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The stylistic power of the pronoun
Absence of Articles
The stylistic effect of the absence of articles depends on the circumstances of communication, on the sublanguage the text belongs to.
In newspaper style articles are omitted in the headlines, which helps to present the essence of the article in a very concise and laconic form.
Absence of articles in reference books, telegrams, directions, instructions (in official-business style) helps to make these texts brief and precise.
In colloquial speech absence of articles contributes to the effect of carelessness and spontaneity: Girl never said a word to him (= The girl) (B. Shaw); Post here yet? (= The post) (Amis); Chair comfortable? (= The chair) (Pinter); Beautiful woman, but no subtlety...(= A beautiful woman) (Christie); Fine class of friends you pick (= A fine class) (Robbins).
In literary texts the absence of articles conveys the highest degree of abstraction and generalization. The image created by the author loses its particular features and becomes general: How infuriating it was! Land, which looked like baked sand became the Garden of Eden if only you could get water (Michener).
The stylistic functions of the pronoun are based on the disparity between the traditional and contextual (occasional, situational) meanings. The grammatical category of person, which is characterized by variability and inter- changeability of categorial forms, is relevant for stylistics. So, the pronoun of one type can be transposed into the action sphere of another pronoun.
The personal pronouns we, you, they can be employed in the meaning different from the dictionary meaning (i.e. identification of the speaker and the audience).
The pronoun ONE commonly expresses the idea of indefinite person, of indefinite reference, of impersonality: One never knows what happens next.
The same idea of impersonality can be expressed by:
- personal pronouns WE, YOU, THEY (we never know, you never know (sounds more philosophical than ONE), they say;
- words: a man, a chap, a fellow, a girl;
- a noun BODY (in low colloquial): How should a body know it? (= How is one to know it?)
THEY can have a generalizing meaning and indicate some abstract entity, not referring to any real characters. In R. Kipling's sentence "All the people like us are we, and everyone else is they" speaker and interlocutor are opposed to indefinite collective group of people.
WE, ONE, YOU used in a generalized meaning of "a human being" have different stylistic values for different authors. In talking about human nature A. Huxley (as well as Ch. Darwin, A. Smith) employs general pronoun ONE, B. Russell uses WE, D.H. Lawrence uses YOU.
The personal pronoun WE (Is' person plural) may serve as an intimate substitute of YOU (2nd person singular) in the speech of physicians and nurses addressing their patients, or in the speech of mother addressing her child. It is used in order to unite the speaker and the listener, e.g.: Now, are we getting better today? How are we feeling today?
WE can be used with reference to a single person, the speaker (instead of the pronoun I). It is called the plural of majesty (Pluralis Majestatis) and is used in royal speech (rescripts, orders), decrees of King, etc: By the Grace of Our Lord, We, Charles the Second...
In scientific prose WE implies the author and his imaginary reader. The author's WE, or the plural of modesty (Pluralis Modestiae), is used with the purpose to identify oneself with the audience or society at large (in order not to mention himself for the reason of modesty but associate himself with his recipients): Now, we come to the conclusion that...
In scholarly texts the personal pronoun I is avoided and replaced by the words "the present writer / interviewer".
In literary texts (in prose fiction) the author's WE is used to involve the reader into the action, to make him participate in the events, to impart the emotions prevailing in the narration to the reader.
WE can be used ironically in the plural of humility in the speech of uneducated people: Oh, we are proud (Eliza Doolittle's remark); cf. Russian: Мы, стало быть, деревенские.
YOU is often used as an intensifier in an expressive address or in an imperative sentence (in colloquial speech). Sentence patterns with the pronoun you have special affective connotation with fine shades of emotional distinctions, such as anger, annoyance, impatience, scorn, etc: Just you go in and win (Waugh); Just you wait, Henry Higgins!; Get out of my house, you fool, you idiot, you stupid Briggs (Thackeray). In Australian spoken variety of the English language the word-combination "you beauty" is used for expressing your pleasure at something.
The frequent repetition of the pronoun I (1st person singular) (in character's direct or represented speech) implies that the person is preoccupied with his / her own feelings only, and thus reflects the speaker's complacency and egomania.
If the speaker resorts to the pronouns ONE (indefinite pronoun) and YOU (2nd person singular pronoun) with regard to himself (instead of I), it characterizes him as a reserved, self-controlled person: When you put it in words, it sounded reasonable (G. Orwell).
