Lecture One Style and Stylistics
Outline of Content
• 1.1. Factors Deciding Style
• 1.2. Definitions of Style
• 1.3. Stylistics
• 1.4. The Needs for Stylistics
• 1.5. Procedure & Principles of Stylistic Analysis
Two versions of self-introduction
• Version 1
• My name is xxx. You can call me Ms. x. I got my B.A. degree from xxxxxx.
After graduation from college, I worked nearly ten years in a number of fields
including tourism, international trade, stock market. My jobs enabled me to
have business trips to major English-speaking countries such as USA, Canada,
Australia, etc. Later on, I went back to my old school and got my M.A. degree,
with the orientation in Translation. Due to my rich working experiences and
my study, I am able to get access to a wide varieties of English in daily use,
as well as in specialized fields. Hope to share this knowledge with you in this
• Hi, guys. So cute to be with you. In this semester, we shall spend a bit of time
together and chat a bit about sort of stylistics. You can just call me xx and let’
s have fun together.
Consider the following questions
• How do you feel about the above three versions of self-introduction? • In what way do they differ?
• What decides a style?
1.1. Factors Deciding Style
• Who, what, whom, how, when, where, why
• -- Who said what to whom;
• -- How, when and why something is said
1) Style Related to Topics/Fields (what is said)
• Stylistic differences are most apparent when texts /discourses deal with
different topics or fields of study. For example, language used in science and
technology differ drastically from those dealing with literature or commerce in
many ways. (Our course will focus on this aspect of language varieties later
• --- military drilling commands (P3[1.4])
• Attention! On Fours, fall in!
• Eyes right!
• Forward march!
Shoulder arms! •
• --- limerick (P3 [1.3])
• --- ad.
• We know eggzactly (exactly) how to sell eggs. (novel, fresh, memorable,
effective, purposeful; repetition, coined term, simple)
• See also [1.5]—[1.7] on P4
2) Style Related to Participants (who talked to whom)
• Different styles can be created as the result of what the participants are in
terms of social status, social class, age, race, sex, education, etc. • -- who is the speaker
• See [1.8] & [1.9] on P5,
• [1.10] & [1.11] on P6
• Read the following example and analyze the differences: • E.g. a young college girl explains how to suck an egg in the following way: • “Take an egg, and make a perforation in the base and a corresponding one in
the ‘apex. And then, apply the lips to the ‘aperture, and by forcibly inhaling
the breath, the shell is entirely discharged of its contents”.
• In contrast, her grandmother would say: “Make a hole in each end and suck.”
-- whom the speaker talks to •
• The same person would usually talk differently to different people (e.g. to his
boss, his family members, the elderly people or a kid). • E.g.
• -- Hi, joe. How is everything? (to a friend)
• -- Morning, Ma. Is breakfast ready?
• -- Good morning, Sir. How are you?
3) Style Related to Medium (How is sth conveyed)
• Medium / Channel: means by which a message is conveyed from one person to
another, such as in spoken or written form, in books or in newspapers, via TV or
radio or computer or mobile phone, etc.
• Differences in medium/channel can result in stylistic differences among texts in
terms of choice of words, sentence pattern, sentence length, sound effect, visual
• E.g. 1 Some common signs used in e-mails or cell phone short messages: • Smiley meaning
• :-) happy
• :-D big smile
• :-O surprised
• :-( sad
• :-/ confused
• :”> embarrassed
• X-( angry
• E.g. 2 A face-to-face conversation: (Inexplicit information) • A: Going to buy one?
• B: Don’t know. Perhaps.
• A: Better hurry, they’re packing up.
• B: Oh, all right.
4) Style Related to Occasion (when and where is sth expressed) • The same meaning can be expressed in different wordings depending on the
specific occasions/contexts given. Hence, different styles are created. • See [1.1], [1.2] on P2
• a). My beloved father has joined the heavenly choir. (a solemn funeral with
strong religious atmosphere)
• B) My dear father has passed a way. (a formal occasion) • C) My father has died. (informal occasion)
• D) My old man has kicked the bucket. (very casual occasion, also show
non-respect to the dead)
5) Style Related to Functions of Texts (why is sth expressed)
• Different texts have different functions, e.g. to transfer information, to call
upon people’s action, to express writer’s feeling, etc. To achieve these
functions may require different forms/styles in writing. • e.g. [1.16] on P9
• Read following sentences and try to identify what functions they perform and
what stylistic differences there are:
• no smoking (to give order)
• I’m lovin’ it (to appeal and call upon action)
• This lunar beauty / Has no history / Is complete and early… (to express
• In this contract, the terms hereinafter are understood as follows！(to make clear
terms to be observed)
• Graves’ ophthalmopathy usually occurs in association with hyper-thyroidism.
