Ren, Shaozeng
The University of Macau

Prof. Ren Shaozeng
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Macau
Macau (Via Hongkong)


Strand: discourse English

Title: Symbolic Use of Lexico-grammatical Features in Discourse

This paper aims to discuss the symbolic use of some lexico-grammatical features to encode larger meanings that may contribute to hyper-theme or macro theme. The relation between the semantics and the grammar is one of realization: the wording "realizes" or encodes meaning. So meanings are realized lexico-grammatically, that is, realized in words arranged according to grammar. This may be referred to as the normal use of lexico-grammar to encode congruent meaning. However, we also find in English discourse cases where meanings are conveyed by symbolic use of words and grammar. By symbolic use we mean creative employment of lexico-grammatical features to convey larger meanings that are "deeper" than the face value of the segment of language in which these features are used. These features are not necessarily used metaphorically, but often symbolically to serve discourse goals. This is especially true in literary works. The fact that a word is capable of different meanings can be an effective resource to show difference in mentality, as "land" in The Good Earth. A word may be given different meanings to make the macro theme progressively clear, as "twitch" in All the King's Men. The passive voice can be used to show a character's status and so can a metaphor. The alternation of character's discourse with narrator's discourse can bring out difference in social position as in Uncle Tom's Cabin.