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The subject matter of stylistic morphology


Chapter 3

General (non-stylistic) morphology treats morphemes and grammati­cal meanings expressed by them in language in general, without regard to their stylistic value. Stylistic morphology, on the contrary, is interested in grammatical forms and grammatical meanings that are peculiar to partic­ular sublanguages, explicitly or implicitly comparing them with the neutral ones common to all the sublanguages. The stylistic potential of the mor­phology of the English language is one of the least investigated areas of re­search, especially the stylistic properties of the parts of speech and such grammatical categories as gender, number, person.

According to Y.M. Skrebnev, there are two trends of stylistic significance in English morphology: 1) synonymy (paradigmatic equivalence or inter- changeability of different morphemes); and 2) variability of use (or inter- changeability) of morphological categorial forms (i.e. component parts of the category) or of members of the opposition that constitute the gram­matical category (such as tense, person, number, etc). In both cases, there is a possibility of choice, of using one out of two or more varieties which co-exist paradigmatically.


3.2. Stylistic potential of affixes and word-building pat­terns

Stylistic morphology primarily deals with word-building expressive means (grammatical forms), under which the linguists consider: 1) ex­pressivity of affixes and 2) expressivity of different word-building patterns.

Any morpheme has an inherent structural meaning, but as a result of foregrounding of a morpheme it becomes vehicle of additional infor­mation — logical, emotive, expressive, thus creating the stylistic effect. One important way of promoting a morpheme is its repetition. Both root and affixational morphemes can be emphasized through repetition. Es­pecially vividly it is observed in the repetition of affixational morphemes which normally carry the main weight of the structural and not of the denotational significance. When repeated they come into focus of atten­tion andstress either their logical meaning (that of contrast, negation, ab­sence of quality as in prefixes a-, de-, mis-; or of smallness as in suffixes -ling, -ette); their emotive and evaluative meaning (as in suffixes forming degrees of comparison); or else they add to the rhythmical effect and text unity.

Every particular affix has its own connotational potential, thus enabling the speaker to communicate his positive or negative evaluation of a person or thing. For example, suffix -ish in different cases of use has the follow­ing meanings:

1) brown — brownish, blue — bluish: a neutral morpheme, demonstrates a small degree of this or that quality;

2) baldish, biggish, dullish: reveals the speaker's reluctance to name things in a strict, straightforward and categorical manner and presents a more tentative and tactful characteristic of this or that quality;

3)bookish, childish, doggish, goatish, sheepish, womanish, mannish (in relation to a woman): if added to a noun, forms adjectives with nega­tive derogatory connotation, indicating the bad or unsuitable qualities of something, revealing irritation, disapproval. Such words as girlish, boyish are exceptions;

4) honey-moonish: in compound words the negative evaluation becomes more intensive;

5) 40sh (about 40), atfourish (around 4 o'clock), at tennish (around 10 o'clock): if added to numerals it demonstrates uncertainty and approxi- mateness.

Negative attitude can also be rendered by such suffixes with nega­tive evaluation as: -ard (drunkard, coward), -ster (gangster, mobster, hipster, oldster), -aster (poetaster), -eer (profiteer; black marketeer), -monger (scarere-monger, war-monger, panic-monger), -o (oldo, kiddo, weirdo, sicko).

Diminutive suffixes (another stylistically relevant group of suffixes) Point to a small size of something, at the same time revealing tender, jocular or pejorative attitude: -kin (lambkin, Thumbkin), -let (chicklet, eaglet, starlet, rivulet), -ling (weakling, duckling), -y (daddy), -ie (lassie, oldie, sweetie, cutie, girlie), -ette (kitchenette кухонька)), -roo (Be a buddy. Be a buddyroo (Salinger)).

Negative affixes (in-, un-, ir-, non-, -less) traditionally represent ob­jects and phenomena as devoid of some quality (e.g.: unbending; irregular; non-profit organisation) but may obtain evaluative derogatory connotation and demonstrate the speaker's attitude to the phenomenon: un-birthday present (L. Carroll); And all Nature's signs and voices shame the prayerless heart of man (J.G. Whittier).

Apart from morphemic repetition, another effective way of using a mor­pheme for the creation of additional information is extension of its nor­mative valency, which results in the formation of new words. The exist­ing word-building patterns can be used to create occasional words, which are coined for special communicative situations only. Such words are char­acterized by freshness, originality lucidity of their inner form and mor­phemic structure. Very often violation of normative valency creates comi­cal effect. The following word-building patterns can be considered here: a) compounding, blending: friend-in-chief (commander-in-chief); love-co- loured glasses (rose-coloured glasses); Snowdzilla ((snow+Godzilla) — the name given to a 5-meter snowman); intrigue-o-meter, b) attributive phras­es: God-I-want-it gaze; c) reduplication: helter-skelter, razzle-dazzle; d) ab­breviation, shortening: celeb (celebrity);/ab (fabulous); tec (detective); fant (fantastic); beau (beautiful).


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