Sound symbolism or phonosemantics is a branch of linguistics and refers to the idea that vocal sounds have meaning. In particular, sound symbolism is the idea that phoneme s (the written representations of sounds, transcribed between slashes like this: /b/) carry meaning in and of themselves.
In the 18th century, Mikhail Lomonosov propagated an idiosyncratic theory that words containing the front vowel sounds E, I, YU should be used when depicting tender subjects, and those with back vowel sounds O, U, Y - to when describing things that may cause fear ("like anger, envy, pain, and sorrow").
However, it is Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) who is considered to be the founder of modern 'scientific' linguistics. Central to what de Saussure says about words are two related statements: firstly, he says that "the sign is arbitrary". This means that he considers the words that we use to indicate things and concepts could be any words - they are essentially just a consensus agreed upon by the speakers of a language and have no discernible pattern or relationship to the thing. Thus, the sounds themselves have no linguistic meaning. Secondly, he says that, because words are arbitrary, they have meaning only in relation to other words. A dog is a dog because it is not a cat or a mouse or a horse, etc. These ideas have permeated the study of words since the 19th century.
However, Saussure himself is said to have collected examples where sounds and referents were related. Ancient traditions link sounds and meaning, and some modern linguistic research does also.
Types of sound symbolism
Margaret Magnus is the author of a comprehensive book designed to explain phonosemantics to the lay reader - "Gods of the Word". This work describes three types of sound symbol using a model first proposed by Wilhelm von Humboldt (see below):
This is the least significant type of symbolism. It is simply imitative of sounds, or suggests something that makes a sound. Some examples are: crash, bang, whoosh.
Words that share a sound sometimes have something in common. If we take for example all of the words that have no prefix or suffix and group them according to meaning, some of them will fall into a number of categories. So we find that there is a group of words beginning with /b/ are about barriers, bulges, bursting, and some other group about being banged, beaten, battered, bruised, blistered and bashed. This proportion is according to Magnus above the average for other letters.
Another hypothesis states that if a word begins with a particular phoneme, then there is likely to be a number of other words starting with that phoneme that refer to the same thing. An example given by Magnus is: if the basic word for 'house' in a given language starts with a /h/, then by clustering, disproportionately many words containing /h/ can be expected to concern housing: hut, home, hovel.
Clustering is language dependent, although closely related languages will have similar clustering relationships.
Iconism according to Magnus becomes apparent when comparing words which have the same sort of referent. One way is to look at a group of words that all refer to the same thing, and that differ only in their sound, like 'stamp', stomp', 'tamp', 'tromp', 'tramp', 'step'. An /m/ before the /p/ in some words makes the action more forceful - compare 'stamp' with 'step' or 'tamp'. According to Magnus, the /r/ sets the word in motion, especially after a /t/ so a 'tamp' is in one place, but a 'tramp' goes for a walk. The /p/ in all those words would be what emphasizes the individual steps.It is suggested by Magnus that this kind of iconism is universal across languages.
Phenomimes and psychomimes
Some languages possess a category of words midway between onomatopoeia and usual words. Whereas onomatopoeia refers to the use of words to imitate actual sounds, there are languages (for example Japanese ) known for having a special class of words that "imitate" soundless states or events, called "phenomimes" (when they describe external phenomena) and "psychomimes" (when they describe psychological states). On a scale that orders all words according to the correlation between their meaning and their sound, with the sound-imitating words like "meow" and "whack" at one end, and with the conventional words like "water" and "blue" at the other end, the phenomimes and the psychomimes would be somewhere in the middle (see Japanese sound symbolism ). In the case of Japanese, for example, such words are learned in early childhood and are considerably more effective than usual words in conveying feelings and states of mind, or in describing states, motions, and transformations in the outside world. [ [http://web.aall.ufl.edu/SJS/Baba.pdf Junko Baba, "Pragmatic Function of Japanese Mimesis in Emotive Discourse" ] The author shows that psychomimes "create more vivid and intensified expressions to fuel the liveliness of the personal conversation" and "are effectively used to dramatize the emotive state of the protagonist". ] They are not found, however, only in children's vocabulary, but widely used in daily conversation among adults and even in more formal writing.
In the sentence 星がきらきら光っている "hoshi ga kirakira hikatteiru", meaning "The stars are shining sparklingly", "kirakira" is a good example of a phenomime. which conveys the flickering starlight into a sequence of sounds that can be traced back to the original optical phenomenon.
