A linguistic analysis of Ernest Hemingway's prose style in A farewell to arms

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1966

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This thesis is based on a linguistic concept advocated by Noam Chomsky, that transformational-generative grammar is capable of revealing Intuitively felt stylistic differences between authors. Using a table of random numbers, I selected fifty sentences from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and twenty-five sentences from Bulwer-Lytton1s The Last Days of Pompeii to be analyzed with transformational rules or operations. First, contextual sentences were rewritten as source sentences. Then these source sentences were reduced to constituent-sentence parts and subjected to a comparative study. Of the twenty-two components captured by the transformational apparatus, fifteen showed a significant standard error of difference. Principal among the differences were embedded structures, relative clause structures, doublet expansions, and transformations per sentence. From these components, descriptions of style evolved. For example, an Intricate pattern of embedding and/or addition below the simple exterior of Hemingway's sentences, belying many critics' estimation of overt simplicity, was discovered as were extremely involved, stilted, and formal constructions In Bulwer-Lytton's sentences. In pointing out the choice of words, sentence patterns, and rhetorical devices of these two authors by way of transformational-generative principles, I have proved that the transformational apparatus can capture, in objective terms, the elusive qualities of a writer's style.

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