2. Chapter two

Antar Abdellah
This chapter will explore poetic language as a type of
language commonly associated with poetry genre.
 In order to explore what constitutes poetic language,
considering inherency perspective ,such as
Formalism, is quite necessary.
 We could also think about poetic language in terms of
its effect on us. (cognitive)
 Moreover, in line with a sociocultural perspective, we
might also recognize that what gets regarded as
poetic can change over time and will probably
continue to do so. Consider the two poems below :
1-Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
2-Yir eyes ur eh
a mean yir
pirit this
ah think yir
byewtifl like ehm
The poetic text 1 is the opening four lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet I8’,
Basically, a sonnet was a conventional poetic way of expressing love and
admiration for someone in the 16 century, and Shakespeare uses the formal
conventions of rhythmical structure (iambic pentameter= lines of ten syllables
with an unstressed/stressed beat) and rhyme scheme in this poem, as well as
metaphorical language, where human beauty is compared to the warmth of
summer but also subject to the passing of seasons.
But unlike the first, the second text uses a non-standard language which is not
generally recognized as conventionally ‘poetic’. By using non-standard
language, and by representing the hesitancy of natural speech, the stumbling
presentation of the message in text 2 stands in marked contrast to the
polished eloquence of the message in Shakespeare’s.
This chapter , then, looks at the relationship
between poetic language and the kind of
literariness found in richly descriptive passages
in some narrative fiction, literariness that can
be regarded as in a sense poetic despite the
absence of formal line arrangements.
So can poetic language be judged as having
aesthetic value?
Jakobson argues that poetics is largely concerned with the question:
‘what makes any verbal message a work of art?’
According to Jakobson poetry is a function of the two axes which
Saussure terms the paradigmatic and syntagmatic or the
metaphoric pole (the axis of selection) and the metonymic pole (the
axis of combination).
Along the paradigmatic axis, each sign in a given sequence is selected by
virtue of its equivalence (that is, its similarity to some and difference
from other signs in the sign system).
Along the syntagmatic axis, the signs chosen in this way are combined
with other signs according to the rules of syntax in order to form the
sequence of signs which comprise the utterance in question.
What precisely distinguishes poetry in general from other verbal
messages is the predominance of the poetic function.
Poetry is distinguished from other speech acts by the way in
which the principle of equivalence which is usually synonymous
with the axis of selection (the paradigmatic axis or metaphoric
pole) is superimposed on the axis of combination (the
syntagmatic axis or metonymic pole) which is normally subject
only to the principle of syntactical contiguity.
This equivalence manifests itself in two principal ways: in terms of
prosody (metre) and sound (rhyme)
The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s concepts of ‘paradigm’ and ‘syntagm’ are worthwhile in
clarifying the role of parallelism in the poetic function. Therefore, the key function for discussing the poetic
language is the poetic function, which is evident when a text emphasizes the linguistic properties of the
words themselves.
For Ferdinand de Saussure, there are two ways of meaning being created. The first is where signs create
meaning in relation to their place in a syntagm.
A syntagm is a rule-governed combination of signs. Ike likes me and I like Ikeare different syntagms in the
sense that they follow the rule of subject-verb-object order. Because the combination of signs is different,
we have different syntagmatic meanings for like(s) in these two examples.
The second way of creating meaning is in relation to a paradigm.
A paradigm is a group of words which have something in common, words which potentially can be selected
for the same slot in a syntagm. For example, 'prefer'or 'support' could be selected instead of like in the
syntagm, I like Ike. Prefer, favour and like can thus be seen as belonging to the same paradigm
The ideas of paradigm and syntagm, as well as
others in Saussure (1915), laid the foundation for
an approach to studying literature known as
structuralism, which reached a peak in the
In structuralism, interest focuses not so much on
evaluating literary texts but rather on exploring
their structural patterns. Structuralism was
influenced by both Russian and Prague School
Formalism and so Jakobson’s work provides a
kind of bridge between these traditions.
So why is I like Ike poetic for Roman Jakobson but I support General Eisenhower not? Equivalence is a
concept normally associated with a paradigm. I, like and Ike have ‘vertical’ equivalence. This is because like
and Ike belong to different semantic paradigms, like, Ike and I also simultaneously come from phonetic
paradigms : they come from a paradigm of one syllable words containing the sound [ai].
