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Abstract

The question of how texts make meaning has been a source of continuing fascination in stylistics. The charge against stylistics that it generates meanings automatically from texts (Fish 1973) is now outdated, and for many years stylistics has been assimilating developments that have emanated from linguistics, cognitive science and literary and cultural studies. Many of these disciplines have emphasised the importance of the reader in producing meaning from texts, largely, though not comprehensively, to the exclusion of the notions of authorial and text-initiated meaning that were predominant in earlier times. Developments in cognitive stylistics (Stockwell 2002) in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries were at the forefront of this changing focus, though in recent times the rise of corpus approaches to stylistic analysis has somewhat mitigated this movement towards a wholly reader-centred view of meaning by providing a corrective emphasis on the textual construction of meaning. In this chapter, I will attempt to explain how we interpret texts, basing my discussion on a descriptive framework I am developing which uses Halliday’s (1994) metafunctions of language as its starting point. This framework, which arises from my work on the stylistic aspects of critical discourse analysis (CDA; Jeffries 2010b), has the potential to relate many of the existing descriptive frameworks in linguistics to each other. The aim is to provide a place in linguistic theory for the specific kind of meaning to be found in texts, whether they are written or spoken, lasting or ephemeral, literary or non-literary. I will also use in new ways some long-standing distinctions in linguistics between langue and parole (Saussure 1959) and between locution, illocution and perlocution (Austin 1962). Combined, these dimensions allow for an integrated model of textual meaning, which will be illustrated through the analysis of a poem.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages467-484
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781139237031
ISBN (Print)9781107028876
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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Jeffries, L. (2015). Interpretation. In The Cambridge Handbook of Stylistics (pp. 467-484). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139237031.035