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Focus: Introduction to Stylistics

LET Competencies:

1. apply the basic stylistic principles to arrive at meaning of literary texts

2. demonstrate skills in a principled analysis of literary texts to produce less
impressionistic or subjective interpretation
3. grasp the grammar of literature through various linguistic tools

A. Definition of Stylistics
1. Some of the more common definitions of stylistics follow.
1.1. Stylistics is the application of concepts from linguistics and allied disciplines in the
analysis and interpretation of samples of communication through language (Otanes, ms.).
1.2. The linguistic study of different styles is called stylistics (Chapman, 1973:11).
1.3. Stylistics is a linguistic approach to the study of literary text (Brumfit and Carter,
1.4. Stylistics is the study of literary discourse from a linguistics orientation. What
distinguishes it from literary criticism is that it is a means of linking the two
(Widdowson, 1975).
1.5. Practical stylistics is the process of literary text analysis which starts from a basic
assumption that the previous interpretative procedures used in the reading of a literary
text are linguistic procedures (Carter, 1991:4).
2. Three basic principles of a linguistic approach to literary study and criticism (Carter):
2.1. That the greater our detailed knowledge of the working of the language system, the
greater our capacity for insightful awareness of the effects produced by the literary texts
2.2. That a principled analysis of language can be used to make our commentary on the
effects produced in a literary work less impressionistic and subjective
2.3. That because it will be rooted in a systematic awareness of language, bits of language
will not merely be spotted and evidence gathered casually and haphazardly. Analysis of
one linguistic pattern requires checking against related patterns across the text.
Evidence for the text will be provided in an overt or principled way. The conclusions can
be attested and retrieved by another analyst working on the same data with the same
method. There is also less danger that we may overlook textual features crucial to the
significance of the work.
3. Importance of practical stylistics:
3.1. It can provide the means whereby the student of literature can relate a piece of literary
writings to his own experience of language and so can extend that experience.
3.2. It can assist in the transfer of interpretative skills, on essential purpose of literary
3.3. It can provide a procedure for demystifying literary texts.
3.4. The focus of a literary text in itself provides a context in which the learning of aspects of
language can be positively enjoyed.

4. Grid of Relationships of Stylistics with other Disciplines

Disciplines: Linguistics Literary Criticism


Subjects: Language Literature

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5. Some Useful Concepts in Stylistics:
Foregrounding emphasis on a textual feature; may be achieved through unusual or
strange collocations, meaningful repetitions, contrast, deliberate deviation from the norms/
rules/ conventions.

Collocation the co-occurrence of certain words

Reference vs. Representation Reference is the indexical function of language, pointing

to different aspects of reality. Representation is manipulating language to stand for an
experience/ situation.

Diegesis and Mimesis Diegesis is telling/ narrating; mimesis is showing.

Co-operative Principle According to Grice, people can engage in meaningful extended

conversation because, under normal conditions, the interlocutors observe certain
principles, which he calls the four conversational maxims. The maxim of Quality upholds
the value of truth/ sincerity; the maxim of Manner refers to the avoidance of obscurity of
expression and ambiguity, and to be orderly (Pratt, 1977, pp. 129-130, in Weber, 1996).

Four convention maxims in carrying out a conversation

(The co-operative principle and its regulative conventions)

1. The maxim of quantity: make your contribution as informative as is required dont

give too much or too little information.
2. The maxim of quality: make your contribution one that you believe to be true.
3. The maxim of relation: be relevant
4. The maxim of manner: avoid unnecessary prolixity, obscurity of expression and
ambiguity, and be orderly.

Four cases when maxims are often violated:

a) A speaker may unostentatiously violate a maxim; this accounts for lies and deceits.
b) He may opt out of the co-operative principle, e.g., government officials refusal to
answer questions requiring classified information.
c) Faced with clash, he may break one maxim or another.
d) He may ostentatiously flout a maxim, so that it is apparent to his interlocutors.

Speech Act The theory that many utterances are significant not so much in terms of what
they say, but rather in terms of what they do (Sullivan, et al., 1994, p. 293).

The speech act has three conditions:

1. Introduction of context or the preparatory and sincerity conditions.
Ex. I promise to return the book next week.

2. Marking of clear social relationships.

Ex. Normally, a servant cannot threaten a master.

3. Observance of felicity conditions before and post speech event.

Ex. From Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Vladimir: Well, shall we go?
Estrogen: Yes, lets go.
(They do not move).

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B. Some Common Ways of Interpreting (Literary Texts) in Stylistics
1. Systematic Grammar in Literary Analysis (Halliday, 1970 in Carter, 1991).
Halliday sees language in terms of three functions: (1) The ideational (2) The
interpersonal, and (3) the textual. The ideational function is concerned with cognitive
meaning, the interpersonal with describing the relations between persons (hence,
questions and answers, positive and negative forms, are part of this function), and the
textual with process enabling the speaker or writer to construct texts as a logical
sequence of units.
One possible option with the ideational function, Halliday goes on to say, is the
transitivity function, to illustrate how stylistics may profit from applying a grammatical
model to analyze a literary text. The transitivity function has three elements:
(a) the process represented by the verb. Ex.: Alex watered the plants.
(b) the participants the roles of persons and objects. In the above sentence,
Alex is the actor, the plants object/goal.
(c) circumstantial function - in English typically the adverbials of time, place, and
Roles come in the form of (a) actor, (b) goal or object of result, (c) beneficiary or
recipient as in Rykel gave his brother Shen some cookies, and (d) instrument of force as
The tree was hit by a lightning.

