Some Stylistic Typological Distances between the Prose of Some British Writers

By Tambovtsev, Yuri; Tambovtsev, Ludmila et al. | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 2003 | Go to article overview

Some Stylistic Typological Distances between the Prose of Some British Writers


Tambovtsev, Yuri, Tambovtsev, Ludmila, Tambovtsev, Juliana, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


ABSTRACT

The article describes the frequencies of occurrence of gerund, participle 1 and verbal noun in the prose of some writers to establish the stylistic typological distances between them. The author chose 6 features for the gerund, 1 feature for the verbal noun and 5 features for the participle 1. All in all, there are 12 features to construct typological distances with the help of the "Chi-square" criterion. It is interesting to find out that American writers (Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) would not form one group, while the British writers (Joan K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and William Somerset Maugham) should form the other group (taxon). It looks that the use of the -ing forms does not depend on the nationality of the writer. Theodore Dreiser has a tendency to use the -ing forms (i.e. the gerund, participle 1 and verbal noun) in his prose in the same way as F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is why, the distance is minimal (24.01). Dreiser's prose is also close to the prose of Christie 1 (47.70). Dreiser's prose by these 12 features is far away from that of Maugham 1 (101.60). Our task is to find out the distances between the authors, but not to explain those distances. However, one can see that the prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Agatha Christie might have influenced the prose of Theodore Dreiser. Ernest Hemingway has a tendency to use the gerund in the same functions as Joan. K. Rowling (10.54), participle 1--as William Somerset Maugham in "Flotsam and Jetsam" (14.04) and verbal noun--as Maugham in "The force of circumstance" and "The creative impulse" or as Christie in "Curtain" (0.06). This is the first work of this sort in stylistics and thus, it gives some interesting results concerning the authors discussed in this paper.

The goal of this article is to establish some stylistic typological distances between the prose of J. K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and William Somerset Maugham on the basis of the frequency of the English -ing-forms: verbal noun, gerund, and participle 1 in different functions in the sentence.

The material of this study is described in detail at the end of this article. The main assumption in this work is that every text sample of an author is a separate object with certain values of the selected features to measure the distances. In this case, the selected features are the values of the frequency of occurrence of some functions of the gerund, participle 1 and the verbal noun. We believe that certain frequencies of the -ing-forms show certain concrete manifestations of the tendencies of thinking of an author. We assume certain modes of grammar to be stable enough to produce underlying linguistic stability. In our study, we must distinguish between insignificant fluctuations of the selected features which do not affect the basic character of the author's style, on the one hand, and the significant fluctuations which indicate stylistic differences, on the other hand.

Our study uses the methods of mathematical linguistics. One cannot help agreeing with Dolezhel and Bailey (1969) who think that not only linguistics, but also many other fields in the humanities have survived and profited from the application of mathematical models and techniques. Stylistics has become the crossroads for the interests of linguists and mathematicians to yield some new models. The statistical investigation of texts can explain the intrinsic features inherent in the text (Dolezhel and Bailey 1969: vii). We agree with the definition of style given by Winter (1969: 3) who believes that style may be said to be characterized by a pattern of recurrent selections from the inventory of optional features of a language. As well as Dolezhel, we adhere to the foundations of the statistical theory of style, which considers style to be a probabilistic phenomenon. We can regard style as a preference for one or another mode of expression. The overall character of style is called forth by the degree of presence (or absence) of a certain mode of expression, rather than by its exclusive use or complete suppression (Dolezhel 1969: 10-11). …

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