Linguistic Stylistics II has as prerequisite (ENG 323 Linguistic stylistics I).

It is an exposition of stylistics in a more detailed form. The course exposes the practical analysis of taking into consideration the forms of statements of analysis, indicating meanings.

Course Aims:

i. It exposes the students to major concepts of linguistic stylistics

ii. The course exposes the students to an indepth knowledge of the levels of stylistic analysis

iii. It exposes the students to the linguistic features identified in stylistics

iv. It also exposes the students how marked word choices are obtained through different devices

v. It exposes the students to practical analysis of texts

Reading list

Alo, M. A (1998) Style in Language and communication Portharcourt AEDDy LINK

Bradford, R (1997) Stylistics. London. Routledge

Crystal, D. and Davy, D. (1969) Investigating English Style Newyork: Longman.

Eco, U. (2004) On Literature. Orlando: Harrest – Harcourt Inc.

Ikenna Kamaln (2015) Stylistics in Kamaln I & Tamnnobelema, I (ed) Issues in the study of 

Language and Literature (Theory & Practice). Ibadan. Kraft Books Limited.

Martin, J. and Rose, D. (2003) Working with Discourse. London: Continum.

Norgaard, N, Montoro, R, and Busse, B. (2010) Key Terms in Stylistics London: Continunm.

Syal, P and Yindal, D. V (2010) An Introduction to Linguistics: Language, Grammar and Semantics. 

New Delhi: PHI Learning Private Limited.

Topic 1: Concept of style and Stylistic  Revisited.

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Give an indepth explanation of the concept of style and stylistics

ii. Explain the relationship between style and stylistics

Lecture Note

Stylistic developed as a result of interest in spoken language and against the preoccupation with highly valued examples of written language. The 19th CC linguists was interested only in written text. Against this position, American linguistics erected the principle that speech is the primary form of language. Written language, they argued, is a derived system based on speech. Stylistics is a branch of linguistics which engages in the scientific style in both spoken and written texts. It recognizes the relationship in form, content and context by making use of language in different form. The study of text is no more restricted to the critical analytical level of the written types; it embraces both oral and written texts in a more stylized way.

Style and Stylistics

These two terms are positively related in the field of linguistics. As stated earlier, the relationship that exists between them is morphological because the word stylistics is an offshoot of the word style. What we have here is style + (suffix) i.e style + istics is equal to stylistics. Without mincing words however, style can be said to have given birth to stylistics.

What is stylistics?

Style and stylistics are so connected and semantically synonymous that one can describe stylistics as the scientific study of styles. Scholars have defined the concepts variously. For Leech and Short (1981), “stylistics is the linguistic study of style”. Lucas (1955) believes that style and stylistics are concerned with the evaluation and description of the use of style. In view of short (1996), “stylistics is an approach to the analysis of (Literary) texts using linguistic description”. This implies that it is a form of analysis spanning the borders of both literature and linguistics. Peter Verdonk (2002) in his own assessment sees “stylistics as the analysis of distinctive expression in language and the description of its purpose and effect”.

According to Lawal (1997, 2003), “it is concerned with the analysis and descri0ption of the linguistic features of texts in relation to their meaning”. Scholars such as (Ohmann 1964; Crystal and Davy 1969; Levin 1977) regard it as an account of the semantic force of phonetic, intonational, syntactic and lexical structures employed by an author in his/her work. And for Babajide (2000), stylistics is simply the study of style.

Concept of Style

The word style, the morphological base of stylistics is amorphous in nature. The implication of this is that there is no specific definition or opinion of style; it has various meaning. For instance, the concept style could imply, ordinarily, the manner of doing things such as dressing, eating, reading, writing, driving, teaching etc. for our purpose however, style will be taken as a linguistic phenomenon i.e how language is used. In the same token, one can safely say that style is concerned with the language use of an individual or that of a group of people as well as that of a community.

