The Role of Linguistics in Literary Texts

Mustafa Wshyar Abdullah AL-Ahmedi

Lecturer at Koya University – Koya, Erbil/ Iraq

There will not be any kind of literature if there is not a language. That is a language which creates literature and with its features helps it to be more interesting. Richard Eyre; English director (in Kermode 2001: 4) says, “The life of the plays is in the language”. It will become more powerful if more structures of linguistics are applied. For instance, there is someone who would like to be in a situation of criminal investigation, but it is impossible for him to inter such a place. He might be able to get a quite clear picture, by the help of linguistic features, for what he dreams about through following a piece of literature.     Being familiarized with linguistics would let people to understand literature in a better way. They would also think about it in a more critical way and engage to the depth of the meaning.

Some people would argue that the only thing would be talked about is the sense of literature which comes from the heart of a poet, novelist or playwright. They might say it is not very important to analyze linguistic aspects in a piece of work. Toolan (2003) claims that sentences are making a context just like a house which should be made of bricks, posts, beams and so on. But that is not all the work; it is not possible to build a house by bringing that stuff only. They should be bounded in a variety of ways. That is the same situation in a text; sentences should be linked together in a linguistic way. This sentence construction should be in a system that would lead audience or readers to be more attracted. Using various sentence structures, for example, avoids them from being uninterested. Almost everyone wants to see something different. Repetition is often not desired by human beings. Leech and Short (2007) argue that it is not possible to understand the language of literature without a proper understanding of how ordinary language works. There are many linguistic terms which can be used to make the message more meaningful, such as: semantics, parallelism, graphology and the like.

Additionally, spelling is also used as a method to make an impact. It is often used to convey the message as it occurs in the reality. It is significant to remember that spelling does not represent any existing dialect phonetically. Sometimes, when a writer represents an Irish man to an English reader, he may try to use a different kind of spelling to indicate Irish pronunciation, because audience always wants to see something which is so close to the reality. If he represents an Irish man to an Irish reader, he will not need to use this technique because it would be clear for the reader who is represented and he would not be interested in such a change (Traugott and Pratt, 1980).

Consequently, the branches of linguistics which are preferred to be used in different types of literature vary. One branch might be more effective in poetry than novel. It can be clearly recognized by writers that which one is more powerful for the type of the work they do. For instance, the system of graphology is generally favored by poets rather than novelists (Simpson, 1997). The different parts of speech may also be used to make different influences. Hebron (2004) explains that parallelism is used to make rhetorical effects. They all are being used to make a piece of work more interesting and effective because those who these works are created for want them attractive.

Parts of speech have a very significant and main role in literature. Each of them has a function which is not less valuable than other one. Hebron (2004) shows that noun phrases are usually used to create parallelism. He (2004:58) demonstrates, “Verbs are the engines of English”. That means verbs have an essential place in English language. They are the main functions in this language and make an action which does the main part of a movement or an activity.

Those who are familiarized with the rules and techniques of linguistics can think about literature more critically. They usually analyze, evaluate and judge about a piece of literature. It is much more pleasurable for them than others who have not any linguistic background. The reason is being more challenged in the action which they are doing. It is not something simple for them; they see it as a precious device. So, it makes them think and they become a judge. At the end of the process, they can find themselves in the center of the actions. They would feel like a character in the play, novel or poem. Simpsons (1997) supports this argument in which he says that psycholinguistics has a great influence on the reading process. Those who have a background of this science, which is a branch of linguistics, can read differently. They would be able to analyse and evaluate a piece of text. It is possible for them to understand the depth meaning of the text which is not the same as the surface one. In contrast, some others, who have no knowledge about it, may read it with less emotion and sense. Short (1996) says that he has never seen beyond the front desk of a police station, but he is quite familiar, through reading novels, watching plays and movies, with being arrested, interviewed and put in cells. This is called schemata. He expects something through his experience which comes from watching and reading.

In conclusion, the study of language can make the study of literature more valuable. It gives it a better prestige. The analysis and evaluation would be stronger and more effective. It has been shown how different parts of speech are being chosen for different types of literature and to make different effects. Those with some knowledge of linguistics may see literature more enjoyable. Their thinking would differ than others and it would be more thoughtful. They can expect or imagine something which they have never seen before. That is what the study of linguistics can offer the study of literature. It targets to help those who are interested in literature to be more critical and to have a good understanding for it, to obtain what they want through following it.


  • Hebron, M. (2004). Mastering the Language of Literature. Hampshire: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.
  • Kermode, F. (2001). Shakespeare’s Language. London: Penguin Books, p. 4.
  • Leech, G. and Short, M. (2007). Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Introduction to English Fictional Prose. (2nd). Harlow: Longman.
  • Short, M. (1996). Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose. Harlow: Longman.
  • Simpson, P. (1997). Language through Literature: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
  • Toolan, M. (2003). Language in Litterature (2nd). London: Hodder Headline Group.
  • Traugott, E. C. and Pratt, M. L. (1980). Linguistics for Students of Literature. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.



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