Luận văn Some significant substitutive figures of speech in poetry


Certificate of originality . ii

Acknowledgements . iii

List of tables and figures . iv

List of abbreviations . v

Abstract . vi

Table of contents .vii


I. Rationale 1

I.1. Figures of speech and linguistics 1

I.2. Figurative competence and communicative competence 1

I.3. Figurative competence and literary competence 2

I.4. Substitutive figures of speech 3

II. Scope of the study 3

II. Aims of the study 4

III. Methods of the study 5

IV. Design of the study 5



I. An overview of figures of speech 6

I.1. What are figures of speech? 6

I.2. Why are figures of speech employed? 7

I.3. Classification of figures of speech 8

II. Substitutive figures of speech 9



I. Synecdoche 10

I.1. Linguistic functions of synecdoche 10

I.2. Synecdoche in poetry 12

II. Metonymy 19

II.1. Linguistic functions of metonymy 19

II.2. Metonymy in poetry 22

III. Conclusions 27



I. Possible teaching contexts of synecdoche and metonymy 30

II. Pedagogical values of teaching synecdoche and metonymy 31

III. Possible activities for teaching synecdoche and metonymy 33

III.1. Making Connection 33

III.1.1. Making Connection Activities for Synecdoche lessons 33

III.1.2. Making Connection Activities for Metonymy lesson 36

III.2. Teaching metonymy and synecdoche in everyday language 37

III.2.1. Talking about metonymic and synecdochic vocabulary and phrases. 37

III.2.2. Identifying, collecting and analyzing examples from everyday language 39