Style can manifest in various form as in the following examples:

i. Style as DEVIATION: Grammarians hold that style is a deviation from the norm. deviation means non-compliance with the norm of convention. It represents a deliberate attempt to disobey or bend the known rules of language usage. Deviation is primarily for emphasis as its occurrence gives emphasis to the deviant item or structure. The lexical item or structure given prominence to becomes foregrounded. For instance, cash may be written a kash; boutique as butic, photo as foto, football as football etc for the purpose of advertisement. It can be easily noticed in poetry through the use of incompatible collocation. The study of the use of language of an individual is called ideolectical study that of a group of people is referred to as sociolect while the study of the use of language of a community is known as dialect.

ii. Style as REGISTER: The popular conception of the term register is that of the varieties of language according to use. This implies that the phenomenon called language is heterogeneous and not monolithic in nature. Register being the use of language according to situation implicates that language users are capable of dynamic operation in various situations. This may have informed Chapman’s (1973) assertion that ‘styles are products of social situations and of a common relationship between language users’. Hence, when a language user adopts a particular style, he/she can be said to have adopted a register. For every person or individual, different situations of life require several registers.

iii. Style as ELEVATED EXPRESSION: This has to do with classical rhetoric. In this regard, we have what can be referred to as grand style, middle style and low style. The grand style focuses on epic narrative. A typical example is Milton’s Paradise Lost’. The middle style is used in communication. This is between the high and the low and it is used in moderate conversation or discourse such as classroom discourse. The low style is used in comedy or comic discourse. Every writer should know when to adjust one’s style to suit the needs of the audience.

iv. Style as LANGUAGE CHOICE: Like register, this implies the choice of language made in a given situation and at a particular point in time. Style as choice can be said to be a conscious selection of a set of linguistic features from all the possibilities of a language at both the lexical and syntactic levels. Thus, it can be affirmed that choice represents the selection of a means of expression from the available options suitable to the occasion or situation for which such expression is made.

v. Style as TEMPORAL PHENOMENON: This means that style can simply be regarded as either ancient or modern. This is because each of these phases in life has certain peculiar linguistic traits often associated with it. In the history of writing, there are various periods like Victorian, Elizabethan, Renaissance, modern and the Contemporary period. Although there exists a general unifying conventionality that a particular genre of a period must conform with, each of these ages in history has its own peculiar style of writing. Better still, individual artiste or writer in each period enjoys the liberty of a distinctive trade mark. This therefore explains the difference noticeable in the writings of the Shakespearian era and that of Chaucerian’s. Style can therefore be said to be a uniting, separating and identifying force.

vi. Style as PERSONALITY/INDIVIDUALITY: The belief here is that no matter how sufficiently alike two persons speak, write, dress and look, they are not exactly the same; each of them is unique in a way. These distinguishing features result in peculiarities and it is on this premise that a clear distinction is [possible between two people. We are thus able to separate the complex style of Soyinka from the simple accessible style of Achebe. A writer’s style is usually an index of his/her social and political background, religious inclination, cultural values, experience, educational attainment, geographical location and exposure.

Topic 2: Branches of Linguistic Stylistics

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Identify the various branches of linguistics

ii. Explain the relevance of the branches identified

Lecture Note

Branches in Stylistics

Stylistics, which started as a linguistic study of literature, particularly poetry, has seen the injection of insight knowledge and methods of other disciplines and theories into textual analysis (interdisciplinary status). This acclectic nature of stylistics has given rise to some of the branches in stylistics.

i. Cognitive Stylistics – Otherwise known as ‘Cognitive poetics’ originated from the application of models used in discipline such as cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence to the study of literature. Cognitive stylistics argues for the recognition of the mental component of meaning creation process in textual analysis (mental aspect of reading in analysis).

ii. Critical Stylistics – Inspired and informed by insights from critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis (Norgaard et al 2000) it is a term used to refer to stylistic work investigating the ways in which social meanings are manifested through language. The concept recognizes the importance of contextual factors such as register, genre and ideology in the study of language.

iii. Feminist Stylistics – Is perceived by Mills as being concerned with the analysis of the way the questions of gender impact on the production and interpretation of texts. The focus of feminist stylistics is the assumption that notions of gender are simply not ‘a question of discriminating messages about sex difference embedded in the texts”, rather, “it is concerned with unravelling the complex messages which may be deduced from texts”.

iv. Historical Stylistics describes the interplay between language and context as well as its theorizing, and a focus on how a historical texts means what it does. It is mainly concerned with the application of stylistic approaches ad methods to investigate (diachronically) changing or stable styles of a particular linguistic phenomena in historical (literary) text in a particular situation, or a particular genre.