The sentence 電車が込んでいていらいらしていた "densha ga konde ite iraira shite ita" ("The train was so crowded it was getting on my nerves.") gives an example of a psychomime. the word "iraira" describes the irritated state of mind due to the train's being crowded.
History of Phonosemantics
Several ancient traditions exist which talk about an archetypal relationship between sounds and ideas. Some of these are discussed below, but there are others as well. If we include a link between "letters" and ideas then the list includes the Viking " Runes ", the Hebrew " Kabbalah ", the Arab " Abjad ", etc. References of this kind are very common in The Upanishads. The Nag Hammadi Library. the Celt ic " Book of Taliesin ", as well as early Christian works, the Shinto Kototama. and Shingon Buddhism .
Plato and the Cratylus Dialogue
In "Cratylus ", Plato has Socrates commenting on the origins and correctness of various names and words. When Hermogenes asks if he can provide another hypothesis on how signs come into being (his own is simply 'convention'), Socrates initially suggests that they fit their referents in virtue of the sounds they are made of:
"Now the letter rho. as I was saying, appeared to the imposer of names an excellent instrument for the expression of motion; and he frequently uses the letter for this purpose: for example, in the actual words rein and roe he represents motion by rho; also in the words tromos (trembling), trachus (rugged); and again, in words such as krouein (strike), thrauein (crush), ereikein (bruise), thruptein (break), kermatixein (crumble), rumbein (whirl): of all these sorts of movements he generally finds an expression in the letter R, because, as I imagine, he had observed that the tongue was most agitated and least at rest in the pronunciation of this letter, which he therefore used in order to express motion" - Cratylus.:(note this is an open source translation available at Internet Classics Archive )
However, faced by an overwhelming number of counterexamples given by Hermogenes, Socrates has to admit that "my first notions of original names are truly wild and ridiculous".
The Upanishads contain a lot of material about sound symbolism, for instance:
"The mute consonants represent the earth, the sibilants the sky, the vowels heaven. The mute consonants represent fire, the sibilants air, the vowels the sun… The mute consonants represent the eye, the sibilants the ear, the vowels the mind" - Aitrareya-Aranya-Upanishad
Kūkai. the founder of Shingon wrote his "Sound, word, reality" in the 9th century which relates all sounds to the voice of the Dharmakaya Buddha .
Early Western phonosemantics
The idea of phonosemantics was sporadically discussed during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In 1690, Locke wrote against the idea in an essay called " An Essay on Human Understanding ". His argument was that if there were any connection between sounds and ideas, then we would all be speaking the same language, but this is an over-generalisation. Leibniz 's book " New Essays on Human Understanding " published in 1765 contains a point by point critique of Locke's essay. Leibniz picks up on the generalization used by Locke and adopts a less rigid approach: clearly there is no perfect correspondence between words and things, but neither is the relationship completely arbitrary, although he seems vague about what that relationship might be. [adapted from a literature review by Magnus - see website below ]
In 1836 Wilhelm von Humboldt published "Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues und ihren Einfluß auf die geistige Entwicklung des Menschengeschlechts." It is here that he establishes the three kinds of relationship between sounds and ideas as discussed above under Types of Sound Symbolism. Below is a sample of researchers in the field of phonosemantics.
Otto Jespersen suggests that: "Sound symbolism, we may say, makes some words more fit to survive." Dwight Bolinger of Harvard University was the primary proponent of phonosemantics through the late 1940s and the 1950s. In 1949, he published "The Sign is Not Arbitrary". He concluded that morpheme s cannot be defined as the minimal meaning-bearing units, in part because linguistic meaning is so ill-defined, and in part because there are obvious situations in which smaller units are meaning-bearing.
Ivan Fónagy (1963) correlates phonemes with metaphors. For example, nasal and velarized vowels are quite generally considered ‘dark’, front vowels as ‘fine’ and ‘high’. Unvoiced stops have been considered ‘thin’ by European linguists, whereas the fricatives were labelled ‘raw’ and ‘hairy’ by the Greeks.
Hans Marchand provided the first extensive list of English phonestheme s. He wrote, for example, that "/l/ at the end of a word symbolizes prolongation, continuation" or "nasals at the end of a word express continuous vibrating sounds."
