Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. Linguist M. Read Examples of Foregrounding in Stylistics The study of literary stylistics or distinctive styles in writing looks at the role of foregrounding by analyzing the effect that it has on a piece as a whole. In other words, how does foregrounding impact the composition of a piece and the experience of readers? These excerpts from scholarly writing on the subject attempt to define this.
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Linguist M. Halliday has interpreted foregrounding as motivated prominence: "the phenomenon of linguistic highlighting, whereby some features of the language of a text stand out in some way" Explorations in the Functions of Language, Peter Lang, "In literature, foregrounding may be most readily identified with linguistic deviation: the violation of rules and conventions, by which a poet transcends the normal communicative resources of the langauge, and awakens the reader, by freeing him from the grooves of clich expression, to a new perceptivity.
Poetic metaphor, a type of semantic deviation, is the most important instance of this type of foregrounding. The term refers to specific linguistic devices, i. These devices enhance the meaning potential of the text, while also providing the reader with the possibility of aesthetic experience.
In this way literature keeps or makes individuals aware of their automatized actions and preconceptions. It thus contributes to general creativity and development in societies. The theory of foregrounding is also one of the few literary theories which have been tested empirically for its validity. In what follows, the term will not be used in this narrow linguistic sense, but as situated in the wider area of stylistics, text linguistics, and literary studies. It remains uncertain, however, whether this corresponds to what the Prague scholars had in mind.
First of all it is used to indicate the psycholinguistic processes by which - during the reading act - something may be given special prominence. Second, it may refer to specific devices as produced by the author located in the text itself.
It is also employed to indicate the specific poetic effect on the reader. Furthermore, it may be used as an analytic category in order to evaluate literary texts, or to situate them historically, or to explain their importance and cultural significance.
Finally, it is also wielded in order to differentiate literature from other varieties of language use, such as everyday conversations or scientific reports. Thus the term covers a wide area of meaning. This may have its advantages, but may also be problematic: which of the above meanings is intended must often be deduced from the context in which the term is used. Within literature, however, this is opposed by devices which thwart the automatism with which language is read, processed, or understood.
Generally, two such devices may be distinguished, those of deviation and of parallelism. Deviation corresponds to the traditional idea of poetic license: the writer of literature is allowed - in contrast to the everyday speaker - to deviate from rules, maxims, or conventions. These may involve the language, as well as literary traditions or expectations set up by the text itself. Cases of neologism a new word or expression or a new meaning of a word , live metaphor, or ungrammatical sentences, as well as archaisms, paradox, and oxymoron a phrase that combines two words that seem to be the opposite of each other, for example a deafening silence are clear examples of deviation.
Traditional handbooks of poetics and rhetoric have surveyed and described under the category of figures of speech a wide variety of such forms of parallelism, e. In fact it was itself a further historical development of ideas generated by the Russian Formalists, most notably those connected with the device of estrangement Russian prim ostranenije , as proposed by Viktor Shklovsky.
According to Shklovsky, the purpose of art is to make objects unfamiliar, so that a renewed perception of them creates a fresh awareness in the beholder, beyond the stale routines of automatized schemes. Thus for Shklovsky and his fellow Formalists the devices used by writers are not merely there for ornamental reasons they serve specific functions. Hence the concept of foregrounding is also a theoretical one, which was later exported to the West by such scholars as Roman Jakobson, Felix Vodicka, and Rene Wellek.
The theory was further refined in British stylistics, most notably by Geoffrey Leech On the continuity between Formalism and Structuralism, see especially, Erlich , Fokkema Time and again, Aristotle emphasizes the fact that the literary text is made according to specific rules, and in this process, devices of deviation and parallelism play an important role. The theory of foregrounding can be seen as a more precise and more systematic elaboration of these ideas.
Few authors are explicit on this point, though in general the assumption seems to be that the answer should be positive. If that is so, then the concept is a useful tool for analyzing and studying literature, both in the case of individual texts and in general.
In a series of reading experiments it proved to be possible - on the basis of the theory of foregrounding - to predict responses of readers to a number of texts. There are still several questions that remain to be answered. For example, when readers focus on the way a text is written rather than on its content, would this be a matter of convention or purely an effect that can be attributed to text properties?
In other words, do readers process more carefully because they think literary texts are supposed to be read more carefully, or are they somehow forced by the text? Some research shows the influence of convention Zwaan Miall discusses how some research results in neuropsychology can be interpreted as support for the foregrounding theory.
Researchers found that metaphors were rated as reflecting more intense speaker emotions than literal expressions. But contrary to what foregrounding theory would predict, no significant differences in responses to conventional and novel metaphors were found.
