lexical stylistic devices
Lexical stylistic devices
Pun, zeugma, semantically false chains,
nonsense of non-sequence
Hyperbole and understatement
Lexical stylistic device is such type of denoting phenomena that serves to create additional expressive, evaluative, subjective connotations. In fact we deal with the intended substitution of the existing names approved by long usage and fixed in dictionaries, prompted by the speaker’s subjective original view and evaluation of things. Each type of intended substitution results in a stylistic device called also a trope.
This act of substitution is referred to transference – the name of one object is transferred onto another, proceeding from their similarity (of shape, color, function, etc.) or closeness (of material existence, cause/effect, instrument/result, part/whole relations, etc.).
Lexical stylistic devices
The most frequently used, well known and elaborated among lexical stylistic devices is a metaphor – transference of names based on the associated likeness between two objects, as in the “pancake”, “ball” for the “sky” or “silver dust”, “sequins” for “stars”. So there exist a similarity based on one or more common semantic component. And the wider is the gap between the associated objects the more striking and unexpected – the more expressive – is the metaphor.
If a metaphor involves likeness between inanimate and animate objects, we deal with personification, as in the “face of London” or “the pain of the ocean”.
Metaphor, as all other lexical stylistic devices, is fresh, original, genuine when first used, and trite, hackneyed, stale when often repeated. In the latter case it gradually loses its expressiveness.
Metaphor can be expressed by all notional parts of speech. Metaphor functions in the sentence as any of its members.
When the speaker (writer) in his desire to present an elaborated image does not limit its creation to a single metaphor but offers a group of them, this cluster is called sustained (prolonged) metaphor.
Another lexical stylistic device – metonymy is created by a different semantic process. It is based on contiguity (nearness) of objects. Transference of names in metonymy does not involve a necessity for two different words to have a common component in their semantic structures as is the case with metaphor but proceeds from the fact that two objects (phenomena) have common grounds of existence in reality. Such words as “cup” and “tea” have no semantic nearness, but the first one may serve the container of the second, hence – the conversational cliche “Will you have another cup?”.
Metonymy as all other lexical stylistic devices loses its originality due to long use.
The scope of transference in metonymy is much more limited than that of metaphor, which is quite understandable: the scope of human imagination identifying two objects (phenomena, actions) on the grounds of commonness of their innumerable characteristics is boundless while actual relations between objects are more limited. One type of metonymy – namely the one, which is based on the relations between the part and the whole – is often viewed independently as synecdoche.
As a rule, metonymy is expressed by nouns (less frequently – by substantivized numerals) and is used in syntactical functions characteristic of nouns (subject, object, predicative).
semantically false chains
and nonsense of non-sequence
Pun, zeugma, semantically false chains and nonsense of non-sequence are united into a small group as they have much in common both in the mechanism of their formation and in their function.
In the stylistic tradition of the English-speaking countries only the first two (pun and zeugma) are widely discussed. The latter may be viewed as slight variations of the first ones. The foursome perform the same stylistic function in speech and operate on the same linguistic mechanism. Namely, one word-form is deliberately used in two meanings. The effect of these lexical stylistic devices is humorous. Contextual conditions leading to the simultaneous realization of two meanings.
The formation of pun may vary. One speaker’s utterance may be wrong interpreted by the other due to the existence of different meaning of the misinterpreted word or its homonym. For example, “Have you been seeing any spirits?” “Or taking any?” The first “spirits” refers to supernatural forces, the second one – to strong drinks. Punning may be also the result of the speaker’s intended violation of the listener’s expectation.
We deal with zeugma when polysemantic verbs that can be combined with nouns of most varying semantic groups are deliberately used with two or more homogeneous members which are not connected semantically, as in such example: “He took his hat and his leave”. Zeugma is highly characteristic of English prose of previous centuries.
When the number of homogeneous members, semantically disconnected but attached to the same verb increases we deal with semantically false chains, which are thus a variation of zeugma. As a rule, it is the last member of the chain that falls out of the semantic group, producing humorous effect. The following case may serve an example: “A Governess wanted. Must possess knowledge of Rumanian, Italian, Spanish, German, Music and Mining Engineering”.
In most examples of zeugma the verb loses some of its semantic independence and strength being considered as member of phraseological unit or cliche.
Nonsense of non-sequence results in joining two semantically disconnected clauses into one sentence, as in: “Emperor Nero played the fiddle, so they burnt Rome”. Two disconnected statements are forcibly linked together.
In all previously discussed lexical stylistic devices we dealt with various transformations of the denotational meaning of words, which participated in the creation of metaphors, metonymies, puns, zeugmas, etc. Each of these lexical stylistic devices added expressiveness and originality to the nomination of the object. Their subjectivity relies on the new and fresh look at the object mentioned and shows the object from a new and unexpected side.
In irony subjectivity lies in the evaluation of the phenomenon. The essence of irony consists in the foregrounding not of the logical but of the evaluative meaning. Irony thus is a stylistic device in which the contextual evaluative meaning of a word is directly opposite to its dictionary meaning.
The context is arranged so that the qualifying word in irony reverses the direction of the evaluation and a positive meaning is understood as a negative one and (much-much rare) vice versa. “She turned with the sweet smile of an alligator”. The word ”sweet” reverse their positive meaning into the negative one due to the context. So, like all other lexical stylistic devices irony does not exist outside the context.