Lecture Three Three Views of Style

By Loretta Wilson,2014-02-10 06:27
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Lecture Three Three Views of Style

    Lecture Two: Three Views of Style

    We have seen the definition of stylistics and some definitions of style.

    Next we will see some most influential and representative views of style.

Text book p11

    Style as form. Aristotle)(form and content Style as eloquence.Cicero)(skill to use L persuasively)(the relation with rhetoric

    Style is the man. Buffon)(L use is using it in discourse Style as personal idiosyncrasy.Murry

    Saying the right thing in the most effective way.Enkvist Style as the choice between alternatve expressions. Ibid Style as equivalence. Roman Jacobson)(between form and function

    Style as foregrounding. Leech Mukarovsky Style as deviation.Mukarovsky & Spitzer

    Style as prominence.Halliday

    Style as the selections features partly determined by the demands of genre, form,

    themes, etc. Traugott & Pratt

    Style as linguistic features that communicate emotions and thought.Enkvist

    When writers write, they will naturaly try to make their language difffernt from

    the others, so as to attract the attention of the readers and also to ensure and secure an

    independent existence. Or to stand out from the multitude of men of letters. Or just a

    special position for his writing. And that is to depart from the normal way of

    expression in a certain sense.

Style as deviance.

    This view of stylistics comes from Widdowsons remark of style holding that stylistic analysis has no fixed procedure and the technique of doing this kind of

    analysis is to pick on features in the text which appear to first impressions as unusual

    or striking in some way and then explore their ramifications. This remark implies that

    only those unusual or striking features are stylistically relevant. And the implied

    assumption is that the literary aesthetic effects can only be achieved through deviance.

    Though some stylisticians hold different views.

    It leads to such an assumption as that the distinctiveness of a literary text lies in

    its departure from the characteristics of what is communicatively normal. It also gives

    birth to the approach to style as deviance from the norms of a given language.

    Mukarovsky is another famous proponent and founder of this view of style. In

    his famous article Standard Language and Poetic Language, he speaks of style as foregrounding.


    He asserts that the violation of the norm of standard, especially, its systematic

    violation, is what makes possible the poetic utilization of language; without this

    possibility there would be no poetry. According to Mukarovsky normal use of

    language automatizes language to such an extent that the users no longer see its

    expressive or aesthetic power; poetry must de-automatize or foreground language by

    breaking the rules of everyday language. P13

    Such as the expression a grief ago”“a presidency ago Mr. Smarter”“Mr.


    The advantage of this approach to style is that it helps us keep in mind the there

    is a difference between everyday language and the language of literature.

    The disadvantages are that:

    a. It is difficult to define the norm from which the style of a text deviates.

    Bloch considers the basis of norm to e statistical, that is, to determine

    style by counting or resorting to the frequency distributions of linguistic

    features as they differ from that of the language as a whole.

    b. It tends to lead the readers and stylisticians to value only the language of

    the grammatically highly deviant authors and under value those authors

    that do not deviate or do not deviate so much from the norms of language.

    And generally speaking, it tends to lead underestimation of the

    non-deviant language both within literature and without.

Style as choice.

    Style results from a tendency of speaker or writer to consistently choose certain

    structures over others available in the language.

    The difference between L and style is that L is the sum total of the structures

    available to the speaker, while style concerns the characteristic choices by a certain

    writer either consistently or in a given text or context.

    To say that style is choice of words is not the same thing as saying that it is always

    a conscious choice, though of course if the writer always chooses his word

    scrutinously the effect of his way of using L will be all the more obvious as a style.

    Then that is pick his way forward among words, and it is hard to imagine how much

    literary work can there be by now. The stock of literature of we human kind no doubt

    will be greatly diminished. But most, almost all poets, and some writers, and all

    writers at certain points in their writing do write that way, that is, they a kind of

    choose scrutinously and seem to pick their way forward among the forest of words.

    E.g. we Chinese posts have a tradition of refining words. 吟得一字安,捻断数茎须。


    Style as choice is often considered as a matter concerned with form or expression

    rather than meaning. That is, when the meaning is the same what makes a writer as a

    writer is his peculiar way of saying that, and a persons of speaking or writing is to a

    very large extent his consistent choice of a special type of expressions. It dose imply

    that writers do choose their content in their writing, but it is true that style and stylistic


study is mainly concerned with the choice of forms at different levels of L system, i.e.

    phonology, lexicon, syntax, and discourse.

    Consequently, a stylistician should first identify those words or forms of other

    levels of the linguistic hierarchy which are obviously the results of choice.

