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Transcript of Stylistics
A brief history of stylistics
The study of style can be traced back to the literary scholarships of the
Greeks and Romans
in the fifth century BC in which ‘
’ was the dominant art. Rhetoric was a set of rules and strategies which enable orators ‘to speak well’; in other words to use language that is fully decorated with all the figures and tropes to bring about changes in the feelings and opinions of the audience. The study of language variations was then emphasized by the emergence of modern linguistics in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
In the 20th century
linguistic investigation to language split into three major areas:
(Russian formalistic theory and later New Criticism),
(Bally’s expressive theory, Jakobsonian theory, affective theory) and
(in the late 1960s - the discourse and contextual theories and Halliday’s systemic theory). The position of stylistics up to the late 60s has lived with a limitation in the treatments of texts as the concern was with the syntactic features only. Almost all the theories had been text-oriented approaches to literary texts.
In the late 60s, Michael Halliday developed a functionally based linguistic theory. He emphasized not only the structure of the language but also the social functions of discourse, the social dimensions and the use of language in context. The importance of the concept of ‘context’ springs out of two important disciplines: PRAGMATICS and DISCOURSE ANALYSIS.
Style as Choice
Although the painting depicts the fall of Icarus and its title refers to that event as well, in both cases Icarus's demise is backgrounded. In the painting the man ploughing is in the foreground. So it looks visually as if the painting is mainly about him. The ship is also more or less in the foreground. All we can see of Icarus is a small pair of legs, as he disappears into the sea near the ship. So it is clear that although in cultural terms the fall of Icarus is the most important thing, it is being portrayed in the painting as if it is less important than the man and the ship. In the title to the painting, 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus', the noun phrase 'the fall of Icarus' is embedded inside a prepositional phrase which in turn only acts as a modifier to the head noun 'Landscape'. So the title also puts the fall of Icarus in a more backgrounded position.
The discipline of STYLISTICS is simply defined as the study of style.
The idea of style implies that words on page might have been different, or differently arranged, without a corresponding difference in substance.
Another writer would have said it another way.
(Ohmann 1970: 264)
When a writer writes, he is constantly involved in making linguistic choices.
While making these choices the writer
some parts of the text
STYLE refers to the way in which language is used in a given context, by a given person, for a given purpose, and so on.
The basic principle in stylistics is that there must be
more than one way of doing or saying something
What is done or said is different from how it is done or said.
many different ways of saying essentially the same thing
the element of choice over how to say something
was the proper subject of study for stylistics.
The term 'FOREGROUNDING' is borrowed from
, which distinguishes between the
of a painting.
'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus' by Brueghel
It is this structuring in the painting also prompts Auden's interpretation. Moreover, the fact that the man is more in the foreground than the ship appears to determine the sequence in which Auden refers to them in the poem.
Apart from art, foregrounding is all around us "linguistically".
as things become familiar to us, we stop noticing them
. The function of art is
to make people look at the world from a new perspective
re-perceive what they have stopped noticing
Linguistic foregrounding in texts has to do with how particular parts of texts are made perceptually prominent. Every part of the text contributes to the whole, but some parts are foregrounded.
While writing a text a writer makes linguistic choices and while making these choices s/he foregrounds some parts of the text.
Foregrounding takes two main forms:
(a) Where the language allows a choice within rules and conventions, the writer
goes outside the choices available
(b) Where the language allows a choice, the writer
denies himself the freedom to choose
uses the same item repeatedly
(G. Leech. and M.H. Short, Style in Fiction, p. 49)
” can be seen as “
” while “
” can be described as “
Deviation and parallelism serve as ‘
’ and they constitute
an important textual strategy
for the development of images, themes and characters and for affecting a text’s interpretation. Foregrounding through deviation or parallelism can
occur at ANY linguistic level
On all these levels of language we have
a set of rules or expectations
regulating how the language is structured and used. If these rules and expectations are
in some way, foregrounding occurs, which attracts
and becomes more
[Stylistic analysis of a text] tells us about the ‘rules’ of language because it often explores texts where these rules are
stretched to breaking point
Stylistics: A resource book for students
1. THE SOUNDS/LETTERS LEVEL:
1.1. Phonology (speech)
At phonological level, several devices (such as
alliteration, assonance, rhyme, metrical feet
and so on
) are used as a means of foregrounding especially in "poetry, advertising, newspaper headlines and political slogans" in order
to signify a certain atmosphere or mood and to create a certain effect on readers (audience)
The slogan for Ike Eisenhower
in the American presidential campaign of 1952.
