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Functional Stylistics

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    Functional stylistics is a branch of linguistics which studies functional varieties of the literary language determined by specific spheres and aims of communication. In modern society every person constantly finds himself in regularly recurring situations typical of the given culture, in which he has to play a definite social role, i.e. to behave according to norms accepted in the given society for such situations. One of the manifestations of a social role of a person is his speech behavior – specific ways of speech organization characteristic of definite spheres of communication.

    Whenever we use language, we choose language means in accordance with the social-linguistic situation which is constituted by many factors: sphere of human activity (administration, science, business, law, religion, every day life); situation of communication and social roles of the communicants; social and personal, psychological characteristics of the communicants: social standing, profession, educational and cultural level, age, sex, temperament, emotional state; relationships between communicants in terms of familiarity; common stock of experience.

    Under the influence of these factors the national language develops numerous forms of linguistic variation: different forms of speech (written or oral), different functional varieties of language (functional styles, sublanguages, registers). Opinion of linguists is divided as to the number and forms of linguistic variation. Halliday singles out 3 varieties (tenors): official, neutral, non-official. According to V.A.Maltsev, there are two varieties: formal and informal. Criteria for distinguishing between varieties of the language are also different. Thus, I.R.Galperin proposes a two-level classification of styles and substyles based on the functions of language in the given sphere of communication:

    1. The belles-lettres functional style with the substyles of: poetry,  emotive prose,  drama. The function of the style is cognitive-aesthetic.
    2. The publicistic FS with the substyles of: oratory, radio and TV commentary, essays (moral, philosophical, literary), features (a feature article is a long article in a newspaper or magazine, e.g. a feature on personal computers; journalistic articles – political, social, economic). The aim is to persuade, to influence public opinion.
    3. The newspaper FS with the substyles of: 1)brief news items; press reports (parliamentary, of court proceedings, etc.); articles purely informational in character. The function is to inform and instruct the reader.
    4. The scientific FS with the substyles of:  humanitarian sciences,  “exact” sciences, popular scientific prose. The aim is to create new concepts, to give objective data.
    5. The style of official documents with the substyles of: diplomatic documents,  business documents,  legal documents,  military documents. The purpose is to reach agreement between two parties, to state their rights and obligations.

    Galperin defines FS of language as a system of interrelated language means which serves a definite aim in communication . According to Galperin, styles of language can be singled out only in the written variety because any style is the result of careful selection of language means. Indeed, style is choice, but stylistic choice is not always deliberate and careful; much of the choice is made unconsciously, spontaneously.

    Besides, the aim of any FS is to facilitate communication: it gives the writer/speaker all sorts of ready-made expressions and models, formulas just for the sake of language economy. Rigid rules of business and official letters practically exclude the possibility of deliberate, careful choice. A great deal of newspaper information has to be written hastily. As a result, reporters often resort to stereotyped language.

    Moreover, there is a contradiction in Galperin’s classification of FS : it includes oratory – the oral subdivision of the publicistic style. I.V.Arnold’s classification takes into account both oral and written types of speech. Arnold introduces a somewhat abstract concept of neutral style (the unmarked member of stylistic opposition) and 2 groups of stylistically marked styles, colloquial and bookish: bookish styles: scientific; of official documents; oratorical; newspaper; neutral style; colloquial style: literary colloquial; familiar colloquial; low colloquial.

    One of controversial issues of functional stylistics is the problem of belles-lettres FS. Galperin recognizes this style and defines its function as aesthetic-cognitive. But it is precisely this function that places creative literature outside ordinary communication and makes it a variety of art – verbal art. The FSs arise from the practical needs of communication and their parameters cannot be applied to creative literature which is characterized by freedom of expression and which uses the resources of the whole national language including all the FSs for its specific, artistic purposes.


    (officialese – infml, derog – the language of government officials, considered unnecessarily hard to understand). The aim of this style of communication is to achieve agreement between two contracting parties and to formulate their obligations and rights. These parties may be the state and the citizen, or citizen and citizen; 2 or more enterprises, 2 or more governments; a person in authority and a subordinate,etc. As a variety of the literary language this style fnctions in the sphere of legal and administrative social activity.

