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E. THE STYLE OF OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS




There is one more style of language within the field of standard literary English which has become singled out, and that is the s ty le of official d t s, or "officialese", as it is sometimes called. As has already been pointed out, this FS is not homogeneous and is represented by the following substyles or variants:

1) the language of business documents,

2) the language of legal documents,

3) that of diplomacy,

4) that of military documents.

Like other styles of language, this style has a definite communicative aim and, accordingly, has its own system of interrelated language and

stylistic means. The main aim of this type of.communication is to state the conditions binding two parties in an undertaking. These parties may be: the state and the citizen, or citizen and citizen; a society and its members (statute or ordinance); two or more enterprises or bodies (business correspondence or contracts); two or more governments (pacts, treaties); a person in authority and a subordinate (orders, regulations, instructions, authoritative directives); a board or presidium and an assembly or general meeting (procedures acts, minutes), etc.

The aim of communication in this style of language is to reach agreement between two contracting parties. Even protest against violations of statutes, contracts, regulations, etc., can also be regarded as a form by which normal cooperation is sought on the basis of previously attained concordance.

This most general function of the style of official documents predetermines the peculiarities of the style. The most striking, though not the most essential feature, is a special system of cliches, terms and set expressions by which each substyle can easily be recognized, for example: / beg to inform you, I beg to move, I second the motion, provisional agenda, the above-mentioned, hereinafter named, on behalf of, private advisory, Dear Sir, We remain, your obedient servants.

In fact, each of the subdivisions of this style has its own peculiar terms, phrases and expressions which differ from the corresponding terms, phrases and expressions of other variants of this style. Thus in finance we find terms like extra revenue, taxable capacities, liability to profit tax. Terms and phrases like high contracting parties, to ratify an agreement, memorandum, pact, Charge d'affaires, protectorate, extra-territorial status, plenipotentiary will immediately brand the utterance as diplomatic. In legal language, examples are: to deal with a case; summary procedure; a body of judges; as laid down in.

Likewise, other varieties of official language have their special no- ' menclature, which is conspicuous in the text and therefore easily discernible as belonging to the official language style.

Besides the special nomenclature characteristic of each, variety of he style, there is a feature common to all these Varietiesthe use of abbreviations, conventional symbols and contractions, for example:

M. P. (Member of Parliament), Gvt (gwernmen/), H.M.S. (His Majesty's Steamship), $ (dollar), (pound), Ltd (Limited).

There are so many of them that there are special addendas in dictionaries to decode them.

This characteristic feature was used by Dickens in his "Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club;" for instance,

P.V.P., M.P.C. (Perpetual Vice-President, Member Pickwick Club); G.C.M.P.C. (General Chairman, Member Pickwick Club).

Abbreviations are particularly abundant in military documents. Here they are used not only as conventional symbols but as signs of the military code, which is supposed to be known only to the initiated. Examples are:

D.A.O, (Divisional Officer); adv. (advance); atk (attack); obj. (object); A/T (anti-tank); ATAS (Air Transport Auxiliary Service),

Another feature of the style is. the use of words in their logical dictionary meaning. Just as in the other matter-of-fact styles, and in contrast intrinsically to the belles-lettres style, there is no room for contextual meanings or for any kind of simultaneous realization of two meanings. In military documents sometimes metaphorical names are given to mountains, rivers, hills or villages, but these metaphors are perceived as code signs and have no aesthetic value, as in:

"2.102 d. Inf. Div. continues atk 26 Feb. 45 to captive objs Spruce Peach and Cherry and prepares to take over objs Plum and Apple after capture by CCB, 5th armd Div."

Words with emotive meaning are not to be found in the style of official documents either. Even in the style of scientific prose some words may be found which reveal the attitude of the writer, his individual evaluation of the facts and events of the issue. But no such words are to be found in official style, except those which are used in business letters as conventional phrases of greeting or close, as Dear Sir, yours faithfully.

As in all other functional styles, the distinctive properties appear as a system. We cannot single out a style by its vocabulary only, recognizable though it always is. The syntactical pattern of the style is as significant as the vocabulary, though not perhaps so immediately apparent.

Perhaps the most noticeable of all syntactical features are the compositional patterns of the variants of this style. Thus, business letters have a definite compositional pattern, namely, the heading giving the address of the writer*, the date, the name of the addressee and his address. -

Here is a sample of a business-'letter:

Smith and Sons

25 Main Street

Manchester

9th February, 1967

Mr. John Smith *

29 Cranbourn Street:

London

Dear Sir, . ^

We beg to inform you that by order and for account of Mr. Julian of Leeds, we have taken the liberty of drawing upon you for 25 at three months' date to the order of Mr. Sharp. We gladly take this opportunity of placing our services at your disposal, and shall be pleased if you frequently make use of them.

