In stylistics, linguistic strategies that call attention to themselves, causing the reader's attention to shift away from what

is said to how it is said. Linguist M.A.K. Halliday has interpreted foregrounding as motivated prominence: "the phenomenon of linguistic highlighting, whereby some features of the language of a text stand out in some way" (Explorations in the Functions of Language, 1973). Examples and Observations:

"Foregrounding is essentially a technique for 'making strange' in language, or to extrapolate from Shklovsky's Russian term ostranenie, a method of 'defamiliarisation' in textual composition. "Whether the foregrounded pattern deviates from a norm, or whether it replicates a pattern through parallelism, the point of foregrounding as a stylistic strategy is that it should acquire salience in the act of drawing attention to itself." (Paul Simpson, Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students. Routledge, 2004)

"[T]his opening line from a poem by Roethke, ranked high [for the presence of foregrounding]: 'I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils.' The pencils are personified; it contains an unusual word, 'inexorable'; it contains repeated phonemes such as /n/ and /e/." (David S. Miall, Literary Reading: Empirical & Theoretical Studies. Peter Lang, 2007)

"In literature, foregrounding may be most readily identified with linguistic deviation: the violation of rules and conventions, by which a poet transcends the normal communicative resources of the langauge, and awakens the reader, by freeing him from the grooves of cliché expression, to a new perceptivity. Poetic metaphor, a type of semantic deviation, is the most important instance of this type of foregrounding." (Peter Childs and Roger Fowler, The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms. Routledge, 2006)

Friday, April 18, 2008 FOREGROUNDING FOREGROUNDING What literature is, how it works, and why it is there at all, are some of the fascinating questions that the theory of 'foregrounding' tries to provide answers to. The term refers to specific linguistic devices, i.e., deviation and parallelism, used in literary texts in a functional and condensed way.

such as theme / rhyme. It remains uncertain. It is also employed to indicate the specific poetic effect on the reader. Second. frame / insert. 1. given / new. it may refer to specific devices (as produced by the author) located in the text itself. whether this corresponds to what the Prague scholars had in mind. such as figure / ground constellations ( a group of related ideas. It then refers to new information. The theory of foregrounding is also one of the few literary theories which have been tested empirically for its validity. things or people). especially Jan Mukarovsky. It thus contributes to general creativity and development in societies. the term will not be used in this narrow linguistic sense. First of all it is used to indicate the (psycholinguistic) processes by which . it may be used as an analytic category in order to . literature . FOREGROUNDING: THE TERM The term 'foregrounding' may be used in a purely linguistic sense. According to the theory of foregrounding.These devices enhance the meaning potential of the text. while also providing the reader with the possibility of aesthetic employing unusual forms of language . In what follows. This allows the term to be related to issues in perception psychology. text linguistics. The English term 'foregrounding' has come to mean several things at once. Furthermore. and subject / predicate. who introduced it as a translation of the Czech aktualisace. There the term originates with Garvin (1964). From this point of view the term bears resemblance to other (pairs of) concepts in linguistics. In this way literature keeps or makes individuals aware of their automatized actions and preconceptions.something may be given special prominence. in contrast to elements in the sentence which form the background against which the new elements are to be understood by the listener / reader. a term common with the Prague Structuralists. who employs it in the sense of the English 'actualization. but as situated in the wider area of stylistics. however.' This suggests a temporal category: to make something actual (rather than virtual).during the reading act . and literary studies. Garvin's translation has rendered this temporal metaphor into a spatial one: that of a foreground and a background.breaks up the reader's routine behavior: commonplace views and perspectives are replaced by new and surprising insights and sensations.

