of formulae, a memory (almost in the cybernetic sense of
the word), a cultural and not an expressive inheritance." (Roland Barthes)

In the view of some linguists, stylistics studies the effects of the message; some also remark on the
ontological (natural, inherent) and functional peculiarities of the means of communication which
ensures this effect

One of the most frequent definitions: "Style is a product of individual choices and patterns of
choices (emphasis added) among linguistic possibilities." (Seymour Chatman) referring to the
previously-mentioned idiosyncrasies

All of these previous definitions have in common the fact that style is a set of characteristics by
which we distinguish one author from another or members of one subclass from members of other
subclasses, all of which are members-of the same general class and also that it is regarded as
something that belongs exclusively to the plane of expression and not to the plane of content.

A distinction needs to be made between deliberate choice and habitual idiosyncrasy – individual
style is what we call the usage of language in a deliberate manner, while the speech of an individual
characterised by the particularities of that person is called an idiolect.

In creating their own style, a writer will often leave the peculiarities belonging to his upbringing (the
idiolect) behind in favour of his own deliberate choices when it comes to conveying a certain effect
in their texts.

The individual style is characterised by its uniqueness, presenting a system of interaction between
the language media and stylistic devices, created by the author, that is easily recognisable. However,
it is not independent of the literary norms and canon of the period, as every text of a certain period
presents common features that belong to the general plan of expression and plan of content.

Some components of a writer’s individual style:

a. Composition of larger-than-the-sentence units

b. Rhythm and melody of utterances
c. System of imagery
d. Preferences for definite stylistic devices and their co-relation with neutral language media
e. Interdependence of the language media employed by the author and the media
characteristic of the personages

Style is a much broader notion than individual style, whose individuality results from the writer’s
peculiar treatment of language means. The writer uses deviations from normal uses to achieve an
intended aesthetic effect without breaching the grammatical rules. In fact, by constant repetition of
these derivations amongst individuals, these deviations become an accepted new norm – thus, style
is patternisable, and authors unwittingly contribute to the establishment of literary norms in their

Another characteristic of the style is permanence, as a well-established style has great powers of
endurance and never loses its aesthetic value.

To recap, the main characteristics of individual style are:

 Its uniqueness
 It’s ability to become a pattern
 Its recognisability and permanence
 Its inclusion of the author’s idiosyncrasies—more so, their deliberate choices in
language usage
 Its ability to coexist with and modify the literary norm
 The fact that it shares general characteristics with texts of other authors of that


Terms used indiscriminately: expressive means, stylistic means, stylistic markers, stylistic devices,
tropes, figures of speech.

These are opposed to neutral means of language.

Definition: means by which utterances are foreground (made more conspicuous), more effective and
therefore imparting some additional information.

Stylistic meanings are deautomatised – the reader’s speedy, subconscious use of language data is
disturbed and they are forced to revise their perception of language.

All language conveys meaning – whether that is lexical, grammatical or, in the case of stylistics,

EXPRESSIVENESS: Etymologically, it is a kind of intensification of an utterance or of a part of it

depending on the position in the utterance of the means that manifest this category and what these
means are; In short, logical and emotional emphasis achieved by expressive means

EXPRESSIVE MEANS are concrete forms that already exist in the language on all of its levels,
brought about by social uses, and ‘colour’ the utterance whether they are logical or emotional; the
modification of meanings produced by them are one of the objects of Stylistics.

They have a greater degree of predictability than stylistic devices, as they are commonly used in
language and follow the natural course of thought.

STYLISTIC DEVICES are conscious and intentional intensifications of some typical structural and/or
semantic property of a language unit, abstract patterns that can be applied to any content.

They are deliberate and carry additional information that is not naturally conveyed and, therefore,
need to be deciphered.