Gérard Genette published the only full length history of phonosemantics, "Mimologics" (1976). In 450 pages, Genette details the evolution of the linguistic iconism among linguists and poets, in syntax, morphology and phonology. [The above review of modern phonosemantics is partially adapted from a literature review by Magnus - see website below. ]
Linguist Keith McCune demonstrated in his doctoral thesis that virtually every word in the Indonesian language has an iconic (phonosemantic) component. His two-volume doctoral thesis "The Internal Structure of Indonesian Roots" was completed at the University of Michigan in 1983 and published in Jakarta in 1985.
Relationship with neuroscience
In the 2003 BBC Reith Lectures. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran outlined his research into the links between brain structure and function. In the fourth lecture of the series he describes the phenomena of synesthesia in which people experience, for example sounds in terms of colours, or sounds in terms of tastes. One type of synesthesia has people seeing numbers, letters of the alphabet, or even musical notes, as having a distinct colour. Based on his research Ramachandran proposes a model for how language might have evolved. The theory is interesting because it may explain how we make metaphor s and how sounds can be metaphors for images – why for example sounds can be described as bright or dull. In explaining how language might have evolved from cross activation of adjacent areas in the brain, Ramachandran notes four crucial factors, not all related to language, but which combined might well have resulted in the emergence of it. Two of these processes are of particular interest here.
" Synesthetic cross modal abstraction ": i.e. we recognise properties that sounds and images have in common and abstract them to store them independently. The sounds and shapes of the objects have characteristics in common that can be abstracted, say a sharp, cutting quality of a word, and the shape it describes - what Ramachandran called the ' Bouba/kiki effect ' based on the results of an experiment with two abstract shapes, one blobby and the other spiky, and asking people to relate the nonsense words "bouba" and "kiki" to them. The effect is real and observable, and repeatable.
"Built in preexisting cross activation". Ramachandran points out that areas of the brain which appear to be involved in the mix-ups in synesthesia are adjacent to each other physically, and that cross-wiring, or cross activation, could explain synesthesia and our ability to make metaphors. He notes that the areas that control the muscles around the mouth are also adjacent to the visual centres, and suggests that certain words appear to make our mouth imitate the thing we are describing. Examples of this might be words like "teeny weeny", "diminutive" to describe small things; "large" or "enormous" to describe big things.
Relationship with poetry
The sound of words is important in the field of poetry. and rhetoric more generally. Tools such as euphony. alliteration. and rhyme all depend on the speaker or writer confidently choosing the best-sounding word.
John Mitchell's book "Euphonics: A Poet's Dictionary of Enchantments" collects lists of words of similar meaning and similar sounds. For example, the entry for V begins::Vital and vigorous but vain and vicious.:Vitality is in words which relate to the Latin "vita" (life), "vis" (force) and "vigor". In English are vim and vigour, vitality and velocity. The effect of V can be described as very vivacious. Like several other sounds V has a second, opposite meaning. In accordance with its relationship to the sounds W and F it is sometimes weak and flustured (German "verwirrt"), as in the words vain, vacuous, vapid, vague, vacillate, vagrant, vaporous, vertigo, veer, and vary.
Likewise, "gl-" words for shiny things: glisten, gleam, glint, glare, glam, glimmer, glaze, glass, glitz, gloss, glory. glow, and glitter. In German, nouns starting with "kno-" and "knö-" are mostly small and round: "Knoblauch" "garlic", "Knöchel" "ankle", "Knödel" "dumpling", "Knolle" "tuber", "Knopf" "button", "Knorren" "knot (in a tree)", "Knospe" "bud (of a plant)", "Knoten" "knot (in string or rope)".
* Japanese sound symbolism
* Imitation of natural sounds in various cultures
* [http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage Margaret Magnus's Phonosemantics Website ]
* [http://www.percepp.demon.co.uk/soundsmb.htm Sound Symbolism ] Robin Allott.
* [http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Studios/9783/phonpap1.html The Influence of Phonesthesia on the English Language ] - an alternative approach to phonosemantics.
* [http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/cratylus.html Cratylus Dialogue ]
* [http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/kasulis3.htm Reference and symbol in Plato's Cratylus and kuukai's Shojijissogi ] "Philosophy East and West" Vol. 32:4 (October 1982)
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/ BBC Reith Lectures 2003 ]
** especially [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/reith2003_lecture4.shtml "Lecture 4: Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese" ]
* [http://www.stanford.edu/class/linguist34/Unit_08/blackberry.htm An example of phonosemantics in advertising ]
* [http://cogprints.org/2294/1/index.html Oral Metaphor Construct ] Asa M. Stepak
* [http://www.seeingwithsound.com/asynesth.htm Induced generic sound symbolism for the blind - "seeing with sound" ]
* [http://www.nigelward.com/egrunts/ Conversational Grunts ]
* [http://specgram.com/CLI.4/07.spp.wind.html Eating the Wind ] a satirical but illustrative example of sound symbolism and iconicity using airstream mechanism s.