Topic 3: Cohesion in Stylistics

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Explain cohesion in relations of meaning within a text

ii. Identify and explain the various ways of achieving cohesion in texts

Lecture Note

Cohesion: This refers to relations of meaning that exists within the text that renders it as a text. A piece of discourse has the whole text regarded as a unit. This means that all the different component parts must related to one another meaningfully such that the text will maintain unity. The concept cohesion may be achieved variously. Some of these are: reference, ellipsis, substitution, conjunction and lexical cohesion

a. Reference: This is a form of cohesion in which one of the cohesive items (pre-supposing word) refers to another cohesive item (pre-supposing word). The pre-supposed cohesive items thus form a TIE  e.g my friends are coming to visit me. The will probably bring the new car, (They ‘refers the reader back to ‘my friends’)

b. Substitutions: This device enables us to avoid repetition by substituting one item for the other. A substitute may replace any member of any given class of words and have the same structural function as the replaced item. e.g 

The student looks familiar. He is the one who led the class (Here, the item ‘one’ replaces the noun ‘students’)

c. Ellipsis: This can simply be defined as zero substitution. This implies that something that is structurally altering the meaning of the sentence. It is still possible to recover the missing linguistic item from the complete structure e.g 

Would you like a cup of tea?


(Here, ‘I’d like a cup of tea’ is ellipted).

Topic 4: Linguistic Stylistics and Literary Criticism

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Explain the integration of linguistics to literary criticism

ii. Differentiate between linguistics stylistics and literary criticism

iii. Discuss the relationship between the two concepts

Lecture Note

Linguistic Stylistics and Literary Criticism

Prior to the evolvement of the discipline linguistic stylistics, literary text had been the sole concern of literary critics but with the introduction of linguistic stylistics which uses linguistic frameworks  or tools to study literary texts, we are now afforded the benefit of not getting too many different interpretations of the same text and this is the major reason stylistics is now being used to study literary texts. 

This method or approach, to linguists, does not give an adequate allowance to the reader or even a critic to assess the appropriateness or otherwise of his intuitive responses to literary texts at any given time. It has always been the case of tradition, in the practice of literary criticism to place emphasis on intuition and by this practice or method, enough provision is not made for the reader to verify the validity or otherwise of his intuitive judgment concerning the text. Thus, the consequence of this is that the lots of such conclusions made from intuition are difficult to verify. So, it is in attempt to correct this anomaly of vague interpretation that linguistic stylistics’ method thus evolved. In their own practice, the linguistic styliticitians have always emphasized the need for vigorous linguistic or scientific description of a text before making a conclusion.

Topic 5: Linguistic Features Identified in Stylistics

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Explain linguistic features as linguistic evidences identified/identifiable in the text.

ii. Identify and explain the linguistic features (semantic, syntax and graphology)

Lecture Note

Linguistic features identified in stylistics (Semantics, Syntax and Graphology)

A good stylistic analysis is achieved when the stylistician works in consonance with the linguistic evidences identified/identifiable in the text. In essence, we are saying that he/she should utilize available linguistic clues in a given text. In achieving this however, some textual data have to be pinpointed and some of the linguistic features that can be identified are as follows:

i. Semantics: This level in text is all about meaning. Different variables determine the meaning that may be ascribable to a text; this could be context or situation based. For Halliday, meaning operates at three levels which are interpersonal, ideational and textual. The meaning relation that is derivable from an established relationship between two people is interpersonal i.e the meaning that developed from language functions such as the expression of an attitude, a comment or even an evaluation. The formation of ideas and concepts through the use of language, especially going by the experience of the writer or speaker, is called ideational meaning while textual meaning is about language use in relation to situation and the immediate linguistic environment of a speech act’s  setting. The presence of interlocutors in an immediate situation enhances easy meaning derivation eg. “Olu is a butcher”  In a face-to-face discussion may carry a different tag when situational dimensions are introduced.

