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Stylistic Use of structural meaning





A. Rhetorical Questions

B. Litotes

C. Syntactical Hyperbole

D. Question-in-the-Narrative

E. Represented Speech.

On analogy with transference of lexical meaning, in which words are used other than in their primary logical sense, syntactical structures may also be used in meanings other than their primary ones. Every syntactical structure has its definite function, which is called its structural meaning. When a structure is used in some other function it may be said to assume a new meaning which is similar to lexical transferred one.

Among syntactical SDs there are two in which this transference of structural meaning is to be seen. They are rhetorical questions and litotes.

A. Rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for rhetorical effect rather than for the purpose of getting an answer. It is usually defined as any question asked for a purpose other than to obtain the information the question asks. For example, "Why are you so intolerant?" is likely to be a statement regarding one's opinion of the person addressed rather than a genuine request to know. Similarly, when someone responds to a tragic event by saying, "Why me, God?!" it is more likely to be an accusation or an expression of feeling than a realistic request for information. E.g. «How many times do I have to tell you to stop walking into the house with mud on your shoes?»

A rhetorical question seeks to encourage reflection within the listener as to what the answer to the question (at least, the answer implied by the questioner) must be.

Some rhetorical questions become idiomatic English expressions:

· «What's the matter with you?»

· «Have you no shame?»

· «Are you crazy?»

· «Who cares?

· «How should I know?»

· «Do you expect me to do it for you?»

A rhetorical question typically ends in a question mark (?),

e.g. «The whole wood seemed running now, running hard, hunting, chasing, closing in round something or--somebody? In panic, he began to run too, aimlessly, he knew not whither.» – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, Ch. 3.

Occasionally may end with an exclamation mark (!) or even a period (.):

· «What's the point of going on.»

· «Isn't that ironic!»

Apart from these more obviously rhetorical uses, the question as a grammatical form has important rhetorical dimensions. For example, the rhetorical critic may assess the effect of asking a question as a method of beginning discourse: «Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?» says the persona of Shakespeare's 18th sonnet. This kind of rhetorical question, in which one asks the opinion of those listening, is called anacoenosis. This rhetorical question has a definite ethical dimension, since to ask in this way generally endears the speaker to the audience and so improves his or her credibility.

A rhetorical question implies its own answer; it’s a way of making a point. Examples: «Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?» «What business is it of yours?» «How did that idiot ever get elected?» These aren’t questions in the usual sense, but statements in the form of a question.

Many people mistakenly suppose that any nonsensical question, or one which cannot be answered, can be called a rhetorical question. The following are not proper rhetorical questions: «What was the best thing before sliced bread?», «If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?», «Who let the dogs out?»

Sometimes speakers ask questions so they can then proceed to answer them: «Do we have enough troops to win the war? It all depends on how you define victory.» The speaker is engaging in rhetoric, but the question asked is not a rhetorical question in the technical sense. Instead this is a question-in-the-narrative, a mock-dialogue, with the speaker taking both roles.

B. A litotesis a negative construction that caries no negative meaning. It is a figure of speech in which the speaker either strengthens or weakens the emphasis of a claim by denying its opposite, for example, rather than call a person attractive, one might say she's «not too bad to look at».

Litotes also can be used to weaken a statement – «It's bad, but it's O.K.» can be seen as self-contradictory, but one can weaken the first part using litotes, producing «It's not good, but it's O.K.», which is a reasonable statement.

A litotes can be used as a deliberate understatement or to express ambivalence, strengthening or emphasizing a statement where the speaker or writer uses a negative of a word ironically, to mean the opposite. Like many figures of speech, the interpretation of litotes thus depends on context, including cultural and linguistic contexts.

Litotes: · «He was not unfamiliar with the works of Dickens.» · She's not the friendliest person I know. · «The food was not bad.» · «Reaching the moon was no ordinary task.» · «That was no big deal.» · «Don't fail me now!» As opposed to: · «He was well acquainted with the works of Dickens.» · she's an unfriendly person · «The food was good.» · «Reaching the moon was a fantastic task.» · «That was nothing.» · «Help me!»

In English, such expressions as «not not good» are commonly used colloquially to express ambivalence. This is not necessarily the opposite of a conventional litotes, where the intent would be to emphasize the magnitude of the goodness. In colloquial speech, «It's not good, but it's not not good» likely means something like, «It's not particularly good, but it's not particularly bad, either.» Similarly, in colloquial British English, the phrase not half usually means completely, as in the sentence «I don't half fancy a drink», which means, «I fancy a drink.»



Some more examples: It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain. – J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.

Running a marathon in under two hours is no small accomplishment.

Some authors see litotes as a means of expressing modesty (downplaying one's accomplishments) in order to gain the audience's favour.

Litotes is to be found in English literature right back to Anglo-Saxon times. In many languages, including some non-standard dialects of English, double negatives can be used to express a simple negation; for example, in Spanish, «No quiero nada» (literally «I don't want nothing») means «I don't want anything.» Cf. with the corresponding Russian statement.

There are several structural patterns of litotes.

a) a negative particle and an adjective with a negative prefix.

E.g. 1) He smiled not unkindly.

2) Andrew did not dislike him.

3) He was laughing at her but not unkindly.

4) – How slippery is it, Sam?

- Not uncommon thing with ice.

b) two negative particles.

E.g.: But in his turban and long pale tunic he was not without dignity.

c) a negative particle and a word of negative meaning.

E.g.: 1) And even the doctor, shy but no fool, half unconsciously acknowledged the compliment.

2) Missis Marshal was not a little flattered to think that she and her husband were the only people on board.

3) Brutus: «Not that I loved Cesar less, but I loved Rome more». (+antithesis)

4) He said not without dignity «Too much talking is unwise».

d) Sometimes the structure is freer.

E.g.: 1) I’m not sure that I do not agree with you.

2) I felt I wouldn’t say “No” to a cup of tea

Litotes is not as categorical as an affirmative statement and suggests some hesitation or sometimes deliberate understatement; it is synonymously called meiosis.

[E.g.]: One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.

His suit had that elasticity disciplined only by the first rate tailoring which isn’t board for very much under 30 dollars.

C. Syntactical Hyperbole is exaggeration or overstatement on the syntactical level, where a sentence/sentence parts/sentence structures are involved to make the sudden humorous effect. The effect is achieved due to contradiction between the denotat itself and the way it is described in a sentence:

«The world has held great Heroes,

As history books have showed;

But never a name to go down to fame

Compared with that of Toad!» - Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, Ch. 10

«The clever men at Oxford Know all that there is to be knowed. But they none of them know one half as much As intelligent Mr. Toad!» – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, Ch. 10

The book’s character, Mr. Toad, is well-known for his thoughtless moves in life, endangering himself and his friends.

Some syntactical EMs and SDs reflect Stylistic Use of Structural Meaning. Among these are Question-in-the-Narrative and Represented Speech (Uttered and Unuttered One)









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