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Classification of epithets

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1. Semantically, epithets may be divided into two groups:

a) associated is a point to a feature, which is essential to the object; they describe the idea which is to a certain extent inherent to the concept of the object [Dark Forest - the idea of the colour]

b) unassociated are the attributes used to characterize the object by adding a feature which is not inherent in it; it will surprise the readers by unexpectedness and novelty; as a rule they are used to describe humour [bread-and-butter letter, stock question].

There is no clear barrier between associated and unassociasted epithets. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between these two notions [restless sea].

2. We distinguish figurative and non-figurative epithets based on their figurative basis. Figurative epithets are metaphorical [foxy fates], metonymical [Cold War, Golden Years], ironical []

3. From the structural point of view epithets can be simple, compound [heart-burning smile], phrase [good-for-nothing boy], sentence [he spoke in what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it manner].

4. Originally, epithets can be trite <expressive means of the language> [dark forest, Cold War] and geniune <a stylistic device which is always subjective, new, renders evaluation and modality, is stronger than trite>. [a joyful mountain top - an epithet based on metonymical periphrasis].

5. From the point of view of distribution of the epithets we distinguish transferred epithets which are originally logical attributes and describe a state of a human being, but they be referred to an animate objects [sleepless pillow].

String of epithets which gives a many-sided depiction of the object [rosy-cheecked, aple-faced young woman].

Original unassociated epithets are used in belles-lettres style and poetry in abundance. In newspaper style we can come across a lot of cases of phrase and sentence epithets. Tried epithets are most powerful expressive means of the language in abundance.


Oxumoron is a stylistic device based on the interrelation of primary logical and emotional types of meanings. structural models:

· adjective + noun [sweet sorrow]

· verb + adverb [peopled desert]

It can be trite [awfully happy] and geniune [proud humidity]. It can be used widely to create a humorous effect in advertising, publicistic and belles-lettres style.


Antonomasie is the interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word. Nominal meaning is that one, which, expressing concepts indicate a particular object out of it. [Society is now one polished horde, is formed of two mighty tribes: the Bores and the Bored - geniune antonomasie].

It is very important to know that this device is mainly realized in the written speech , because generally the capital letters are the only signals to denote the presence of this stylistic device. In this example of the use of antonomasie the nominal meaning is hardly percieved, the logical meaning of the word being too strong. It is intended to point out the leading, most characteristical feature of a person or event at the same time pinning this leading trate as a proper name to the person or event concerned. It is a much favoured device in the belles-lettres style. In Russian literature it is employed by many of our classic writers [Korobochka, Sobakevich]. Now it is faling out of use. It's now not confined to the belles-lettres style, though it's often found in publicistic style - magazines, articles, essays, military language [I suspect that the Nos and Do Not Knows would...]


It is an indirect reference by word or phrase to a historical, literary, mythological, Biblical fact or to a fact of everyday life made in a course of writting. The use of allusion presupposes the knowledge of the fact, thing or person, alluded to on the part of a reader or listener. As a rule, no indication of the source is given. This is one of the notable differences between quotation and allusion, plus there is a structural difference.

Thus, quotation must repeat the exact wording of the original while the allusion is only a mention of a word of phrase, which is assumed to be known like an allusion, which serves as a vessel to poure a new meaning into. Allusions are based on the accumulated experience and knowledge of the reader. Allusion and quotation may be turned into non-set expressions, because they are used only for the occasion.

Allusion thus is to be known more familiar. However sometimes allusions refer to the things, which need commentary. Allusions are used in different styles, but their function is the same. However, the discovering of an allusion is not always easy [Pie in the sky for the railman. - It comes natural, that many people know the refrain of the song "you'll get a pie in the sky, when you die". Railmen had been given many promises, but nothing more].