* [http://linguistlist.org/issues/9/9-1106.html "Phonological Clusters of Semantically Similar Words" ]
* [http://www.acoustics.org.tw/asoroc/locationA/A06.pdf comparison of dirty words in Chinese and English ]
* [http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/ an argument that all phonemes have connotative meaning ]
*Magnus, M. "Gods of the Word. Archetypes in the Consonants". (Truman State University Press, July 1999)
*"The Sound Shape of Language" by Roman Jakobson and Linda Waugh
*"Euphonics: A Poet's Dictionary of Enchantments" by John Mitchell (ISBN 904263 437)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010 .Look at other dictionaries:
sound symbolism — sound′ sym bolism n. ling. a nonarbitrary connection between phonetic features of linguistic items and their meanings • Etymology: 1875–80 … From formal English to slang
sound symbolism — Ling. a nonarbitrary connection between phonetic features of linguistic items and their meanings, as in the frequent occurrence of close vowels in words denoting smallness, as petite and teeny weeny. [1875 80] * * * … Universalium
sound symbolism — Ling. a nonarbitrary connection between phonetic features of linguistic items and their meanings, as in the frequent occurrence of close vowels in words denoting smallness, as petite and teeny weeny. [1875 80] … Useful english dictionary
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2. Interaction of different types of lexical meaning:
a) Interaction of dictionary and contextual logical meanings: metaphor,
b) Interaction of primary and derivative logical meanings: polysemy,
zeugma and pun;
c) Interaction of logical and emotive meanings: interjections and
exclamatory words, the epithet, oxymoron;
d) interaction of logical and nominal meanings.
3. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:
4. Compositional patterns of syntactical arrangement:
a) stylistic inversion;
b) detached constructions;
c) parallel construction;
1. Galperin I.R. Stylistics. -M, 1971 -pp. 118-132, 136-175, 202-226.
1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature (wind, sea, thunder, etc), by things (machines or tools etc), by people (sighing, laughter, patter of feet, etc) and by animals.
There are two varieties of onomatopoeia: direct and indirect. Direct onomatopoeia is contained in words that imitate natural sounds, as ding-dong, buzz, hang, cuckoo, mew, ping-pong, roar and the like.
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". An example is:
'And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain' (E.A.Poe), where the repetition of the sound [s] actually produces the sound of the rustling of the curtain.
Alliteration is a phonetic stylistic device which aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance. The essence of this device lies in the repetition of similar sounds, in particular consonant sounds, in close succession, particularly at the beginning of successive words:
"The possessive instinct never stands still. Through florescence and feud, frost and fires it follows the laws of progression". (J.Galsworthy)
Alliteration is generally regarded as a musical accompaniment of the author's idea, supporting it with some vague emotional atmosphere which each reader interprets for himself.
Rhyme is the repetition of identical or similar terminal sound combinations of words.
Rhyming words are generally placed at a regular distance from each other. In verse they are usually placed at the end of the corresponding lines.
Identity and particularly similarity of sound combinations may be relative. For instance, we distinguish between full rhymes and incomplete rhymes. The full rhyme presupposes identity of the vowel sound and the following consonant sounds in a stressed syllable, as in might, right; needless, heedless.
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 as in flesh-fresh-press. Consonant rhymes, on the contrary, show concordance in consonants and disparity in vowels, as in worth-forth; tale-tool-Treble-trouble; flung-long.
Compound rhyme may be set against what is called eye-rhyme, where the letters and not the sounds are identical, as in love - prove, flood - brood, have -grave.
Rhythm exists in all spheres of human activity and assumes multifarious forms. Rhythm in language necessarily demands oppositions that alternate: long, short; stressed, unstressed; high, low and other contrasting segments of speech.
2. Interaction of different types of lexical meaning
Words in a context may acquire additional lexical meanings not fixed in dictionaries, what we have called contextual meanings. The latter may sometimes deviate from the dictionary meaning to such a degree that the new meaning even becomes the opposite of the primary meaning.