The use of
in the slogan is an example of ‘foregrounding through
These devices have a
, since using identical sounds and rhyme tends to
tie words together
. They are employed for
I Like Ike
Like politicians, advertisers want to catch our
and have us
their advertisements, as part of a strategy to get us to buy what they are advertising.
They often do this by being
of the normal patterns of language.
"Persil washes whiter"
"Persil washes whiter"
In this advertisement
is at the
of language and has two dimensions.
Firstly, there is
) parallelism: each of the words consists of two syllables (stressed+unstressed)
Secondly, the initial consonant sounds of 'washes' and 'whiter' are the
, /w/. In other words, they
Overall, the parallelism foregrounds the advertising slogan and also helps to make it
Metrical scheme, most simply put,
is an organized pattern of
strong and weak syllables.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
("The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson, 1854)
(Stressed + Unstressed + Unstressed)
This metrical rhythmic structure of the line (dactylic tetrameter) makes you feel the horses and soldiers are
towards the victory.
1.2. Graphology (writing)
At graphological level,the features like ‘
direction of writing
the layout of the text on the page
size and type of font
the use of capitalization
repetition of letters
and so on’ can be used to foreground some parts of the text (graphic symbolism). Using graphological foregrounding aims at achieving an effective transmission of a message or a special effect on the reader.
40 – LOVE
(Roger McGough, 1971)
In this poem, the poet employs a range of linguistic-stylistic devices to relay underlying conceptual
A human relationship/the game of love is like a game of sport
What is particularly marked about the poem is the way this conceptual metaphor is sustained by patterns of ‘
spatial organization of tennis
, with it movement of the ball between players, is captured stylistically by the
break up of the text into two columns
, and this forces us to read the text as if we are watching a tennis game.
This graphological organization of the poem embodies not only the
emotional conﬂict that exists between the couple
which serves as the
in a tennis court symbolizes a
emotional barrier between the couple
2. THE GRAMMATICAL LEVEL (Morphology & Syntax)
accounts for the building blocks of meaning inside words. Morphological foregrounding is an
intentional deviation from the ordinary formation, construction or application of words, or the repetition of the same morphological structures successively
is the order of words and phrases in a sentence. If you change the word order you also change the meaning.
The use of incorrect grammar or syntactic rearrangement, and the repetition of the same grammatical structure over and over again
are examples of syntactic foregrounding.
“I kissed thee ere I killed thee”
“I kissed thee ere I killed thee”
(Shakespeare , Othello,
Act V, scene iii)
“I kissed thee ere I killed thee”
It is syntactically parallel because it consists of two clauses which have the same grammatical structure (subject-verb-object), joined by the subordinating conjunction 'ere'.
I kissed thee ere I killed thee
[S P O] cj [S P O]
Subject (“I”) and object (“thee”) are repeated.
Both verbs consist of two morphemes, the second of which is a past tense marker.
/ kıst / / kıld /
There is phonological parallelism through alliteration (the repeated word-initial /k / and the similarity of word-final / d / and / t / ) and assonance (the repeated / ı / vowel). Further both words have one syllable.
The only graphological difference between the words lies in the use of double 's' and double 'l' in 'kissed' and 'killed' respectively. Even here there is parallelism due to doubling.