III.2.3. Comparing idiomatic expressions in English and in Vietnamese 39

III.3. Teaching synecdoche and metonymy using poetry 40

III.3.1. Recording initial responses 42

III.3.2. Identifying the “deviant” 43

III.3.3. Paraphrasing texts using non-literary language 45

III.3.4. Rating a trope on a cline 47


I. Summary 49

II. Suggestions for further research 49





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want to label it, in this line, wherein life is treated as a person, more specifically, as a seller. And what does she sell? Loveliness. It is common knowledge that loveliness is not a thing that can be bought or sold; it is not even a thing. Rather, it is an abstract concept denoting the state of being lovely. If we approach the figure as an integral part of the whole poem, we will see what is really meant by “loveliness.” The second line offers a straightforward explanation – “All the beautiful and splendid things” –, and the rest of the stanza and the entire second stanza are composed of a series of pictures serving as concrete examples of these “beautiful and splendid things.” Loveliness is used herein as a metonym of lovely things – “beautiful and splendid things” – and the metonymy thus can technically be described as an abstract-for-concrete substitution. Why this metonymy? What is the purpose of the abstraction? Repeated at the beginning of every stanza, the metonym contains the major theme of the poem and undoubtedly deserves a meticulous analysis. It might be advisable at this point to project ourselves into the poet’s mind, to seek out the reason for her diction. The poet was not thinking about a specific thing or person or event. On the contrary, she was in deep meditation on life – life in its broadest sense – and was trying to arrive at somewhat philosophical conclusions about it. In this context, it is necessary to perceive things in conceptual terms, seeing them in a “stand-for” relation with abstract concepts. “Those beautiful and splendid things” was for that reason encapsulated into one word: loveliness. It is notable here that while beauty is seemingly synonymous with loveliness in this context, it lacks the strong subjectivity that loveliness suggests. Although both beautiful and lovely express one’s personal evaluation of something, to a greater or lesser extent, it seems that if one describes something as lovely, the description is more personal and emotional than when he or she says it is beautiful. Therefore, with the metonym loveliness, the author not only puts us into a contemplative mood, urging us to seek the meaning of life at a deep level, but also expresses and instills into the reader an appreciative and cherishing attitude towards life. This is the main purpose of “the letter” the author sends “to the world.” One of the problems in identifying figures of speech in poetry is that some figure may appear to be another and readers need to learn the rule of unity in literary texts and determine the type based on the context. The following stanza is an example. Helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat Marched through a forest. Somewhere up ahead Guns thudded. Like the circle of a throat The night on every side was turning red. (The Battle, Louis Simpson, 1960, p. 713) The first sentence in the first two lines is unmistakably out of the ordinary. The multiple subjects are inanimate and evidently incapable of moving, let alone marching. The question is, however, what part of it is the deviant? Is it the subject or the predicate? Is the author trying to picture something else, not the “Helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat,” or is he trying to enliven those non-living things by getting them to march? An alert reader of literature, with his/her reasoning, can rule out the latter possibility. He/she knows that the focus of description in this sentence is not those things worn and carried by the soldiers, but soldiers themselves. At first sight, they are metonymically used to replace the soldiers in almost the same way as crown is employed to substitute for monarch or red shirts for players of a certain football team. A closer exploration may reveal several differences, though. First, they are not a conventional metonym of soldiers, as the crown is a conventional metonym of a monarch. Second, they are not commonly used to refer to soldiers. Helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat, separately and in other contexts would by no means be indicative of soldiers, or to be more precise, they are not necessarily indicative of soldiers but can be used to refer to various objects, depending on the context. However, in this specific context of a poem depicting a battle, the combination of all four items helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat, which are typically worn and carried simultaneously by a soldier in a march, followed by the verb marched through the forest, is naturally interpretable as referring to soldiers. And the novel figure is therefore not at all mystifying but on the contrary intelligible to a relatively wide range of readers, as long as they learn the basic rule of unity in a literary work. Apart from its originality, the metonymy is also remarkable for its pictorialness, or its ability to create an image in the reader’s mind, which is one quality the trite crown-for-monarch metonymy does not have. The metonym, or, strictly speaking, the multiple metonyms in the first sentence of the poem, help portray the soldiers marching through the forest with their helmets and overcoats on and rifles and packs on their backs. The polysyndeton in the phrase makes the list of things even longer, emphasizing the fatigue of the people who are wearing and carrying these cumbersome and heavy things. It is notable that these things were not chosen at random. The author could have listed their boots, since they are closest to our legs and feet, which are actually the body parts that help the soldiers march. But he did not. Instead, he deliberately chose objects which can be seen from a distance, and more specifically, from behind, so that the picture is closer to reality and helps the reader see the battle with the character’s eyes, who was supposedly among the soldiers. In other words, the author was attempting to revive the whole scene in which he was playing