Style as a Product of Context (what is the work about)

Style as a Product of Context

Although many people relate style to choice, some scholars maintain that style is not a matter of choice or deviation, rather it is the result of the milieu in which the author originates and the context in which the work is produced. The environment defines the context and urges people to act in accordance with its production. This type of style may be linked to choice as well as to nature because people believe that it may not depend on the author’s will, it is imposed upon him/her naturally, without his/her knowing. On the other hand, it may be related to choice in as much as the author may decide to restart to a violent style because of a given context, without being violent in his/her other works. This type of style is mostly noticed through the workers of pre independence Africa as well as the proponents of Negritude. That is, the idea that Jean Paul Sartre develops in his book Situation II, by stating:

L’écrivaine est en situation dans son époque, chaque parole a des retentissements cheque silence aussi.

By this, he stressed on the fact that it is the context, which should dictate the attitude and the tonality of the writer. Achebe in his earlier novels describes women as just housewives, but in the last ones he gives a more beautiful depiction of women in giving them important places in their society. This is understandable because the pre-independence women were hardly given the right place they deserved in terms of leadership.

The importance of context as a source of style markers has been noted by several stylisticians. In addition to the intra-textual and inter-textual ordering of a text; it concludes extra-textual features to which the resolution of items local to a text can be sought. In this theory, style is deemed to be conditioned by the socio-cultural factors which influence the making of an utterance, whether written or spoken. Turner (1979) asserts that ‘a theory of style is incomplete without some attempt to describe the situation or context in which language is used (134). Crystal and Davy (1980) tie style with its social context to “analyze language habits with the main purpose of identifying on every conceivable occasion, those features which are restricted to certain kinds of social context to explain where possible why such features have been used as opposed to other alternatives and to identify these features into categories based upon a view of their function in the social context.” (80)

For instance, the language and literature of Britain during the nineteenth century serve as a good example of style as a product of context. David Jowitt in his book titled English language and Literature in Historical Context says that:

…During the century, the accent of those who in England typically used standard English grammar and spelling that is the most educated members of the community – also advances in prestige and the name ‘Received Pronunciation’ (RP) began to be applied to it, ‘received’ here having the same meaning as ‘accepted’ since the most educated largely also belonged to the upper classes distinguished themselves from the lower, who spoke regional dialects such as London Cockney. In general, RP vowels were uttered with greater tension and the mouth more open. (196)

The above quotation explains the social stratification within England during the Nineteenth century. The social strata of England are divided into two groups or social groups. The upper class which speaks the RP and the lower class speaks what is called London Cockney. This is based on the social status of a given community.

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