In dealing with the objectives of stylistics, certain pronouncements of adjacent disciplines such as theory of information, literature, logic and to some extent statistics must be touched upon. This is indispensable; for nowadays no science is entirely isolated from other domains of human knowledge. The linguistics, particularly its branch stylistics, cannot avoid references to the above mentioned disciplines because it is confronted with certain overlapping issues.
In linguistics there are different terms to denoteparticular means by which utterances are foregrounded, i.e. made more conspicuous, more effective and therefore imparting some additional information. They are called expressive means, stylistic devices, tropes, figures of speech and other names. All these terms are used indiscriminately and are set against those means which we shall conventionally call neutral. Most linguists distinguish ordinary semantic and stylistic differences in meaning. They distinguish three main levels of expressive means and stylistic devices: phonetic, lexical and syntactical.
1. Phonetic expressive means and stylistic devices. As it is clear from the title, the stylistic use of phonemes and their graphical representation is viewed here. The stylistic approach to the utterance is not confined to its structure and sense. There is another thing to be taken into account which plays an important role. This is the way a word, a phrase or a sentence sounds. The sound of most words taken separately will have little or no aesthetic value. It is in combination with other words that a word may acquire a desired phonetic effect. The way a separate word sounds may produce a certain euphonic impression, but this is a matter of individual perception and feeling and therefore subjective.
2. Lexical expressive means and stylistic devices. The main function of the word is to denote. Thus, the denotational meaning is the major semantic characteristic of the word. The words in context may acquire additional lexical meanings not fixed in dictionaries. What is known in linguistics as "transferred meaning" is particularly the interrelation between two types of lexical meaning: dictionary and contextual. When the deviation from the acknowledged meaning is carried to a degree that it causes an unexpected turn in the recognised logical meanings, we register a stylistic device.
3. Syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices. Stylistic study of the syntax begins with the study of the length and the structure of the sentence. Stylistic syntactical patterns may be viewed as variants of the general syntactical models of the language and are the more obvious and conspicuous if presented not as isolated elements or accidental usage, but as group easily observable and lending themselves to generalisation.
This brief outline of the most characteristic features of the language styles and their variants will show that out of the number of features which are easily discernible in each of the styles, some should be considered primary and others secondary; some obligatory, others optional; some constant, others transitory.
I think that the most important and interesting is lexical level.
It includes more bright and vivid units of the language.
2. Lexical expressive means and stylistic devices.
Each art has its own medium, i.e. its own material substance. Colours are the material substance of painting, sounds-the material substance of music. It is the language that is the material substance of literature. But language consists of colours and sounds due to the existence of expressive means and stylistic devices.
Language is capable of transmitting practically any kind of information. It has names for all things, phenomena and relations of objective reality. It is so close to life that an illusion of their almost complete identity is created, for man lives, works and thinks in the medium of language. His behaviour finds an important means of expression primarily in language. In the present chapter we shall try to analyse some lexical expressive means and stylistic devices used by Oscar Wilde in his plays.
EPIGRAM and PARADOX.
The majority critics of the nineteenth century agree that Wilde is the most paradoxical writer of his time.
According to professor Sosnovskaya V.B., paradox based on contrast, being a statement contradictory to what is accepted as a self-evident or proverbial truth.9
The appeal of paradox lies in the fact that, however contradictory it may seem to be to the accepted maxim, it contains nevertheless, a certain grain of truth, which makes it an excellent vehicle of satire. Indeed, it is a device much favoured by many English and American satirists. Paradox can be considered a figure of speech with certain reservations, since the aesthetic principle, that underlies it, i.e. contrast has divers linguistic manifestations.
According to professor Galperin I.R., epigram is a stylistic device akin to a proverb, the only difference being that epigrams are coined by individuals whose names we know, while proverbs are the coinage of the people. In other words, we are always aware of the parentage of an epigram and therefore, when using one, we usually make a reference to its author.10
Epigrams and paradoxes as stylistic devices are used for creating generalised images. Usually it is the Present Indefinite Tense. This form of the verb makes paradoxes and epigrams abstract.
e.g. "Men marry because they are tired,
women because they are curious.
Both are disappointed." (p.138).11
"Nothing spoils a romance so much as
a sense of humour in the woman". (p.108).
"Ideals are dangerous things,
realities are better. They wound,
but they are better." (p.85).
"Women are pictures,
Men are problems." (p.138).
In Wilde's paradoxes and epigrams the verb "to be" is widely used. This verb intensifies the genetic function and makes aphorisms and paradoxes humorous. It makes also the ironical definition of phenomena of life.
e.g. "Curious thing, plain women are always jealous
of their husbands,
beautiful women never are."(p.108).
"The men are all dowdies and the women
are all dandies." (p.186).
"A man who moralises is usually a hypocrite,
and a woman who moralises is invariably
Another means which helps to create the generalisation is the choice of words. Wilde often resorts to the use of some abstract notions, concrete notions are rare.
e.g. "Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit ;
touch it and the bloom is gone." (p.296).
"Duty is what one expects from others,
it is not what one does himself."