There is but partial evidence for the existence of a relationship between these. A more serious problem is the lack of a systematic inventory of devices and their relative importance. In this respect, the similarities and differences with the more general philosophical notion of alienation through literature also should be clarified.
It is a useful tool to describe particular characteristics of the text, or to explain its specific poetic effects on the reader. And it may fruitfully be employed to establish a link between purely linguistic description and the functioning literary texts in a culture at large. There is more to the concept of foregrounding than analyses of individual literary text, though, and its importance should certainly not be reduced to this contribution. Examples would be fixed positioning of the camera, and the deformation of familiar objects through filters, mirrors, and extreme closeups.
It will be apprehended that foregrounding devices may - because of their very use - lose their defamiliarizing potential, and thus stand in need of constant replacement. In this way history can be viewed as a continuous wavelike substitution and renewal of the devices and processes by which foregrounding operates. Stylistics, its linguistic character, its relevance and its importance. Stylistics could be viewed as a branch of linguistics.
It engages in the scientific study of style in both spoken and written texts. It recognizes the relationship between form, context, and content by making use of language. The word style is derived from the Latin word Stylus meaning Reed. Reed is a stick for writing. Later Stylus metamorphosed into style. The word style can be given different meaning and as such it is difficult to give a clear-cut monothlic definition of style but what we should know is that stylistics as a discipline originates from two separate and inter-related discipline and these disciplines are linguistics and literary criticism.
The literary scholars and linguists have accepted stylistics to be a worthwhile discipline. In view of this, one can rightly say that stylistics had secured a place for itself in the field of literature and language irrespective of the divers opinions express of scholars. Some of these scholars believe that stylistics has a system and method which could be used to define the specific characteristics of literary words.
Some lay emphasis on its methodological approaches. Therefore, among modern scholars there is no agreement at all as to how to define the word style and stylistics. They all presume that they know where style is and they are all engaged in finding a scientific formular to locate it. However, inspite of these differences in opinion, linguistics has not totally failed in giving all the framework with which to work in stylistics.
It should then be noted that the domain for the study of style is known as stylistics. Chatman defines style as the manner in which form is executed or the means in which the context is expressed. Style can be used in either a technical or a non-technical sense. There is style in everything human beings do. Style in linguistics is applied to both written or spoken language.
There are psycho-linguist who believes that our speech helps to identify our social background, sex and nationalities within the society. The inadequacy of this approach lies in the fact that some people use of language may not reveal their cultural identity.
Buffoon gives another notion of style, he believes that style is the man. The sociological analysts believe that a man is a product of the society and whatever he writes must reflect his socio-political experience. From this argument, the man himself is referred to as style. It is claimed that, it is a difficult to divorce matter from manner, that is, no distinction can be made between what a writer writes and the way he writes it.
A mans writing will definitely reveal his background. This definition is defective in a way, some writers identities may not reflect in their writings. Osgood defines style as norm and deviation. A norm is the common practice or acceptable usage in language. It is what is permissible within the rules governing the use of language. For instance all human normal human beings have two legs each.
It is the norm and anything contrary to this is a deviation. Deviation is a departure from general order. It is the deliberate violation of the norms. Every use of figure of speech could be seen as deviation. Example there is deviation in the sentence: Colourless green idea sleeps furiously. Following Chomskys selectional creterion, the word sleep is deviant and ungrammatical in the above sentence because it selects an inanimate subject.
Moreover ideas have no colour. The contradiction usage colourless green is also a deviation. The sentence is grammatical and it violates the rule of choice. The problem with this definition is that it is difficult to decide what is the norm. Is it the ordinary or the elevated usage?
Another weakness is that not all text are all literary deviant. There are some poems which cannot be said to be deviant.
Generally, however stylistics could be regarded as the domain for the study of text or discourse. There are two ways of looking at style and stylistics. They could be used in relation to analysis of literary text and this gives us what is known as linguistics stylistics and it has its own peculiar analytical procedures. Therefore, linguistics stylistics could be simply defined as the application of stylistics through the linguistics frames to the analysis of literary text.
Jump to navigation Jump to search Foregrounding is a concept in literary studies concerning making a linguistic utterance word, clause, phrase, phoneme, etc. Parallelism can be described as unexpected regularity, while deviation can be seen as unexpected irregularity. Something can only be unexpectedly regular or irregular within a particular context. For example, the last line of a poem with a consistent metre may be foregrounded by changing the number of syllables it contains. This would be an example of a deviation from a secondary norm.
What Is Foregrounding?
In Stylistics Foregrounding