Rhetorical and stylistic effects of detached constructions

Im Dokument MARRI AMON Initial and final detachments in spoken Estonian: a study in the framework of Information Structuring (Seite 94-97)


6.1. Detachment constructions as a universal in unplanned discourse:

6.1.4. Rhetorical and stylistic effects of detached constructions

structures from the stylistic point of view: they create different effects on a stylistic level, depending on the environment of their occurrence (oral language, iconic use of language, different types of written texts, etc.).

Due to the lack of studies about detachments in Estonian, it is not possible to draw an overview of the different effects of these constructions in Estonian, however, we can make some assumptions after having analysed my corpus of oral language (main conclusions of this analysis will be given at the end of the present thesis) and having examined some examples of their use in written texts in the previous chapter. At this point, we can note, regarding the use of detachments in written language (there are not enough examples anyway to allow any generalizations) that the effects we can identify so far seem to result mostly from the use of a relatively marked oral language device itself, which creates an effect of orality first by its formal characteristics (doubling of the same type of constituent, pronoun and its lexical counterpart, segmentation of the information), subjectivity (examples occurring often in contexts of assess-ment, storytelling with a strong personal implication, etc.) and a certain gram-matical looseness, especially in written texts where the redundancy present in detached constructions is not acceptable in all genres, such as in technical or legal texts.

It is difficult to assess to what extent the use of these constructions is intentional or iconic in, for example, fictional texts, taking into account the fact that in these environments the occurrences do not always display other features typical to oral language, i.e. the sequences in question are not specifically presented as uses of oral speech. The main effects may thus be associated to the subjectivity and stylistic intentions in a more narrow sense. This question merits a more thorough research with an appropriate corpus.

To these considerations we can also add some ideas advanced by N. E. Enkvist (1975: 108–113) about iconic cohesion in texts: these phenomena, however, concern not only the domain of stylistics, but also narratology and text linguistics and stylistics. He uses the central notion of “iconic cohesion”, defined as phenomena influencing the cohesion of a text, stemming from the fact that some part of the text is the reproduction of another part of the text (ibid: 108); the main types of isomorphism described by the author are phonetic phonological and syntactic iconicism. Phonetical iconicism is subject to changes from one speaker to another (in rhythm, for instance) whereas phono-logical iconicism remains as such independently of different language users.

The detached constructions that are under investigation here can also in some types of texts be considered to represent a certain iconicism: for instance, these phenomena can occur in narrative texts where a speaker is either presenting a list of elements, making repetitions or resuming a sequence using elements that have been already been introduced before.


The examples of some other languages tend to show that the gram-maticalization of detached constructions and the multiplicity of stylistic and rhetorical effects are interdependent. In French, detached constructions are described as helping to create special rhetorical/stylistic effects in different registers like journalistic discourse, advertisements, theatre texts etc. However, it would not be appropriate to automatically make a direct link between the effects of this construction in oral language and in written language, as, for example, Blasco-Dulbecco (1999: 94) explains, arguing that the distribution of this structure as used by writers in fictional texts is to a large extent different from its distribution in the real oral language they are trying to imitate. One should take into account language-specific uses, such as in French where there are some grammaticalized detached structures which are widespread in oral as well as in written language; Barnes (1985: 49) refers to them as grammatically triggered and gives examples of the type NP … c’est (‘NP it is’). In that case, these constructions do not convey any special stylistic effect.

Another interpretation of certain occurrences is proposed by Marnette (2005), who makes the distinction between speech and thought; this allows the cases where there are no special oral features and the type of discourse resembles rather subjective inner speech, comparable to diary posts, to be explained. She proposes a continuum of registers ranging from external speech to thoughts and attitudes (ibidem: 50–63). The next example, which was presented briefly in the previous section, seems to be of that type. Here, the main character is referring to his thoughts he had throughout the whole story.


Kes oli see, kes raius tal maha pea ja toppis suhu mündi, Gotlandi vana ortugi.

See Gotlandi vana münt, see ei andnud mulle hetkekski asu.19

‘Who was it that chopped off his head and stuffed a coin in his mouth – a weathered Gotland ørtug? That old coin of Gotland did not leave me at peace for a mere moment’s time.’

(I. Hargla Oleviste mõistatus, p. 267, translated by A. Cullen)

Interestingly, the published translation does not contain the detached con-struction. According to the translator, he globally made his choices based on the narration style of the main character throughout the whole book: his speech is mostly constituted of long, fluent sequences, he has a tendency to speak quickly.

That aspect probably made him avoid a construction which creates a sort of disconnexion between two main constituents, after the nominal element.20 However, the translator has maintained the repetition of the referent in NPs – one at the end of the sentence and the other at the beginning of the next

19 ‘Who was it that chopped off his head and stuffed a coin in his mouth, an old Gotland ørtug? This old coin of Gotland, it did not leave me at peace at any moment.’

20 Communication by A. Cullen on 21.11.2013.


sentence – this choice certainly also takes into account the style and the rhythm of the original text.

An example from the oral corpus (40) shows a specific use of detached constructions in a context of determining different agents in a sequence which is constituted of several clauses, each of them displaying clear sequencing of information in order to oppose or to identify the referents. A similar pattern of introducing a referent is also used (although not a detached construction, but a presentative utterance (siin on katoliiklased)) in the next utterance which contains reported speech; at the end of the sequence, the speaker reverts back to the past and his own perspective. In this case it can be argued that the detached constructions contribute to the inner cohesion of the sequence, based on the similar constructions that are used to structure the whole paragraph.


et kui sa mäletad Pärtliööd et seal oli

that if you remember St-Bartholomew_night.PART that there be.PST.3sg samamoodi et ikkagi need katoliiklased nemad pidid enda same_way that PRTCL DEM.pl catholic.pl they have to.PST.3pl own kodud ära märgistama ja siis need kes hakkasid neid home.pl ADV mark.INF2 and then DEM.pl who begin.PST.3pl DEM.PART protestante taga otsima need vaatasid protestant.pl.PART ADV search.INF2 DEM.pl look.PST.3pl ohoo siin on katoliiklased neid me ei puutu

oh here be.3pl catholic.pl they.PART we NEG touch.NEG.1pl aga näed siin kõrval on need protestandid need

but see.2sg here beside be.3pl these protestants DEM.pl kohe aeti vardasse

at_once impale.PST.IMPS skewer.ILL

‘if you remember St Bartolomew, it was the same way for these Catholics; they had to mark their houses and then those who began searching for Protestants, they looked (and said) ‘wow here are Catholics, them we won’t touch, but you see here next to them are those Protestants’, and they were at once skewered.’


The most recent Finnish grammar makes also reference to the stylistic aspects of detachment constructions (Hakulinen et al. 973):


Ja lumisade, se on jälleen sakenemassa Lahden maisemissa.

and snowfall DEM be.3sg again thickening Lahti.GEN landscape.pl.INE

‘And the snowfall, it is again thickening in Lahti landscapes’


In this chapter some sets of questions related to the stylistic effects of detached constructions were addressed, on the basis of some studies about French with regards to Estonian, so far it has only been possible to make certain assump-tions; given the scope of the present thesis I cannot attempt a comparison between the uses in oral and written languages here.

6.1.5. Occurrence and frequency of detached constructions

Im Dokument MARRI AMON Initial and final detachments in spoken Estonian: a study in the framework of Information Structuring (Seite 94-97)