Dialecticisms are words used by people of a certain community living in a certain territory. In US Southern dialect one might say: "Cousin, у'all talk mighty fine" which means "Sir, you speak English well". In ethnic-immigrant dialects the same sentence will sound as "Paisano, you speek good the English" or "Landsman, your English is plenty all right already".
Dialecticisms are used
- to give a true-to-life picture of social and geographic environment;
- to carry a strong flavour of the locality
- to intensify the emotive and expressive colouring of speech;
- to indicate the character’s origin
3. Neutral vocabulary / words having no lexico-stylistic paradigm
As we have said before, there is always a possibility to express the same thing using other linguistic means devoid of colloquial or informal connotations, i.e. using neutral Lexis.
The majority of English words are neutral. Neutral words do not have stylistic connotations. Their meanings are purely denotative. They are such words as table, man, day, weather, to go, good, first, something, enough.
Neutral vocabulary covers terms, nomenclature words, historical words, exotisms, and lexical neologisms. Prof. Galperin emphasizes the stylistic potential of neutral words saying that they are capable of generating new meanings and new stylistic variants. Being stylistically unmarked in their paradigm, neutral words can acquire a special stylistic colouring in case of transpositon (from their typical area of usage into some other). Used in fiction, neutral vocabulary can create a life-like atmosphere, be a means of speech characterization or even produce a humorous or satirical effect revealing the nature of a character or image.
Neutral words form the lexical backbone of all functional styles. They are understood and accepted by all English-speaking people. Being the main source of synonymy and polysemy, neutral words easily produce new meanings and stylistic variants. Compare: mouse - 1) a small furry animal with a long tail; 2) mouse = a small device that you move in order to do things on a computer screen; 3) mouse = someone who is quiet and prefers not to be noticed.
Terms belong to particular sciences. Consequently, the domain of their usage is the scientific functional style. The denotative meanings of terms are clearly defined. A classical term is monosemantic and has no synonyms. Terms of general nature are interdisciplinary (approbation, anomaly, interpretation, definition, monograph, etc. ). Semantically narrow terms belong to a definite branch of science (math.: differential, vector, hypotenuse, leg (of a triangle), equation, logarithm). When used in other styles, terms produce different stylistic effects. They may sound humoristically or make speech "clever" and "scientific-like". Academic study has its own terms too. Terms such as palatalization or velarization (phonetics), discourse analysis (sty-listics), hegemony (political philosophy) and objective correlative (literary studies) would not be recognizable by an everyday reader, though they might be understood by someone studying the same subject.
Terms should be used with precision, accuracy, and above all restraint. Eric Partridge quotes the following example to illustrate the difference between a statement in technical and non-technical form: Chlorophyll makes food by photosynthesis = Green leaves build up food with the aid of light. When terms are used to show off or impress readers or listeners, they are likely to create the opposite effect. There is not much virtue in using terms such as aerated beverages instead of fizzy drinks. These simply cause disruptions in tone and create a weak style. Here is an even more pretentious example of such weakness: Enjoy your free sample of our moisturizing cleansing bar (in other words - our soap).
This word-class constitutes the actual majority of the lexical units' of every modern language serving the needs of a highly developed science and technology. Suffice it to say that the vocabulary of chemistry is practically boundless (chemistry being only one branch of the immense information accumulated by humanity). It is a common prejudice of linguistics to consider specialist terms at large as allegedly devoid of stylistic colouring. The reader will have guessed that this current opinion is false. To be sure, such terms do not contain any emotional, subjective connotations, or at least they are supposed not to contain such connotations. At the same time there is no denying the fact of their aesthetic (and, hence, expressive) value as compared with neutral words. A term is always associated by a layman with socially prestigeous spheres; it expresses an idea which otherwise requires a circumlocutional description in a non-professional sphere; hence, it gives the layman a kind of intellectual satisfaction. It goes without saying that the stylistic function of terms varies in different types of speech. In special (professional) spheres the term performs no expressive or aesthetic function whatever. In non-professional spheres (imaginative prose, newspaper texts, everyday oral speech) popular terms are of the first (minimal) or the second (medial) degree of elevation. The use of special non-popular terms, unknown to the average speaker, shows a pretentious manner of speech, lack of taste or tact.
Terms are used in the text to:
- in fiction are used to create an authentic atmosphere of the events described;
- to indicate the profession of the character;
- to create the authentic environment of business/medicine/law
Professionalisms. The linguistic status of 'professional' words, i.e. those which replace some official terms of a profession is not quite definite either. On the one hand, they are used by professionals habitually, automatically, without a stylistic purpose: just because their use is an established custom of the profession. In this, they resemble colloquialisms. On the other hand, their creation is largely the result of emphatic protest against official technical terms and common literary words. The latter peculiarity of professionalisms makes them resemble jargon words, or jargonisms (see below). The only difference between the two is that professionalisms are unofficial terms in a special field, while jargonisms are only created by and current among the people of a profession, yet their meanings pertain to everyday life, not to the professional sphere. Thus, sewing-machine used by soldiers instead of machine-gun is a professional expression, the name of a military object. On the contrary, the expression big gun that means 'an important person' only employs a popular military term gun, but the phrase itself has nothing in common with military affairs: it expresses a notion of everyday life. As it appeared in military circles and is current there, we refer it to soldiers' jargon.
There is also another viewpoint, in stylistic tradition. Both informal substitutes for special terms and term-like substitutes for non-terminological words and expressions are part of the jargon of the given profession. By professionalisms proper certain authors mean words and phrases 'betraying' professionals communicating with people outside their profession, or speaking on subjects which have nothing in common with their trade. These words and phrases are not necessarily substitutes for official terms: they may be real terms of the profession. The term 'professionalism' is thus a term of that stylistics which confines its field of investigation to poetry and (more often) imaginative prose. Here are a few examples of what researchers in belles lettres call 'professionalisms', e.g.: Val gave the Ford full rein (Galsworthy). The same personage promises to keep silent about what he is asked to: "Stable secret!" (the reader acquainted with The Forsyte Saga remembers Val Dartie's passion for horseracing — hence the metaphors). Martin Eden, a sailor, says to his new acquaintance: "I'm like a navigator on a strange sea without chart or compass" (London).
Summing up, we must say that English is known to have an abundant stock of words, and we have many to choose from similar meanings or synonyms. Words with similar meanings, however, may have different connotations or associated meanings, and choosing the right word (in translation) can present problems. It is also well-known that in an examination, for example, it is better not to use slang words, whose use is normally confined to familiar speech within a group of equals or peers. For the examination we use formal words and for our friends we use informal words. The examination is a formal occasion, and we learn to associate different sets of words with different occasions.
As Dennis Freeborn points out, the choice of words affects the style of everything written or spoken, so the topic of word choice will continue to be relevant in the next lectures.