Research Center for History and Culture, Beijing Normal University (Zhuhai Campus) & UIC
Research Area: Linguistics (both historical linguistics and general linguistics); Indo-European languages (especially Latin, Ancient Greek and Old Indian)
Speech Title:“The use of language variation and stylistic variation in literary texts”
Abstract: This paper discusses the manner how different language varieties may be used in a literary text in order to express different styles or linguistic registers. It is acknowledged that a higher or lower register may be conveyed by diglossia in a speech community, which may use the vernacular language in daily life and the codified language in more official situations. An example of this can be seen in China in the variation between Mandarin Chinese and the local language for more or less formal activities. It has not been adequately investigated, however, how diglossia may be exploited in the very same literary text to portray characters of higher or lower social status as well as more conservative or progressive social and cultural attitudes. Neither has been much examined how, apart from diglossia, these socio-cultural aspects may be expressed in a text by using lexemes having a different source. In the English language, for example, inherited Germanic words compete with French borrowings; the latter usually belong to a higher register. In French, words going back to Vulgar Latin compete with cultivate Latinate terms. Thus, diglossia is just the most evident manifestation of a much broader phenomenon concerning the use of two (or more) language varieties for stylistic purposes. I will illustrate this phenomenon with examples drawn from various ancient and modern languages belonging to different families and to different geographical areas, and I will try to show the formal and functional features of this linguistic competition. Moreover, I will discuss the impacts of such a language variation on the establishment of different literary genres and its challenges for a theory of translation.