Simile is a stylistic device based on the intencification of some feature of the concept in question [You behave like a savage. - the feature of wildness is stressed]. The object being compared by means of simile belongs to different classes [He folded himself like an umbrella]. While logical comparisson means weighing the two objects belonging to one class of objects with the purpose of establishing the difference [as clever as his mother], structurally, simile presupposes conjunctions [like, as ... as, as ... if, seem, look]. Simile and metaphor differ only according to their structure. simile falls into trite [busy as a bee] and geniune. Structurally, simile can be simple and sustained [His mind was restless, but it worked pervasively and thoughts jerked through his brain like misfirings of a defective carburator]. The word "jerk" in its microcontext like in combination with "thoughts" is a case of metaphor which lead to the simile (...the misfirings...), where the word "jerk" bears its logical meaning. The linking notion is the movement "jerking" which has a resemblence between the working carburator. Simile is widely used in the belles-lettres and publicistic styles.


Periphrasis is a stylistic device which has a form of a free word combinationor a sentence, which substitutes a certain notion or a thing. It is a use of longer phrasing in the place of a possible shorter form of expression. It can be divided into logical, which is based on one of the inherent properties of the object or, perhaps, features of the object described [place of destination = London, the most pardonable of human weaknesses = love]. Figurative periphrasis is based on metaphor, metonymy, irony [the Sun = the punctual servant of all work, to marry = to tie the knot]. Metaphor or metonymy is usually one word while metonomical or metaphorical periphrasis are the word combinations from which one can't ommit any element. Periphrasis can be divided into trite, fixed word combinations, like cliches hardly registered as periphrasis [wife = my better half, women = fair sex] and geniune [I understand you're poor and wish to earn money while nursing the boy, my son, who has been so prematurely deprived of what can never be replaced]. Periphrasis can also be historical [the King = the Victor Lord] and political, strongly associated with the sphere of application and the epoch they were used in. Periphrasis can be found in newspaper and belles-lettres style.


The variety of periphrasis is called a euphemism. It's a word or phrase used to replace an unpleasant word or expression by a conventionally more acceptable one [to die - to pass away - to expire - to be no more]. Thus, a euphemism is a synonym with mild effect. Sometimes this effect is called a "white-washing device". Linguistic pecularity of euphemism is in the following: every euphemism must call up a definite synonym in the mind and the synonym must follow a euphemism like a shadow [to possess a wild imagination - to tell stories in the proper context - to lie]. Such synonyms can be freshly invented. The euphemisms are expressive means of the language and are to bve found in all book dictionaries. They can be regarded as stylistic devices as they refer the mind to the concept directly, not through the medium of another word. We distinguish several groups og euphemisms according to the sphere of application: religious, moral, medical, parlimentary. The life of euphemism is short. Very soon they become closely associated with the referent and give way to a newly coined word or word combination. Political euphemisms are really understatements. Their aim is to mislead publicopinion and to express what is unpleasant in a more delicate maner. Sometimes disagreeable parts are even distorted with the help of euphemisms. Geniune euphemism must call up the word it stands for and it is always the result of some deliberate clash between the two synonyms [a woman of a certain type - a slut]. Periphrasis and euphemism were characteristic of certain literature trendes and even produced a term "periphrastic style". It soon gave rise to a more straightforward way of describing things.


Hyperbole is a stylistic device with a function of intencifying one certain property of an object described. It can be defined as a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feeling or feature essential to the object (unlike periphrasis). In extreme form this exaggeration is carried to an illogical degree, sometimes a kind of absurdum [He was so tall, that I wasn't sure, if he had a face]. Like many stylistic devices hyperbole may lose its quality as a stylistic device through frequent repetition and become a unit of the language as a system, reproduced in speech in an unaltered form [scared to death, I'll give the world to see him]. Hyperbole differs from mere exaggeration in that it is intended to be understood as exaggeration. A Russian linguist Potebnya states "Hyperbole is the result of any kind of intoxication by emotion which prevents a person from seeing things in true dimension; and the reader is not carried away by the emotion of the writer, hyperbole becomes a mere exaggeration." Thus, hyperbole is a device which sharpens the reader's ability to make a logical assessment of the utterance. This is achieved by the awakening the idea of feeling, where the thought takes the upper hand, though, not to the detriment of feeling.