. 3. This may have its advantages. or to explain their importance and cultural significance. two such devices may be distinguished. or antistrophe. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND . and oxymoron (a phrase that combines two words that seem to be the opposite of each other. e. Within literature. Finally. or ungrammatical sentences. but may also be problematic: which of the above meanings is intended must often be deduced from the context in which the term is used. alliteration. Generally. paradox. Devices of parallelism are characterized by repetitive structures: (part of) a verbal configuration is repeated (or contrasted). such as everyday conversations or scientific reports. semantic symmetry. as well as archaisms. its structures and meanings are used routinely. live metaphor. or conventions. rhyme. meter. for example a deafening silence) are clear examples of deviate from rules. and his / her attention is thereby drawn to the form of the text itself (rather than to its content). those of deviation and of parallelism.evaluate literary texts. processed. Thus the term covers a wide area of meaning. it is also wielded in order to differentiate literature from other varieties of language use. Deviation corresponds to the traditional idea of poetic license: the writer of literature is allowed . 2. Traditional handbooks of poetics and rhetoric have surveyed and described (under the category of figures of speech) a wide variety of such forms of parallelism. language tends to be automatized (a method of painting that avoids conscious thought and allows a free flow of ideas). or to situate them historically. The result is some degree of surprise in the reader. thereby being promoted into the foreground of the reader's perception.g. DEVICES OF FOREGROUNDING Outside literature. so the assumption goes. this is opposed by devices which thwart the automatism with which language is read. These may involve the language. or understood. as well as literary traditions or expectations set up by the text itself. however. Cases of neologism (a new word or expression or a new meaning of a word). maxims. contrast to the everyday speaker .

Fokkema (1976)). Thus for Shklovsky and his fellow Formalists the devices used by writers are not merely there for ornamental reasons – they serve specific functions. this view of literature has gained a wide dissemination in Western culture. he states that the diction of the literary work must be 'distinguished. which was later exported to the West by such scholars as Roman Jakobson. and Rene Wellek. 335 BCE). for instance. the concept of foregrounding is not their own invention. Felix Vodicka. though in general the assumption seems to be that the answer should be positive. devices of deviation and parallelism play an important role.' and that this effect is arrived at through the use of unfamiliar terms. Erlich (1965). and in this process. its roots can be traced back to Aristotle's Poetics (ca. so that a renewed perception of them creates a fresh awareness in the beholder. Time and again. The theory was further refined in British stylistics. the purpose of art is to make objects unfamiliar. Although in its present form the theory of foregrounding has been put forward most clearly in the twentieth century. or lengthened forms. most notably those connected with the device of estrangement (Russian prim ostranenije). 4. as proposed by Viktor Shklovsky. DESCRIPTIVE POWER OF THE THEORY The question should be asked whether foregrounding devices are universal. Hence the concept of foregrounding is also a theoretical one. see especially. most notably by Geoffrey Leech (1969) (On the continuity between Formalism and Structuralism.It should be noted that. The . Through the influence of Aristotle's work from the Renaissance onward. strange words. metaphor. Aristotle emphasizes the fact that the literary text is made according to specific rules. beyond the stale routines of automatized schemes. In Chapter 22. although formulated in this way by the Prague Structuralists. According to Shklovsky. In fact it was itself a further historical development of ideas generated by the Russian Formalists. Few authors are explicit on this point. The theory of foregrounding can be seen as a more precise and more systematic elaboration of these ideas.

