7 Conclusion: meanings of style

Monism, dualism, pluralism, although apparently in conflict with one
another, all have something to contribute to a comprehensive view of
style We may conclude, however, with a list of points which have been
made in this chapter, and which form the basis of the use of the term
‘style’ in this book.
(i) Style is a way in which language is used: i.e., it belongs to parole rather
than to langue.
(ii) Therefore style consists in choices made from the repertoire of the
(iii) A style is defined in terms of a domain of language use (e.g., what
choices are made by a particular author, in a particular genre, or in a
particular text).
(iv) Stylistics (or the study of style) has typically (as in this book) been
concerned with literary language.
(v) Literary stylistics is typically (as in this book) concerned with explaining
the relation between style and literary or aesthetic function.
(vi) Style is relatively transparent or opaque: transparency implies
paraphrasability; opacity implies that a text cannot be adequately
paraphrased, and that interpretation of the text depends greatly on the
creative imagination of the reader.
We come finally to a statement which is controversial, and about which
much of this chapter has been concerned:
(vii) Stylistic choice is limited to those aspects of linguistic choice which
concern alternative ways of rendering the same subject matter. This
defines a more restricted concept of style, which may be called style2, to
distinguish it from the notion of style as linguistic choice in general,
We have argued in favour of the tenet that underlies (vii), namely that it is
possible to distinguish between what the writer chooses to talk about, and
how he chooses to talk about it. This means that the study of the literary
function of language can be directed towards the stylistic values
associated with stylistic variants; that is, with forms of language which can
be seen as equivalent in terms of the ‘referential reality’ they describe.
This principle is questionable when it comes to more opaque varieties of
literary language, where the writer tends towards the innovative
techniques of poetry. Here, the study of foregrounding and its
interpretation is likely to be a better guide to the aesthetic function of
language than the study of stylistic variants. In other words, there is no
one model of prose style which is applicable to all texts. This is one reason

. He recognises. ‘style2’. to which we turn in the next chapter. Both are ultimately concerned with the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of language phenomena. like ‘meaning’. and style2 is ‘how language renders some subject matter’ (language use against the background of referential reality). Style1. epstein (1978). the more general concept. In such studies. it will be necessary to consider yet other components which have frequently entered into the definition of style.e. It is best to acknowledge that ‘style’. the multilayered nature of style. Epstein makes a bold attempt to interrelate various concepts of style (not only in language) through the notion of style as a perceptive strategy. as a basis for understanding the detailed workings of stylistic effect (see Chapter 4). whereby we pick out from an identified background secondary phenomena which attract attention as individualising elements. when for example we try to give a stylistic characterisation of a whole text. it is illuminating to read Chapter 1 of e. is a word which can be used either in a broader or a narrower sense. i.why we do not restrict the use of ‘style’ to what we have called stylistic variation.l. In this connection. 6. The two meanings of style (style1 and style2) are perhaps not so distinct as this discussion suggests. In practice. Style2 is the concept we shall use in exploring the nature of stylistic value. lies at the back of more large-scale studies of style. Style1 is ‘how language is used in a given context’ (language use against the background of the language code). little danger lies in this ambiguity. . as we do.