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Essentials of Stylistics_

Phonetic Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices

Onomatopoeia is a combination of speech-sounds which aims at imitating sounds produced in nature, by things, by people and by animals.

E.g.: ding-dong, buzz, bang, cuckoo, roar, ping-pong, etc.

Alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds, in particular consonants, in close succession, often in the initial position.

E.g.: "Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before." (E. A. Poe)

Rhyme is the repetition of identical or similar terminal sound combinations of words. In verse rhyming words are usually placed at the end of the corresponding lines.

E.g.: "I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers." (internal rhyme) (Shelly)

Rhythm is a flow, movement, procedure, etc., characterized by basically regular recurrence of elements or features, as beat, or accent, in alternation with opposite or different element or features.

E.g.: "The high-sloping roof, of a fine sooty pink was almost Danish, and two 'ducky ' little windows looked out of it, giving an impression that every tall servant lived up there" (J. Galsworthy)

Lexical Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices

Bathos means bringing together unrelated elements as they denoted things equal in rank or belonging to one class, as if they were of the same stylistic aspect. By being forcibly linked together, the elements acquire a slight modification of meaning.

E.g.: "They grieved for those who perished with the cutter And also for the biscuit-casks and butter." (Byron)

Metaphor means transference of some quality from one object to another. In other words, it describes one thing in terms of another, creating an implicit comparison.

E.g.: "In a caverni under is fettered the thunder, It struggles and howls at fits? (Shelly)

Personification is a description of an object or an idea as if it were a human being.

E.g.: The long arm of the law will catch him in the end.

Metonymy is the term used when the name of an attribute or object is substituted for the object itself. It is based on some kind of association connecting two concepts which are represented by the dictionary and contextual meanings.

E.g.: the Stage = the theatrical profession; the Crown = the King or Queen; a hand = a worker; etc.

Metonуmу is a transfer of the name of one object to another with which it is in some way connected.

E.g.: The hall applauded.

Irony is a figure of speech by means of which a word or words express the direct opposite of what their primary dictionary meanings denote.

E.g.: It must be delightful to find oneself in a foreign country without a penny in one pocket.


Irony is the clash of two opposite meanings within the same context, which is sustained in oral speech by intonation. Bitter or politically aimed irony is called SARCASM.

Е. g.: Stoney smiled the sweet smile of an alligator.

Zeugma is the use of a word in the same grammatical but different semantic relations to two adjacent words in the context, the semantic relations being, on the one hand, literal and, on the other, transferred.

E.g.:" Whether the Nymph Shall stain her Honour or her new Brocade Or lose her Heart or necklace at a Ball." (Pope)

Zeugma - the context allows to realize two meanings of the same polysemantic word without the repetition of the word itself.

E.g.: Mr. Stiggins ... took his hat and his leave.

Pun is another stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase, more independent than zeugma.

E.g.: What is the difference between a schoolmaster and an engine-driver? One trains the mind and the other minds the train.

Pun is play on words.

E.g.: "Did you hit a woman with a child?" - "No, Sir, I hit her with a brick."

Epithet is usually an attributive word or phrase expressing some quality of a person, thing or phenomenon. The epithet always expresses the author's individual attitude towards what he describes, his personal appraisal of it, and is a powerful means in his hands of conveying his emotions to the reader and in this way securing the desired effect.

E.g.: wild wind, loud ocean, heart-burning smile, slavish knees, etc.

Epithet is a word or a group of words giving an expressive characterization of the subject described.

E.g.: fine open-faced boy; generous and soft in heart; wavy flaxen hair.

Reversed Epithet is composed of two nouns linked in an of-phrase. The subjective, evaluating, emotional element is embodied not in the noun attribute but in the noun structurally described.

E.g.: "...a dog of a fellow" (Dickens); "a devil of a job" (Maugham); "A little Flying Dutchman of a cab" (Galsworthy)

Oxymoron is a combination of two words (mostly an adjective and a noun or an adverb with an adjective) in which the meanings of the two clash, being opposite in sense.

E.g.: delicious poison, low skyscraper, pleasantly ugly, sweet sorrow, proud humility, 'She was a damned nice woman', etc.

Antonomasia is the interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word.

E.g.: "I suspect that the Noes and Don't Knows would far outnumber the Yesses" (The Spectator)

Simile is an expressed imaginative comparison based on the likeness of two objects or ideas belonging to different classes (not to be confused with comparison weighing two objects belonging to one class). Similes have formal words in their structure such as like, as, such as, as if, seem.

E.g.: "I saw the jury return, moving like underwater swimmers..."

Simile is a comparison of two things which are quite different, but which have one important quality in common. The purpose of the simile is to highlight this quality.

E.g.: Andrew's face looked as if it were made of a rotten apple.

Periphrasis (Circumlocution) is the use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter and plainer form of expression. In other words, it is a round-about or indirect way to name a familiar object or phenomenon.

E.g.: a gentleman of the long robe (a lawyer), the fair sex (women), a play of swords (a battle), etc.

Eupheism is a word or phrase used to replace an unpleasant word or expression by a conventionally more accepted one.