Respectfully yours, Smith and Sons by Jane Crawford

There is every reason to believe that many of the emotional words and phrases in present-day commercial correspondence which are not merely conventional symbols of polite address, did retain their emotive meaning at earlier stages in the development of this variety of official language. Here is an interesting sample of a business letter dated June 5, 1655.

Mr. G. Dury to Secretary Tharloe, Right Honorable,

The Commissary of Sweden, Mr. Bormel, doth most humbly intreat your honour to be pleased to procure him his audience from his highnesse as soon as conveniently it may be. He desires, that the same be without much ceremony, and by way of private audience. I humbly subscribe myself

Your Honour's most humble and

obedient servant,

G. Dury, June 5, 1655.

Such words and word-combinations as 'most humbly,' 'intreat' (entreat), 'I humbly subscribe', 'most humble and obedient servant' and the like are too insistently repeated not to produce the desired impression of, humbleness so necessary for one who asks for a favour.

Almost every official document has its own compositional design. Pacts and statutes, orders and minutes, notes and memorandaall have more or less definite forms, and it will not be an exaggeration to state that the form of the document is itself informative, inasmuch as it tells something about the matter dealt with (a letter, an agreement, an order, etc).

In this respect we shall quote the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations which clearly illustrates the most peculiar form of the arrangement of an official document of agreement.

CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS1

"We the Peoples of the United Nations Determined

TO SAVE succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which

twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

TO REAFFIRM faith in fundamental rights, in the dignity

and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and

women and of nations large and small, and

TO ESTABLISH conditions under which justice and respect

for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of

international law can be maintained, and

TO PROMOTE social progress and better standards of life in

larger freedom,

1 The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. N. Y., 1967, p. 1941

" And For These Ends

TO PRACTICE tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

TO UNITE our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

TO ENSURE, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

TO EMPLOY international machinery for. the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have Resolved to Combine Our Efforts to Accomplish These Aims.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the City of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do here-by establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations:'

As is seen, all the reasons which led to the decision of setting up an international organization are expressed in one sentence with parallel infinitive object clauses. Each infinitive object clause is framed as a separate paragraph thus enabling the reader to attach equal importance to each of the items mentioned. The separate sentences shaped as clauses are naturally divided not by full stops but either by commas or by semicolons.

It is also an established custom to divide separate utterances by numbers, maintaining, however, the principle of dependence of all the statements on the main part of the utterance. Thus, in chapter I of the U. N. Charter^the purposes and principles of the charter are given in a number of predicatives, all expressed in infinitive constructions and numbered: .. .

"CHAPTER I

'-PURPUSES AND PRINCIPLES

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

j. TO MAINTAIN international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the-peace, and for the suppression of acts.of aggression or other breaches of the peace,'and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.

2. TO DEVELOP friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.

3. TO ACHIEVE international cooperation on solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human . rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

4. TO BE A CENTRE for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends."

Here is another sample of an official document maintaining the same principles:

United Nations Economic Distr. Limited and Social Council R/TAC/L. 89/Rev. 2

29 Nov. 1955.

Original: English

Technical Assistance Committee Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance Review of the Programme for 1956 Australia and Egypt: revised draft resolution.

The Technical Assistance Committee,

RECALLING THAT according to Economic and Social Council resolution 542 (XVIII) the preparation and review of the Expanded Programme and all other necessary steps should be carried out in a way that TAG ought to be in a position to approve the over-all programme and authorize allocation to participating organizations by 30 November at the latest, CONSIDER ING THAT a realistic programme such as the Expand-ed Programme cannot be planned and formulated without prior knowledge of the financial resources available for its implementation,

: CONSIDERING THAT TAG, with the assistance of such ad hoc subcommittees as it may find necessary to establish, will normally need about one week to carry out the task referred to in the resolution mentioned above, bearing in mind the necessary consultations with the representatives of the participating organizations,

1. ASKS the Secretary-General to seek to arrange each year that the Pledging Conference should be convened as early as possible taking due account of all factors involved;

2. DECIDES that the Secretary-General should in future work on the assumption that in carrying out the functions of approving the programme and authorizing allocations as required by Economic and Social Council resolution 542 (XVIII), the TAG will usually need to meet for one week;

3. REQUESTS further the Secretary-General to transmit this resolution to all States Members and non-members of the United Nations which participate in the Expanded Programme."