This parallel linguistic pattern in the line makes it foregrounded and therefore important in terms of interpretation. This parallelism leads us to 'invent' a
between the two verbs (‘kissed’ and ‘killed’).
prompt readers to infer
between those structures. Here they make the readers see the two halves of the line as
to each other and in particular 'kissed' as opposed to 'killed'. ‘Kissed’ is related to the love theme in Othello and ‘killed’ to its theme of hate or jealousy. It may be noted that 'kissed' and 'killed' are not considered antonyms in the language code;
the relationship of antonymy is attributed to them by the poetic context through the use of parallelism
3. THE LEVEL OF MEANING
3.1. Semantics (word+sentence meaning)
Semantic foregrounding describes relations that are logically inconsistent or paradoxical in some way:
Converting a word from one class to another
the misuse of words
less predictable collocations
the use of synonyms
(foot of a leg/the stairs),
(chase = to pursue and chase = to ornament metal),
repetition of words
(such as ‘anaphora’ -sentences or verses begin with the same word- or ‘epiphora’ - the repetition of a word or words at the end of successive verses),
(e.g., father of my children),
the use of figurative meaning
(a statement that is necessarily true – ‘He is brave or he is not brave’) and so on.
Semantic foregrounding through deviation or parallelism may prompt the reader to
look beyond the dictionary definition
of the words in order to interpret the sentences.
‘A Grief Ago’
The title of Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘A Grief Ago’ (1936)
is an example of
of ‘grief’ with ‘ago’ is rare in English. The adverb ‘ago’ frequently collocates with expressions of time, as in ‘a week ago’, and not with emotions like ‘grief’.
the choice is
: 'grief' is not a TIME word, but an EMOTION word.
If we compare carefully Thomas's choice to the normal paradigm, the set of choices which are normal, we can see how the word 'grief'
takes on new meaning
in this linguistic context. First of all, the semantic oddity suggests that in this poem ‘
time is being measured in terms of emotion
’. And, indeed, one of the things we could say of Thomas here is that he has captured a fact about
the nature of how human beings perceive the world
Our perception of time does change according to how we feel
. So, we often say that when we are happy time goes fast, and that when we are sad time goes slowly.
We can also see a similar semantic foregrounding here:
In the TV show ‘Seinfeld’
is used as a device for humor. Here the character ‘Elaine’ repeats the word ‘sick’ twice but they are ‘
’. In the first sentence it means ‘illness’ but in second sentence it means ‘weary/tired’. This kind of
attracts our attention and makes us look up different meanings of words.
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease;
The word ‘
as a result of the fact that it has been invented by cummings in this text (
). We can compare it with ‘
of the normal word by adding the prefix ‘
’ helps us to see the ‘
’ in ‘mankind’ as related to the concept of ‘
’. Hence, in this poem, mankind appears to be intrinsically
The second sentence ‘
progress is a comfortable disease
’ is deviant semantically because (i) progress is not a disease (according to the general schematic perception) and (ii) diseases are not normally thought of as comfortable. From these deviations we can deduce that (i) the speaker does not approve of progress and (ii) progress is to be regarded superficially good; it will be disadvantageous in the long run.
Also the negative construction of the first sentence ‘
pity .... not
in modern English and therefore deviant grammatically. We notice this deviant feature for the first time when we reach the word ‘not’. Hence the ‘
’ is foregrounded. The first line is grammatically complete at first sight, and so when we read on to the second line and discover that ‘not’ belongs to the first sentence, this makes ‘not’ foregrounded. Cummings’s
negative attitude to humanity
in the poem is thus
3.2. Pragmatics (meaning in context)
the study of meaning in ‘context’
. We can use the same sentence in different contexts to have very different meanings.
The notion of ‘context’ is subdivided into three:
the actual setting or environment
in which interaction takes place, whether it is in the workplace, at home or in a publicly accessible area.
This refers to
the social and personal relationships of the participants
to one another.
This refers to
the shared and background knowledge
held by participants in interaction. Cognitive context, which is susceptible to change as interaction progresses, also extends to a speaker’s past experience, cultural knowledge and world-view.
Apart from ‘context’, there is the notion of ‘
’ we should take into account for the study of meaning at pragmatic level. We have three types of ‘participant identities’:
: these are our
identities such as ‘age, sex or social class’.
: these are
identities such as ‘professor and student’.