    It is represented by substyles:

    • the language of business communication,
    • language tradition and therefore tendency to express identical thoughts in an identical form using for this purpose ready-made formulas, patterns, cliches, stereotyped phrases;
    • impersonality.

    This style bears no mark of individual authorship as official documents are drawn up in accordance with fixed traditional patterns. The function of the official style – to regulate relations between two parties (phatic and conative) – predetermines linguistic peculiarities of the style: precision and tradition, conventionality find their expression in the choice of language means which form a relatively closed system (cf.: poetic texts characterized by the utmost freedom of expression). The style-forming features of documental English are also reflected in the layout of various documents: the character of the composition, division into paragraphs, rubrication.

    The vocabulary of the official style is characterized by the following features:

    • It includes , besides common literary and neutral words, words and set expressions which have the colouring of the style of official documents: the present document, expiration, after receipt of notification, for the attention of, on behalf of, we are pleased to extend the invitation.
    • Ample use of professional terms (legal, military, diplomatic): legal person, private individual, valid contract, currency interventions, credential letters, retirement of securities.
    • Use of words in their dictionary meanings, absence of words with any connotations, complete absence of expressive means and stylistic devices.
    • Use of archaic words and phrases: the hereinafternamed, I hereby certify, thereof, whereby, herein, in witness of, the afore said.
    • Use of abbreviations, conventional symbols: MP, gvnt, FOB (free on board), cif (cost, insurance, freight), MRP (manufacturer’s recommended price), Ltd, $, %, CO (commanding officer). The syntax and morphology of the business official style are characterized by:  Use of extended sentences, compound and complex sentences with several types of coordination and subordination.


    The aim of the SPS is to give exact information from different fields of science and technique, to describe objective data. SPS operates in the sphere of rational, intellectual communication in various special/ professional fields of human activity. The function of the SPS is intellectual-communicative. The SPS as a variety of the English language is an instrument of scientific cognition and of transmitting scientific knowledge.

    Style-forming features:

    • tendency to a most generalized, abstract form of expression. The purpose of science is to reveal laws, regularities, tendencies. Science deals with generalized, abstract notions. Notion is the main form of thinking in the field of science. Linguistically this form of thinking finds expression in a generalized language;
    • a strictly, explicitly logical character of expression with a clear indication of interrelations and interdependence of ideas;
    • precision of expression;
    • objective character of expression and hence impersonal, matter-of-fact, somewhat dry and unemotional manner;
    • traditionality (in composition, syntax, vocabulary).

    Texts of the following genres belong to the SPS: monograph, article, textbook, thesis, dissertation, annotation, abstract. The substyles of the SPS are: the substyle of humanitarian sciences; of “exact” sciences; of popular scientific prose.

    Lexical features of the SPS

    1. Generalised, abstract character of expression is manifested in specific use of words: almost each word is used to denote some general notion or abstract thing. E.g. Neologism is a word or a word combination that appears or is specially coined to name a new object or express a new concept. Generalized character of speech is emphasized by special lexical units: usually, generally, regularly, as a rule, always, often every, any. E.g. Each word is surrounded by a network of associations.
    2. Words are used in their primary direct meanings or in terminological meanings but not in contextual expressive or figurative ones. Hardly a single word will be found in scientific prose which is used in more than one
      meaning. Any ambiguity is avoided.
    3. The use of terms is a characteristic feature of SPS. They make up very large groups of words in any language and comprise 90% of new words. In Webster’s dictionary out of 600 000 words 500 000 refer to special vocabulary. Any branch of science, any field of culture, art, economic life, sport, etc. has its own terminological system. Due to the interaction of scientific ideas the exchange of terms between various branches of science can be observed.
    4. Besides neutral words and terminology a considerable proportion of learned words, i.e. items of common scientific vocabulary are used in SPS: phenomenon, notion, correlate, internal, homogeneous, approximate, comprise, maximum, respectively. They are generally long polysyllabic borrowed words. Often they are only partially assimilated. In the neutral layer of words they have shorter and simpler synonyms: cardinal – main; calculate – count; perform – make; indicate – show; individual – person. Partial grammatical assimilation is often reflected in the preservation of the plural forms of the language from which the word was borrowed: datum – data; automaton – automata.
    5. Scientific texts often contain neologisms – names for newly-discovered phenomena or newly-made things. Such neologisms are generally made up of Latin or Greek and Latin terms.