(to give academic information)
1.2. Definitions of Style
• In plain language, style is different ways of expressing the same or different
things by different people for different purposes in different times. • These factors often function jointly to decide a specific style. • The major concern of style is “to use proper words in proper places”
Definitions given by dictionaries:
• Style is “the manner of expression in writing or speaking which changes at all
times according to the actual situational elements, e.g., the participants, time,
place, topic, etc. of the communicative events, from very formal to very
• -----Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics
1.3.1. The Definition
• Stylistics is a branch of linguistics which studies style in a scientific and
systematic way concerning the linguistic features of different varieties of
language at different levels.
1.3.2 The Scope of Study
1) General Stylistics: the study of different varieties of language.
--- according to fields of discourse, with the related functions of language: •
news reports, advertisements, public speeches, novels, poetry, legal documents,
scientific thesis, etc.
• --- according to attitude: formal language, informal language, etc.
• --- according to medium: spoken language, written language, etc.
• Our focus of study is on general stylistics in relation to mode and different
2) Literary Stylistics
• Broadly speaking, literary stylistics studies variations characteristic of
different literary genres—poetry, prose, novels, drama, etc. Literary stylistics
concentrate on literary significance as well as linguistic choices in literary
texts. It also studies the different styles of individual authors and their works,
as well as period styles. We will touch upon this field as a variety of language
but it is not our major concern in this course.
3) Theoretical Stylistics
• Theoretical stylistics studies the theories, the origin, the trend, and the
historical development of stylistics as well as characteristics of different
branches of stylistics. It also studies the relationships between stylistics and
other branches of learning. This discipline is usually major concern of post
graduate course and thus is not our focus.
1.4. The Needs for Stylistics
• Why do we study stylistics?
1) Style is an integral part of meaning. It gives us additional information of a
text/ utterance (e.g. the speaker’s regional and social origin, education
background, his/her relationship with the hearer, his/her feelings, emotions or
attitudes, the occasion and purpose of the discourse, etc.)
• With a sense of style, we can arrive at a better understanding of a
• Let us look at the following example.
• Policeman: What’s your name, boy?
• Black physician: Dr. Poussaint. I’m a physician.
• Policeman: What’s your first name, boy?
• Black physician: Alvin.
• When the term “boy” is used to address a kid, it shows the friendliness of the
speaker. But when this form is used insistently to address a physician, who is
usually addressed respectfully in the United States as “Dr. So-and-so, it shows
the policeman’s racist contempt and prejudice against black people.
• As EFL learners, we often fail to notice those stylistic subtleties which
contribute significantly to meaning. Stylistics—the study of style—may help
us develop a consistent method of language analysis and solve problems of
interpretation by bringing into focus the stylistically significant features that
we might otherwise overlook.
2) Stylistics may help us to acquire a keener language sense.
• A sense of style is an important part of one’s language sense, i.e. the intuitive
knowledge about linguistic appropriateness. A native speaker of English
knows how to adjust his style of language to different types of situation: at
home or in court; with friends or with strangers; writing a love letter or a
• If we wish to communicate in English successfully, we too need to develop a
“semi-instinctive sense of style”. Stylistics may help us speed up this process
of acquisition by giving us access to different language varieties and by
encouraging us to participate the problem-solving activity and to do practical
analysis by ourselves so as to facilitate our sensitivity to language variation.
1.5. Procedure & Principles of Stylistic Analysis
How do we do stylistic analysis? •
• 1. Levels of Linguistic Description
• In a stylistic analysis, features of a text are analyzed and described at different
linguistic levels, which include:
• -- the phonological/graphological level: the system of speech sound and the
• -- the lexical level: vocabulary
• -- the syntactical level: sentence structure
• -- the semantic level: overall text pattern, cohesion and coherence in meaning
• 2. Principles of Analysis
• --- the principle of frequency
• Generally, we recognize a style only when certain language features occur
frequently or prevail in a text to become the salient / important features. In our
analysis, we often need to calculate /compute frequencies of certain language
features in order to substantiate our observation.
• For instance, in order to verify the observation that the style of a certain text is
formal/informal, we need to know the percentage of content words, the
percentage of Latinate/Anglo-Saxon words, the ratio of dependent to
independent sentences, and other linguistic data.
• --- the principle of comparison
• The distinction of style cannot be perceived without comparison.
• A regional style is defined by matching it against Standard English; an
individual’s style against that of a group of people; the style of literary
language against that of non-literary language.
• --- the principle of placing a text
• Similarly, the linguistic features of a given text should be compared with a set
of relative norms of language in use (e.g. relative norms for spoken/written
varieties, for formal/informal style, for literary or technical style, etc. ) This is
called the placing of a text. By doing so, we can judge whether the given text
conforms with or deviates from the convention/norms.
• When analyzing non-literary language varieties, we focus more on conformity
with the relative norms.