“Literary words” as elucidated in linguistic literature


The article focuses on the notion of “literary words” and aims at analyzing the definitions given in lexicographic sources and scholarly works of linguists at home and abroad in order to single out different approaches and viewpoints on this part of the vocabulary. We describe different classifications of the English vocabulary and identify divergent interpretations of the notion, structure and components of the lexical layer under study, as well as the synonymous use of the terms “literary”, “bookish” and “standard”. The article also considers the interconnection of the terms “bookish” and “standard”. Despite numerous interpretations of this term, the research highlights three main characteristics of “literary words”: 1) their prevalent usage in written speech; 2) their formal character which confines the usage to certain functional styles; 3) their social connotations unambiguously suggesting the speaker’s level of educational and social status. Of interest are the qualities with which these words endow the speaker– snobbishness, pedantry, formality and ceremoniality of behavior. The article contains a working definition of the notion “literary words” to further the study of this layer of English vocabulary. It runs as follows: “literary words are a socially marked subsystem of literary language, used largely for formal communication and in writing and characterized by a more accurate and formal expression of thought.

Key words: 

literary words, literary standard, written speech, stylistic differentiation of the words, stylistic colouring of the word, formal words.

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