Furthermore, like and Ike also come from another phonetic paradigm, that of one syllable words ending in the
sound [aik]. When the signs I, like and Ike are combined in I like Ike, that is, arranged in a syntagm, the
‘vertical’ equivalences become horizontal’.
In other words, paradigmatic equivalences of sound become syntagmatic ones. When ‘vertical’ equivalences
become ‘horizontal’ ones, repetition of sound and other parallelisms can occur.
As Jakobson (1960, p. 358) puts it ‘The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of
selection [paradigm] into the axis of combination [syntagm] That is why we get the rhyme between like and
Ike ,the poetic function is active.
In contrast, I support General Eisenhower would not be poetic for Jakobson since the signs, I, support and
Eisenhower do not share paradigms. This is why the syntagm I support General Eisenhower does not
function poetically
Deviation is a term used to describe spelling and pronunciation of a
word or a sentence structure which does not conform to a norm.
Deviation implies variants of norm; when a literary text ,such as a poem
is deviant, it is noticeable , or perceptually prominent; and this is what is
called “foregrounding”.
There are many ways in which poets or writers can produce deviation
and hence foregrounding.
It is often said of a literary text that if one changes something as small as
a comma, one can change its meaning as a whole .
The most obvious examples of lexical deviation are where a poet makes up a word
which did not previously exist. This is called neologism . An example of neologism
or the invention of new words is nonce-formation .A word is considered to be a
nonce formation if it is made up for the nonce, i.e. for a single occasion. Crystal
[1987] defines nonce-formation as a linguistic form which a speaker consciously
invents or accidentally uses on a single occasion.
Ex. Betwenity
A second example of lexical deviation is the process of converting a word from one
grammatical class to another. This process is called functional conversion.
Functional conversion is common in literary language as in the example below:
My heart is hiding
Stirred for a bird-the achieve of, the mastery of the thing
Here, Hopkins takes the verb (achieve) and uses it as a noun, in spite
of the fact that English already has a noun, achievement derived
from that verb. It is obvious that the word is a noun here because of
the preceding definite article, (the) .
The third way in which writers can produce
foregrounding through lexical deviation is by the
use of affixation [the addition of a prefix or suffix
to an item already in the language] and
compounding ,i.e. the joining together of two or
more items to make a single compound one [Leech
Semantic deviation can mean non-sense or
absurdity. In semantic deviation, it is
important to deal with tropes [foregrounding
or irregularities of content]. According to
him, they are classified largely into three
Semantic oddity means semantic bizarreness of expression. There
are five types of semantic oddity:
 Pleonasm: the use of more words than is necessary for clear
expression: examples are black darkness, or burning fire
 , periphrasis: a device by which grammatical meaning is expressed
by one or more free morphemes: more happy.
 and tautology : an unnecessary repetition of meaning, using
dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing: save and
except, this day and age.
have semantic redundancy, and
 oxymoron: combining contradictory terms; pretty ugly, hot ice.
 and paradox : a statement or proposition that seems selfcontradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
“My nose will grow now”.
have semantic absurdity, which entail irreconcilable of meaning or
According to Leech’s classification, transference
of meaning is classified into four types of
figurative language:
 Synecdoche: a term for a part of something is
used to refer to the whole of something, or viceversa; the white house declared..
 metonymy: a term denoting one thing is used to
refer to a related thing; lend me your ears
 metaphor: he is a lion
 and simile: he is like a lion.
Leech classifies the term honest deception
into three types:
1) Hyperbole (Exaggeration): The bag
weighed a ton.
2) Litotes (understatement); she is not
3) Irony: situation in which there is an
incongruity between the literal and the
implied meaning.
As per Leech, these types are all connected in
a sense that they misrepresent the truth :
hyperbole distorts by saying too much, litotes
by saying too little and irony often takes the
form of saying or implying the opposite of
what one feels to be the case.
Honest deception means these three types
of semantic deviance misrepresent the truth
for the sake not of deception, but of literary
One important feature of grammatical deviation is the case of ungrammaticality
as in “I does not like him"
The most obvious examples of grammatical deviations are where a poet or a
writer uses the double negative, the double comparative and the double
superlative :“Twill never do nothing no more” [Brook, 1977]
Similarly, writers or poets deviate from grammatical rules by combining two
ways of expressing comparison: the addition of suffixes and the use of the
separate words (more) and (most). Thus Shakespeare, for example, could
combine “unkindest” and “mostunkind” .