E.g.: to pass away/to join the majority (to die), a four-letter word (an obscenity), etc.


Hyperbole is a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feature essential (unlike periphrasis) to the object or phenomenon.

E.g.: a thousand pardons, scared to death, 'I'd give the world to see him', 'I would give the whole world to know', etc.

Cliche is an expression that has become hackneyed and trite.

E.g.: rosy dreams of youth, to grow by leaps and bounds, the patter of rain, to withstand the test of time, etc.

Allusion is an indirect reference, by word or phrase, to a historical, literary, mythological, biblical fact or to a fact of everyday life made in the course of speaking or writing.

E.g.: "'Pie in the sky' for Railmen" means nothing but promises (a line from the well-known workers' song: "You'll get pie in the sky when you die").

Syntactical Expressive Means and Stylistic Devices

Represented Speech renders the character's thoughts which were not uttered aloud. It is a purely literary phenomenon never appearing in oral speech.

E.g.: He looked at the distant green wall. It would be a long walk in this rain, and a muddy one ... . Anyway, what would they find? Lots of trees.

Parallel Construction is a device in which the necessary condition is identical, or similar, syntactical structure in two or more sentences or parts of a sentence in close succession.

E.g.: "There were,..., real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same to hold the cakes and toast in ". (Dickens)

Parallel constructions (or parallelism) present identical structure of two or more successive clauses or sentences.

E.g.: Passage after passage did he explore; room after room did he peep into.

Chiasmus (Reversed Parallel Construction) is based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern, but it has a cross order of words and phrases.

E.g.: "Down dropped the breeze, The sails dropped down." (Coleridge) "His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes". (Byron)

Chiasmus is a pattern of two steps where the second repeats the structure of the first in a reversed manner.

E.g.: Mr. Boffin looked full at the man, and the man looked full at Mr. Boffin.

Rhetorical Question is a statement in the form of a question which needs no answer.

E.g.: Why do we need refreshment, my friends? Why can we not fly? Is it because we are calculated to walk?

Elliptical Sentence is a sentence where one of the main members is omitted.

E.g.: "Very windy, isn't it?" - "Very." - "But it's not raining." - "Not yet." - "Better than yesterday."

Repetition is an expressive means of language used when the speaker is under the stress or strong emotion.

E.g.: "I am exactly the man to be placed in a superior position in such a case as that. I am above the rest of mankind, in such a case as that. I can act with philosophy in such case as that." (Dickens)


Repetition is observed when some parts of the sentence or sentences are repeated. It is employed as a means of emphasis.

E.g.: A smile would come into Mr. Pickwick's face; the smile extended into a laugh; the laugh into a roar, and the roar became general.

Enumeration is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, phenomena, actions are named one by one so that they produce a chain, the links of which are forced to display some kind of semantic homogeneity, remote though it may seem.

E.g.: "Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and his sole mourner." (Dickens)

Suspense is arranging the matter of a communication in such a way that the less important, subordinate parts are amassed at the beginning, the main idea being withheld till the end of the sentence. Thus the reader's attention is held and his interest is kept up.

E.g.: "Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. Was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw." (Charles Lamb)

Climax (Gradation) is an arrangement of sentences (or homogeneous parts of one sentence) which secures a gradual increase in significance, importance, or emotional tension in the utterance.

E.g.: "Little by little, bit by bit, and day by day, and year by year the baron got the worst of some disputed question." (Dickens)

Anticlimax is an arrangement of ideas in ascending order of significance,or they may be poetical or elevated, but the final one, which the reader expects to be the culminating one, as in climax, is trifling or farcical. There is a sudden drop from the lofty or serious to the ridiculous.

E.g.: "This war-like speech, received with many a cheer, Had filled them with desire of flame, and beer." (Byron)

Antithesis is based on relative opposition which arises out of the context through the expansion of objectively contrasting pairs.

E.g.: "A saint abroad, and a devil at home." (Bunyan) "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." (Milton)

Antithesis is a structure consisting of two steps, the lexical meanings of which are opposite to each other.

E.g.: In marriage the upkeep of a woman is often the downfall of a man.

Asyndeton is a connection between parts of a sentence or between sentences without any formal sign, the connective being deliberately omitted.

E.g.: "Soames turned away; he had an utter disinclination for talk, like one standing before an open grave, watching a coffin slowly lowered." (Galsworthy)

Polysyndeton is the connection of sentences, or phrases, or syntagms, or words by using connectives (mostly conjunctions and prepositions) before each component part.

E.g.: "The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect." (Dickens)

Ellipsis imitates the common features of colloquial language, where the situation predetermines not the omission of certain members of the sentence, but their absence.

E.g.: "Nothing so difficult as the beginning." (Byron)

Inversion is broken word order.

E.g.: Into a singularly restricted and indifferent environment Ida Zobel was born.

Break-in-the-Narrative (Aposiopesis) is a break in the narrative used for some stylistic effect.

E.g.: "You just come home or I'll..."

Litotes is a peculiar use of negative constructions aimed at establishing a positive feature in a person or thing.

E.g.: "He was not without taste ..." "It troubled him not a little ... "

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