Use of set expressions

A set expression is a very wide notion, which covers such notions as phraseological units, idioms and phrasal verbs. Set expressions can be divided into two groups: logical and figurative. The last ones have figurative basis. Phraseological units are charcterised by the stability of a form. They are regarded as set expressions ready for use as cliches.

Phraseological units are expressive means, while they are frequently employed and have no originality. They have emotive meaning as a rule [to drop like a hot potato = to stop].

Features of phraseological units:

· stability of form

· the presume of figurative base

· emotive colouring

· belonging to the oral variety of the language

There're two tendencies in the language studies concerned with the problem of word.

1. analytical - seeks to disserver one component from another

2. synthetic - integrate the parts of a combination to a stable unit

They are treated differently in the lexicology and stylistics. In lexicology the parts of a stable lexical unit may be separated to make a sceintific investigation of the character of the combination and to analyse the component. In stylistics we analyse the components to get some communicative effect sought by the writer. And here we come to the cliche.

A cliche is generally defined as an expression that has become hackneyed and trite. This division lacks one point: a cliche strives after originality whereas it has lost the esthetic generating power it once had. There's always a contradiction between what is aimed at and what is attained [rosy dreams of use, ripe = old age]. Definition from dictionaries show that cliche is a derogatory term and it's necessary to avoid everything that may be called by that name. The thing is that most of the widely recorded word combinations adopted in the language are unjustly classified as cliches. Cliches are unregistered in dictionaries. Phraseological units are, and they occur in different styles (belles-lettres, newspaper, official documents). Cliche can be part and parcel of other stylistic devices (sustained metaphor, complex figurative images).

Proverbs and sayings

They are collected in special dictionaries. Features: rhyme, rythm, alliteration. Proverbs are brief statements, showing in condenced form the accumulated life experience of the community serving as a conventional phraseological symbols for abstract ideas. Usually image-bearing, complete sentences, logically arranged. A saying stands for the notion and has a nominative function [to add fuel to fire - to scold sb.]. If issued approprietely, proverbs and sayings will never use their freshness and vigour. Proverbs and sayings can be regarded as expressive means of the literature; emotionally coloured and difficult. They are usually built on some image. When the proverb is used in unaltered form, it is an expressive means. When in a modified variant assumes one of the features of a stylistic device. Acquires a stylistic meaning without becoming a stylistic device [You know which side the law is buttered - is formed from - His bread is buttered on both sides]. We have a decomposition of a phrase. It occurs in the belles-lettres, newspapers, emotive prose, headlines. A proverb presuposes a simultaneous application of two meanings: primary and extended/contextual.

Epigrams and quotations

Epigrams are stylistic devices akeen to a proverb. The only difference is that epigrams are coined by individuals whose names we know, while proverbs are coinages of the people. Epigrams are short, witty statements, showing the ingenious turn of mind of the originator. They always have a literary bookish air about them that distinguishes them from proverbs. They have a generating function and are self-sufficient. The sentence gets accepted as a word combination and often becomes part of the language as a whole. Brevity is the essential feature of the epigram [Mighty is he, who conquers himself]. In fact, epigram is a surpraphrasal unit in sense, though not in structure. Poetry is epigrammatic in essense. It always strives for brevity of expression, leaving to the mind of the reader the pleassure of ampliphying the idea. A quotation is a repetition of a phrase or statement from a book, used by authority as an illustration or proof used as a basis for further speculation on the matter of fact. By repeating a passage in a new environment we attach to the utterance an importance it might not have had in the context it was primarily used. Plus we create a stable language unit. And what is quoted must be worth quoting, since a quotation will inevitably have some degree of generalization. Quotations are usually marked off in the text by inbverted commas or other graphical means.