Likewise, grammatical deviation, is often a result of ‘fault analogy’. Foreign
learners of English language make fault analogy by applying regular forms for
irregular forms such as: goed,seed, knowed, etc. ‫اإلقواء‬
To a large extent, the implicit phonology is
determined by choice of words and structure at
the syntactic level, where it can be regarded as
an important ingredient of stylistic value .
 However, since the writing system is in many
respects a system for representing the sound
pattern of speech, a further source of
phonological effect is graphology.
Graphological deviation is a relatively minor and superficial
part of style, concerning such matters as spelling,
capitalization, hyphenation, italicization and paragraphing.
Such matters are determined conventionally by syntax and
become noticeable only when a writer makes graphological
choice which is marked or unconventional, such as a deliberate
misspelling: the pursuit of happyness… text poems.
Morphemes are the building blocks for words,
bookshelf, for instance, consists of two
morphemes (book) and (shelf).
One way of producing deviation at a
morphological level is by adding an ending to a
word not normally be added to for example:
perhapless mystery of paradise.
Another way of producing foregrounding
through the use of lexical deviation is by the use
of an invented morpheme.
For example museryroom. In fact, there is no
such word as a museyroom
Literariness refers to the quality of literature/literary language.
When used in referring to language in more everyday contexts these terms tend to
focus on continuity with literature.
Carter indicates that literariness is not just about formal features but also how these
set up oblique or indirect meanings, the text’s ‘unstated content’, or how a text
‘reinforces content’.
cline of literariness: the term “cline” has a similar meaning to continuum‘. It refers to
relations along a particular dimension that are a matter of degree rather than having
discrete cut-off points.
The notion of a literary cline, therefore, suggests that literariness is a matter of
In terms of linguistic forms, it would seem
unreasonable, for example, simply to total the
number of creative features used in a particular text.
Whether a text is literary is unlikely to derive simply
from the presence of more or fewer literary features.
The concept of a cline, or sets of clines, may suggest a
level of precision in the identification of literariness
that cannot be attained in practice.
Carter identifies six features and claims prototypical
literary texts possess most of them,
i.e. 1-medium independence, 2-genre-mixing,
3-polysemy, 4-displaced interaction, 5-text
patterning as well as 6-high semantic density
The concept of medium dependence means that
the more literary a text, the less it will be
dependent for its reading on another medium or
media, for instance, abbreviations, illustrations
and pictorial supplements.
 Yet, this is not to suggest that it cannot be
determined by external political or social or
biographical influences.
 No text can be completely autonomous that it
refers only to itself nor so rich that a reader‘s
own experience of human rights it refers to.
Genre is a French term derived from the Latin
genus, generis, meaning "type," "sort," or "kind."
 It designates the literary form or type into which
works are classified according to what they have
in common, either in their formal structures or
in their treatment of subject matter, or both.
 Genre-mixing recognizes that the full,
unrestricted resources of the language are open
to exploitation for literary ends.
Semantics is the study of meaning, it focuses on the
relation between signifiers, like words, phrases, signs,
 signified / symbols, and what they stand for.
 The semantic density of something is the measure of
how much information it conveys in relation to its size or
duration. The higher the semantic density, or the
more semantically dense something is, the more
information it packs into the given space or time.
 A text that is perceived as resulting from the additive
interaction of several linguistic levels is recognized as
more literary than a text where there are fewer levels at
work or where they are present but do not interact as
A polysemy is a word or symbol that has more than one meaning. In order to be
considered a polysemy, a word has to have separate meanings that can be
different, but related to one another. The meanings and the words must have the
same spelling and pronunciation and they must have the same origin.
The existence of more than one meaning for a single word, such as table. There are
many polysemous (having many senses) in the English Language.
Polysemy is a regular feature of advertisements which is perhaps best referred to as
plurisignifying rather than polysemic in that it shares the capacity of many
advertisements to be memorable and to provide a verbal pleasure which can result
in frequent citation.
And every fair from fair sometimes declines
‫إلى حتفي سعى قدمي‬
A displaced interaction in a text allows
meanings to emerge indirectly and obliquely.
What we traditionally regard as literary is
likely to be a text in which the context-bound
interaction between author and reader is
‫ومن يفز بحبيب هللا يأتمم‬
At the level of text, effects can be located which can
help us further differentiate degrees of literariness.
