Ling 131: Language & Style
Topic 2 (session A) - Being creative with words and phrases > Manipulating word classes > Verby styles
|(Semi) Automatic poetry
|Introducing word classes
|More on word classes
|Manipulating word classes
|Changing word class - affixation
|Changing word class - functional conversion
|New words for old
|Word class problems
|Word class checklist
Manipulating word classes
Consider the extract below, from a magazine for young women. Its style is dominated by the verbs, in spite of the fact that the overall proportion of verbs in the passage is lower (9.6%) than the Ellegard average (12.1%). We have highlighted the verbs for you, using a different colour
(Cosmopolitan, February 1991)
Comments about meaning and effect
In spite of the fact that the article is talking about different possible things to wear, in terms of effect, it appears to be presenting fashion choice for its readers as a highly dynamic activity. This article gives choosing what to wear an image which corresponds to the self-image of the group being aimed at.
Most of the verbs chosen are dynamic (e.g. 'twist', 'wrap', 'mix', 'dash') and/or transitive (e.g. 'twist', 'wrap', 'mix', 'wear') and, as a consequence, the other verbs which pattern with them tend to take on similar qualities by association. Thus 'team' and 'wear' take on dynamic qualities not normally associated with them. The graphological effect of lineation forces the verbs to the left-hand edge of the text, which also helps to make the reader focus on them rather more than the other words in the text. This effect is called foregrounding, something which we explore in more depth in Topic 3 in this course.
A "verby" task
Below is an extract from a novel. Write down what effects you associate with the writing and what part the verb choice plays in it. Then compare your findings with ours.
[Context: The extract below is from near the beginning of a novel about a man who is drowning. He has apparently managed to cling to a piece of rock and is struggling not to be swept off it by the sea. In fact, at the end of the novel, we discover that his struggles to stay alive have all been a terrible fantasy. He drowned fairly quickly (he never managed to get his sea boots off) and his 'struggle for survival' was a hallucination in his dying moments, induced in his dying brain by the sensation it registered as his tongue rubbed against his teeth.]
We have numbered the sentences and highlighted the verbs for ease of reference.