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Mar 7, 2011

Foregrounding: Halliday

“The foreground is part of a view, picture, etc. that is nearest to you when you
 look at it (whereas) Foregrounding is the action of emphasizing something
by means of linguistic devices.” Oxford Dictionary
Halliday defines foregrounding as a part of the functional theory of language, or what cannot be expresses statically is foregrounding, which was introduced by The Prague School (1926) as the feature of stylistics, that is “The branch of knowledge that deals with literary or linguistic style.” 

Foregrounding is achieved in language by introducing extra-regularity, meant the regularity which is over and above the demands of correctness—rhyme, rhythm, metre, alliteration, assonance are the examples of phonological over-regularity, thus, the two Prague School scholars defined foregrounding in their book “literary structures and style”, as follows: “by foregrounding, we mean that use of devices of language in such a way that this use itself attracts attention.”  Hence, foregrounding is achieved by parallism construction, in which one structure seems equivalent or parallel to another. Both the scholars believe: “in poetic language, foregrounding achieves maximum intensely to the extent of pushing communication into the background as the adjective of expression and of being used for its own sake.”

Let us take some examples for understanding the concept of foregrounding which “is perceived as uncommon, as deprived of automation, as de-automatized, as live poetic metaphor.” the following examples will show how familiar words are used to “de-familiarize” and “de-automatize” the exceptions of the reader, as Eliot says in The Waste Land:
“The nymphs are depraved
Departed, have left no addressee.”

“Let him easter in us.” (The Wreck of the Deutschland)

“Just man justices.” (Hopkins)

Foregrounding means giving unusual prominence to one element or property of a text. It refers to a process which brings something into the most central and prominent figure during a certain stretch of discourse. It can be achieved, as we have seen in the above cited example, by deviation. Another method of achieving foregrounding is through parallism; note the example from goldsmith’s the Deserted Village:
“ill fares the land, to hasting ills a prey
where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”

The basic idea being dealt by the poet is that an increase in wealth leads to a decrease in human qualities. The grammatical parallel in the second line effectively brings out the irony of the statement. The second part remains in the memory because the author intends it to be foregrounded. The opposition between “wealth accumulated” and “men decay” and the consequent irony is effectively brought about the use of grammatical parallelism. Let us stylistically analyses another line taken from Hopkins poem the wreck of the Deutschland
“…the window-making, unchilding, unfathering deeps”
the three adjective in the given line
“unchilding” and
are linguistic deviants. Though women can be made windows, but the poet has used a compound morphological deviant; again “child” and “father” are nouns. Though fathering as participle is understandable, but the class changing derivational prefix “un-” in “unfathering” is not comprehensible.

Here is another example of grammatical parallelism: “I kisses the e’re I killed thee” (Othello). In this case, “kissed” and “killed” are similar in structure, in fact identical except for one consonant in each of the two structures. The words are however completely opposed in meaning.” The grammatical and phonetically parallelism in the act of kissing and killing appears to Othello’s tortured mind at that moment as being identical. Rhymes can also a form of parallelism construction which creates potential patterns which would not occur in the ordinary flow. This draw our attention and such construction are considered to be foregrounded.
Constructions can be said to be foregrounded if they deviate from the rules of normal language.

Let us take the example of Dylan Thomas’s line “a grief ago” normally we say “a month ago”. Dylan has measured out units of grief, as we measure out units of time, the economy of words and deviation from normal rules of construction make the expression stand out noticeably, hence the expression is said to be foregrounded in the language of stylistics, thus foregrounding is the most important unit of linguistics but It is not used in the serviced of communication, but in order to place in the background the act of expression,
the act of speech itself.

Foregrounding is the basic principle of aesthetic communication, it is a creative method of highlighting a linguistic feature, which the artist wants to make noticeable. Jakobson is primarily concerned with the study of the artistic emphasis on foregrounding procedures—the language of literature is foregrounding against the background of conventional linguistic forms of expressions and observes “poetry is organized violence on ordinary speech”.


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