In the speech, patterning at the level of text appears by
virtue of repetition of the particulars of the avenue is
shown below:
Go back to Mississippi,
go back to Alabama,
go back to South Carolina,
go back to Georgia.
The main effect of cross-sentential repetition here,
reinforced by repeated syntactic patterns of clauses
and tenses, is to represent the lingering presence and
progress of the movement as if the readers were
actually engaged in a journey.
.‫ ُمتَ َفرِّد ب َع َنائي‬، ‫ ب َكآبَتي‬.‫ ُمتَ َفرِّد‬، ‫صبَابَتي‬
َ ‫ُمتَ َفرِّد ب‬
Ronald Carter’s argument is based on a cline of
literariness. He identifies six features and claims
prototypical literary texts possess most of them.
Carter’s focus in this extract is an inherencybased one and he subsumes a number of
Formalist poetic criteria/ concepts.
Carter indicates that Literariness is not just
about formal features but also how these set up
indirect meanings, the text’s ‘unstated content’,
or how a text ‘reinforces content’.
For this to occur the text requires the reader not just
to skim the ‘surface’ of a text but to involve
themselves in the generation of such indirect
And for this to happen effectively, literariness in the
text needs to be achieved skillfully by the author.
There is no sharp cut-off between literary and nonliterary texts and prototypical literary texts, even if
not poems, contain poetic elements.
Also from an inherency perspective, the cline of
literariness can account for why certain works of nonfiction can be seen as literary works.
Consider the text below:
About Little Italy NYC
 Walking beside the narrow, cobblestoned streets
beneath the fire escapes of turn-of-the-century
tenements, you’re tempted by the sights,
sounds and smells of Italian cuisine and culture
emanating from the restaurants surrounding you
at every step. Here at Little Italy NYC, we’re
bringing it all to you! See our restaurant list and
map to visit many of these restaurants online.
Get an idea for the restaurant that’s right for you
and your family and friends. And when you arrive
in little Italy, you can say ‘you’ve been here
In this text there is a fair degree of sound patterning.
This density of sound patterning interacts with the density
of the syntactic arrangement of sights, sounds and smells
of Italian cuisine.
 There would seem to be a deliberate attempt to construct
text to reinforce meaning; and these levels of phonology
and syntax reinforce meaning associated with restaurants
 The text has semantic density. There is some text
patterning too, for example, the parallelism of the
imperatives “see our list” and “get an idea”. There is also
some genre-mixing in the use of the representation of
direct speech with the more ‘poetic’ first sentence,
 However, the text is explicit about its medium dependence
and facilitates this through a web-link. There is little
obvious polysemy.
Probably the most celebrated bad poet in the English
language is the Scot, William McGonagall. He is
associated with a subgenre, doggerel [free verse], or very
bad poetry.
 However Paul Werth (1976) argues that a Jakobsonian
stylistic methodology reveals levels of literariness in a
McGonagall poem that would be found in a Shakespeare
 So why might one poem be regarded as better than
another? The answer is connected in part with how a text
is crafted to guide the reader to link levels of literariness
and then go on to infer ‘unstated content’.
 Richard Bradford (1997) argues that it is possible to use
stylistic analysis to enable judgments as to why one
text carries more literary value than the other.
In order to assess a literary work, Bradford seeks out the
double-pattern in it : the relationship between its literary
form on the one hand and its non-literary form and
content on the other.
Bradford argues that the quality of a literary work should
be judged in relation to the balance between these two
Bradford uses ‘resistance to closure’ as a criterion to
evaluate Adcock’s literary text as better than Cartland’s.
This criterion can distinguish between literary texts in
terms of value. If a literary work is polysemic to different
people across time and space, it has more value than one
which is monosemic.
the use of poetic devices in McGonagall’s poem seems to
have no purpose other than make it sound and look like a
This chapter has investigated a characterization of
poetry from an inherency perspective.
While the Formalists introduced useful concepts and
techniques of analysis which have been drawn upon
extensively in stylistics, their relevance is more often than
not to poetry and particular examples of it.
However, poetic language in poems is not the only form of
The scope of inherency analysis has been extended to
account for poetic literariness in certain passages of
narrative fiction, by drawing on Ronald Carter’s cline of
Moreover, literariness is not just about examining textintrinsic properties. It is also about how the craft of a
text leads readers to infer unstated content.
Finally, the chapter looked at the issue of literary value.

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