Language and Linguistics

6 Literary marks and their characteristics in detail

Literary marks

The marks of literariness are those special linguistic and formal properties that distinguish literary texts of those who are not. In general, a literary text can be defined as a writing whose purpose is to tell a story or to entertain. Its main function is usually aesthetic, but it can contain meaningful messages. 6 Literary marks and their characteristics

The concept of literary marks is associated with the school of Russian formalism led by Roman Jakobson. These formalists viewed poetry as a language that is peculiarly self-aware. Therefore, the poems were not composed of images, ideas, symbols, social forces or intentions, but of words.

In this way, literariness is closely linked with the particular use of language; in this case, the literary language. This is used in such a way that it moves away from the familiar, the every day, and is presented to the reader from a new perspective. In poetry, these particular uses include rhyme , alliteration, and hyperbole.

Likewise, marks of literariness can be found in prose and drama. These are used not only to beautify the piece and convey aesthetic value, but also to give it a deeper meaning.

It is very frequent that in these pieces of literature preference is given to connotative , ambiguous, subjective language and with a polysemic character.

Brief description of some literary brands

Connotative language

Connotation is the essence of literary language. Therefore, it is one of the literary brands par excellence. Connotative language refers to the many possibilities of interpretation depending on the literary and personal context of the reader.

In this sense, the words in the literary pieces are evocative. Its semantic value therefore does not depend on the explicit code of the language. These are full of passions, ideas, emotional charges and moods. 6 Literary marks and their characteristics

Multi-meaning or polysemy

Another of the most relevant literary marks is polysemy. This word comes from a Greek term that translates many signs.

Thus, polysemy is the association of a word with two or more different meanings. In literature, it is used to refer to the multiple interpretations that the same literary text can have.

Predominance of the poetic function

Literary language is not limited to the communication of ideas, but has the purpose of trying to influence the reader’s mood to live emotions and feelings . For this reason, one of the marks of literariness is the predominance of the poetic (aesthetic) function over the referential (denotative) function. 6 Literary marks and their characteristics

Special use of syntax

Syntax is a set of rules in a language. It determines what combinations of words from different parts of speech should be used to convey a complete thought.

Now, one of the marks of literariness is the flexibility in the syntactic rules. Thus, for example, the order of words in poetry can be changed to achieve certain artistic effects. Some of these effects are to produce a certain rhythm or melody in the lines, to achieve emphasis, and to increase the connection between two words.

On the other hand, certain use of syntax can also affect the nature of a prose text. This can enhance your meanings and contribute to your tone.

Thus, phrases or short sentences add speed to the text. If a serious tone is required, long and complicated sentences can be used.

Accurate vocabulary

In literary texts, vocabulary is precise and irreplaceable. One word cannot be replaced by another because expressive power changes. This occurs even if the idea remains the same.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the vocabulary used and the syntax are closely related. Most of the time, adopting a complex vocabulary means a complex syntactic structure of sentences, and vice versa.

In combination, syntax and a particular choice of words help writers develop the tone, mood, and atmosphere in a text, as well as motivate readers’ interest.

Rhetorical figures

The tropes are the marks of literariness greater variety in literary texts. These are generally used to embellish your expressions and to achieve certain effects on the reader. Some of the most common will be described below.


The use of this resource implies contrast between two people, places, things or ideas. Writers and poets use comparison to link their feelings about something to something that readers can understand.

This is easily recognized by the use of connectors, especially “like” (for example: Your lips red and sweet like strawberries). 6 Literary marks and their characteristics


A metaphor refers to a meaning or identity attributed to one subject through another. This is done to compare, but not explicitly, the similarities and shared features of two entities (Example: Your strawberry lips).

Anaphora or alliteration

Anaphora or alliteration consists of the repetition of expressions, words or sounds at the beginning of phrases or verses in order to give them musicality.

The term comes from the Latin anaphora . This, in turn, is formed by the prefixes ana which translates “on or against” and fora which can be interpreted as “carry”.


This type of literary marks consists of assigning characteristics of the human being to things, animals or inanimate beings.

Expressions such as “The moon entrusted me with your secrets” or “I wove my dreams with silver threads” are clear examples of the use of this literary device.


An antithesis is used when the writer uses two sentences of contrasting meanings that are very close to each other and that have a common element.

Whether they are words or phrases from the same sentence, an antithesis is used to create a stark contrast by using two divergent elements that come together to create a uniform whole.

The purpose of using an antithesis in literature is to create a balance between opposing qualities and to provide a better perspective on the subject.

An example of this usage can be found in the expression: “When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, it might have been a small step for a man, but it was a great leap for mankind.”


A hyperbaton is a literary device in which the author plays with the regular positioning of words and phrases. Thus, the author creates in this way a sentence structured differently to convey the same meaning.

This resource is used to add more depth and interest to the sentence structure. For example, “I only walked on the cold and lonely roads” is a variation of the more conventional form: “I would walk alone on the cold and lonely roads.” 6 Literary marks and their characteristics

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