ii. Syntax: At this level, the sentence, clausal or phrasal type is considered. A writer may operate within the norm of sentence structure or he/she may decide to deviate for certain reasons. This may be achieved through thematisation also known as foregrounding i.e the fronting of an item which normally should not be the subject. In place of an example like ‘He walked slowly’, the author may prefer ‘Slowly he walked’.

iii. Graphology: This is about the physical structure of a text. Features like paragraphing, use of punctuation marks, shapes of the letters (capitalized or italicized), underlining etc are considered for analysis. The use of any of the above listed graphological devices is simply for emphasis.

Topic 6: Linguistic Features Identified in Stylistics contd.

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

iii. Explain linguistic features as linguistic evidences identified/identifiable in the text.

iv. Identify and explain the linguistic features (Lexis and Phology)

Lecture Note

Lexis and Phonology

i. Lexis: This level in stylistic study deals with the individual vocabulary items used by the author in a text. Polysyllabic words may be used by the writer to depict the complexity of his/her focus, while simple monosyllabic words may be chosen to underscore the simplicity or triviality of the subject matter. Again, the use of simple words facilitates easy communication with a wider readership. Other communicative devices like synonyms, hyponymy etc may also be employed. The recurrence of synonyms for instance may be for a graphic description which enhances clarity and creates a perfect image of the concepts in the readers’ mind.

ii. Phonology: This is described as the scientific study of the sound system of language. This means the investigation of the workings of the sound system in a text. Depending on the analyst’s area of interest, the focus may be on the use of similar or dissimilar sounds or in the recurrence of specific sound pattern in the text. However, textual evidence has to be made available for the validity of any claim in stylistics. For instance, in a text, the characters’ educational attainments and their social standings may be assessed using phonological parameter. Makers of spoken texts may include…em…em/ you see../ you know… / I mean etc. Among the literary genre, poetry makes use of phonological sound patterns than any other and few of these are rhyme, rhythm, repetition, alliteration

Topic 7: Approaches to Criticism

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Identify the approaches employed in the application of stylistics to literary criticism

ii. Explain the differences between the evaluative and the descriptive approaches

Lecture Note

Approach to criticism

There are two approaches employed in the application of stylistics to literary criticism. These are the evaluative and the descriptive approaches. The evaluative approach is one that subjects a literary text to a critical assessment in order to be able to make value judgments in relation to its aesthetic quality. It is in this respect that we talk of “good style”, “bad style” “elegant style”, “slipshod style”, “grand-style” or “without style”. Because this approach passes value judgments, it is subjective in its critical evaluation of any given text.

On the other hand, the descriptive approach to the analysis of a text is objective. It is the approach which offers a scientific descriptive of “the set of distinctive characteristics” (Allan Bullock et al 1988) which mark a text out as belonging to a particular person, time, genre of profession. This approach is both analytical and verifiable because the characteristics serve as the corpus upon which description is made. The frequency of the features is counted and then their distributions are plotted statistically. This approach to stylistic analysis of literary texts is given various names – statistical stylistics, computational stylistics, stylometrics, or stylostatistics.

Topic 8: Stylistic Analysis at different Levels

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to:

i. Discuss the various levels of analysis of texts stycristically.

Lecture Note

We have already expressly stated that the concern of stylistics is to study, criticize and expose the “tangible manifestations of style” through both bare facts (descriptive) and “interpretive judgments” (Cluett and Kampeas. 1979).