What is known in linguistics as transferred meaning is practically the interrelation between two types of lexical meaning: dictionary and contextual. The contextual meaning will always depend on the dictionary (logical) meaning to a greater or lesser extent. When the deviation from the acknowledged meaning is carried to a degree that it causes an unexpected turn in the recognized logical meanings, we register a stylistic device.
a) interaction of dictionary and contextual logical meanings
The relation between the dictionary and contextual logical meanings may be maintained along different lines: on the principle of affinity, on that of proximity, or symbol - referent relations, or on opposition. Thus the stylistic device based on the first principle is metaphor, on the second, metonymy and on the third, irony.
A metaphor is a relation between the dictionary and contextual logical meanings based on the affinity or similarity of certain properties or features of the two corresponding concepts.
The metaphor is a well-known semantic way of building new meanings and new words.
The metaphor, like all stylistic devices can be classified according to their degree of unexpectedness. Thus metaphors which are absolutely unexpected, i.e. are quite unpredictable, are called genuine metaphors. Those which are commonly used in speech and therefore are sometimes even fixed in dictionaries as expressive means of language are t r і t e metaphors, or dead metaphors. Their predictability therefore is apparent. Genuine metaphors are regarded as belonging to language-in-action, i.e. speech metaphors; trite metaphors belong to the language-as-a-system, i.e. language proper, and are usually fixed in dictionaries as units of the language. Here are some examples of metaphors that are considered trite: a ray of hope, floods of tears, a storm of indignation, & flight of fancy, a shadow of a smile and the like.
The metaphor is one of the most powerful means of creating images. This is its main function. Genuine metaphors are mostly to be found in poetry and emotive prose. Trite metaphors are generally used as expressive means in newspaper articles, in oratorical style and even in scientific language.
There is constant interaction between genuine and trite metaphors. Genuine metaphors, if they are good and can stand the test of time, may, through frequent repetition, become trite and consequently easily predictable. Trite metaphors may regain their freshness through the process of prolongation of the metaphor.
Metonymy is based on a different type of relation between the dictionary and contextual meanings, a relation based not on affinity, but on some kind of association connecting the two concepts which these meanings represent.
Thus the word crown may stand for 'king or queen', cup or glass for 'the drink it contains'.
Many attempts have been made to pinpoint the types of relation which metonymy is based on. Among them the following are most common:
1. a concrete thing used instead of an abstract notion. In this case the thing
becomes a symbol of the notion, as in
• "The camp, the pulpit and the law For rich men's sons are free." (Shelley)
2. The container instead of the thing contained: The hall applauded.
3. The relation of proximity, as in:
"The round game table was boisterous and happy." (Dickens)
4. The material instead of the thing made of it, as in:
"The marble spoke."
5. The instrument which the doer uses in performing the action instead of the
action or the doer himself, as in:
"Well, Mr. Weller, says the gentleman, you're a very good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know." (Dickens)
"As the sword is the worst argument that can be used, so should it be the last." (Byron)
The list is in no way complete. There are many other types of relations which may serve as a basis for metonymy.
Irony is a stylistic device also based on the simultaneous realization of two logical meanings - dictionary and contextual, but the two meanings stand in opposition to each other. Thus in the sentence:
"It must be delightful to find oneself in a foreign country without a penny in one's pocket."
the italicized word acquires a meaning quite the opposite to its primary dictionary meaning, that is 'unpleasant', 'not delightful'. The word containing the irony is strongly marked by intonation.
Irony must not be confused with humour, although they have very much in common. Humour always causes laughter. But the function of irony is not confined
to producing a humourous effect. It rather expresses a feeling of irritation, displeasure, pity or regret. Irony is generally used to convey a negative meaning. Therefore only positive concepts may be used in their logical dictionary meanings. The contextual meaning always conveys the negation of the positive concepts embodied in the dictionary meaning.
b) interaction of primary and derivative logical meanings:
Derivative logical meanings have a peculiar property, they always retain some semantic ties with the primary meaning and are strongly associated with it. Most of the derivative logical meanings, when fixed in dictionaries, are usually shown with the words they are connected with and are therefore frequently referred to as bound logical meanings. The primary and derivative meanings are sometimes called free and bound meanings respectively, though some of the derivative meanings are not bound in present-day English.
Polysemy is a generic term the use of which must be confined to lexicology as an aspect of the science of language. In actual speech polysemy vanishes unless it is deliberately retained for certain stylistic purposes. A context that does not seek to produce any particular stylistic effect generally materialized one definite meaning. That is why we state that polysemy vanishes in speech, or language-inaction.