    Syntactic features of SPS

    1. Predominant use of simple extended sentences and complex sentences. The use of homogeneous members and of various types of attributes. Specific of technical texts are prepositive attributive groups consisting of chains of words: anti-aircraft fire-control system, hydrogen-ion-potential recorders. The application of such attributes is connected with the necessity to precisely delimit the notions used. For the same reason many words are explained by prepositional, participial, gerundial and infinitival constructions.
    2. he use of a developed system of connectives to show explicitly the interrelation and interdependence of ideas. Characteristic of SPS are complex conjunctions: not merely … but also, whether … or, both … and, as … as, and complex conjunctions of the type thereby, therewith, hereby which in the belles-lettres style have already become archaic.
    3. Direct order of words. Inversion may be used to emphasize the logical connection of the preceeding and successive ideas.
    4. Specific sentence patterns are used: postulatory, argumentative and formulative. New ideas are always based on facts already known. Therefore in the introductory part of a scientific text the facts and ideas which are already known and need no proof are postulated. When a new theory is put forward, the arguments in favour of it should be given. The writer’s own ideas, the results of an investigation are formulated, enunciated in a doctrine or theory. Observable features of SPS are the use quotations and references and the use of foot-notes, not of the reference type, but digressive in character.

    Morphological features of SPS

    • The prevalence of nominal style, i.e. nominal, not verbal constructions predominate. This feature of the style of SP is a means of greater generalization making it unnecessary to point out the time of the action. Compare: when we arrive, when we arrived = at the time of our arrival.
    • The impersonality of the style is mainly revealed in the frequent use of passive constructions, e.g. “Then acid was taken” instead of “I (we) then took acid.” These are the most significant features of SPS.


    English newspaper writing dates from the 17th century. The aim of a newspaper is twofold: to give information on recent developments in the world and to comment on them, i.e. to inform and to instruct the reader. Accordingly, the materials which modern newspapers carry can be roughly subdivided into ‘facts’ and ‘opinions’. In modern newspapers one can find materials belonging to different functional styles: articles on science, technology, art, literature, culture, etc. (which are considered to be specimens of the publicistic style), texts of decrees, agreements, treaties, communiqués (official documents), entertaining articles (poems, stories, crosswords, puzzles, chess problems).

    Only brief news items, press reports (parliamentary, of court proceedings, etc.), informational articles and advertisements refer to NS. One of the debatable issues of functional stylistics is whether different genres of news media should be classed under one functional style or referred to different functional styles. I.R. Galperin distinguishes between NS and publicistic functional style proceeding from the aim of communication.

    In I.V. Arnold’s classification no such distinction is made, the scholar writes about newspaper or publicistic style. In T.A. Znamenskaya’s book on stylistics various genres of news media are referred to one functional style called ‘publicistic or media style’. The following extralinguistic features should be taken into consideration when we characterize NS:

    • the aim of communication,
    • constraints imposed by time and space factors (journalists, as a rule, have a limited time period to write their article in, therefore they often resort to clichés; besides, they are allotted a definite space into which they have to cram all the necessary information),
    • mass character of communication (the newspaper is intended for mass and heterogeneous audience, it is often read in conditions when it is difficult to concentrate and people usually do not spend much time on reading the newspaper, therefore it should be written in such a way that it can be read quickly and understood easily).

    An important pragmatic and sociolinguistic feature of English NS is that it is different in newspapers intended for different readership. There are two kinds of newspaper oriented to people of different social status: serious or quality papers for the upper classes and popular papers or tabloids for the working class. The quality papers are large in size and have many detailed articles about national and international events. The tabloids are smaller in size, have more pictures, often in colour, and shorter articles, often about less important events or about the private life of well-known people. The circulation of the tabloids is larger than that of the quality papers.