that the notion of foregrounding is without problems. Research confirmed that readers' attention is drawn by deviations . reveal that it is indeed foregrounding that cause such effects (Miall & Kuiken 1994 and 1998).presumed ubiquitous (very common) nature of foregrounding devices should not be taken in the sense that they all occur in literature all the time. If that is so. that these deviations cause readers to process the text more slowly that they cause an increase in affective responses to the text . that they enhance aesthetic appreciation. no significant differences in responses to conventional and novel metaphors were found. or are they somehow forced by the text? Some research shows the influence of convention (Zwaan 1993). the relation between foregrounding and the evaluation of texts remains unclear. PROBLEMS All this does not mean.on the basis of the theory of foregrounding . however. First of predict responses of readers to a number of texts. when readers focus on the way a text is written rather than on its content. Hakemulder 2004). 5. do readers process more carefully because they think literary texts are supposed to be read more carefully. Miall & Kuiken 1994. But contrary to what foregrounding theory would predict. does the presence of foregrounding . both in the case of individual texts and in general. but rather that various forms of parallelism and / or deviation do seem to form an integral part of the literatures of all known languages. Others studies. Miall (1995) discusses how some research results in neuropsychology can be interpreted as support for the foregrounding theory. however. then the concept is a useful tool for analyzing and studying literature. There are still several questions that remain to be answered. and change readers' perception of the world outside the literary text (Van Peer 1986. and historical periods. In a series of reading experiments it proved to be possible . Researchers found that metaphors were rated as reflecting more intense speaker emotions than literal expressions. And this was the case regardless of readers' background or training. For example. would this be a matter of convention or purely an effect that can be attributed to text properties? In other words. cultures.

'foregrounding'. There is also terminological vagueness: are different terms. the Theater of the Absurd.g.because of their very use . and in existential literature – or the notion of aesthetic distance. In this way history can be viewed as a continuous . It will be apprehended that foregrounding devices may . It is a useful tool to describe particular characteristics of the text. Krampen 1996. Foregrounding has also been a useful concept in the study of visual arts and spectators' responses.lose their defamiliarizing potential.devices increase readers' sense of value of the text? There is but partial evidence for the existence of a relationship between these. One would also welcome a more precise description of the way in which the theory of foregrounding differs from other but similar theoretical constructs: Brecht's theory of Verfremdung and similar notions in Surrealism.. Hakemulder in press). or to explain its specific poetic effects on the reader.. Examples would be fixed positioning of the camera. 'deautomatization'. etc. and the deformation of familiar objects through filters. (e. 6. There is more to the concept of foregrounding than analyses of individual literary text. and its importance should certainly not be reduced to this contribution. synonyms. though. for him it describes spectators' focus on processes of construction of meaning. A more serious problem is the lack of a systematic inventory of devices and their relative importance. and thus stand in need of constant replacement. FOREGROUNDING AND LITERARY HISTORY The concept of foregrounding has been made use of most in textual analysis. mirrors. And it may fruitfully be employed to establish a link between purely linguistic description and the functioning literary texts in a culture at large. or do they correspond to slightly different psychological processes? In this respect. Wollen (1982) uses the term to define counter-cinema (opposing mainstream cinema). and extreme closeups. such as 'estrangement'. the similarities and differences with the more general (philosophical) notion of alienation through literature also should be clarified. In general the term is refers to drawing spectators' attention to some element in the film by means of unusual filmic devices. 'defamiliarization'.

It is claimed that. and content by making use of language. They all presume that they know where style is and they are all engaged in finding a scientific formular to locate it. From this argument. among modern scholars there is no agreement at all as to how to define the word style and stylistics. he believes that style is the man. The word style can be given different meaning and as such it is difficult to give a clear-cut monothlic definition of style but what we should know is that stylistics as a discipline originates from two separate and inter-related discipline and these disciplines are linguistics and literary As far as definition is concerned. Style in linguistics is applied to both written or spoken language. This definition is defective in a way. Style can be used in either a technical or a non-technical sense. There is style in everything human beings do. that is. The sociological analysts believe that a man is a product of the society and whatever he writes must reflect his socio-political experience. In view of this. critics and linguists have held divergent views and opinions about its definition. it is a difficult to divorce matter from manner. It should then be noted that the domain for the study of style is known as stylistics. There are psycho-linguist who believes that our speech helps to identify our social background. Stylistics. its relevance and its importance. The literary scholars and linguists have accepted stylistics to be a worthwhile discipline. one can rightly say that stylistics had secured a place for itself in the field of literature and language irrespective of the divers opinions express of scholars. Stylistics could be viewed as a branch of linguistics. no distinction can be made between what a writer writes and the way he writes it. the man himself is referred to as style. The word style is derived from the Latin word “Stylus” meaning “Reed”. Some lay emphasis on its methodological approaches. However. Buffoon gives another notion of style. . Reed is a stick for writing. It engages in the scientific study of style in both spoken and written texts.wavelike substitution and renewal of the devices and processes by which foregrounding operates. Some of these scholars believe that stylistics has a system and method which could be used to define the specific characteristics of literary words. Read more: http://writinghood. sex and nationalities within the society. inspite of these differences in opinion. A man’s writing will definitely reveal his background. context. Later Stylus metamorphosed into style. It recognizes the relationship between form. its linguistic “character”. Therefore. The inadequacy of this approach lies in the fact that some people use of language may not reveal their cultural identity. Chatman defines style as the manner in which form is executed or the means in which the context is expressed”. some writer’s identities may not reflect in their writings. linguistics has not totally failed in giving all the framework with which to work in stylistics.