We can therefore simply reduce stylistic analysis to a statement on the graphological, phonological, syntactic, lexical, and semantic descriptions of the distinctive: characteristic features that give a literary work its identity.

i. Graphological analysis is concerned with the description of the physical appearance of the literary text- visual devices used. These include the use of punctuation marks to create certain stylistic effects. Foregrounding is a major device in the graphological aspect of a text. This simply means bringing a certain item to the fore. Foregrounding manifests in different forms such as capitalization, italicization, asterism, underscoring, and all sorts of signs and symbols used to demand attention. Lexical description deals with the structure of the words employed in the text; words can be simple compound (pure on hyphenated), or complex. It is appropriate at the lexical level of analysis to make statements on whether the text uses archaism or neologisms. The appropriateness of the diction of the text, and how collocative the words it employ are should also be discussed.

ii. Phonological analysis is carried out by describing the delicate and deliberate combination of sounds that produce effects such as assonance, alliteration and onomatopoeia. At the phonological level of analysis, words are also examined in terms of their syllabic structure. Words could be monosyllabic, disyllabic, or polysyllabic. In fact, the rhythmic effect that the use of parallelism and repetitive structure is likely to generate is also to be discussed in the consideration of phonological features.

iii. Syntactic analysis examines the sentence structures used and their effectiveness towards realizing the objectives of the text. Sentence structures are simple, compound, complex, and compound complex. At this level of analysis, elliptical, paratactic hypotactic right and left-branching sentences are also examined. We have already defined and given examples of these sentence structures in our discussion of the concept of style as choice.

iv. At the level of semantic analysis, words and sentences are consider from all perspectives of meaning – denotative, connotative, emotive etc

Topic 9-10: Sample Analysis

Course Objective: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to make attempts at analyzing given samples of text

Lecture Note


We’re hoping to be arrested

And hoping to go to jail

We’ll sing and shout and pray

For Freedom and for Justice

And for Human Dignity

The fighting may be long

And some of us will die

But Liberty is costly

And ROME they say to me

Was not built in one day.

Hurry up, Lucille, Hurry up

We’re Going to Miss Our chance to go to Jail


This passage is a poem as it has been graphologically displayed in verses. It is divided into two parts: the text and the postscript. The former is in normal print while the latter is in italics. The poem is in the free-verse style. Probably because its thematic concern is about freedom, liberty and justice. The free punctuation style is also employed perhaps in order to stress the fact that the preoccupation of the poem is freedom. The free-verse, free-punctuation style is highly suggestive and reflective of the content in the form. It is reasonable to argue therefor that the style of the poem is designed to relate the content to the form.

The use of initial capital letters for the words: freedom, justice, human dignity, and liberty, together with the capitalization of Rome is a graphological device used to foreground the focus of the poem. It is clear, therefore, that the style employed suits the message being passed across.

The language of the poem is informal: simple, casual and cordial. The postscript also bears testimony to this claim in the manner in which the poetic persona (a desperate demonstrator) hurries a fellow – demonstrator up. The sentences reveal the dare-devil demonstrator’s resolve and determination to pay whatever it costs to have freedom, liberty, human dignity, and justice:

We’re going to be arrested

And hopping to go to jail

And some of us will die

The language employed here bears strong relation to the social setting. The setting is that of an irate, agitated and frenzied demonstration against injustice, human indignities and deprivation of freedom. The desperation of the demonstrators is unequivocally expressed in a language that is simple and evocative. The lexical choice is free of no ambiguity, so simple. This enhances clarity of expression and facilitates easy comprehension.

The syntactic pattern of the poem is heavily paratactic. The use of the coordinating conjunction, “and”, explains this assertion. Parallel structure as in lines 4 and 5; lexical repetition as in lines 1 and 2 are features identifiable in the poem. Alliterative use of words in the poem also introduces some rhythm to it. This is perhaps to excite the demonstrators the more. The simple diction as well as the plain syntactic structure of the poem accounts for its semantic accessibility.

On the whole, the language employed in this poem is highly enhanced by its style in clearly bringing out the message and concern of the discourse and in reflecting upon the social setting that has produced it.