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Pragmatics. Rhetoric. Stylistics

Pragmatics is not only a catalyst for effective communication in transmitting semantic content, but also an important factor in securing the desired effect. This is achieved by a skilful use of the language means, which is the prerogative of Rhetoric and Stylistics.

The aims of ancient Rhetoric were thoroughly pragmatic. It was developed in Crece in the VI-IV centuries BC as an art of persuasion within the theory of oratory. In ancient Rome Rhetoric was an art of good speaking, and in mediaeval Europe – an art of decorating speech. Theories of rhetoric were different but always pragmatic in essence.

Stylistics was born of Rhetoric, concentrating with the progress of time on rhetorical means and on belles-lettres writing. Modern Stylistics has incorporated significant phenomena and facts on all levels of language, in paradigmatics and syntagmatics, in language and speech, etc.

Stylistic studies focus on the relationship of three basic categories: the means, the functions and the effects – the relationship of a clearly pragmatic character. Stylistic theory is a matter of variation, and stylistic practice – a matter of choice; and any choice is made for purely pragmatic purposes.

At present, at a time of communicative linguistics, most stylistic entities are viewed in terms of pragmatics: the ways semantic content is transmitted, the variation in the forms of transmission, the supplementary information and the ensuing stylistic effects. So, the introduction of Pragmatics into stylistic research is not just another aspect of analysis. Pragmatics is the essence of Stylistics.

The stylistician is faced with 2 tasks as far as Pragmatics is concerned: 1) to investigate the pragmatic nature of stylistic phenomena, and 2) to study those stylistically marked linguistic means which are capable of most effectively materializing the Pragmatics of discourse, and the mechanism of such materialization. The two tasks are closely interrelated and are often inseparable.


Stylistic Variation and Pragmatics

The central problem of Stylistics – variation – is essentially a pragmatic one. A choice of linguistic means may be made for both semantic and stylistic reasons, but only in the latter case the choice may be said to be truly pragmatic.

The addresser selects the most effective language means for a particular situation with a particular addressee in view, but only stylistic qualities of selected language means secure the desired effect.

Consider the following sentences:

1. Would you please be quiet?

2. Will you stop talking?

3. May I ask you to stop talking?

4. Could you stop talking?

5. Be quiet.

6. Stop talking!

7. Shut up!

8. Shut your trap!

It is obvious that the semantic content of all the sentences is the same – “Stop talking”. The difference lies in the stylistic aspect. Sentences 1-7 may be described as neutral; 8-9 as slang. In terms of pragmatic far richer information may be inferred. Eg.: the very label “Slang” predetermines some pragmatic factor, viz. the relationship between the addresser and the addressee, the pragmatic content and the intended pragmatic effect. So, “shut up” indicates an unequal position of the addresser and the addressee: the former humiliates the latter. The pragmatic content in this case is rude command, and the intended effect must be humble obedience. The same goes for 9, but apart from being rude it is also vulgar. Such are some of the pragmatic implications that accompany the semantic content of 8 and 9; they are prompted by the specific stylistic marking of linguistic units.

Examples 1-7 are neutral as far as stylistic marking is concerned. Their semantic content and pragmatic goal are the same as those of 8 and 9, but they vary in pragmatic content. 1st is a polite request, showing due respect for the addressee. 2-5 are also requests of a varying degree of politeness; 3-5 poses a touch of irony; 6 and 7 are commands, but 7 is more categorical and not polite enough. So 6-9 are all commands, but they are not homogeneous. A decent speaker is unlikely to use 8 and 9.



1.Промежуточные тесты по дисциплине «Стилистика английского языка»



Find and analyze stylistic devices in the given sentences:

- Dear Nature is the kindest Mother still.

- The leaves fell sorrowfully.

- The hall applauded.

- It must be delightful to find oneself in a foreign country without a penny.

- Dora plunged into privileged intimacy and into the middle of the room.

- Curly – headed good – for – nothing.

- It is this do – it – yourself; go – it – alone attitude.

- It has the poorest millionaires, the plainest beauties, the lowest skyscrapers.

- Sir John Potter, the mighty drinker.

- The countryside seems to faint from its own loveliness.

- My better half.

- I’ve told you that 50 times.

- To expire, to be no more, to depart, to give up the ghost.

- Out of sight, out of mind.



Find and analyze stylistic devices in the given sentences:

- Rude am I in my speech.

- Sir Pitt came in first, very much flushed and rather unsteady in his gait.

- I bring him news will raise his drooping spirits.

- Yes, it’s a little things make the difference.

- «You just come home or I’ll…»

- I don’t want to hear what you’ve come for. I don’t want to hear.

- I am exactly the man to be placed in a superior position in such a case like that. I can act with philosophy in such a case like that.

- A smile would come into Mr. Pickwick’s face: the smile extended into a laugh: the laugh into a roar; the roar became general.

- If she married a husband he beats her; if she employed a broker he cheated her; if she engaged a cook she drank.

- In the days of old men made the manners, Manners now make men.

- The poetry of earth is never dead. The poetry of earth is ceasing never.

- He was the only survivor: no one else was saved.

- God knows I loved you. For eight years I worshipped the ground you trod on.



Find and analyze stylistic devices in the given sentences:

- A saint abroad and a devil at home.

- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

- Soames turned away: he had an utter disinclination for talk, like one standing before an open grave, watching a coffin slowly lowered.

- The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.

- Are these the remedies for a starving and desperate populace?

- It’s a bad thing. – It’s a good thing.

- He wasn’t without taste…

- He found that this way no easy task…

- She was wearing a fur coat… Carr, the enthusiastic appreciator of smart women and as good a judge of dress as any man to be met in a Pall Mall club, saw that she was no country cousin. She had style as he preferred to call it.



Find and analyze stylistic devices in the given sentences:

- Through the open window the dust danced and was golden.

- The marble spoke.

- A mischief-making monkey.

- A plump, rosy-cheeked, apple-faced young man.

- She looked like china-shepherd.

- It’s a rare bird that can fly to the middle of the Dnieper.

- First come, first served.

- Down dropped the breeze.

- Beautiful lady. Going to kidnap us.

- There’s something wants to speak to you.

- Good intentions but…

- He is no coward – He is a brave man.

- He was not gentle lamb, and the pert of second fiddle would never do for the high-pitched dominance of his nature.


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