FUNCTIONAL STYLES are systems of interrelated language means which serve a definite aim in
communication and they appear mainly in the literary standard of a language.2

These are sub-divided in the following SUB-STYLES:

eg: language of belles-lettres, of publicistic literature, of newspapers, of scientific prose, of legal documents.
 Belles-lettres: language style of poetry, language style of emotive prose, language style of
 Publicistic: language style of oratory, language style of essays
 Newspaper: language style of brief news items and communiqués, language style of
newspaper headings, language style of notices and advertisements
 Scientific: language style of humanitarian sciences, language style of "exact" sciences,
language style of popular scientific prose
 Official document: language style of diplomatic documents, language style of business
documents, language style of legal documents, language style of military documents

The functioning of the literary language in various spheres of human activity and with different aims
of communication has resulted in its differentiation – SPOKEN vs. WRITTEN. Diachronically, the
spoken one is primary and the written one secondary.

The gap between the spoken and written varieties of language fluctuates in different periods in the
development of the literary language, but remains apparent due to the difference in circumstances
in which the two are used.


 there is the presence of an interlocutor

 additional information is given by gestures and intonation
 has the advantage of the human voice modulating the utterance
 in the form of a dialogue
 spontaneous, momentary, fleeting, vanishes after fulfilling its purpose: communicating a
 the idea remains, the language dissolves in it
 ephemeral, meant to be reacted to and forgotten -> Markov chains3 in speech work mostly
forward and over a fairly short span
 cannot be detached from the speaker
 bears less responsibility than written language


 more diffuse and explanatory to compensate for what it lacks, in order to be explicit enough
 presupposes the absence of an interlocutor
 in the form of a monologue
 lives together with the idea expressed
 Markov chains can also work backward, and there can be more than one running at a time
 can be detached from the writer and analysed objectively in order to be corrected
 bears a greater responsibility than the spoken one

The spoken variety differs from the written language phonetically, morphologically, lexically and

A Markov chain is "a stochastic model describing a sequence of possible events in which the probability of
each event depends only on the state attained in the previous event.”
Some forms of the vernacular do make their way into the oral (spoken) variety of standard/literary
English. Some occur due to the quick tempo of colloquial speech or an excited state of mind. Others
are typical of territorial or social dialects.4

The most striking difference between the spoken and the written language is in the vocabulary used.
There are words and phrases typically colloquial, on the one hand, and typically bookish, on the
other hand. If colloquial words and phrases find their way in the written language, they immediately
produce a marked stylistic effect and can be used for the speech characterization.

The spoken language uses intensifying words—interjections and words with strong emotive
meaning, as oaths, swear-words and adjectives which have lost their primary meaning (He put my
goddam paper down. I am pretty sure.).

In colloquial language we can also have "fill-ups" or empty words = the insertion of words without
any meaning into the utterance. They give a touch of completeness to the sentence if used at the
end of it or, if used in the middle, help the speaker to fill the gap when unable to find the proper

situational character of communication. These are:

 omission of the part of utterance easily supplied by the situation in which the
communication takes place – these words are deemed unnecessary in lively conversations
with two or more people and frequently left out (Who you with? Tell you what?)
 tendency to use the direct word-order in questions or omit auxiliary verb, leaving it to the
intonation to indicate the grammatical meaning (He knew she was dead?)
 unfinished sentences (If I were you… If you behave like that I’ll…)
 usage of a construction with two subjects (a tautological subject) where one is sufficient
reference (Helen, she was there. He was a kind boy, Harry)
 absence of connecting words (Came home late. Had a cup of tea. Went to bed soon after
 syntactical structures, expressing definite emotions, which can be understood only knowing
a proper intonation design (Isn't she cute! Don't you tell me that!)


 the exact nature of the utterance with the help of context and parts linked together by all
kinds of connecting words – some of these are decidedly bookish: hereinafter, henceforth,
in connection with, etc. and rarely used in spoken conversation
 the use of complicated sentence-units (long periods are more frequent than short

Eg: "Mum, I've asked a young lady to come to tea tomorrow. Is that all right?"
"You done what?" asked Mrs. Sunbury, for a moment forgetting her grammar.
"You heard, mum." (Maugham)
Eg: "She looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around in her blue coat
and all."
 coherence and logical unity of ideas backed up by purely linguistic means -> breaking of
utterance in observable spans like a paragraph
 bookish “space wasters” – despite the fact (although), in the matter of (about), a long
period of time (a long time), etc.; though sometimes these carry a subtle difference in
meaning to their counterparts