Let us analyse the following examples where the key-words are intentionally made to reveal two or more meanings:
"Then hate me if thou wilt, if ever now." (Shakespeare)
The verb 'hate' here materializes several meanings. This becomes apparent when one reads sonnet 90 to the end and compares the meaning of this word with other verbs used synonymously. The principal meanings of this word are: 'dislike', 'stop loving', 'become indifferent to', 'feel aversion for', etc.
There are special stylistic devices which make a word materialize two distinct dictionary meanings. They are zeugma and the pun.
Zeugma is the use of a word in the same grammatical but different semantic relations to two adjacent words in the context, the semantic relations being on the one hand literal, and on the other, transferred.
"Dora, plunging at once into privileged intimacy and into the middle of the room ". (B. Shaw)
This stylistic device is particularly favoured in English emotive prose and in poetry.
The pun is another stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase. It is difficult to draw a hard and fast distinction between zeugma and the pun. The only reliable distinguishing feature is a structural one: zeugma is the realization of two meanings with the help of a verb which is made to refer to different subjects or objects (direct or indirect). The pun is more independent. Like any other stylistic device, it must depend on a context.
But the context may be of a more expanded character, sometimes even as large as a whole work of emotive prose. Thus the title of one of Oscar Wilde's plays, "The Importance of Being Earnest" has a pun in it, inasmuch as the name of the hero and the adjective meaning 'seriously-minded' are both present in our mind.
c) Interaction of logical and emotive meanings
The emotive meaning or emotional colouring (contextual emotive meaning) of a word plays a considerable role in stylistics. Both words and constructions of an emotional character have a stylistic significance only when they are set against the non-emotional. Thus, for instance, interjections, which are erroneously referred to as parts of speech are, in fact, signals of emotional tension. They must be regarded as expressive means of the language and as such may be effectively used as stylistic devices in the proper context.
Interjections and Exclamatory Words
Interjections are words we use when we express our feelings strongly and which may be said to exist in language as conventional symbols of human emotions.
Interjections can be divided into primary and derivative. Primary interjection are- generally devoid of any logical meaning. Oh! Ah! Bah! Pooh! Gosh! Hush! Alas! are primary interjections, though some of them once had logical meaning. 'Heavens!', 'good gracious!', 'God!', 'Come on!', 'Look here!' and many others of this kind are not interjections as such; a better name for them would be exclamatory words generally used as interjections, i.e. their function is that of the interjection.
It must be noted that some adjectives and adverbs can also take on the function of interjections - for example, such words as terrible. awful. great. wonderful. fine! and the like.
Interjections like other words in the English vocabulary bear features which mark them as bookish, neutral or colloquial. Thus oh, ah, Bah, and the like are neutral; alas, egad, Lo, Hark are bookish; gosh, why, well are colloquial.
The epithet is a stylistic device based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence, used to characterize an object and pointing out to the reader, and frequently imposing on him, some of the properties of features of the object with the aim of giving an individual perception and evaluation of these features and properties. The epithet is markedly subjective and evaluative. The logical attribute is purely objective, non-evaluating. Thus in green meadows, white snow, round table, blue skies and the like, the adjectives are more logical attributes than epithets. But in wild wind, loud ocean, heart-burning smile, the adjectives do not point to inherent qualities of the objects described. They are subjectively evaluative.
The epithet makes a strong impact on the reader, so much so, that the reader unwittingly begins to see and evaluate things as the writer wants him to.
Epithets may be classified from different standpoints: semantic and structural. Semantically, epithets may be divided into two groups: those associated with the noun following and those unassociated with it.
Associated epithets are those which point to a feature which is essential to the objects they describe: the idea expressed in the epithet is to a certain extent inherent in the concept of the object. The associated epithet immediately refers the mind to the concept in question due to some actual quality of the object it is attached to, for instance 'darkforest', 'careful attention', 'fantastic terrors', etc.
Unassociated epithet are attributes used to characterize the object by adding a feature not inherent in it, i.e. a feature which may be so unexpected as to strike the reader by its novelty, as for instance, 'heart-burning smile', 'voiceless sands', etc. It may seem strange, unusual, or even accidental.
Structurally, epithets can be viewed from the angle of a) composition and b) distribution.