In the same vein.e. in any case. It should be noted that there are two forms of foregrounding. There are two ways of looking at style and stylistics. Deviation itself is a deautomatisation of familiar linguistic and literary pattern. They could be used in relation to analysis of literary text and this gives us what is known as linguistics stylistics and it has its own peculiar analytical procedures. It means there are certain words we use everyday as if automatic. Non-deviational foregrounding . sounds can be repeatedly use for the same purpose. The problem with this definition is that it is difficult to decide what is the norm. if a writer or a speaker frequently uses adjectives that indicate or suggest vibrancy. It is the deliberate violation of the norms. Stylistics in the words of Widdowson (1975) “is the study of literary discourse form a linguistics orientation” stylistics. University students are unbeautiful. We shall begin to explain them one after the other. matter and manner. In similar manner. some say relationship between message and medium. there is the style of stylistics in relation to peculiar use of language and the analytical procedure here leads us to what is popular known as language varieties in a circle of language experts. Again foregrounding is used to thematise certain words or linguistic item. foregrounding refers to the factors of deviating from linguistic and literary norms. Moreover ideas have no colour. both the content and form have some stylistics significance. Secondly. Foregrounding will then do reversal i. It is the norm and anything contrary to this is a deviation. Every use of figure of speech could be seen as deviation. Is it the ordinary or the elevated usage? Another weakness is that not all text are all literary deviant. Thus. Generally. consequently involves with literary criticism and linguistics. linguistics stylistics could be simply defined as the application of stylistics through the linguistics frames to the analysis of literary text. e.Osgood defines style as norm and deviation. however stylistics could be regarded as the domain for the study of text or discourse. Deviation is a departure from general order. Following Chomsky’s selectional creterion. the choice of words varies. Principles of Stylistics There are three major principles of stylistics they are: foregrounding. A norm is the common practice or acceptable usage in language. and analyst would see this as an attempt to mimic or ape a particular situation being described or presented. Therefore. For instance all human normal human beings have two legs each. Norm and Deviation. what and how etc. The contradiction usage – colourless – green is also a deviation. They are: 1. a structure or words foregrounded acquire prominence or significance in a text as a result of making use of certain aspect of the language. There are some poems which cannot be said to be deviant. the prepondance of lexical item may be deployed to paint an atmosphere of serenity or calmness. content and form. In this case. It is what is permissible within the rules governing the use of language. Example there is deviation in the sentence: Colourless green idea sleeps furiously. the word “sleep” is deviant and ungrammatical in the above sentence because it selects an inanimate subject. Deviational foregrounding 2. de-automatise such automatic words. FOREGROUNDING This term was first used by a man called Jan Mulcanovsky. Depending on which angle it is viewed from.g. The sentence is grammatical and it violates the rule of choice. By the way.