: these are ephemeral identities
created by the verbal activities
that we engage in; for example, in many social situations, apologizing is a self-threatening act, whereby we put ourselves in the position of the powerless discourse participant.
- Schema Theory
- The Principle of Cooperation
- Speech Act Theory
- Turn Taking Principle
- Politeness and Impoliteness Theories
We know a multitude of things about the world and how it works, and we use this knowledge when we try to understand what other people say or do.
background assumptions about the world and stored in our brains as packages, or schemas
3.2.1. Schema theory
There is a
between our general assumptions about ‘lessons at school’ and the first picture; but what we see in the second picture (from the film “Dead Poets Society”)
goes against our general assumptions
about what a lesson must be like. Our general assumptions (cognitive context)
from time to time by means of real life experiences, our observations or what we learn through fiction.
knowledge of what to say, when and where to say it, and how to say it
is called ‘
’ (Hymes 1972). Communicative competence is the skill involved in
matching an utterance to the context of use
; you should choose suitable ‘strategy’ for the context. In other words, you should know when to be familiar and when to be formal, when to be direct and when to be indirect, or simply when to talk and when to keep quiet. Speakers use different strategies (tactics) in different circumstances (context).
In terms of communicative competence if any kind of
occurs between ‘
’, it violates general expectations about the relationship of ‘language use’ to context. Writers use this
productively to create special effects - by writing in a way that disrupts the conventional expectations related to ‘the contexts, identities and the strategies the characters adopt’. Where things occur which go against these expected norms/schemas, they become
. This kind of foregrounding in talk is called ‘
A Serious Man
‘A Serious Man’ is a 2009 dark comedy written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Set in Minnesota in 1967, it is the story of an ordinary man’s search for a solution or meaning. Its main character is Larry Gopnik.
Larry is a professor at a university. He is married to Judith.
One evening his wife Judith says she wants a divorce. She informs him that she has a lover called Sy Abelman.
After this conversation between husband and wife, one night ‘the lover’ comes to visit ‘the husband’.
Good to see you, LARRY
I'll get Judith.
No, actually LARRY, I'm here to see you,
if I might...Such a thing. Such a thing.
Shall we go in the...
You know, LARRY-how we handle ourselves,
in this situation-it's so important.
Absolutely. Judith told me that she broke the news to you. She said you were very adult.
Absolutely. The respect she has for you.
Do you drink wine? Because this is an incredible bottle. This is not Mogen David, Larry. This is a wine. A bordeaux.
You know, Sy-
Open it-let it breathe. Ten minutes. Letting it breathe, so important.
Thanks, Sy, but I'm not-
Listen, I insist! No reason for discomforting. I'll be uncomfortable if you don't take it. These are signs and tokens, LARRY.
I'm just-I'm not ungrateful, I'm, I just don't know a lot about wine and, given our respective, you know-
It's okay. It's okay. Laryy. We’re gonna be fine.
This conversation is
just from the beginning because of
the personal context
between them: It is a talk between
his wife’s lover
. According to our general assumptions (cognitive context), in such a situation
we expect the husband to be angry with the lover
(he may shout at him; he may use coarse language or he may even use physical violence) and
we expect the lover to be more passive
in the conversation. In terms of their
(husband and lover),
Larry must be more powerful
Sy must be in a powerless position
. However we see just the opposite. There appears an
incongruity between our cognitive context and the strategy they use in their conversation
. Sy dominates the conversation just from the beginning by taking the control of the subject. Larry tries to comment and become an active participant but again he is interrupted by Sy. The attempts of Larry to explain, to give his thanks, and to apologize and his use of repetitions lead him to the position of the powerless discoursive participant. In spite of their situated identities,
the discourse identities
they create during the conversation show that
Sy is the powerful participant
in the conversation. In other words there is
an incongruity between situated identities and discourse identities
, and the strategy they use is shaped by this incongruity, which makes the conversation an ‘
A Serious Man
particular sentences in texts.
“Have you stopped beating your husband?”
presupposes that the person addressed has a husband and she has been beating her husband.