    Of though the elements o in a text are all the choices of the writer, but in practice,

    we only focus on the most peculiar and outstanding ones that are most expressive and

    most relevant to the meaning and interpretation of the text.

    Actually, all writings, if the writer is conscientious enough, are essentially speaking

    processes of choosing of words from the whole repertoire of language of a nation.

So what is the implication here?

    The awareness of the criteria for choosing is important.

    The language ability of a person lies in the following: 1. The awareness of the criteria for choosing is important. 2. The ability to determine and distinguish the deviant choices from the

    non-deviant choices

    3. The ability to choose

    4. A large enough store of different choicesat different levels: sounds, words,

    sentence patterns, the format of text .

    5. the ability to transform the different forms, especially, the different sentence

    patterns into each other.

    6. The ability to break away from the constraints of norms.

Style as foregrounding.


    A term used in pictoral art / close to the viewers

    Originally applied to the literature by Mularovsky to refer to the departure from the

    accepted use or norm of language. P18

    This essentially speaking is to add a striking feature to ones language.

    The departure from the normseither in terms of structure or semantics results

    in a kind of novelty or extraordinary feature, which is sight attracting.

    Another way of foregrounding ones language is not to deviate from norms, but

    to achieve a less radical form of foregrounding, i.e. to manage a striking feature such

    as uniformity of structure, symmetrical structure, or just something uncommon or

    striking in general.


    1. Do not presume God to scan,

    The proper study of Humankind is but Man.

    2. Degeneration is comfortable disease.

    3. Be what you seem, and seem what you are.


A good way of understanding style as choices is put forward by Shortp19:

    a. When a writer writes he is constantly making choices between one word and

    another, one structure and another, and so on. Actually it is a matter of making

    choices from among different ways of expressions in general rather than a choice

    from two alternatives.

    b. Examination of the choices one makes as opposed to the ones he rejects can help

    us more fully understand the meaning he is trying to create and the effects he is

    striving to achieve.

    c. He can make choices from both inside and outside of the language system. And

    the choices from outside the language system are deviant and therefore foreground

    the language of his writing.

    d. Over regularity of ones choices within the language system also makes the effect

    of foregrounding.

The above discussion of style as choices implies that:

    1. There are two kinds of choices that are worthwhile for stylistic analysis:

    deviant choices & choices that are not deviant

    2. It is fore grounded choices that are covered and directly concerned in stylistic

    analysis. Fore-grounded choices include two kinds: the deviant choices and

    the choices from inside the language system that form a kind of over

    regularity. In other words, foregrounding is achieved through either deviation

    or overregularity in language use.

    3. Style is foregrounding.

Deviation can be classified according to its linguistic levels, namely:

    Phonological level

    Lexical level

    Syntactic level

    Discoursal level

    The above are different kinds of surface structure deviations.

    Over regularity is surface phenomenon and mainly exists in the forms of the linguistic

    segments of different levels.

Semantic leveldeep structure deviation, for it is concerned with what is later called

    deep structure.

This definition of style integrates the previous two definitionsstyle as deviation and

    style as choices

The two advantages of this view:

    a. It can account for the non-deviant use of language in literaturewhich might also

    form the style of its own, while the definition of style as deviance fails to cover

    this kind of language use.


b. Compared to the definition of style as choice, the view of style as foregrounding

    leaves much less to personal judgment. The selection and identification of the

    stylistically relevant features are less of a problem fro those taking the view of

    style as foregrounding.

Notice: This does not mean the distinction between the deviant and non-deviant use of

    language or stylistically relevant and non-relevant choices is not important. Neither

    dose it mean that the analyst should give equal attention to these two kinds of choices.

A sum up:

Style as foregrounding and the different ways of foregroundingsurface structure;

    a. By frequency, high: some consistent choice within a context or a whole

    text/ consistent choice of an author/an inclination of choosing language

    forms/an exhibition of preference of some forms over some other forms

    b. Successive and consistent choice of certain element/s within a relative

    shorter stretch of text

    c. By putting some L elements in the prominent positions, such as the

    beginning or end of a sentence

    d. By deviation

Different kinds of deviation:

    Deviation can be classified according to its linguistic levels, namely:

    a. Phonological level

    b. Lexical level

    c. Syntactic level

    d. Discoursal level

    e. The above are different kinds of surface structure deviations.

    Over regularity is surface phenomenon and mainly exists in the forms of the

    linguistic segments of different levels. And this is also a kind of deviation from the

    norm of language use. It is not a deviation through violating rules but a deviation

    through exhibiting extraordinary consistency in choice of forms or extraordinary

    preference of certain forms over other forms.

Semantic leveldeep structure deviation, for it is concerned with what is later called

    deep structure.


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