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The noun and its stylistic potential
Stylistic potentials of parts of speech
The notion of grammatical transposition
The 2nd trend of stylistic morphology (i.e. variability of use of morphological categorial forms) is linked to the notion of grammatical transposition. Stylistic morphology is mainly preoccupied with the unusual usage of different parts of speech, with the violation of traditional lexico-grammatical valency. Transposition is the usage of certain forms of different parts of speech in non-conventional grammatical or lexical meanings. In most cases the stylistic function is observed as a result of violation of traditional grammatical valencies, which helps the speakers express their emotions and attitudes to the subject of discussion.
T.A. Znamenskaya outlines three types of grammatical transposition:
- transposition of a certain grammar form into a new syntactical distribution, which produces the effect of contrast (e.g. historical present);
- transposition of both the lexical and grammatical meanings (which takes place when abstract nouns are used in the plural);
- transposition from one word class into another (e.g. in antonomasia a common noun is used as a proper one).
Stylistic potential of the noun can be observed in case of transposition of a noun from one word class (lexico-grammatical category) into another,which creates expressive, emotional, evaluative and stylistic connotations. English common nouns are traditionally subdivided into several groups: 1) nouns naming individuals (a man, a person, a doctor); 2) nouns naming other living beings — real or imaginary (angel, ass, bird, devil); 3) nouns naming objects (a book, a lesson); 4) collective nouns denoting a number of things taken together and regarded as a single object (family, crew, company, crowd); 5) collective nouns which are names of multitude (cattle, poultry, police); 6) nouns naming units of measurement (mile, month); 7) material nouns (snow, iron, meat, matter); 8) abstract nouns denoting abstract notions (time), qualities or states (kindness, courage, strength), processes or actions (conversation, writing).
The names of animals or imaginary creatures when used with regard to people (in colloquial speech) gain emotionally colored expressive connotations: tender / affectionate (duck, teddy, angel, lamb); ironical (pig, donkey, monkey); highly negative (bookworm, shark, snake, bear, swine, ass, ape, devil). Negative evaluation is even more intensified due to the usage of permanent epithets and emphatic imperative structure: you lazy dog; you filthy swine.
Abstract nouns may be transposed into the class of nouns naming individuals. In this case they are charged with various emotional connotations (ranging from affection to irony or distaste): the chubby little electricity (to refer to a child); the old oddity (an odd old person); he is a disgrace to his family (he is a disgraceful son). I.V. Arnold compares the following synonymous phrases in terms of their expressivity:
1) You are a horrid girl (only lexical meaning contributes to expressivity);
2) You horrid girl (more expressive due to syntactical construction);
3) You horrid little thing (expressivity increased due to depersonifica- tion);
4) You little horror (highly expressive as a result of transposition from the class of abstract nouns into the class of nouns naming people).
Another type of transposition is transposition from one part of speech into another (not just between the categories of one and the same part of speech). Thus, adjectives may be transposed into nouns as a result of substantivisation.
In colloquial speech a certain group of adjectives may be transposed into nouns naming people. They are used as forms of address performing the appellative expressive function: Listen, my sweet; Wait a little, lovely.
Adjectives / Participles II describing people's qualities may be substantivised to refer to the groups of people possessing this quality, e.g.: / came here, he said, because I felt it my duty to aid the hurt and the sick (Fast); the rich; the poor; the wounded; the unemployed; schools for the deaf and dumb.
Adjectives denoting abstract qualities when substantivised make the narration more emphatic, dramatic and abstract: All Europe was in arms, and England would join. The impossible had happened (Aldington); The mirth of Mr. Bob Sawyer was rapidly ripening into the furious; the beautiful, the picturesque.
Substantivisation may add bookish colouring to the word in some constructions. Compare the synonymous phrases with nouns and adjectives: a flush of heat:: a hot flush; a man of intelligence :: an intelligent man; the dark of the night:: the dark night; the dark intensity:: the intense darkness.
In colloquial speech interjections may be transposed into nouns and have a metonymic value, symbolizing the particular type of emotional response, attitude or behaviour: A please would be nice. An interjection yes undergoes substantivisation and can be used as a noun in the plural form: yes —yeses.
A modal verb must can be converted to a noun a must to denote something that you definitely need in a particular situation: His novel is a must for all lovers of crime fiction.
The stylistic power of the noun is closely linked to the grammatical category of number, person, case, gender.