Some fictional texts, particularly comic and absurd works, assume
some ‘facts’ or ‘presuppositions’ that are at odds with our normal general assumptions
"Applicant" by Harold Pinter
[An office. Lamb, a young man, eager, cheerful, enthusiastic, is striding nervously, alone. The door opens. Miss Piffs comes in.]
Piffs: Ah, good morning.
Lamb: Oh, good morning, miss.
Piffs: Are you Mr. Lamb?
Lamb: That’s right.
(studying a piece of paper)
Yes. You’re applying for this vacant post, aren’t you?
Lamb: I am actually, yes.
Our schematic knowledge for job interviews is activated. Until now there is nothing abnormal or deviated; but it quickly becomes a interrogation session.
Are you a good mixer?
Well, you’ve have touched on quite an interesting point there –
Do you suffer from eczema, listlessness or falling coat?
Are you virgo intacta?
I beg your pardon?
Are you virgo intacta?
Oh, I say, that’s rather embarrassing. I mean – in front of a lady –
Are you virgo intacta?
Yes, I am, actually. I’ll make no secret of it.
Have you always been virgo intacta?
Oh yes, always. Always.
(Harold Pinter, ‘Applicant’)
When Miss Piffs asks Lamb whether he suffers from eczema or listlessness, she is
asking him about his medical condition
, even if our general knowledge about interviews indicates that these questions are
not appropriate to ask
in an interview. But the
question about falling coat
is significantly different because it is normally
related to animals
, not human beings. Moreover, after Lamb
admits to being a virgin
, Miss Piffs asks
whether has always been
’. This question apparently
presupposes that being a virgin is a state you can switch in and out of, like being a member of the local society
. Miss Piffs’s presuppositions thus
clash with ours
in a dramatic way. One of the major mechanism in text which contributes to
the sense of absurdity
clash between Miss Piffs’s general and pressuppositional assumptions and ours
. These presupposional clashes also part of the mechanism by which we interpret this sort of text. We can see how it explores
how society tends to treat men and women differently
with respect to the sexual matters. It is still more common to ask the sort of questions Miss Piffs asks in relation to women than men.
3.2.2. Principle of Cooperation
Paul Grice suggests that conversation is based on
a shared principle of cooperation
A basic underlying assumption
we make when we speak to one another is that we are trying to cooperate with one another to construct meaningful conversations
. In other words, we try to contribute meaningful, productive utterances to further the conversation.
This principle consists of
a series of maxims
The Maxims of Conversation
• Make your contribution as informative as required. (Don’t say too much or too little.)
• Don’t make your contribution more informative than is required.
• Do not say what you believe to be false.
• Do not say that for which you lack evidence.
• Be relevant. (Stay on topic.)
• Avoid obscurity of expression.
• Avoid ambiguity.
• Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
• Be orderly.
If these maxims are followed, they are said to be observed; the
of the maxims is a ‘
’ and therefore it is ‘
By clearly and obviously
flouting a maxim
, you can ‘
’ something beyond what you say. Grice called it ‘
A: I hear you went to the theater last night; what play did you see?
B: Well, I watched a number of people stand on the stage in Elizabethan costumes uttering series of sentences which corresponded closely with the script of
* B flouts the
maxim of quantity
because B’s answer contains
an excessive number of words
although it doesn’t say anything more than “I saw a performance of Twelfth Night”. The
here is that the performers were doing a miserably bad job of acting.
A: What qualities does John have for this position?
B: (Looking at his CV) John has a nice handwriting.
* B flouts
the maxim of relation
that John is not qualified for the job.
Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
* Hamlet flouts
the maxim of quantity
as he gives an answer we and Polonius already know. He
that he wants to be left alone.
3.2.3. Speech Act Theory
Austin in his seminal work ‘
How to do things with words
’ (1962) first recognized that when we speak we don’t just make statements about the world or convey information from one person to another.
We can also DO things with words
Speech acts, like other acts, can change the world. They have
effects on people
and, in turn,
make them do things
. I can ‘
’ others by threatening them with a knife. I can make them ‘
’ by sending them flowers or telling them how much I think of them. I can get them to ‘
open the door
’ by standing next to it with my arms full of groceries or by saying ‘Could you open the door please?’.