a part, and the figure works really well in taking readers there. From afar, they can see it actually looks as if those objects are moving by themselves because readers as well as the I in the poem cannot see the people behind and inside them. An important task for the reader is to explore how the figure serves as a gateway to different interpretations of the poem on a deeper level. Why did the author substitute for the soldiers? There are many other ordinary ways he could have drawn that picture, the simplest of which is to describe it straightforwardly: “From behind, I could see the soldiers marching through the forest, wearing helmets and overcoats and carrying rifles and packs.” The difference the actual lines make is that they tell us the narrator in the poem did not see the soldiers’ faces. He did not see them. He just saw their covers and burden. They were too well hidden in their thick and weighty “armor.” They all looked the same, without faces, eyes, or names, speechless and almost lifeless. Even their movement was not evidence that they were living things. They were moving in the same direction and the same manner, like machines, with their various complicated parts: helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat. The implication is that these young men did not go to the battlefield; rather, they were driven there. They did not have soldiers’ hearts and minds. They just have soldiers’ cover, their military equipment. These findings provoke further questions which give the reader even more insight into the battle: What kind of battle was it where soldiers were used as fighting machines? What would be the result of the impending battle when the participating soldiers were already dead inside? And who drove them there? Why did the soldiers have to go to the battle against their own will? Given the context of the twentieth century, with many wars fought primarily for wealth and power, the poem was probably intended to articulate the poet’s attitude to an unjust war, but from a humanistic perspective, it can also win the empathy of people worldwide, regardless of their political backgrounds and their prior knowledge of the circumstances in which the poem was written. It successfully reveals the feeling that, at one or another point in any war, the people involved in it all share. After all, people are not born to kill one another. They are not born to become killing machines. Therefore, the failure of the men in the poem to feel like real soldiers, their lack of enthusiasm and determination, are indications of their human nature, rather than of cowardice or faithlessness to the cause, as some people might judge. They were plainly not so savage as to enjoy killing their own kind. And when being forced to do so in this war, they were not themselves any longer. They were not living any longer. In reality, many of them, like the soldier boy in the poem “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon (1992, p. 45), unable to cope with fear and emptiness and loneliness, did kill themselves, putting an end to, not their lives but their existence. The metonymy in “The Battle,” neutral as it may sound, does reflect and explain this upsetting truth, which is consistent with what is conveyed in the last stanza: Most clearly of that battle I remember The tiredness in eyes, how hands looked thin, Around a cigarette, and the bright ember Would pulse with all the life there was within. (Simpson, 2003, p. 551) The cigarette ember pulsing is in itself indicative of life, as it is closely related to breath and heartbeat, both of which are symbols of life. The image is thus employed appropriately to emphasize how little life there was within the soldiers: it was as small and as weak as a cigarette ember, which would soon die out, in the ‘black’ snow-covered wood. This echoes the ideas expressed in the first sentence’s metonymy. And in depicting the inner death of the soldiers, the metonymy in the first sentence, along with other figures in the whole poem, voices a powerful accusation against war: it dehumanizes people, and kills them spiritually as well as physically. III. conclusions It can be seen that these two figures of speech, metonymy and synecdoche, are significant from both linguistic and stylistic points of view. As linguistic phenomena, they are pervasive in the English language, spoken and written alike, and are attested to be not only a matter of language but also a matter of thought. As literary devices, while regarded as secondary in poetry, they prove useful and effective despite their occasional superficial simplicity, i.e., their being easy to identify. The preceding analyses of their occurrences in poetry, though modest in number due to the space limits of this paper, have indicated that the figures, especially the more creative ones, contribute greatly to the characteristic literariness of the texts, thus giving them a depth specific only to this type of discourse. They paint pictures, wake memories, stir up feelings and provoke inquiries in readers’ minds, which in turn urge them to dig deeper and harder into the hidden layers of the poems, one after another, till the truths, like gems, finally reveal themselves, giving them a satisfied Ah.... They are then overwhelmed with a pleasant surprise and an immense admiration people only have when they witness something beautiful and powerful. These are the true feelings the author of this paper experienced in the course of reading and analyzing the sample poems. Such illuminations, however, did not, and often do not, come right after the first or second readings. One may need to repeat the verses tens or even hundreds of times to him/her self, answering numerous whys, why nots and hows before reaching an interpretation. It should be kept in mind that when dealing with literature, especially poetry, no answer is the answer. The readings proposed earlier in this chapter likewise are not the only proper and “scientific” way to interpret those figures. Some people may identify with the writer; some may find that she has taken a wrong route or has gone too far at some points. It all depends. Each reader may have his/her own choice to finish the poem, as Coulson et al (2002, p. 4) stated, “A poet depends on the effort of a reader; somehow, a reader must ‘complete’ what the poet has