UDC 821.111


Bulanova Valentina Sergeevna1, Trifonova Natalia Semenovna2
1Southern Federal University, Institute of philology, journalism and intercultural communication, 4th year student
2Southern Federal University, Institute of philology, journalism and intercultural communication. PhD in Philology, Associate professor, Department of English Philology

The paper contemplates specifications of the pragmatic functions of parenthetic insertions in modern English literature. Works of I. R. McEwan are selected as material base for the investigation as they reflect the modern use of the language in order to impose definite thoughts, intentions and emotions.

Keywords: author’s intention, communication, fiction text, formal structure, interpretation, parenthetic insertion, pragmatic functions, recipient, specification, text structure

Category: Literature

Article reference:
Pragmatic functions of parenthetic insertions in the works of I.R. McEwan // Humanities scientific researches. 2016. № 2 [Electronic journal]. URL: http://human.snauka.ru/en/2016/02/14047

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Literary works of postmodernism are gradually becoming the objects of linguistic investigation and analyses not only from the point of view of their inner structure, but also the outer one. The outer structure of the text that is expressed in a basic structure of a sentence as well as in larger meaningful units possesses potential expressiveness, which makes the text emotionally and stylistically coloured. Syntactical structures are essential components in contributing to the expressive potential of the fiction as syntax is the main structural basis of the text that is reflecting a creative sense of the language. It is undeniable that syntax can influence the readers’ perception of the author’s design and contribute to the more profound understanding of the author’s intention and realization of ideas.

Any fiction text is written to create a special influence on the conscious of a reader, to inform or to impose author’s views and attitudes on the recipient. This fact if analyzed according to the pragmatic approach implies that every text is a way of communication. V. N. Komissarov states that any text has communicative message, that is transmitted from the author to the addressee, some information that must be understood by the one to whom the message is addressed. The process of perceiving this information is interpreted by Komissarov as “certain personal attitude to a text”. Such attitude is defined as pragmatic relations. The received information can have a deep influence on personal interests, feeling and emotions induce a definite reaction.

Matveeva G. G. considers that by the pragmatics of the text one should understand some “aspect of functioning of the linguistic units the choice of is subjected to intentional and influential task of the addresser, provided that situational context is also considered”.

Consequently, the pragmatic potential of the text is a result of the deliberate choice of the language units and the realization of the context by the means of the language (the formal organization of the content). Author selects the most suitable elements of the language for the emotional atmosphere and psychological states of the character  to be created to reflect author’s attitude to the created reality of the fiction, so in such a way the role of author in a text is materialized.

M. S. Chakovskaya states that the text on the level of pragmatics is to be analyzed in the direction from the content to the linguistic means.

The influence of the fiction text on a reader on the syntactical level is created by the variability of the verbal organization of ideas into the structure of the sentence or paragraphs of the discourse.

Pragmatic approach towards the investigation of fiction contributes to a different understanding of the essence of a text. This approach implies that a written text is an action that connects the communicants of literal and aesthetic interaction – a reader and the author.

The syntactical structure of the text, as seen in pragmatics, is a material structure of a complex communicative act. So, syntactical structure is chosen by the author according to his design to influence the reader, to make him think about the information that is given implicitly, to evoke some feelings and emotions, like disappointment, anger, anxiety etc. Evidently, the feelings should correspond to the emotional background of described events or situations. Summarizing works of Aleksandrova O. V., Filimonova O. E., Gaibova M. T. the fact that a researcher turns to analyzing the following issues can be stated:

1. Functioning of stylistic figures of speech on the level of syntax in the realization of communicative intentions;

2. Influence of the syntactical structure of the text on the interpretation of explicit and implicit meanings;

3. Interrelationship between the formal structure of a sentence and contextual situation;

4. Possibility to use one and the same stylistic syntactical pattern in different communicative situations and with different aims;

5. Defining a fragment of text as a complex of pragmatic intentions, which  represent the content of the given information and reflect emotional patterns.