In no other style of language will such an arrangement of utterance be found. In fact, the whole document is one sentence from the point of view of its formal syntactical structure. The subject of the sentence 'The Technical Assistance Committee7 is followed by a number of participial constructions 'Recalling', 'Considering', 'Considering, is cut off by a comma from them and from the homogeneous predicates 'Asks', 'Decides', 'Requests'. Every predicate structure is numbered and begins with a capital letter just as the participial constructions.

This structurally illogical way of combining different ideas has its sense. In the text just quoted the reason for such a structural pattern probably lies in the intention to show the equality of the items and similar dependence of the participial constructions on the predicate constructions.

"In legal English," writes H. Whitehall, "...a significant judgement may depend on the exact relations between words. ...The language of the law is written not so much to be understood as not to be misunderstood." *

As is seen from the different samples above, the overall code of the official style falls into a system of subcodes, each characterized by its own terminological nomenclature, its own compositional form, its own variety of syntactical arrangements. But the integrating features of all these subcodes, emanating from the general aim of agreement between- parties, remain the following:

1) conventionality of expression;

2) absence of any emotiveness;

3) the encoded character of language symbols (including abbreviations) and

4) a general syntactical mode of combining several pronouncements into one sentence: ^

FINAL REMARKS

This brief outline of the most characteristic features of the five 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. The necessary data can be obtained by means of an objective statistical count based on a large number of texts, but this task cannot be satisfactorily completed without the use of computers.

Another problem facing the stylicist is whether or not there are separate styles within the spoken variety of the language, and the analysis of these styles if it can be proved that there are any. So far we are of the opinion that styles of language can only be singled out in the written variety. This can be explained by the fact that any style is the result of a deliberate, careful selection of language means which in their correlation constitute this style. This can scarcely be attained in the oral variety of language which by its very nature will not lend itself to careful selection.

However, there is folklore, which originated as an oral form of communication, and which may perhaps be classed as a style of language with its own structural and semantic laws.

The survey of different functional styles will not be complete without at least a cursary look into what constitutes the very notion of text<as^ a production of man's creative activity in the realm of language.

The word'text', which has imperceptibly crept into common use, has never been linguistically ascertained. It is so broad in its application that it can refer to a span of utterance consisting of two lines, on the one hand, and to a whole novel, on the other. Therefore the word needs specification in order to make clear what particular kind of language product has the right to be termed text. The student of functional styles will undoubtedly benefit by looking at the text from an angle different from what he has hitherto been used to. When analysing the linguistic nature of a text it is first of all necessary to keep in mind the concept of permanence as set against ephemerality. Text, being the result of language activity, enjoys permanence inasmuch as it belongs to the written variety of language.

Text can be what it claims to be only if it possesses the quality of integrity, i.e. wholeness characterized by its gestalt (see p. 30). In other words, text must enjoy a kind of independent existence; it must be an entity in itself.

The integrity of the text presupposes the subordination of certain parts to one particular part which reveals the main idea and the purport of the writer. It has already been stated that a text consists of units which we called supra-phrasal (see p. 194). These units are not equal in their significance: some of them bear reference to the main idea, others only back up the purport of the author. It follows then that supra-phrasal units can be classified as predicative and relative. The interrelation between these will show what kind, of importance the author attaches to one or other part of the utterance.

The theory of communication has brought about new concepts regarding the information imparted by different texts. It will be of use to distinguish between the following terms: meaning, signified tion and content. We shall reserve the term 'meaning* for the semantics of a morpheme, a word or of a word-combination. The term 'signification' is here suggested to refer only to the sentence and supra-phrasal units. The term 'content' should be reserved for the information imparted by the whole of the text.

It follows then that the information contained in a text is its content. However, the content is not a mechanical summing up of the significations of the sentences and the supra-phrasal units. Likewise, the signification of a sentence or of a supra-phrasal unit is not a mechanical summary of meanings of the constituents, i.e. of the words or word-combinations. The integrating power of the text greatly influences the signification of the sentences, depriving them of the independence they would enjoy in isolation. The same can be observed in the sentence, where the words to a greater or lesser degree lose their independence and are subjected to sometimes almost imperceptible semantic modifications. To phrase the issue differently, the content of a text modifies the significations of the sentences and the meanings of the words and phrases. The integrating power of the text is considerable and requires careful observation.

