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Phonetic Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices

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Lecture 5

III. Particular ways of combining parts of the utterance. (Linkage)

Words, phrases, clauses and sentences are connected with one another in speech. Words and phrases are mostly combined with their environment semantically, sometimes by auxiliary elements (prepositions and conjunctions). Clauses and independent sentences can be joined to one another asyndetically (in this case the connection is pure semantical); more often conjunctions or other connectors are employed.

Asyndetonis a connection of sentences, phrases or words without any conjunctions, their deliberate omission. Asyndeton helps the author make each phrase or word sound independent and significant, it helps create the effect of energetic, active prose.


e.g. Secretly after the night fall, he visited the home of Prime Minister. He examined it from top to bottom. He measured all the doors and windows. He took up the flooring. He inspected the plumbing. He examined the furniture. He found nothing.


Polysyndetonis an insistent repetition of a connective (the conjunction “and” in most cases) between words, phrases and clauses in an utterance. Polysendeton underlines the simultaneity of actions or close connection of properties enumerated on the one hand, and sometimes causes each member of a string of facts to stand out conspicuously, on the other.

Quite often the excessive use of the conjunction “and” betrays the poverty of the speaker’s syntax, showing the primitiveness of the character.


e.g. Presently, over James came a change, … a sense of being caressed, and praised, and petted, and all without the bestowal of a single caress or word of praise. (J. Galsworthy)


Not infrequently, polysyndeton promotes a high-flown tonality of narrative.

The elevated tonality of polysyndeton is very probably explained by associations with the style of the Bible, in which nearly every sentence, or at least every paragraph begins with and.


e.g. “Andthe rain descended,and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” (Mathew, VII)


Phonetic expressive means and devices are used for several purposes:

• to produce a certain acoustic effect;

• to give emphasis to the utterance;

• to arouse emotions in the reader or the listener.

Intonation and stress are very important means in oral speech where they are expressed directly by the speaker. In written speech they are conveyed indirectly by graphical expressive means and by a special syntactical arrangement of utterance (such as inversion, isolated members, parallel constructions and other syntactical stylistic devices).

Graphical means include punctuation, different types of print (italics, bold type) and a specific arrangement of printed material. Such marks of punctuation as a series of dots (…), a dash (-), exclamation and question marks and some others may be used not only to show the logical arrangement of speech but also to convey the information of the uttered speech and to express emphasis.

There is another thing to be taken into account – this is the way a word, a phrase or a sentence sounds. The sound of most words taken separately will have little or no aesthetic value. It is in combination with other words that a word may acquire a desined phonetic effect. The way a separate word sounds may produce a certain euphonic impression, but this is a matter of individual perception and feeling and therefore subjective.

Thus Verier, a specialist on English versification says that each of the sounds expresses a definite feeling or state of mind. He maintains that the sound [u:] generally expresses sorrow or seriousness; [l] produces the feeling of joy, etc.

The theory of sound symbolism is based on the assumption that separate sounds due to their articulatory and acoustic properties may awake certain ideas, perceptions, feelings, images, vague though they might be.

In poetry we feel that the arrangement of sounds carries a definite aesthetic function. Such sounds phenomena as harmony, euphony, rhythm contribute greatly to the expressiveness of poetic lines.

Euphony is such a combination of words and such an arrangement of utterance which produces a pleasing acoustic effect, i.e. a pleasing effect on the ear. Euphony is generally achieved by such phonetic stylistic devices as alliteration, onomatopoeia rhythm, rhyme.

Alliteration– is the repetition of similar consonant in close succession, particularly at the beginning of successive words.

Phonetic expressive means deal with the sound with the sound instrumenting of the utterance and are mainly found in poetry.


e.g. Deep into the darkness peering, long and stood there wondering fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before. (E.A. Poe)

Взор застыл во тьме стесненный, и стоял я изумленный,

Снам отдавшись, недоступным на земле ни для кого …


Alliteration aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance; alliteration is generally regarded as a musical accompaniment of the author’s idea, it creates some vague emotional atmosphere, which each reader interprets for himself. Thus the repetition of the sound [d] in the lines quoted from Poe’s poem “The Raven” prompts the feeling of anxiety, fear, horror, anguish or all these feelings simultaneously.

