What is the best way to describe the language of a novel?
I'm new to story analysis and my teacher is requesting that I describe the language used in The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I'm not exactly sure how to do this or what kind of description she is looking for. Is there some universal method used when describing the language of the story? I feel like she is looking for a more in-depth analysis than what I have.
Thanks for your time.
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There are a couple of academic sub-disciplines ((linguistics and rhetoric) devoted to the issue of analyzing language. The linguistic approach tends to be scientific and descriptive. Rhetorical criticism is aimed at analyzing language from the point of view of a writer -- i.e. learning the techniques other writers use so that you can apply them to improving your own writing.
The first level of analysis is to identify where various parts of the novel (narration, speech of different characters) fall along the spectrum of the `types of style`. The plain style lacks ornament, is clear, simple, and uses ordinary words (e.g. a how-to article or a computer manual). The middle style is graceful, well-balanced, uses ornate language and figures of speech in moderation, and charms the audience (a literary essay, e.g.). The grand style is ornate, dramatic, uses unusual or elaborate constructions and vocabulary, and is impressive, and appropriate to solemn occasions (funeral oration, e.g.).
On a sentence level, look at sentence length and structure? Are sentences short and simple or long and complex? Is the vocabulary simple or are there many unusual words? Are the characters regional origins indicated by uses of specific local speech patterns? Do the different characters use different types or sentences?
Finally, are there any interesting uses of figures of speech such as metaphor, alliteration, etc, -- especially at key moments in the novel?
The Silva Rhetoricae website is a really good introduction to rhetorical terms for stylistic analysis. (http://rhetoric.byu.edu/)
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