Stylistics is the study and interpretation of texts from a linguistic perspective. As a discipline it links literary criticism and linguistics, but has no autonomous domain of its own. The preferred object of stylistic studies is literature, but not exclusively "high literature" but also other forms of written texts such as text from the domains of advertising, pop culture, politics or religion. Stylistics also attempts to establish principles capable of explaining the particular choices made by individuals and social groups in their use of language, such as socialisation, the production and reception of meaning, critical discourse analysis and literary criticism. Other features of stylistics include the use of dialogue, including regional accents and people’s dialects, descriptive language, the use of grammar, such as the active voice or passive voice, the distribution of sentence lengths, the use of particular language registers, etc. In addition, stylistics is a distinctive term that may be used to determine the connections between the form and effects within a particular variety of language. Therefore, stylistics looks at what is ‘going on’ within the language; what the linguistic associations are that the style of language reveals. *
Early twentieth century
The analysis of literary style goes back to Classical rhetoric, but modern stylistics has its roots in Russian Formalism, and the related Prague School, in the early twentieth century. In 1909, Charles Bally's Traité de stylistique française had proposed stylistics as a distinct academic discipline to complement Saussurean linguistics. For Bally, Saussure's linguistics by itself couldn't fully describe the language of personal expression. Bally's programme fitted well with the aims of the Prague School. Building on the ideas of the Russian Formalists, the Prague School developed the concept of foregrounding, whereby poetic language stands out from the background of non-literary language by means of deviation (from the norms of everyday language) or parallelism. According to the Prague School, the background language isn't fixed, and the relationship between poetic and everyday language is always shifting. Late twentieth century
Roman Jakobson had been an active member of the Russian Formalists and the Prague School, before emigrating to America in the 1940s. He brought together Russian Formalism and American New Criticism in his Closing Statement at a conference on stylistics at Indiana University in 1958. Published as Linguistics and Poetics in 1960, Jakobson's lecture is often credited with being the first coherent formulation of stylistics, and his argument was that the study of poetic language should be a sub-branch of linguistics. The poetic function was one of six general functions of language he described in the lecture. Michael Halliday is an important figure in the development of British stylistics. His 1971 study Linguistic Function and Literary Style: An Inquiry into the Language of William Golding's 'The Inheritors' is a key essay. One of Halliday's contributions has been the use of the term register to explain the connections between language and its context. For Halliday register is distinct from dialect. Dialect refers to the habitual language of a particular user in a specific geographical or social context. Register describes the choices made by the user, choices which depend on three variables: field ("what the participants... are actually engaged in doing", for instance, discussing a specific subject or topic), tenor (who is taking part in the exchange) and mode (the use to which the language is being put). Fowler comments that different fields produce different language, most obviously at the level of vocabulary (Fowler. 1996, 192) The linguist David Crystal points out that Halliday’s ‘tenor’ stands as a roughly equivalent term for ‘style’, which is a more specific alternative used by...
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