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Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices based on analogy (simile, climax, periphrasis)



Lecture 5.Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices


1. Definition of lexico-syntactical stylistic devices

2. Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices based on analogy (simile, climax, periphrasis)

3. Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices based on contrast (anticlimax, antithesis, litotes)



The previous lecture was devoted to the syntactical stylistic devices that make use of certain structural pattern in order to add emphasis to the utterance. They add logical, emotive, expressive information to the utterance regardless of lexical meanings of sentence components.

We got to know that all syntactical devices can be classified according to 3 principles. What are they?

What syntactical stylistic devices dealing with arrangement of sentence members do you remember?

What syntactical stylistic devices deal with the completeness of sentence-structure?

What types of connecting syntactical units do you know?


But there are certain structures though, whose emphasis depends not only on the arrangement of sentence members but also on their construction, with definite demands on the lexico-semantic aspect of the utterance. They are known as lexico-syntactical stylistic devicesthat make use of lexical meaning and peculiar syntactical structure.

Professor I.R. Galperinconsiders that these devices are based on the interaction between two lexical meanings that results in the intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon.

Lexico-syntactical stylistic devicesintensify through special syntactical structures lexical features of analogy and contrast:

a) Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices based on analogy: (simile, climax, periphrasis)

b) Lexico-syntactical stylistic devices based on contrast (anti-climax, antithesis, litotes)


Simileis a figure of speech based on similarity of objects belonging to different semantic groups.

Simile is an imaginative comparison of two unlike objects belonging to two different semantic classes. Simile has much in common with metaphor and consists of:

1) tenor ( the object, which is compared);

2) vehicle (the object or the notion, with which tenor is being compared;

3) ground of comparison(the basis of comparison, the group of words, having the qualities of both components: tenor and vehicle).

That fellow is like an old fox.

Ground of comparison denotes a feature, quality, action, impression or attitude, which is explicit due to the usage of the formal markers are: like; as…as; as though; as if; such as; seem.

Simile should not be confused with simple (logical, ordinary) comparison. Structurally identical consisting of the tenor, the vehicle and the uniting formal element, they are semantically different: objects belonging to the same class are likened in a simple comparison, while ina simile we deal with the similarity of objects belonging to two different classes.

So, "She is like her mother" is a simple comparison, used or stated an evident fact."She is like a rose" is a simile used for purposes of expressive evaluation, emotive explanation, highly individual description.

The tenor and the vehicle may be expressed in a brief "nucleus" manner, as in the above example, or maybe extended. This last case of sustained expression of likeness is known as epic, or Homeric simile.

If you remember, in a metaphor two unlike objects (actions, phenomena) were identified on the grounds of possessing one common characteristic. In a simile two objects are compared on the grounds of similarity of some quality. This feature which is called foundation of a simile may be explicitly mentioned as in: "He stood immovable like a rock in a torrent" (J. R.), or "His muscles are hard as rock". (Т. С.)You see that the "rock" which is the vehicle of two different similes offers two different qualities as their foundation "immovable" in the first case, and "hard" in the second. When the foundation is not explicitly named, the simile is considered to be richer in possible associations, because the fact that a phenomenon can be qualified in multiple and varying ways allows to attach at least some of many qualities to the object of comparison. So "the rose" of the previous case allows to simultaneously foreground such features as "fresh, beautiful, fragrant, attractive", etc.

Sometimes the foundation of the simile is not quite clear from the context, and the author supplies it with a key, where he explains which similarities led him to compare two different entities, and which in fact is an extended and detailedfoundation.

"The conversations she began behaved like green logs: they fumed but would not fire." (T. C.)

A simile, often repeated, becomes trite and adds to the stock of language phraseology. Most of trite similes have the foundation mentioned and conjunctions "as", "as...as" used as connectives. Cf: "as brisk as a bee", "as strong as a horse", "as live as a bird", as thin as a rake; as fresh as a daisy; as drunk as a lord and many more.

Similes in which the link between the tenor and the vehicle is expressed by notional verbs such as "to resemble", "to seem", "to recollect", "to remember", "to look like", "to appear", etc. are called disguised, because the realization of the comparison is somewhat suspended, as the likeness between the objects seems less evident.

"His strangely taut[1], full-width grin made his large teeth resemble a dazzling miniature piano keyboard in the green light." (J.)

Or: "The ball appeared to the batter[2] to be a slow spinning planet looming toward the earth." (В. М.)

“A style without metaphor and simile is to me like a day without the sun, or woodland without birds” (Lucas)


Periphrasisis the use of a longer phrase with descriptive epithets instead of a short and simple form of expressing the same thought.

Periphrasis is a very peculiar stylistic device which basically consists of using a roundabout form of expression instead of a simpler one, i.e. of using amore or less complicatedsyntactical structure instead of a word. Depending on the mechanism ofthis substitution, periphrasesare classified intofigurative (metonymic and metaphoric), andlogical. The first group is made, in fact, ofphrase-metonymies and phrase-metaphors as you may well see from the following example: (''The hospital was crowded with the surgically interesting products of the fighting in Africa" (I. Sh.) where the extended metonymy stands for "the wounded".

Logical periphrases are phrases synonymic with the words which were substituted by periphrases: "Mr. Du Pont was dressed in theconventional disguise with which Brooks Brotherscover the shame of American millionaires." (M. St.) "The con­ventional disguise" stands here for "the suit" and "the shame of American millionaires"for "the paunch[3] (the belly)". Because the direct nomination of the not too elegant feature of appearance was substituted by a roundabout description this periphrasis may be also considered euphemisticas it offers a more polite qualificationinstead of a coarser one.

The main function of periphrases is to convey a purely individual perception of the described object. To achieve it the generally accepted nomination of the object is replaced by the description of one of its features or qualities, which seems to the author most important for the characteristic of the object, and which thus becomes foregrounded.

The often repeated periphrases become trite and serve us universally accepted periphrastic synonyms: "the gentle (soft, weak) sex" (women); "my better half" (my spouse); "minions of Law[4]" (police), etc.

Periphrasis is:

a) Logical:The author of one’sbeing – father.

b) Figurative:His studioisfull of the mute evidences of his failure” – pictures.

c) Euphemistic: “He has the sunvery strong in his eyes(being drunk).

I am thinking an unmentionable thing about your mother”“(vulgar).

It both names and describes the object, expressing the author’s attitude ironically, humorously and metaphorically.

Periphrasis may be used for different purposes:

1) It may make the utterance sound solemn in order to arise a lofty (возвышенный) feeling in the reader.

2) It may contain an element of insult, sarcasm, irony or humour.

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