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the branch of linguistics that studies the style of language and describes the norms and usage of literary language in speech, in various types of written works, and in public affairs.
Stylistics deals with language in the broad sense of the term, which includes speech, but stylistics differs from other areas of linguistics in that it is concerned with language and society and with sociolinguistics. Stylistics studies the means of expressing the supplementary (stylistic) information that accompanies the content of speech. A related subject of study is the system of a language’s synonymic means and potentialities at all levels. Stylistics also studies the linguistic norms of past periods of language development. Historical stylistics deals with these topics and also seeks to identify shifts and nuances in style, although its primary aim is to trace the history of stylistic systems, the origin, formation, and development of stylistic variants within languages, and the history of the interactions among these variants.
The grouping of linguistic material by theorists of stylistics does not necessarily coincide with division into lexicon, phraseology, morphology, and syntax. Of course, stylistics may study and describe the stylistic features of levels of language, but the researcher engaged in this task keeps in mind the language’s stylistic system as a whole. Since the stylistic features of linguistic material are perceived by researchers studying the stylistics of a contemporary literary language as bearers of the literary language directly and intuitively—they are identified without analyzing texts or utterances. But these researchers’ main efforts are directed toward studying the aggregate of stylistically colored elements in various styles, and identifying the norms of textual structure as revealed in the linguistic material studied. In studying the styles of earlier stages of a language’s development, the researcher proceeds from analysis of texts and of their composition and structure to the identification of the stylistic traits of the linguistic phenomena in the texts. As a result of this approach, the use of statistical methods in the study of texts is increasing.
A separate branch of stylistics is the stylistics of literature (artistic speech). The methodology of this type of study is determined by the subject’s distinct nature. Literary language as a manifestation of art remains language in the usual sense of the term, and the artistic functions of language in literature are determined by style. Consequently, it is natural that the stylistics of artistic speech should remain a part of the stylistics of language as a linguistic discipline and should use the same concepts and categories. However, the stylistics of artistic speech is not limited to these concepts and categories when it reveals the aesthetic function of language in literature.
The stylistics of literature elucidates the methods of using language in literature and of combining aesthetic and communicative functions in language. The stylistics of literature also identifies the means by which language becomes a work of art within literature. Researchers in the field of literary stylistics indicate the distinctive features of texts, the methods of structuring various types of authorial narration, and the devices used to depict the speech of a given milieu. They also elucidate the methods of constructing dialogue, the functions of different stylistic strata of language in artistic speech, the principles of selecting linguistic means and of transforming them in literature, and the methods of concretizing aspects of language that are not significant in actual speech.
A related task of historical stylistics is the analysis of the relations of the language of poetry and fiction with literary and popular colloquial language at various stages in the development of language and literature. This makes it possible to trace the connections between the history of the literary language and the history of literature, and to amplify with linguistic features such concepts as classicism, sentimentalism, romanticism, and realism.
At the same time, researchers in the stylistics of artistic speech seek to indicate the aesthetic function of the linguistic material in a given literary system and in the relations of this material with the other elements of the system. Consequently, the most important subject of study in literary stylistics is the language of the writer and of works of literature, in which the problem of individual style is brought to the forefront.
The stylistics of artistic speech borders on poetics. This contiguity marks the boundaries of linguostylistic analysis. These boundaries exist since the style of a literary work embraces, according to V. M. Zhirmunskii, both linguistic means (the subject of stylistics in the precise meaning of the term) and themes, images, composition, and literary content, the last of which is embodied partially, though not exclusively, in words. At the same time, not all of the linguistic features of a work are the subject of stylistics. For example, the study of the rhythm of a poetic text and the study of the sound instrumentation of a line of poetry lie within the domain of poetics. Practical stylistics is an applied discipline that includes stylistic recommendations conforming to the needs of a given speech culture.
Elements of stylistics existed in classical theories of language, whose traditions influenced medieval philology. These traditions were also reflected in Russian theories of rhetoric of the 17th to early 19th centuries. The works of M. V. Lomonosov in the 18th century and of A. A. Potebnia and A. N. Veselovskii in the 19th century were very important in the history of Russian stylistics.
Stylistics took form as an independent discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the works of C. Bally. Bally developed a theory that the expressive means of a language on the emotional, social, and individual planes were the main subject of stylistics. The relations between stylistics and poetic speech were exhaustively studied in Russia between 1910 and 1930. Important work in the development of stylistics and of the sociological, historical, and literary study of linguistic styles was carried out by V. M. Zhirmunskii and V. V. Vinogradov. Of particular significance were Vinogradov’s attempts to fix the boundaries between stylistics and poetics and, within stylistics, to differentiate such branches as the stylistics of language, of speech, and of literature. The scholars L. V. Shcherba, B. A. Larin, L. A. Bulakhovskii, G. O. Vinokur, and B. V. Tomashevskii made important contributions to the study of Russian stylistics.
The most controversial topics in contemporary stylistics are the nature of the meanings suggested by style, the description of functional styles of language, the place of the language of poetry and fiction in the stylistic system of a literary language, and the principles of studying the language of literary works. Further topics of current interest are the roles of individual style and of statistical methods.
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