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Set expressions (clichés, proverbs, epigrams, quotations, allusions, etc.) are treated in different ways in lexicology and stylistics.

Lexicology studies the character of a set expression and its components, its etymology and meaning.

Stylistics is interested in the communicative effect and expressive power of a set phrase.

Besides, when a set expression is used in its unaltered form it can be qualified as an expressive means of the language; when used in a modified variant it assumes one of the features of a SD, it acquires a stylistic meaning, though not becoming a SD.

A cliché is a word or expression which has lost its originality or effectiveness because it has been used too often.

Practically all tropes tend to lose their imaginative power, or part of their imaginative power thus becoming trite, but often they retain their emotional colouring.

In other words, a cliché is a kind of stable word combination which has become familiar, has won general recognition and which by its iteration has been accepted as a unit of the language. E.g. rosy dreams of youth, deceptively simple, the march of science, rising expectations, growing awareness, to see things through rose-coloured glasses.

The effects achieved by using clichés include besides expressing emotions or attitudes, also evaluation and brevity. To say Jack of all trades is shorter than a person who can turn his hands to any kind of work.

Proverbs are short, well-known, supposedly wise sayings usu. in simple language.

Proverbs are brief statements showing in a condensed form the accumulated people’s wisdom and life experience of the community and serving as conventional practical symbols for abstract ideas.

Their typical features are: rhythm, rhyme and/or alliteration, brevity (which manifests itself also in the omission of articles and connectives), the use of contrasts, synonyms, antonyms, etc.

Proverbs are usually didactic and involve imagery. E.g. Out of sight, out of mind.

Proverbs should not be confused with maxims, i.e. with non-metaphorical precepts. E.g. Better late than never; You never know what you can do till you try. They are not allegorical; there is nothing figurative in them, they are understood literally, word for word.

In other words, a modified proverb presupposes a simultaneous application of two meanings: the face-value or primary meaning, and an extended meaning drawn from the context. E.g. Come, he said, milk is spilt (it’s no use crying over spilt milk).

An epigram (Gr. epigraphein ‘to write on’) is a short clever amusing saying or a poem. In most cases epigrams are witty statements coined by some individuals whose names we know (unlike in proverbs).

They have a generalizing function and are self-sufficient. There are special dictionaries which are called "Dictionaries of Quotations." These, in fact, are mostly dictionaries of epigrams. E.g. A thing of beauty is a joy forever. (Keats)

Epigrams are close to aphorisms. Though the latter are shorter and do not look like quotations.

A quotation is a repetition of a phrase or statement from a book, speech and the like used by way of authority, illustration, proof or as a basis for further speculation on the matter in hand. (I.R. Galperin)

Quotations are usually marked graphically by inverted commas, dashes or italics, they are mostly accompanied by a reference to the author of the quotation. Quotations need not necessarily be short.

E.g. Friends, Romans, countrymen

– Lend me your ears. (Shakespeare)

Quotations often turn into epigrams. E.g. To be or not to be? (Shakespeare)

Quotations used as an argumentative technique allow no modifications of meaning. Such quotations are especially frequent in scientific texts, in religious writing and in the journalistic style.

An allusion (Latin allusio ‘a playing with’) is an indirect quotation, reference or a hint by word or phrase to a historical, literary, mythological or biblical fact which is presumably known to the listener/reader.

As a rule no indication of the source of the allusion is given, which makes it different from quotations proper (direct quotations) and epigrams.

Another difference is of a structural nature: a quotation proper must repeat the exact wording of the original; an allusion is only a mention of a word or phrase which may be regarded as the key-word of the utterance.

Allusions are a frequent device in advertisements and headlines. Besides, they may function within the literary text as similes, metaphors, metaphorical epithets, periphrases, etc. E.g. She has got a Mona Lisa smile.

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