begun.” What is argued here is that at least the figures have a spiritual and intellectual riches to offer readers, which could multiply in accordance with the number of readers, and therefore are well worth their effort. From another position, it is noticeable that those apparently highly personal and subjective interpretations do have their grounds. The analyses basically follow three steps: spotting the deviant, identifying the signified, and most importantly, exploring the effect of the figures. In some simple cases, the first and the second were done simultaneously. And all of the three steps were carried out based greatly on global readings of the poems as well as readers’ background knowledge. In the last step, one guiding factor was a series of questions repeatedly raised in almost every analysis: “Why didn’t the author write it in ordinary language?” “Why did the author substitute the signified with this but not that item?” “What are the purposes?” Seeking the answers to these questions entailed a great deal of work. In some instances, attempts were made to paraphrase the lines in ordinary language, or, in other words, to remove the figures from the text; in other instances, the reader proposed choices of words which could have been made in place of the author’s actual ones. Afterwards, the reader juxtaposed and compared the two versions, by interacting with the authentic versions, getting completely absorbed in them, letting them affect her feelings and thoughts, and in some cases projected herself into the author’s mind in order to discern the nuances of meanings the figures add to the texts. The process involved painting mental pictures and activating past experience, which could be factual, personal or literary and making connections between the figure and other details of the poem. At times it was necessary to dive deep down under the whole ‘iceberg’ to see its structure and how that structure determines the choice of one image or diction. By and large, the analyses relied largely on the reader’s rational understanding and intellectual comprehension, though most of them took emotional and linguistic reactions as their starting point. Chapter III Pedagogical implications I. Possible teaching contexts of synecdoche and metonymy While the terms synecdoche and metonymy sound foreign to English language learners in Vietnam, they are included in various curricula for native students. Some English language teachers in Vietnam may argue that these items are irrelevant to their teaching points, which are primarily concerned with the students’ development in communicative skills but not knowledge about the language. We can nonetheless prove this argument unsound by pointing out the unquestionable relationship between knowledge and skills, in which knowledge plays the more important, if not decisive role. As demonstrated in the preceding chapter, both of the figures discussed are so omnipresent in English that proper understanding of them is essential to language learners’ comprehension of authentic materials and their successful communication in the language. Some other teachers may attribute their failure to include these linguistic phenomena in the curriculum to their students’ inadequate competence. They assume that those receiving lessons on figures of speech in the English speaking countries are advanced, both linguistically and cognitively. In fact, various Language Arts course introductions and lesson plans found online show that the grade levels for which the courses and lessons are intended vary greatly from primary students upwards. The curriculum for Language Arts course for grade 4 at Washington County Schools (2002), for example, states one of their objectives as follows: “The learner will be able to analyze how poets use figures of speech to inspire readers to share emotions.” This indicates that figures of speech are regarded as important and accessible even to students at very low-levels. In any case, we can always adapt the teaching objectives according to our students’ levels and the overall aims of the course. The analyses of the two types of figure of speech above reveal that they are significant stylistic features of literature in general and poetry in particular. This has two pedagogical implications: First, we can use poetry in teaching metonymy and synecdoche; second, we have to direct our students’ attention to these figures while teaching poetry and other forms of literature, helping them to analyze the contribution of the figures to the value of the whole work. In the first application, they are an end in themselves; in the second, they serve as assisting devices for literary interpretation. However, both of the learning outcomes may be achieved simultaneously in one class. For the reasons above, we assume that the figures should be taught in both skill classes and literature classes to students of various levels either for their own sake or in co-operation with other teaching points. II. pedagogical values of teaching synecdoche and metonymy Teaching these figures of speech is not only indispensable in skill classes and literature classes but also beneficial to language learners in many other ways. Since they are both based on contiguity between words, they may aid low-level students in learning vocabulary, especially in making connections between their existing knowledge and new items and in organizing their vocabulary in lexical sets. Introducing metonymy and synecdoche in the classroom “can be an effective way of expanding student vocabulary. Once students learn the literal meaning of particular words, their vocabulary can be greatly extended if they are then able to use these words figuratively.” (Lazar, 2003, p. 1) Finally, while some people argue that these figurative lexical items can be learned by heart as new language items, it must be admitted that there would be too many of them to memorize. Teaching figures of speech is a good solution to the problem as it makes those items meaningful and memorable, and therefore, saves students’ time and energy and enables students to use them actively. In skills class, “activities incorporating figurative language can provide a useful springboard for integrated skills work.” (Lazar, 2003, p. 1) In speaking classes, for example, lessons involving the figures of speech can motivate discussions