A quotation is an exact reproduction of an actual utterance made by a certain author. They are echos of somebody's words. So utterance, when quoted undergo subtle change. Originally, they are units of the text they belong to, but once quoted they are rank in pile no more. A quotation is always set against the other sentence in the texts by its greater sense and significance. It has two meanings a primary one and the applicated. Unlike epigrams they need not to be short. Quotations are also used in epigraphs. In this case the quotations possess great associative power and cause connotative meanings.

General classification of syntactic expressive means and stylistic devices

Syntax is the branch of language science studying the relations between words, word combinations and larger kinds of utterance. According to Galperin there're four groups of syntactic expressive means and stylistic devices:

1. Compositional patterns of syntactic arrangements (stylistic conversion, detached constructions, parallel constructions, chiasmus, repetition, enumeration, suspense, climax, antithesis)

2. Particular ways of combining parts of the utterrance (asyndenton, polysyndenton, the gap-sentence link)

3. Particular use of colloquial constructions (ellypses, break-in-the-narrative, question-in-the-narrative, uttered/unuttered speech)

4. Stylistic use of structural meaning (rhetorical question litotes).

Unlike other synthetic expressive means of the language which are used in discourse, syntactic stylistic devices are proceded as design aimed and having a designed impact on the reader. When parallel constructions are used in a dialogue, - it is an expressive means, when in the author's speech - a stylistic device. Structural syntactic stylistic devices are always in special relations with the intonation involved. The more explicity structural syntactic relations are expressed, the weaker will be the intonation pattern, up to disapperance and vice verse. The capacity to serve as a connection is a inherent quality of a great number of words and perhaps if there're set in a position, which calls for continuation or description of an event. To follow closely how parts of an utterance are connected and to verify interdependence between its parts is often different either because of the abscence of identical signs (asyndoton) or because of the present of too many identical signs (polysyndoton). Emotional syntactic structures typical for the oral variety of the language are sometimes very effectively used to depict the emotional state of mind of the characters. They may even be used in particular cases in the narrative of the author, and they have the same feature. When such constructions have entered the monologue, they assume qualities of a stylistic device. On analogy with transparence of meaning in which words are used other than in their logical sense, syntactic structures may also be used in the meanings other than their primary. Every syntactic structure has its function, called its structural meaning. When the structural is used in some other function, it may be said to assume a new meaning which is similar to lexical transfered meaning.

Stylistic and grammatical inversion

Word order is a crucial syntactic problem in many languages. In English it has "tolerably fixed word order", according to Jasperson: subject + predicate + object [Talent he has, capital he has not] - here the effect of inverted word order is backed up by antithesis and parallel construction. Unlike grammatical invertion, stylistic inversion doesn't change the structural meaning of the sentense in an utterance, but has some structural function. Stylistic inversion aimes at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the surface meaning of the utterance. Thus, a specific intonation patternis an inevitable satellite of inversion. Stylistic inversion isn't a violation of norms of Standard English. It is a practical realization of what is otential in the language itself.


· the object is placed at the beginning of a sentence

· the attributes is placed after the word it modifies (post-position, used when three or more attributes) [with fingers weary and worn].

· the predicative is placed before the subject [A good generous prayer it was]

· the predicative stands before the linkword and both are placed before the subject [Rude am I in my speech]

· adverbial modifyer is placed at the beginning of the sentense [Eagerly I wished the morrow]

· both modifyer and predicate stand before the subject [In went Mr. Rickwick. Down dropped the breethe]

Those five models comprise the most common and recognized models of inversions but in modern English and American poetry there is a tendency to experiment with the word order which make the language intelligible. Inversion as a stylistic device is always sense-motivated. There's a tendency to account for inversion in poetry by rhythmical or considerations, which may be true but lacks one point that talented poets will never sacrifice sense for form. Inverted word order is one of the forms of what are known as emphatic constructions.

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