From the point of view of their compositional structure epithets may be divided into simple, compound and phrase epithets. Simple epithets are ordinary adjectives. Compound epithets are built like compound adjectives: 'heart-burning sigh', 'cloud-shapen giant', 'mischief-making monkey'.
The tendency to cram into one language unit as much information as possible has led to new compositional models for epithets which are called phrase epithets. A phrase and even a whole sentence may become an epithet if the main formal requirement of the epithet is maintained - its attributive use. But unlike simple and compound epithets, which may have pre- or post-position, phrase epithets are always placed before the nouns they refer to. For example:
"It is this do-it-yourself, go-it-alone attitude that has thus far held back real development of the Middle East's river resources."
"Personally I detest her smug, mystery-making, come-hither-but-go-away-again-because-butter-wouldn 't-melt-in-my-mouth expression."
Another structural variety of the epithet is composed of two nouns linked in an o/-phrase: 'a devil of a job', ' the shadow of a smile'.
From the point of view of the distribution of the epithets in the sentence, the first model to be pointed out is the string of epithets. For example:
"Such was the background of the wonderful, cruel, enchanting, bewildering, fatal, great city."
Another distributional model is the transferred epithet. Transferred epithets are ordinary logical attributes generally describing the state of a human being, but made to refer to an inanimate object, for example: sick chamber, sleepless pillow, restless pace, unbreakfasted morning.
Oxymoron is a combination of two words (mostly an adjective and a noun or an adverb with an adjective) in which the meanings of the two clash, being opposite in sense, for example:
How skyscraper', 'sweet sorrow', 'pleasantly ugly face', 'horribly beautiful'.
e) Interaction of logical and nominal meanings: Antonomasia
The interplay between logical and nominal meanings of a word is called antonomasia. Here is an example of genuine antonomasia.
"Society is now one polished horde,
Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored."
Antonomasia is intended to point out the leading, most characteristic feature of a person or event, at the same time pinning this leading trait as a proper name to the person or event concerned. Antonomasia is a much favoured device in the belles-lettres style.
In Russian literature this device is employed by many of classic writers. It will suffice to mention such names as Molchalin, Korobochka and Sobakevich to illustrate this efficient device for characterizing literary heroes.
The use of antonomasia is now not confined to the belles-lettres style. It is often found in publicistic style, that is in magazine and newspaper articles, in essays and also in military language.
3. Intensification of a certain feature of a thing or phenomenon:
In the third group of stylistic devices we find that one of the qualities of the object in question is made to sound essential.
The intensification of some feature of the concept in question is realized in a device called simile. Ordinary comparison and simile must not be confused. Comparison means weighing two objects belonging to one class of things with the purpose of establishing the degree of their sameness or difference. To use a simile is to characterize one object by bringing it into contact with another object belonging to an entirely different class of things. Comparison takes into consideration all the properties of the two objects, stressing the one that is compared. Simile excludes all the properties of the two objects except one which is made common to them. For example, 'The boy seems to be as clever as his mother' is ordinary comparison. 'Boy' and 'mother' belong to the same class of objects - human being - and only one quality is being stressed to find the resemblance. But in the sentence: "Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare," (Byron), we have a simile. "Maidens' and 'moth' belong to heterogeneous classes of objects and Byron has found the concept 'moth' to indicate one of the secondary features of the concept 'maiden', i.e. to be easily lured. Of the two concepts brought together in the simile - one characterized
characterizing (moth) - the feature intensified will be more inherent in the latter than in the former.
The properties of an object may be viewed from different angles, for example, its state, its actions, manner, etc. Accordingly, similes may be based on adjective-attributes, adverb-modifiers, verb-predicates, etc.
Similes have formal elements in their structure: connective words such as like, as, such as, as if, seem.
Periphrasis is the re-naming of an object by a phrase that brings out some particular feature of the object. Here are some examples of well-known dictionary periphrases:
the cap and gown ('student body'); a gentleman of the long robe ('a lawyer'); the fair sex ('women'); my better half <'my wife').
Stylistic periphrasis can also be divided into logical and figurative. Logical periphrasis is based on one of the inherent properties or perhaps a passing feature of the object described, as in instruments of destruction = 'pistols'; the most pardonable of human weaknesses = 'love'. Figurative periphrasis is based either on metaphor or on metonymy, the key-word of the collocation being the word used figuratively as in 'the punctual servant of all work' = the sun; 'to tie the knot' = to marry.
Date: 2015-01-02 ; view: 1261