Literature and linguistics

Fabb, Nigel (2015) Literature and linguistics. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (

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Literature is the artistic use of language, also called 'verbal art,' to make clear that there are both oral and written literatures (and signed literature). The general discipline can be called 'literary linguistics.' The field is eclectic, and the books and articles cited in this article are a mixture of descriptive, literary critical, and theoretical, alongside work by psychologists. The aspects of literature of most interest to linguists have included the ways in which language cues the structuring of texts (particularly narratives), the indirect meanings (such as irony or metaphor) characteristic of verbal art, and the types of repetition seen in parallelism and in rhyme and alliteration. The most intensive theoretical work has been devoted to poetic meter, the counting-and-rhythmic patterns seen in many kinds of verse. While most of the theoretical work deals with English or other literatures in European languages, literary linguists have also sought to emphasize the 'endless forms most beautiful,' namely the variety and complexity of verbal art found in the world’s cultures.


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