In dealing with clause types, Halliday distinguishes three types: those of (a) action,
(b) mental process, and (c) relation. The mental process verbs are further divided into
verbs of perception, reaction, cognition, and verbalization, all having a processor
and phenomenon, rather than having actor and goal as participant roles.

Ex. Shen heard his younger brother (person)

the reason (abstraction)
the singing of the anthem (event) bracketed words
the radio (object) are phenomena

Relational clauses are those in which the process describes or states a relation
between two roles.
Ex.: 1. Arnel Pineda acts as the lead singer. (attributive type)
2. The Journey band is as popular as the Jonas. (equative type)

Halliday also classifies action clauses and mental process clauses in terms of the
ergative function in which an affected participant has an inherent role associated with
action clauses and which is the goal in a transitive clause and the action in an intransitive
Ex..: 1. Raskolnikov fell ill. (the affected participant)
2. The theory consumes him. (causer of the process)

2. Meaning Beyond The Sentence

The kernels of meaning in long-winding sentences, particularly in the stream-of-
consciousness technique, may be derived by listing them down to create a discourse or
arrive at meaning.

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In this regard Chapman (1973) enumerates 9 of the most frequently used
connectives, as among the essential features of discourse.

a. Conjunctions and conjunctive adjectives (e.g., however, but, furthermore,

Ex. In Dapitan, Rizal engaged in farming, sculpture, poetry-writing and
other useful activities, but life there proved routine until Josephine
Bracken came to his life.

b. Pronominal linkage with a preceding noun.

Ex. For an hour and a half he wondered aimlessly up and down side
streets, immersed in solving some problem chess, of course the
meaning of which suddenly had become the meaning of his whole
existence on earth.

Leonid Leonovs The Wooden Queen

c. Repetition of a keyword or proper name, either identically or in a different

grammatical form:
Ex. He was a formidable player; few dared play with him for his stakes
were so high and reckless.

Hesses Siddhartha

d. Use of synonyms or related word or phrase:

Ex. For they sometimes, perhaps even on the majority of occasions,
waited for their squires to grow old, and then when they were cloyed
with service, having endured bad days and worse nights, they
conferred upon them some title, such as count, or at least marquis.

Cervantess Don Quixote

e. Deictic words pointers like the, this, that either governing a noun or referring
back to the whole sentence.
Ex. Is that the way they do things where youve been, he asked. for
the ladies to escort the gentleman home?
That was a nasty hit for Eleseus; he turned red
Hamsuns Growth of the Soil
f. Repetition of opening structure
Ex. We work when the sun rises,
We rest when the sun sets.
We dig wells for drink,
We plow the land for food.
What has the power of the Emperor
to do with us?
Shih Shing (Book of Songs)

g. Class-member relationships, or relationships of the parts of referent to the whole

Ex. They were friends, yet enemies; he was master, she was mistress;
each cheated the other, each feared the other, each felt this and knew
this enemy time they touched hands

Virginia Woolfs Duchess and the Jeweler

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h. Loosen semantic connection without repetition of items.
Ex. I had soon realized I was speaking to a Catholic, to someone who
believed how do they put it? in an omnipotent and omniscient
Deity, while I was what is loosely called an Agnostic.

Graham Greenes The Hint of an Explanation

i. Clear sequence of events

Ex. Those were the happiest years of my life, my friendship with Lojzik
and stamp-collecting. Then I had scarlet fever and wouldnt let him
come to see me, but he used to stand in the passage and whistle so
that I could see him.

Karel Capek, The Stamp Collection

3. Pedagogical Stylistics
Carter (in Weber, 1996) bats for a more extensive and integrated study of
language and literature which are better given as pre-literary, linguistic activities.

3.1 Predicting how the narrative will develop after omitting the title, or after
reading the first paragraph. This can be done by paired group.
Lyric poems or texts which evoke descriptive states do not benefit from
this activity.
Texts with a strong plot component do
Even the best narrative could make students read back and project
3.2 Use of cloze procedure
Focus on individual words/sequence of words, rather than on stretches of
Do some lexical prediction during the act of reading/ after a story is read.
Show careful/close reading.
Do reasonable and supportable predictions to be alerted to the over-all
pattern of the story.
3.3 Summarizing strategies
Limit the summary, from 25-40 words to: (a) re-structure, delete, re-
shape their word to meet the word limit, (b) focus on structure and shape
of the narrative.
Compare and criticize alternative summaries.
3.4 Forum: Debating opposing viewpoints
Mobilize discussion and debate.
Do small-group activity.
Provide counter-examples from other groups to listen.
Use their prior knowledge and the text in question.
3.5 Guided re-writing
Recognize the broader discourse patterns of texts and styles appropriate
to them.
Re-write stretches of discourse to change its communicative value.
Rewrite a set of instructions, as a description, or turning a lecture
transcript into academic discourse.
Specify clearly information about audiences/purpose.
Rewrite one style into another to explore connections between styles and
meaning, particularly juxtaposing literary and non-literary texts.