The informati&n conveyed by a^text may be of different kinds; in particular, two kinds of information might be singled out, 'viz. content-conceptual and' content-factual.

Content-conceptual information is that which reveals the formation of notions, ideas or concepts. This kind of information is not confined to merely imparting intelligence, faots (real or imaginary), descriptions, events, proceedings, etc. It4s much more complicated. Content-conceptual information is not always easily discernible. It is something that may not lie on the surface of its verbal exposition. It can only be grasped after a minute examination of the constituents of the text provided that the reader has acquired the skill of siipralinear analysis. Moreover, it may have various interpretations and not infrequently reveals divergent views as to its purport.

It follows then that content-conceptual information is mainly found in the belles-lettres language style. Here it reigns supreme although it may also be encountered in some other functional styles and particularly in diplomatic texts.

Content-factual information is that contained in what we have al-

ready named matter-of-fact styles, i.e. in newspaper style, in the texts of official documents and in some others.

The classification of information into content-conceptual and content-factual should not lead to the conclusion that texts of a scientific nature, for example, are deprived of concepts. The word 'conceptual1 has multi-dimensional parametres, i.e. it can be applied to different phenomena. Scientific.treatises and monographs are undoubtedly characterized by original concepts, i. e. theories, hypotheses, propositions. But these concepts are explicitly formulated and need no special stylistic inventory to decode them. Whereas the concepts contained in works of art (to which the functional style of belles-lettres belongs) are to be derived from the gestalt of the work. Taken by itself, such a division of information may appear unconvincing, inasmuch as too many interpretations of the word 'conceptual' can be suggested. But its'aim, be it repeated, is to emphasize the crucial difference between what is more or less clearly stated in verbal chains and what is only suggested and therefore needs mental effort to get at what is said by the unsaid.

In conclusion we suggest the following procedures in stylistic analysis which will facilitate the process of disclosing the kind of information contained in the given text.

The first procedure is to ascertain the kind of text being dealt with. This procedure may be called the taxonomic stage of analysis. Taxonomy is the science of classification. It states the principles according to which objects are classified. There is an immediate need to get a clear idea as to what functional style this or that text belongs. Furthermore, the tax-onomical analysis will bring to mind a definite model of a text in the given style. Sometimes it is not enough to state that the text belongs to, let us say, the style of .official documents. It is necessary to specify what kind of a document is being analysed. Thus, it is very important to find out whether the text is a memorandum, or a note, or a protest, or a pact, etc. If the text is one that belongs to the belles-lettres style, it is necessary to point out what kind of a text it is, viz. a poem (what type), a story, a novel and further, within it, a description, a portrait, a conversation (dialogue), the author's narrative, his speculations, etc.

The second procedure, which may be called the content-grasping stage, aims at an approximate understanding of the content of .the given text. It does not claim to be a complete and exhaustive penetration into the hidden purport of the author. The conceptual information will be disclosed at later stages in the analysis.

However, this .superficial grasping of the general content is an important stage, it should stand out against a deeper understanding of the information the text contains in the broad meaning of the term.

The third procedure, which might be called semantic, has as its purpose the close observation of the meanings of separate words and word combinations as well as of the significations of the various sentences and supra-phrasal units. This stage of the analysis predetermines the lines of further analysis which will reveal the deeper information. In maintaining this procedure it is vitally important not to lose sight of the fact that, as has been pointed out before, the meanings of words and the significations of the sentences and SPUs are liable to modifications under the integrating power of the whole of the text, its gestalt. It is advisable at this stage of analysis to consult dictionaries inasmuch as dictionaries will show the polysemy of the words, thus enabling the student to distinguish a simultaneous realization of two or more meanings of a word in the sentence.

The fourth procedure, which should be called the stylistic stage, aims at finding out what additional information might-be imparted by the author's use of various stylistic devices, by the juxtaposition of sentences within a larger frame of utterance, that is, in the SPU, and also by the interdependence of predicative and relative SPUs.

The fifth procedure, which conventionally might be called the functional stage of analysis, brings us back to the second one, i.e. the content-grasping stage. This analysis sets the task of investigating the conceptual information contained in the whole of the text. In maintaining this stage of analysis the student should assemble the previously acquired data and make a kind of synthesis of all the procedures.

There is no hierarchy in maintaining analysis procedures but the suggested sequence has proved to be the most efficient in getting a deeper insight into what constitutes the notion text.

 

 




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