A common device is to speak about yourself in the 3rd person singular. The use of HE / SHE instead of I (in represented speech) produces the effect of estrangement (alienation), as if a person looks at oneself from a distance: I do not want to write; I want to live. What does she mean by that? k's hard to say (from K. Mansfield's diary).
Personal pronouns HE / SHE used with reference to inanimate objects can serve as a powerful means of personification (also as a compositional device) and make the narration more dramatic and elevated. For example, in E. Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea" SHE is used to refer to the sea, HE — to refer to a huge and strong fish. The elemental forces of the sea and its inhabitants are animated: He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. I must never let him learn his strength.
The opposite effect of depersonification is created as a result of using pronouns it, what, this, that, anything, something with regard to living beings (instead of he / she), e.g.: Well, you never saw a more pitiful something (referring to a boy and a girl who are very thin) (T. Capote).
The objective case of the personal pronoun THEM is used in familiar colloquial speech instead of demonstrative pronoun and serves as an emphatic intensifier: one of them ladies (= one of these); them boards; them nails; them two been living with some mean people; them's her churren (= these are her children) (T. Capote). The violation of grammatical rules is also observed in American idiomatic expression Them's fighting words! which means "These are words that will start a fight".
The archaic forms of English pronouns (thou (2nd person singular), thee (objective case), thy (possessive pronoun), thine (absolute possessive), thyself (reflexive), ye (2nd person singular)) can create the elevated and solemn effect in poetry, in addresses to God. They may also impart historical or local coloring (reflecting archaic or dialectal way of speech).
Possessive pronouns perform stylistic function when they are devoid of any grammatical meaning of possession. In such cases they are loaded with evaluative connotations and express a wide range of feelings including irony, sarcasm, anger, contempt, resentment, irritation, etc.
Possessive pronouns YOUR/HIS/HER employed with regard to something not belonging to the person mentioned (parts of body, belongings) but connected with him emotionally perform emphatic emotive stylistic function, e.g.: Watch what you're about, my man! (Cronin); Your precious Charles or Frank or your stupid Ashley (Mitchelle); Take your precious Robert away from my house!
Absolute possessive forms YOURS/HERS/HIS/THEIRS/MINE (combined with demonstrative pronoun and preposition of and used in postposition) in the structure "this / that + N + of + absolute pronoun' convey derogatory attitude and become highly emphatic, e.g.: this idea of his; that old ramshackle house of his; Well, you tell that Herman of yours to mind his own business (London); Take this bag of yours out of here.
Negative pronouns NOBODY/NOTHING in emphatic colloquial speech are frequently transposed into the class of nouns to refer to a person of no importance: They are just a bunch of nobodies.
Demonstrative pronouns normally serve to single out some objects that have been mentioned before out of the class of similar ones. But their stylistic function is revealed when they do not refer to the objects mentioned and do not single anything out. In this case they express emotions.
Demonstrative pronoun THESE concerning people may sound insulting, contemptuous, disdainful: These lawyers! (Dreiser).
Demonstrative pronoun THAT may greatly enhance the expressive colouring of the utterance and point to the excitement of the speaker: That wonderful girl! That beauty! That world of wealth and social position she lived in! (London).
Demonstrative pronoun THIS (in combination with HERE or possessive pronoun) may be used to convey the atmosphere of informal or familiar communication. It is the so-called "illiterate demonstrative" (It can also be used instead of an indefinite article a in colloquial speech): I met this man (Я встретил одного человека) It was Robert Ackly, this guy, that roomed right next to me (Salinger); Me, I never clapped eyes on this here guy, One reason is, this our tree house (T. Capote).
In low colloquial style the demonstrative pronoun THIS/THAT can be transposed into the class of adverbs and thus perform the function of an intensifier of a quality expressed by a given adjective: Don't be that silly!
Indefinite pronoun SOME can be transposed into the class of adjectives possessing evaluative connotations, and thus have the potential of rendering emotions and inner states of the speaker. It can be used for: a) negative emphasis: Some kind of expert you are!; b) positive emphasis: That's some achievement you must be very proud of.
Pronouns possess a strong stylistic potential which is realized due to the violation of the normal links with their object of reference. In case the standard connection with the referent is violated any pronoun can be used in its emphatic or emotional function.
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