Theories of Style Monism Dualism and Pluralism


Theories of Style Monism Dualism and Pluralism

Theories of Style Monism, Dualism and Pluralism

Theories of Style Monism, Dualism and Pluralism

Theories of Style: Monism Dualism and Pluralism

Style’ refers to the characteristic manner or way of expression in prose or poetry- it is how a speaker or writer represents whatever he says. In brief, to say, it is a way or mood of expression. In any literary discourse ‘style’ is often taken into prominent consideration. Concerning style, three distinct theories have been given rise to by scholars. They are- (1) Monism, (2) Dualism and (3) Pluralism. Let us discuss these theories as below:


This theory of style advocates the inseparability of style and content. In other words to say, style and content are the same things. There is no distinction between the two. It holds the view that matter and manner are innate. Any endeavour to separate one from the other leads any literary piece to death. This theory believes that-

(i) It is impossible to paraphrase any literary writing.

(ii) It is impossible to translate a literary work.

(iii) It is impossible to set aside the appreciation of a literary work from the appreciation of its style. 

The advocators of this theory of style often quote the following lines from Shakespeare, as-

‘Come steeling night

Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day.’

(Macbeth, III, ii, 46)

The quoted lines are metaphorical. Every metaphorical saying bears two meanings: one is surface meaning and the other is hidden (figurative meaning). But metaphor always denies a literal sense. Hence the writings as quoted above are impossible to paraphrase and translate. This theory holds well in poetry, though it finds its ground in prose also.


This theory of style advocates that manner and matter or style of expression and content may be separable. Any literary piece is possible to be expressed in other words, phrases and language and thus contents and style of any literary work can be appreciated separately. Dualism is said to be of two kinds, as- (i) style as the dress of thought and (ii) style as a manner of expression.

One group of Dualists holds the view that language is used as the dress of thought.  In any case, the degree of style makes no difference to the content.

The other group of Dualists holds the view that style is a manner of expression. They believe that every writer necessarily makes the choice of expression while the substance or the content of the thought remains the same.

The main difference between Monism and Dualism is that the Monists equate the choice of expression with the choice of contents and allow no room for paraphrasing or translation. It tends to eliminate any discussion of language or style. On the other hand, the Dualists hold that there can be different ways of conveying the same content.


The third approach to style is called Pluralism. According to this theory, language performs a number of different functions, as-

(i) Referential,

(ii) Directive (or Persuasive), 

(iii) Emotive (or Social). 

For example, we can take the following sentence:

Are you getting better? 

The sentence may be interpreted under a variety of functions, as-

(i) Referential (referring to a person and his illness)

(ii) Directive (demanding a reply)

(iii) Emotive or Social (maintaining a bond of sympathy between the speaker and the hearer).

The Pluralists take account of the complexities of literature and its appreciation. It adopts tenets of both the Monist and the Dualist schools. It considers style in terms of the functions of language and accepts that a piece of literature can be multifunctional. 0 0 0

Theories of Style Monism Dualism and Pluralism

N. B. This article entitled ‘Theories of Style Monism, Dualism and Pluralism’ originally belongs to the book ‘Essays on Linguistics‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Theories of Style Monism Dualism and Pluralism

Books on Linguistics by M. Menonimus:

  1. A Brief History of the English Language
  2. Essays on Linguistics
  3. My Imageries
  4. Felicitous Expression: Some Examples
  5. Learners’ English Dictionary

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  1. Advertisement Writing
  2. Amplification Writing
  3. Note Making
  4. Paragraph Writing
  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
  7. The Art of Poster Writing
  8. The Art of Letter Writing
  9. Report Writing
  10. Story Writing
  11. Substance Writing
  12. School Essays Part-I
  13. School Essays Part-II
  14. School English Grammar Part-I
  15. School English Grammar Part-II..

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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