The stylistic effects of the divided lexicon in English are often used in literature in order to express ideas in unique way, to shape a character or to attract the reader’s attention to a certain part of the text. These effects became to possible due to the consequences of the Inkhorn movement during the Renaissance. The supporters of the Inkhorn movement believed that English language should be Latinized. As a consequence, many Latinized words entered the English vocabulary, but the Anglo-Saxon words also stayed within it. The difference between Anglo-Sacson words which are considered to be low (L) and Latinized words which are considered
to be high (H) created two patterns in English. In spite of the efforts of the Latinization supporters (L) stayed to be the “natural” language of native speakers when (H) is used mainly on special occasions (Adamson 1989, p. 208).
(L) is usually acquired by children as a first language, therefore the native speakers have more associations with it and they feel closer to it. When someone wants to ask his friend about his life he would say “How are you doing?” because the saying of “What is your emotional state?” would sound too official to the situation and even funny. (L) is the language of ordinary social conversations. Unlike (L), the (H) language is acquired in older age in schools and colleges, so it has less emotional charge attached to it. (H) is used mostly in literature, writing, official conversations and ceremonies (Adamson 1989, p. 206).
The differences between (H) and (L) make it seem like they can be used only in entirely separate situations, but in fact, the combination of them can be very effective tool that is frequently used in literature. One of the effects that is made possible by using both is self-glossing – saying something, and then explaining it in different words to clarify the meaning. Sylvia Adamson (1989, p. 217) gives the next example to this effect:
“Claribel, you’re incredible! Do you know what that means? It means
you’re a very naughty dolly.”
(Elizabeth W., aged 6)
In this Example we can see how the clarity of the (H) word is achieved by explaining it in (L) words. Another effect that can be achieved by the combination of (L) and (H) is the comic effect. The use of (H) in situations where is usually used (L) and vice versa in most cases is unsuitable. For example the saying of a mother to her five year old child “approach towards me” instead of “come here” would seem to be inappropriate and comical. In many cases in literature the narrator feels the need to show a certain situation in positive or negative light. The mixing of (H) and (L) is also makes it possible as seen in the next example:
Cassio: She’s a most exquisite lady
Iago: And, I’ll warrant her, full of game…
In this case Cassio describes the lady in (H) words, but Iago makes it lower and more vulgar by using (L) an it creates a negative view of her (Adamson 1989, p. 218).
More examples for the effectiveness of the combined use of (L) and (H) can be seen in chapter 32 of George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, characterizes Mr. Borthrop Trumbull in terms of : “ He was an amateur of superior phrases, and never used poor language without immediately correcting himself…”. In this statement, we can see the sarcastic attitude of the narrator to this character. She describes him as one who shifts in his speech from (L) to (H), and in the narrator’s description of him we can se an echo of Mr. Trumbull’s speech manner. The description combines within it low words like “poor” and “never” together with high words like “amateur” or “superior”. It seems like the narrator makes fun of Mr. Trumbull by repeating his speech style and it shows that the narrator’s attitude to this character is not very respectful. The narrator’s description of Mr. Trumbull’s speech is proved to be truth further in the text. When (L) word like “ask” accidentally slips from his mouth, he immediately fixes it to “interrogate”. He is so obsessed by the “superior phrases” that he tries to make (H) phrase even higher than it is. For example when Mr. Trumbull says “..anybody may ask”, he immediately corrects himself by saying “Anybody may interrogate”, but this isn’t enough for him and he paraphrases the sentence again to “Any one may give their remarks an interrogative turn”. This obsession of his turns him to a comic character who is found in a constant run after a perfect language. He uses the self-glossing but in fact he glosses from (L) to (H) and saying the same things over and over again without a certain purpose. He tries to show himself as an educated person by using (H) but his repetitions are achieving the opposite, ironic effect and he looks funny and foolish. By using only superior language in his speech, Mr. Trumbull hopes to show himself as a scholarly person but we constantly see his slips to a low language that indicate that he is not really the man who he is trying to be. Another comic feature in Mr. Trumbull’s character is his use of high language in a simple conversation. The chat between him and Miss Garth is supposed to be a friendly talk, but he makes an effort to use high phrases like: “I think – he will not, in my opinion, be speedily surpassed”. This phrase is more appropriate to a lecture in university than to this situation and his inappropriate use of (H) make him seem amusing.
From these examples taken from Middlemarch we can see how the narrator in the story shapes Mr. Borthrop Trumbull’s character trough his use of language in his speech. The combinations of high and low language and the shifting between the two styles from (L) to (H) give the writer the possibility to create a comic, character and to express her attitude to Mr. Trumbull. The ability to play with high and low styles in English language give the writers a powerful tool that allows them to shape their work on their own, unique way by showing the reader an unexpected side of a text, and creating comic situations in it.