The categorial forms constituting the category of number are to a certain extent interchangeable. The traditional opposition singular VS plural is neutralized, when there is a change of meaning, e.g.: Now what's that? Reading books instead of working? (addressed to a person reading a book); How dare he talk like that to ladies? (when there is only one lady present). In these examples the plural form of countable nouns is used instead of singular to make the sentence more emphatic, to convey indignation, dissatisfaction, reproach, etc.
The singular form of countable noun stands for the plural in the following sentence: This is what the student is supposed to know (meaning "every student, all students"). Such varieties of transfer (whole — part, part — whole) are called synecdoche (which is the simplest type of metonymy). This usually produces an emphatic effect, intensifies the meaning of the utterance.
Grammatical transposition within the category of number might take various forms and serve different functions. The use of singular noun instead of an appropriate plural form creates a generalized, elevated effect bordering on symbolization:
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
From leaf to flower and from flower to fruit
And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire (Swineburn).
The contrary device — the use of material nouns in the plural instead of singular makes the description more powerful and large-scale: the sands of the Sahara desert; the frozen snows of the Arctic.
The abstract noun (normally uncountable) used in the plural form (hyperbolic plural) makes the narration more expressive and brings about aesthetic semantic growth, e.g.: Heaven remained rigidly in its proper place on the other side of death, and on this side flourished the injustices, the cruelties, the meannesses, that elsewhere people so cleverly hushed up (G. Greene).
Nouns are divided into animate and inanimate. Only animate nouns have the category of person. But as a result of personification a common noun can be transposed into the class of proper nouns. This can be achieved grammatically:
- by means of substituting the noun with the personal pronoun he / she;
- by means of using it in the possessive case;
- by capitalizing the first letter of the word.
According to the rules of personification:
• earth, moon, the names of vessels (ship, boat, steamer), the names of other vehicles (carriage, coach, car) in the speech of those who work on them are considered feminine and referred to by SHE;
• countries are often classed as feminine, especially when they are not considered as mere geographical territories (France sent her representative to the conference);
• abstract nouns suggesting ideas of gentleness or beauty (spring, peace, kindness, dawn) are personified as feminine;
• whereas abstract notions suggesting ideas of strength and fierceness (anger, death, fear, war) are personified as nouns of masculine gender;
• sun is also treated as masculine.
So, although the category of gender does not exist in modern English, there are some associations between objects and the category of gender. On the whole the choice between he / she is very subjective and depends upon the image created by the author. The norm is often violated, which creates expressivity.
The phenomenon opposite to personification is depersonification, which consists in treating a person / a living being as a thing, an inanimate object. Depersonification takes place when the animate noun is substituted by personal pronoun it (which usually refers to inanimate objects): Where did you find it? asked Mord Em'ly of Miss Gilliken with a satirical accent. Who are you calling it? demanded Mr Barden aggressively (W. Partridge) (it refers to a girl).
The noun of general semantics "thing" may contribute to depersonification as s result of transposition from the class of words naming inanimate objects into the class of nouns naming individuals: She is a frail little thing. The same expressive function is performed by nouns denoting animals or imaginary creatures (beast, brute, creature, fury) as well as by nouns nam- mg foods (cookie, honey, sugar) when they are applied to people. Thus, depersonification may result in various evaluative, emotive and expressive connotations (humoristic, disapproving, pejorative or tender).
The category of case (possessive case) is a typical feature of proper nouns.
When the possessive case is used with common nouns, it becomes a mark of personification: Love's first snowdrop / Virgin kiss! (Burns); The wind’s rustle was gentle; We went through the town's business streets.
The possessive case of the nouns denoting the names of countries and towns sounds elevated as opposed to the corresponding of-phrase: my country's laws:: the laws of my country.
The typical valency is also violated in case of the group genitive construction, when the suffix's of the possessive case is combined not with a single word but added to a phrase or a sentence. Such attributive constructions usually create the humorous effect: It's the young fellow in the backroom's car.
Although there is no such category as gender in the modern English language, linguists have come to conclusion that as far as gender is concerned, the English language is prejudiced. The English language is directed towards men and against women. In pairs of nouns describing men's and women's occupations, the male term carries more respect and prestige, expresses power and excellence, whereas the female word diminishes the dignity and importance of a woman, cf.: master — mistress; poet—poetess; governor — governess; steward —stewardess.
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