    Styleforming features of NS:

    • Principle of social evaluation. The newspaper seeks to influence public opinion on political and other matters, therefore elements of appraisal may be observed in the selection and presentation of news, in the use of evaluative vocabulary (e.g., a puppet government, a military regime, a populist, a rabid reactionary), euphemisms (cf.: rebels – terrorists, siege – terrorist act, terrorist attack, guerrilla – militant).
    • Brevity of expression, both structural and semantic.
    • n keeping with the two aims of NS – to inform and to instruct the reader – are two opposing tendencies in the use of language: a tendency towards standardersation of language means and a tendency towards expressiveness.

    All kinds of newspaper writing are to some degree both informative and expressive but in different genres one of these functions predominates and, correspondingly, either standard or expressive language means prevail. The function of a brief news item is to inform the reader. It states only facts without giving comments.

    This accounts for the total absence of any individuality of expression and the almost complete lack of emotional colouring. It is essentially matter-of-fact, and stereotyped forms of expression prevail. The most concise form of newspaper information is the headline. Its main function is informative, but it can also carry appraisal, offering the interpretation of facts in the news item that follows. They are often sensational, deliberately enigmatic, thus compelling the reader to peruse the whole article.


    The aim of PS is to influence public opinion, to convince the reader or listener that the interpretation offered is the only correct one and to cause him to accept the given viewpoint. This aim is achieved in PS in two ways: by logical argumentation and by emotional appeal. Three sub-styles are singled out in PS: oratorical style, the essay and features (articles). Oratorical style is the oral subdivision of the PS. The purpose of oratory is to persuade, to evoke the desired reaction on the part of the audience, to stimulate the listeners to some activity. In oratory the peculiarities of both the written and spoken varieties of language are combined.

    Due to direct contact with the listeners, the speaker’s pronunciation, intonation, voice modulations, appearance, gestures, mimics are of considerable importance. The following linguistic features of the spoken language are characteristic of the oratorical style: direct address to the audience (Mr. President; My Lords; ladies and gentlemen; Mark you! Mind!); the use of the 2nd person pronoun you; of imperative mood; contractions (I’ll; isn’t); the use of colloquial words. The style has some features of the written variety of language.

    Speeches and orations are delivered as monologues. Their vocabulary comprises a lot of literary, bookish words and the syntactical structure is logically ordered and paragraphed. Such structures are combined by subordinate and coordinative connectives. To make the speech more comprehensible and emphatic the orator often uses repetitions of various kinds: anaphorical with parallel constructions, word and phrase repetitions, synonym repetition.

    In fact, repetition proves to be one of the most typical syntactical SDs in oratorical sub-style. Among other SDs that help to rouse the audience and keep it in suspense are rhetorical questions, antithesis, suspense, climax, traditional similes and metaphors. General balance and rhythm of the utterance help the listeners remember the major ideas of the speech. This style is represented by such genres as speeches on political and social problems, orations and addresses on solemn occasions (public weddings, funerals, jubilees), sermons, debates, speeches of judges in courts of law.

    The essay is the written subdivision of PS. Essay is a literary composition of moderate length on some definite topic: philosophical, social, aesthetic or literary. It never goes deep into the subject, it is rather the expression of the author’s personal attitude to the subject discussed and therefore its language depends to a great extent on the writer’s individuality.
    The most characteristic linguistic features of the essay are as follows:

    • brevity of expression;
    • the use of the first person singular;
    •  the use of connectives as a means of correlating ideas;
    • the abundant use of emotional words;
    • the use of similes and sustained metaphors.

    In articles/features (a feature is a special long article – political, literary, poplar-scientific or satirical – in a newspaper or magazine) all the above mentioned characteristics of PS are to be found, but with certain variations. The peculiarity of articles lies in the use of neologisms, rare and bookish words, traditional word combinations, parenthesis.

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