There are different types of norms. the deviational type draws its own attraction if the readers attention is drawn by a way of violating the rules and norms of the pattern. If a linguistic item is motivated we say it is significant for meaning and if not. Dr Fatunsi …. Fatunsi ……. Example is such a systematic repeated/or prepondent manner that attracts the attention of a reader. it needs to be firstly analysed so as to find out the norms in order to discover a prominence or foregrounded structure.The non-deviational type of foregrounding is a structure that acquires a prominent significance in a text as a result of making use of certain aspect of language. authorian norm and lexical norm. rhyming pattern especially in conventional writing. we have characters engaging in dialogue. Cummings does not use capital letter at all and he does not use punctuation marks.E. phonological. It is almost the same as authorial norm. Michael Halliday observes that foregrounding is prominence. If you are writing a poem. though. At the graphological deviational level. Dr. 1. In drama. The norm of language as a whole is solely concerned with linguistic levels of language. E. semantic and textual deviation. In literary circle. E. it is not significant for meaning. certain norms must be observed e. Norms Norm is an established pattern within a text. Lexical items can only be foregrounded. They are: General norm. Cumming’s work: . the dialogue may be spoken or unspoken. such as the grammar. So we can have motivated and unmotivated prominence. whereas.. Lexical norm: This is a situation where a writer creates a norm for himself in a particular work. We can have grammatical lexical. starting each line with capital letter.g. In foregrounding there is also what is called prominence. It is the motivated prominence that goes with foregrounding. before a particular item/unit can be considered as foregrounding.. using verses. Deviation Deviation is the breaking of rules which others obey. Therefore. phonology. Authorian norm: This is the norm the author has created by himself. The has to do with/way the writer uses words.g. lexical structure and graphology. 2. despite the poetic deviation. General norm: This means in effect when writing we must observe the norms that relate to that type of text. 3. that is motivated. poetry skill has its own rules and norms which separate it from ordinary language and therefore creates its own pattern. The Sonnets has a norm that it has to be fourteen lines divided into octave and sestet. George Benard Shaw has his own norms and one of such is his lengthy stage directions which can go into stages before the real action. Dr Fatunsi is a lion-hearted chief. we focus on the breaking of rules relating to punctuation marks on starting a proper name with a small letter e. Dr Fatunsi is a dogged fighter who never discourages until victory is attempted. deviation is taken as poetic license or writer’s license and it should be noted that deviation could occur at various linguistic level. Example is E. Poetry as a genre is a deviation from the ordinary language.

Semantic deviation operates at the level of meaning e. It may be to attract attention e.g. This is provincial. The deviation here is semantic because an Abiku is not supposed to live that long (80 years).com/style/grammar/principles-ofstylistics/#ixzz1PtPRm1Um . Lexical deviation – At the lexical level. deviating from the rule of the grammar of a language e.g. then there is a dialectual deviation. Rhymy scheme can also be a form of deviation from the ordinary language e. Deviation can be in form of introduction of new words into the language e. “Three hearty cheers to our eighty year Abiku”. “se you hear her”.e.g. if you put the dialect of Akure into the mouth of an Hausa. The deviation could be grammatical i. Some people can not articulate well such speech sounds as /S/ /tS/. We also have dialectal deviation e. This grammatical deviation is also called syntactic deviation. deviation can also occur when you use the sound patterns of language which deviate from the ordinary language sound patterns. for example. instead of girl. Rime of the ancient manner” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge. instead of saying “Mad don” you say “Don mad”. the item or lexical item such as “allow” “pirate” are peculiar to a particular setting and are used in deviation to the normal use of the word.g. This is for the purpose of the matisation. What happen here is called macaronism which means put in more than one language. you say gal. deviation occur when a word is over-use in a line or when there is collocation clash or when a strange lexical item is brought in.g. Read more: http://writinghood. “If you like her so much why don”t you “kuku” marry him’.“spoke joe to jack leave her alone she is not your gal” At the level of phonology.g.

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