regarding connections between certain words or the rationales underlying particular substitutions either in everyday language or in literature. Besides, learning and practicing using idioms in speaking can be greatly enjoyable, too. In reading classes, exploring figures in reading texts can enhance students’ ability to identify referents and read between the lines. They can also use these figures while practicing writing, both at sentence and paragraph or composition levels. Lower-level students can start out substituting one word in a sentence with an associated word or thinking of situations where they can use some synecdoche- and metonymy-based idioms while stronger students can apply the figures of speech in their own creative writing. If the teacher uses literature in his/her skill classes, the benefit from learning metonymy and synecdoche can multiply. They not only serve as launch pads for improving students’ various language skills but also raise their awareness of language use – as opposed to language usage (see Widdowson, 1978 and Mc Kay, 1982) – in literature. In addition, when students try to work out the meaning of a metonymy or a synecdoche used in literary texts, they are taking the first steps in literary interpretation. An advantage of teaching the two figures of speech in question is that they are relatively simple and therefore can help to build confidence for lower-level students, who have never read literature in the foreign language before and may be disheartened if asked to investigate complicated metaphors. However, for teaching these figures of speech, literary texts should be carefully selected to match students’ language proficiency as well as their literary competence. In literature classes, especially poetry classes, studying these figures is particularly advantageous. As the analysis of the examples above suggests, although identifying source and target domains in the two figures is in most cases, a simple task, understanding the poet’s choice of imagery and diction is often challenging yet rewarding. Studying the figures will sharpen students’ interpretative competence since each example of the figure in poetry offers students with an opportunity to practice literary interpretation. They will learn how to make sense of images created by figures of speech, how to use their private experience to interact with the poem personally, and how to connect the figures with other elements of a poem to formulate reasonable deductions and conclusions. Finally, studying metonymy and synecdoche in EFL classrooms provides students with a window on the target culture, which has widely acknowledged as an integral component in language learning and teaching. Since associations involved in these two figures are mostly cultural specific, including these figures in the curriculum will help promote student understanding of native speakers’ conceptions and beliefs regarding various notions and raise their awareness of the interrelation between language and culture. It is advisable to allow students to compare their own perceptions with the target culture’s perceptions, to recognize differences and similarities between the two cultures. This recognition, in the first place, will facilitate their learning, directing them to make use of the positive transfer while inhibiting the negative transfer their mother tongue has on their foreign language learning. In the second place, it creates cultural tolerance, which is an indispensable characteristic of foreign and second language learners. III. Possible activities for teaching synecdoche and metonymy III.1. Making Connection As previously stated, while metaphor and simile base themselves on similarities between two domains, synecdoche and metonymy rely on contiguity or association between them. In order to recognize a synecdoche or metonymy, it is essential that students be able to perceive the signified as a referent of the signifier. They must be able to organize their vocabulary in lexical sets in which words are put in meaningful relations with one another. Therefore, we assume teaching students to make connections between words is crucial to the teaching of these figures of speech. The Making Connection activities we suggest below can be most appropriately used in the pre-figure phase, as a preparatory step or a lead-in for the lesson. They are applicable to various levels, depending on the topic raised and the way tasks are designed. III.1.1. Making Connection activities for synecdoche lessons III.1.1.1. Making Spider-webs FOOD meat This activity is quite popularly used for learning or reviewing theme-based vocabulary items. In this activity, teachers give students a spider web with a word in the center (Figure 3) and a list of words. Students fill in the web with the topic word’s hyponyms from the list. The web can also be partially filled to illustrate the instruction if necessary. In a higher-level class, teachers can give the students the topic word only and let them draw their own web. This activity either can be done individually or in pairs before a class spider-web is made with the whole class’s contribution. Figure 3: Model of a spider web In a follow-up bridging this activity with synecdoche, teachers can ask students to pick up a limited number of items that they think are indispensable in the web. The task can be made more meaningful with questions for group or pair discussion such as If you could have only three kinds of food, what would they be? Answers to this kind of questions will help them understand rationales behind synecdochical substitutions better. III.1.1.2. Identifying the superordinates The tasks in the two activities in this sub-group are opposite to that in the one above. Students are given a word and asked to find its superordinates. In activity (2a), the result is a chain of words with the word in the innermost circle being the hyponym of all the others. In activity (2b), students are required to find how many groups the word belongs to. The main aim is for students to be aware of the multi-lateral hyponymic relations between words, with one word possibly belonging to several groups. ? ? ? ? ? ? CAT Figure 4: Tasks in activities 2a (left) and 2b (right) is a/an ........ A ............ ........ B ............. ....

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