Speech acts can be analyzed on three levels:
– what is ‘actually said’
– what is ‘meant’ by what is said
– which is the ‘effect on the hearers’ of what was said and what was meant.
"Give me an apple."
: the utterance itself.
: request, command.
: “Hearer ‘gives’ speaker an apple” or “Hearer ‘doesn’t give’ speaker an apple”.
According to Austin, a speech act should
meet some ‘conditions’ to be successful
. These conditions are called ‘felicity conditions’:
must be executed
- The person must have the
essential feelings and intentions
Here we can give Austin’s ‘
example of marriage
“This conventional procedure (marriage) involves two parties, who are not hindered from marrying for any reason, presenting themselves before an authorized person (minister of religion or registrar), in an authorized place (place of worship or registry place), at an approved time (certain days or times are excluded) accompanied by a minimum of two witnesses. The marriage is not legal unless certain declarations are made and unless certain words have been spoken”.
If a speech act
fulfills all the above stated conditions
the act is ‘
’, or ‘
’ as Austin preferred,
the act is rendered ‘
’, or ‘
’. If a speech act violates the conditions there occurs a foregrounding, which affects the interpretation of the text.
In the following scene from
N. F. Simpson’s play “One Way Pendulum” (1959)
has been hastily assembled
inside a domestic living room
to facilitate Mr. Groomkirby’s ‘swearing in’ ceremony:
[The Usher enters followed by Mr. Groomkirby, whom he directs into the witness box. Mr. Groomkirby takes the oath.]
(holding up a copy of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’) I swear, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
You understand, do you, that you are now on oath?
I do, m’lord.
According the ‘felicity conditions’ you
cannot use a domestic living room as a courtroom
. Furthermore, there are established procedures for ritualized activities such as ‘the swearing-in of witnesses’.
The use of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” clearly ‘violates the felicity conditions’
which govern this ritual. The felicity conditions for legal proceedings proscribe the swearing in of a witness by anything other than “a designated religious text”.
What operates in the discourse world inside the play is at odds with the world outside the play.
between inside and outside worlds leads to foregrounding, which attracts the attention to legal procedures and enables us to look at them from a different perspective.
In indirect speech acts the speaker
to the hearer
more than he actually says
. Indirectness is a widely used
. People tend to use indirect speech acts mainly in connection with
. They also use indirect strategies when they want to make their speech
or when they want to
increase the force of the message
However, indirect speech acts may lead to
in communication. These kinds of misunderstandings occur, for example, when one speaker might take an utterance as an assertion while another understands it to be a request or when the hearer takes a figurative meaning as literal meaning, or when the hearer cannot understand sarcasm.
Indirect Speech Acts
Hey, Penny. How was work?
Great! I hope I'll be a waitress for the Cheesecake Factory for my whole life.
Was that sarcasm?
Was that sarcasm?
Was that sarcasm?
Sheldon Cooper has a genius for science but he has difficulty in social face-to-face communication. He cannot understand or use sarcasm or any indirect speech act. This is the essence of humor in this show.
3.2.4. Turn taking
Individuals involved in a conversation take turns while speaking.
Turn-taking refers to
the process by which people in a conversation decide who is to speak next
It depends on context, identity, cultural factors and subtle cues.
Conversation is both ordered and orderly and responsive to ‘
’ that are being observed by participants. The ‘
’ or ‘systematics’ for talk regulation is composed of
(a) a turn-allocational component
(b) a turn-constructional component
The turn-allocational component
’ regulates the changeover of turns. In general, turn change proceeds smoothly: one participant talks, stops, the next participant talks, stops, and so on.
The turn-constructional component
’ regulates variables like the size or length and linguistic texture of a turn.
The foregrounded features such as ‘
the use of turn-lapses, pauses, gaps, interruptions, overlaps and so on
’ bring significant elements of meaning which can
condition the content and function of what is ‘said’ or meant
by a speaker’s speech. For instance, where a dramatic character is consistently interrupted and the opportunity to speak is consistently denied to one or other character, and no counter-bid to speak is successful, the interrupted speaker can be interpreted as the less powerful participant. Consistent turn-lapses on the part of a targeted other who is addressed by a speaker can signal indifference, boredom, hostility, the desire to be left in peace, opting out, etc. and import negative tones into the interaction.
