1. The Concern of Stylistics

1.1 Stylistics

What is stylistics?

Simply defined, STYLISTICS is a discipline that studies the ways in which language is used; it is a discipline that studies the styles of language in use.

This definition, however, needs elucidation.

The stylistics we are discussing here is MODERN STYLISTICS, a discipline that applies concepts and techniques of modern linguistics to the study of styles of language use. It has two subdivisions: GENERAL STYLISTICS and LITERARY STYLISTICS, with the latter concentrating solely on unique features of various literary works, and the former on the general features of various types of language use. 'Stylistics', in this book, is general stylistics: one that studies the stylistic features of the main varieties of language, covering the functional varieties from the dimension of fields of discourse (different social activities), formal vs informal varieties from the dimension of tenors of discourse (different addresser-addressee relationships), and the spoken vs written varieties from the dimension of modes of discourse (different mediums). Meanwhile, general stylistics covers the various genres of literature (fiction, drama, poetry) in its study. But it focuses on the interpretation of the overall characteristics of respective genres, with selected extracts of literary texts as samples.

If we say that literary stylistics also discusses the overall linguistic features of the various genres of literature, then the scope of general stylistics and the scope of literary stylistics are only partly overlapping, as is shown in the following figure:


Modern Stylistics




General Stylistics


Literary Stylistics




Variety Features

Genre Features

Literary Text Style


General stylistics, as a discipline, needs to make clear a whole set of related terms and terminology and answer questions like: What is language? What is language variety? What is style? What are stylistic features? etc.

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