Alliteration in the English language is deeply rooted in the traditions of English folklore. The laws of phonetic arrangement in Anglo-Saxon poetry differed greatly from those of present-day English poetry. In Old English poetry alliteration was one of the basic principles of verse and considered, along with rhythm to be its main characteristic. Thus, in Beowulf:


Fyrst forð zewát: flota wæs un yðum,

bat under beorze. Beornas zearwe

on stefħ stizon: strēamas wundon,

sund wið sande; seczas bæron

on bearm nacan beorhte frætwe…


In Old English alliteration was used to consolidate the sense within the line, leaving the relation between the lines rather loose. [Rhyme – it’s semantic function is to chain one line to another].

Assonance – a phonetic stylistic device; it is the agreement of vowel sounds (sometimes combined with likeness in consonants).

e.g. One’s upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary

Как то в полночь, в час угрюмый, полный тягостною думой …

e.g. … and the Raven never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting …

… и сидит, сидит зловещий ворон черный, ворон вещий …


Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature;

by things (machines or tools, etc.)

by people (sighing, laughter, patter of feet, etc.)

by animals.

There are two varieties of onomatopoeia: direct and indirect

Direct onomatopoeia is contained in words that imitate natural sounds as

e.g. ding-dong, buzz, bang, cuckoo, mew, ping-pong, etc.

Indirect onomatopoeia – is a combination of sounds the aim of which is to make the sound of the utterance an echo of its sense. It is sometimes called “echo-writing”.


e.g. And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain … (E.A.Poe)

… и завес пурпурных трепет издавал как будто лепет …


Indirect onomatopoeia, unlike alliteration, demands some mention of what makes the sound, a rustling (of curtains), etc.

The same can be said of the sound [w] if it aims at reproducing, let us say, the sound of wind. The word “wind’ must be mentioned as in.


e.g. “Whenever the moon and stars are set,

Whenever the wind is high,

All night long in the dark and wet

A man goes riding by.” (R.S. Stevenson)


Indirect onomatopoeia is sometimes very effectively used by repeating words which themselves are not onomatopoetic, as in Poe’s poem “The Bells”


e.g. Silver bells… how they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle

“To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells –

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


The words “tintinnabulation”, tinkle, “jingling” are obviously onomatopoetic; the word “bells” begins to display such properties through the repetition.

Rhyme is the repetition of identical or similar terminal sound combination of words. Rhyming words are generally placed at a regular distance from each other.

We distinguish between full rhymes and incomplete rhymes.

The full rhyme presupposes identity of the vowel sound and the following consonant sounds.

e.g. might – right

Incomplete rhymes present a greater variety. They can be divided into two main groups: vowel rhymes and consonant rhymes.

In vowel rhymes the vowels of the syllables in corresponding words are identical, but the consonants may be different.

e.g. flesh – fresh –press

Consonant rhymes, on the contrary, show concordance in consonants.

e.g. worth – forth

e.g. tale – tool


There are rhymes that are called compound or broken. Their peculiarity is that the combination of words sounds like one word.


e.g. bottom – forgot’em – shot him


There are rhymes that are called eye-rhymes (the letters and not the sounds are identical)


e.g. love – prove; etc.


Many eye-rhymes are the result of historical changes in the vowel sounds in certain positions.

There is still another variety of rhyme which is called internal rhyme. The rhyming words are placed not at the ends of the lines, but within the line, as in:


e.g. Once upon a midnight drearywhile I pondered weak and weary …(E. A. Poe)


Rhythm – is a term applied to both verse and prose.

Rhythm is primarily a periodicity. According to some investigations, rhythmical periodicity in verse “requires intervals of about three quarters of a second between successive peaks of periods”.

It is a deliberate arrangement of speech into regularly recurring units, which are intended to be grasped as a definite periodicity. This periodicity makes rhythm a stylistic device.

Rhythm intensifies the emotions; it reveals itself most conspicuously in music, dance and verse.

Rhythm can also be found in prose; it is based on the repetition of similar structural units, following one another. The peculiar property of prose-rhythm particularly in 20th century prose is that it occurs only in relatively short spans of text.

The most observable rhythmical patterns in prose are based on the use of certain stylistic syntactical devices, namely, enumeration, repetition, parallel construction and chiasmus.


e.g. The high-sloping roof, of a fine sooty pink was almost Danish, and two ‘ducky’ little windows looked out of, giving an impression that very tall servants lived up there.


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