In this article pragmatic functions of parenthetic insertions1 according to the identified above  problems of syntax in pragmatics will be under investigation. The works of  Ian  McEwan are the material for this investigation as Ian McEwan is a typical English writer of short stories and novels of the XXI century. His latest works got a number of positive reviews, some of them were even a kind of international praise. The magazine ‘Kirkus Reviews’ gives the following characteristic of McEwan’s novels: “subtly and sweetly novels that are masterful manipulation of the relationship between fiction and truth”. Critics maintain that they are as funny as they are thoughtful.   The Guardian states that “a reliable pleasure in Ian McEwan’s works has always been the brilliance of his openings”. From the theoretical point of view the novels of Ian McEwan are a typical example of postmodernism.

Parenthetic insertion is a term that was introduced by O. V. Aleksandrova and O. V. Dolgova to describe a figure of speech that is “intervention  into the linear structure of the sentence of a certain syntactic construction that breaks the syntactical links within a sentence”. They state that such stylistic device gives an additional expressiveness to a sentence. As it is known, parenthetic insertions are modal in character, such modality being a precondition for the function of influence. It should be mentioned that parenthetic insertions contain additional information, which in its turn directly influences the interpretation of the whole statement, rather frequently changing the modal coloring of a fragment of fiction. Parenthetic insertions are used in various communicative situations as their content can not be limited to the expressing only one particular feeling or giving additional factual information that is likely to be ignored by the reader’s attention.

I. R. McEwan abundantly uses parenthetic insertions in his works . The functioning of parenthetic insertions in his work is multifaceted and this is illustrated by the following examples.

The most frequent use of parenthetic insertions is subjected to the informative function. Additional information can give more precise details or specify what was already said.  This function of parenthetic insertions is typical for fiction:

He was in his early fifties – about my father’s age – and I knew only what he had already told me.

Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.

Functioning of parenthetic insertions in the works of McEwan can be also defined as expressing of personal attitude towards reality:

I’ll be accused, and rightly, of lying in my statement to the Press Association, <…>, of selling my independence of thought. 

His vision – always good - seems to have sharpened.

Besides, parenthetic insertion depicts attitude to the statement itself:

Also, I had to clear the decks before I could write a letter, and perhaps (do I dare say this to you?) <…> I was erasing you.

This is the case when the information, being secondary to the informative aspect of statement, is highlighted so that the reader concentrates his attention the insertion. In this way the author (or a character) indirectly imposes his own views on a reader.  He understands exactly what he was meant to understand – the actual feelings of a character (in this case his tension and his hesitation). The parenthetic insertion in the utterance can serve as a means of expressing not only the formal content (giving additional information), but of representing the feelings and attitudes of the character as well (self-reflection of a character).

Parenthetic insertions can also give background understanding. This function, performed by the considered stylistic device,  is not closely connected with the influence on a reader, but they  contribute to desirable immersion into the given text, imitating the flow of thought of a real person – his attitudes, uncertainty and conclusions combined together:

What they needed, even if they did not know it, was what the CIA could provide – organisation, structure and, above all, funding. 

I talked of Churchill, not as a politician, but as a historian (I summarised the ‘incomparable’ account of Trafalgar), as the Nobel Laureate for Literature.

He’s about to wake Rosalind – he knows she’ll be thrilled by the sight – but he wonders if she’d get to the window before the comet disappears.

Parenthetic insertions increase the pragmatic power of the text since they are modal in character, so they cause a definite emotional reaction on the given message.

Parenthetic insertion as a stylistic device is used in I. McEwan works with various aims, so the conclusion that one and the same figure of speech is used as a formal structure of communicative act to influence in various ways is naturally driven at. Language of a  fiction text has a special intention to the expressiveness, it serves as a subject of representation itself. That is why the investigation of the formal structure of the text has always been an issue in linguistics.  Esthetic attitude to the language, according to Mechkovskaya N. B., is possible when the formal aspect stops being only a form and acquires an esthetic value itself. Pragmatic approach is developed to identify both the formal structure and communicative value of a fiction text.

[1]  Вводные конструкции, термин, используемый  О. В. Александровой, в работе «Проблемы экспрессивного синтаксиса»

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  9. I. R. McEwan, Saturday, Anchor Books, 2006.
  10. I. R. McEwan, Sweet-tooth, London, Vintage books, 2012.

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