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Focus on varied ways in instructing information for readers in different
Infer more on semantic overlaps, degrees of information supplied to a
reader, even the omission of certain expected propositions assigned
thematic significance.

E. Pragmatic Stylistics
Below is a grid showing six major speech act functions and sub-functions, (cited in
Hatch, 1992):
Kind of Exchange Examples Speech Act Equivalent

1. Factual Information a)The IIRC report inflicts many. Representative (judged for
identify, ask, report, say, b)The plane departs at 7:10. truth value, may either be
think c)Is Sunshine Corazon a threat hedged or aggravated)
to Lea Michelle?

2. Intellectual Information a)These arguments are correct. Representative

agree/disagree, b)Sorry, I cant attend the
remember/forget, meeting!
certain/uncertain, ask/give, c)Global warming melts the Artic.

3. Emotional attitudes a) Im worried about my term Expressive

surprise, hope, fear, worry, papers.
preference, gratitude, b) Usec Puno intends to resign.
intention, want, desire c) Make my coffee black.

4. Moral attitudes a)I appreciate your help. Expressive (states joy,

apology, approval, b)He regretted his decision. disappointment, likes,
appreciation, regret, c)The mother abandons the dislikes, etc.)
indifference baby.

5. Suasion a)Hand in your assignments.

suggest, request, invite, b)Watch out for falling debris! Directive (makes a request
instruct, advice, warn, offer c)The doctor suggests that Ana to be complied with
lessen her sugar intake.
6. Socializing
greet, take leave, introduce, a)Hi, Larry, how are you? Directive (i.e., Tell me how
propose, congratulate, etc. b)You made it! Im happy for you. you are.)
c)See you tomorrow!

Other speech acts include:

1. Commissives are statements that function as promise or refusals for action.
Like directives, commissives vary in strength either strong or highly hedged
in either positive or negative directions.
Ex. Dont worry, Ill be there.

2. Declaratives (To Austin, declaratives are performatives). When uttered, they

bring about a new state of being.
Ex. a) I now pronounce you husband and wife!
b) You won the lotto!
c) Here are your walking papers!

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F. Recent Trends in Stylistics
Structural Stylistics

Objectivist Affective

Formalist Functionalist

1. As viewed by Taylor and Toolan (in Weber, 1996), structural stylistics is split into Objectivist and
Affective theories. While the Objectivist stylisticians hold that style is an inherent property of
the text itself, if not an utterance, Affective stylisticians consider unarbitrary cultural myths and
tastes, if not renewed awareness of the provisionality of interpretations (Toolan), both limiting
and enabling (Armstrong, 1983).

2. Within the objectivist camp, the two factions of formalists and the functional exist. The
functionalists, take the stylistic system of a language to be bi-planar linking formal stylistic
features with specific stylistic functions (or effects or values) as in comparing the synonyms
of an expression, for their stylistic potential. By contrast, the formalists prefer purely formal
criteria in identifying stylistic patterns and features.

3. The Achilles heel of functional stylistics, to Toolan, is the problem of criterial perspective,
other than an eclecticism of methods, ideas and techniques derived from: (a) Griceian
pragmatics, (b) generative syntax, (c) Prague school of functionalism, (d) quantitative
stylistics, (e) speech-act theory, (f) structuralist poetics, (g) discourse analysis, and (h) French

4. Applying Hallidays two notions on function used in describing language (a) in the sense of
grammatical (or syntactic) function to refer to elements of linguistic structures such as actor
and goal or subject and object or theme and rheme, as roles occupied by classes of words
phrases, and the like in the higher structural units; (b) to the generalized notion of functions of
language ideational, interpersonal, and textual.

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function: Experiential Logical

types of process addition types of speech types of message
CLAUSE participants and report function (identity as text
circumstances modality relation)
(identity clauses) (the WH- (identification,
(things, facts, and function) predication,
reports) POLARITY reference,

PARATACTIC COMPLEXES (all ranks) coordination apposition


reference; substitution & ellipsis; conjunction; lexical cohesion

(verb classes) catenation PERSON VOICE

COHESION (above the sentence: non-structural relations)

secondary tense (marked (contrastive
options) options)
Nominal epithet function classification ATTITUDE DEIXIS
GROUP enumeration sub-modification attitudinal determiners
(noun classes) modifiers phoric elements
(adjective classes) intensifiers (qualifiers)
(definite article)

Adverbial MINOR narrowing sub- COMMENT CONJUNCTION

(incl. PROCESSES modification (classes of (classes of
prepositional prepositional comment discourse adjunct)
GROUP) relations (classes adjunct)
of circumstantial


(incl. lexical CONTENT REGISTER (collocational
item) (taxonomic derivation (expressive organization of
organization of words) vocabulary
vocabulary) (stylistic
organization of


UNIT intonation distribution and
systems focus

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