Artık boş yere laf anlatmış olursunuz.
Hep bu sözler boşuna… Hiçbir yararı yok.
Ben buna kesin karar verdim.
Böyle işte, baba kararı beni zorla bir erkeğe veremez artık!
Hele, boşuna gayret ediyorsunuz.
Bu zora gönlüm izin vermez, vermiyor.
Kendimi kuyuya atarım da istemediğim adama varmam.
(Ahmet Vefik Paşa, Zoraki Tabip)
In this play the
lead to a
between Hamza Ağa’s
master identity and discourse identity
in terms of power relations. Nurudil, who does not want to marry, does not allow her father to talk. Although Hamza Ağa is in a superior position in terms of age, social class and sex, he is put in the position of the powerless discourse participant. Since his daughter’s turns are longer and she controls the topic, she becomes the powerful discourse participant.
3.2.5. Politeness and Impoliteness Theories
Central to the Brown and Levinson notion of politeness phenomena, is the concept of ‘face’. It consists of two related aspects, called ‘positive and negative face’:
refers to the desire that person’s self image should be
appreciated and approved
of by others,
the wish to be liked.
refers to any speaker’s basic
wish to preserve personal space, the right to non-distraction, speaker’s freedom of action and freedom from imposition.
However, speakers often perform acts which may be said to ‘threaten’ the face of the others, and these acts are called
face threatening acts
Jonathan Culpeper calls these ‘face threatening acts’ ‘
’ and he divides them into
Bald on record impoliteness
- The face threatening act is performed in a direct and clear way.
– the use of strategies designed to damage the addressee’s positive face wants, the desire to be appreciated or approved of.
- the use of strategies designed to damage the addressee’s negative face wants, the desire not to be impeded.
Sarcasm or mock politeness
- the use of politeness strategies that are obviously insincere.
- the absence of politeness.
to avoid ‘face threatening acts’
as much as possible would be to perform the FTA using ‘
] instead of direct strategies.
Suppose that you ate a cookie and you didn’t like it. What would you say to the person who cooked it?
You could say:
"It could have been better." Indirect (mitigated)
"It does not taste good."
"It tastes bad."
"It is awful."
If you don’t obey the politeness strategies (especially when we expect them) and if you prefer to use impoliteness strategies, your acts are ‘foregrounded’. In literature through ‘face threatening acts’ (impoliteness strategies) used in a text we infer character traits or infer some situational reasons for their behavior. This is as true in fictional dialogue as it is in real world interaction. Indeed,
is clearly not only a tool of communication, but
a technique for forging and protecting or threatening and damaging interpersonal relationships, and for establishing or challenging power relations
"The Birthday Party" by Harold Pinter
In ‘The Birthday Party’, Meg and Petey run a boarding house in an English seaside town and their only guest is
, a retired musician in his thirties. One day
two unknown visitors
Goldberg and McCann
come to the boarding house. Their arrival initiates
a struggle for power between Stanley and these two men
. Tension in the play increases along with the power Goldberg and McCann exercise over Stanley. In their power struggle their quest for domination leads to
verbal attacks in the form of ‘impoliteness’
[This scene is from the end of the play. Goldberg and McCann are making promises. Stanley is silent.]
We’ll watch over you.
Give you proper care and treatment.
We’ll make a man of you.
You’ll be re-orientated.
You’ll be rich.
You’ll be adjusted.
You’ll be our pride and joy.
You’ll be a success. (BP, 92-93)
In this scene they promise Stanley that they will take care of him and make a new man out of him. These
are in fact ‘
’ to Stanley’s ‘
’ because he is
not free to act
by himself. Goldberg and McCann have taken him under their
. From now on Stanley is a puppet in their hands. The impolite strategy they use reflects their powerful status.
Nihal Demirkol Azak