Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary (43002)

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The English and Literature Department.

«Stylistic Classification of the English Vocabulary»

Gulistan 2008


Theme actually. It is no news that any prepositional content – any «idea» – can be verbalized in several different ways. So, «May I offer you are chair?», Take a seat, please, «Sit down» – have the same proposition but differ in the manner of expression, which, in its turn, depends upon the situational conditions of the communication act.

70 percent of our lifetime is spent in various forms of communication activities – oral or written, so it is self evident how important it is for a philologist to know the mechanics of relations between the non verbal, extralinguistic denotional essence of the communicative act and its verbal, linguistic presentation. That’s why I think to study the classification of the vocabulary is very important thing for the English teacher and students.

The aims and purposes of the work. The work set a task to learn. The peculiarities of stylistic differentiation of English vocabulary. To show the examples of different scholars approaches to the theme.

The practical value. Materials of the work will help students, teachers and particular translators and interpreters who work on the translation of the originals.

Literature overview. Basic information’s of the qualification work are given from the manuals of great scholars such as: Stylistics by Galperin I.R, A book of practice in stylistics by Kukharenko V.A, English Stylistics by Bobohonova L.T. Besides above mentioned manuals I took informations from Internet and World Book Encyclopedia.

The structure of the work. This qualification work consists of Introduction, main Part, and Conclusion and at the end the list of used literatures.

1. General considerations of stylistic classification of the English vocabulary

The word-stock of any given language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups, differing from each other by the sphere of its possible use.

The biggest division is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative situation, two smaller ones are literary and colloquial strata respectively.

In order to get a more or less clear idea of the word-stock of nay language, it must be presented as a system, the elements of which are interconnected, interrelated and yet independent. Some linguists, who clearly see the systematic character of language as a whole, deny, however, the possibility of systematically classifying the vocabulary. They say that he word-stock of any language is so large and so heterogeneous that it is impossible to formalize it and therefore present it in any system. The words of a language are thought of as a chaotic body whether viewed from their origin and development or from their present state.

Indeed, coinage of new lexical units, the development of meaning, the differentiation of words according to their stylistic evaluation and their spheres of usage, the correlation between meaning and concept and other problems connected with vocabulary are so multifarious and varied that it is difficult to grasp the systematic character of the word-stock of a language, though it coexist with the systems of other level-phonetics, morphology and syntax.

To deny the systematic character of the word-stock of a language amounts to denying the systematic character of language as a whole, words being elements in the general system of language.

The word-stock of a language may be represented as a definite system in which different aspects of words may be singled out as interdependent. A special branch of linguistic science lexicology has done much to classify vocabulary. A glance at the contents of any book on lexicology coil suffices to ascertain the outline of the system of the word-stock of the given language.

For our purpose, i.e. for linguistic stylistics, a special type of classification, stylistic classification, is most important.

In accordance with the already mentioned division of language into literary and colloquial, we may represent the whole of the word-stock of the English language as being divided into three main layers: the literary layer, the neutral layer and the colloquial layer. The literary and the colloquial layers contain 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. It is this that makes it unstable, fleeting.

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. It is this that makes the layer the most stable of all.

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 consist 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. jargons: 4. professional words: 5. dialectal words: 6. vulgar words: 7. colloquial coinages.

2. Main part

2.1 Neutral, common literary and Сommon 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.

The wealth of the neutral stratum of words is often overlooked. This is due to their inconspicuous character. But their faculty for assuming new meanings and generating new stylistic variants is often quite amazing. This generative power of the neutral words in English language is multiplied by the very nature of the language itself. It has been estimated that most neutral English words are of monosyllabic character, as, in the process of development from Old English to Modern English, most of the parts of speech lost their distinguish suffixes. This phenomenon has led to the development of conversion as the most productive means of word-building. Word compounding is not so productive as conversion or word shift in the part of speech in the first case and by the addition of an affix in the second. Unlike all other groups, the neutral group of words cannot be considered as having a special stylistic coloring.

Common literary words are chiefly used in writing and in polished speech. One can always tell a literary word from a colloquial word. The reason fro this lies in certain objective features of the literary layer of words. What these objective features are, is difficult to say because as yet no objective criteria have been worked out. But one of the undoubtedly is that literary units stand in opposition to colloquial units. This is especially apparent when pairs of synonyms, literary and colloquial, can be formed which stand in contrasting relation.

The following synonyms illustrate the relations that exist between the neutral, literary and colloquial words in the English language.













Get out

Go away


Go on




Boy (girl)

Youth (maiden)


Young girl


Go ahead


Get going



It goes without saying that these synonyms are not only stylistic but ideographic as a well, i.e. there is a definite, though slight, semantic difference between the words. But this is almost always the case with synonyms. 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 colored that literary ones. The neutral stratum of words, as het term itself implies, has no degree of emotiveness, nor have they any distinctions in the sphere of usage.

Both literary and colloquial words have their upper and lower ranges. The lower range of literary words approaches the neutral layer and has a markedly obvious tendency to pass into that layer. The same may be said of the upper range of the colloquial layer: it can very easily pass into the neutral layer. The lines of demarcation between common colloquial and neutral, on the one hand, and common literary and neutral, on the other, are blurred. It is here that the process of interpenetration of the stylistic strata becomes most apparent.

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