Basic vocabulary words are stylistically neutral. Their stylistic neutrality makes it possible to use them in all kinds of situation both formal and informal. Every notional word of a natural language carries some definite information. This information may be basic or denotative and additional or connotative.
The majority of words of the English language possesses denotative information only. So, they are stylistically neutral: man, house, to run, red etc. This does not mean that they cannot be used for stylistic purposes. A word in fiction acquires new qualities depending on its position, distribution, etc. Practically any word, depending on its context, may acquire certain connotations (honey-bum, sugar-plum).
In the English language, there are many words which possess not only basic information but additional information as well.
Stylistic differentiation of the vocabulary
The Three Main Layers of the English Language
English language is divided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The literary and the colloquial layers contain a number of subgroups each of which has a property it shares with all the subgroups within the layer. This common property, which unites the different groups of words within the layer, may be called its aspect. The aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish character. It is this that makes the layer more or less stable. The aspect of the colloquial layer of words is its lively spoken character.
The aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. That means it is unrestricted in its use. It can be employed in all styles of language and in all spheres of human activity.
The literary layer of words consists of groups accepted as legitimate members of the English vocabulary. They have no local or dialectal character.
The colloquial layer of words as qualified in most English or American dictionaries is not infrequently limited to a definite language community or confined to a special locality where it circulates.
The literary vocabulary consists of the following groups of words:
1. common literary; 2. terms and learned words; 3. poetic words; 4. archaic words; 5. barbarisms and foreign words; 6. literary coinages including nonce-words.
The colloquial vocabulary falls into the following groups: 1. common colloquial words; 2. slang; 3. jargonisms; 4. professional words; 5. dialectal words; 6. vulgar words; 7. colloquial coinages.
The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term standard English vocabulary. Other groups in the literary layer are regarded as special literary vocabulary and those in the colloquial layer are regarded as special colloquial (non-literary) vocabulary
2. Neutral, Common Literary and Common Colloquial Vocabulary
Neutral words, which form the bulk of the English vocabulary, are used in both literary and colloquial language. Neutral words are the main source of synonymy and polysemy. It is the neutral stock of words that is so prolific in the production of new meanings.
Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech.
The following synonyms illustrate the relations that exist between the neutral, literary and colloquial words in the English language.
Colloquial Neutral Literary
kid child infant
daddy father parent
get out go away retire
teenager boy (girl) youth (maiden)
There are very few absolute synonyms in English just as there are in any language. The main distinction between synonyms remains stylistic. But stylistic difference may be of various kinds: it may lie in the emotional tension connoted in a word, or in the sphere of application, or in the degree of the quality denoted. Colloquial words are always more emotionally coloured than literary ones. The neutral stratum of words, as the term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.
12. [Speak about super-neutral words. Is there any interaction of stylistically coloured words and the context?]
Among elevated words we can find those which are used in official documents, diplomatic and commercial correspondence, legislation, etc. Such words have a tinge of pomposity about them. Their colouring is that of solemnity, and the words are termed «solemn words». The other variety of words is the poetic diction - words used in poetry and lyrical prose They are «poetic words». True, it is hardly possible to delimitate strictly solemn words from poetic words.
The stylistic colouring of elevation also occurs in archaisms, bookish words and foreign words.
Archaisms. This term denotes words which are practically out of use in present-day language and are felt as obsolete. Archaisms may be subdivided into two groups. The first group is represented by «material archaisms», or «historical archaisms» - words whose referents have disappeared. The second group is formed by archaisms proper - those words which have been ousted by their synonyms.
In the works of fiction the use of archaic words serves to characterize the speech of the bygone epoch, to reproduce its atmosphere. It should be noted that archaization does not mean complete reproduction of the speech of past epochs; it is effected by the use of separate archaic words.
In other cases, occurring in the speech of a person, archaic words show his attachment to antiquity.
In poetry archaisms are used to create romantic atmosphere, the general colouring of elevation. The colouring may be described as poetic and solemn at the same time.
In official form of speech the function of archaisms is the same as in poetry (to rise above the ordinary matters of everyday life), but the colouring produced is different. It is the colouring of solemnity.
Bookish words. These words belong to that stratum of the vocabulary which is used in cultivated speech only - in books or in such special types of oral communication as public speeches, official negotiations, etc. They are mostly loan-words, Latin and Greek. They are either high-flown synonyms of neutral words, or popular terms of science. Consider the following example:
A great crowd came to see - A vast concourse was assembled to witness.
Began his answer - commenced his rejoinder.
A special stratum of bookish words is constituted by the words traditionally used in poetry («spouse» - husband or wife, «woe» - sorrow, «foe» - enemy. Some of them are archaic: «aught» - anything, «naught» -nothing, others are morphological variants of neutral words: «oft» - often, «list» - listen, «morn» - morning.
Foreign words. Foreign words should not be confused with borrowed words. Foreign words in English are for the most part late borrowings from French - those words which have preserved their French pronunciation and spelling. For example, the French formula «Au revoir» used in English by those ignorant of French has somethong exquisite. 1ц the French word «chic» the same tinge of elegance is felt.
Interaction of Stylistically Coloured Words and the Context
The following general rules of stylistic interaction may be stated:
1.An elevated word placed in a stylistically neutral context imparts the latter a general colouring of elevation, i.e. makes the whole utterance solemn or poetic, provided the subject of speech is consistent with the stylistic colouring of elevation.
2.An elevated word in a neutral context produces an effect of comicality if the subject of speech or the situation is inconsistent with elevated colouring.
3.Sub-neutral words in a neutral context lower the stylistic value of the whole. 4.Sub-neutral words in a super-neutral context or vice versa produces a comic effect.