1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Three Epistolary Tones and their Linguistic Features

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Mar 29, 2014.

    When I consider the art of writing letters, both letters written in ancient times, and letters written today, three styles of writing come to mind. Upon reading various letters, I have found one of these three styles infused in each of these. I will call these styles: Friendly, Romantic, and Spiritual.

    On the first level, there are letters often exchanged by mail or email, which carry the plainest of tones employed for communication between two friends. On the second level, there are letters often exchanged in the same manner, which carry a much more poetic tone, employed for communication between two people who are romantically involved, in describing the beauty or qualities of the other person, or in expressing affection. And finally, on the third and highest level, there are letters which were written by ancient writers, particularly those found in the Holy Bible, which carry a heightened tone conveying great spiritual power, employed by the apostles to make known the glory and power of God.

    My question is, (and I refer to writings mostly written in the time when men and women wrote best, and were most expressive, in all three voices, ), what are the distinguishing characteristics and linguistic devices present in letters of each of these three voices? And how can they be applied today?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is very subjective, so you're going to have to be more specific about the time period (unless you were ambiguous on purpose).

    Also, how many of the letters you read were translated from another language? A lot can be lost in translation, so what you think might be the style of the writer may in fact be the style of the translator.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Or added, or modified with intent. The King James version of the Bible is understood by even biblical scholars to be a very poor translation of the original texts by modern standards of precision.
     
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  4. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    What are the stylistic differences in the epistles between the King James and the original greek? Like what are the differences in the rhythm and the way that it sounds? Is there still a sense of spiritual power but in different forms?

    I guess whatever time period saw the most poetic prose style in letters between men and women. It wouldn't consider it to be our time because we so strongly emphasize clarity today that liberties formerly taken for style are no longer encouraged, especially in academic manuals on writing.

    I have the same question for you that I have for Wreybies.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can't speak for the Bible and how it reads in the original Greek, but I can say that different languages have different rhythm and emphasis because of differences in things like word order. In German for example, because the verb goes at the end of the sentence in a lot of cases, a piece written in German will read a lot differently when translated into English.

    I haven't read very many letters, so my choices are limited to either the first half of the 20th century (Hemingway, Kafka) or to the late 18th century (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams). I enjoyed Kafka's letters the most because he was a very interesting guy. There's certainly a difference in styles between the two time periods, but I think that has more to do with the people they were writing to over the actual time period. Kafka was writing to his girlfriend, whereas Jefferson and Adams were writing to each other and to other important political figures. If I had to pick the person I thought wrote the best, it would be Jefferson.

    Regarding your last sentence about letters today, you have to keep in mind that we don't really write letters anymore. Emails are much more common, and we tend to take a more casual approach when writing them. I would argue that technology more than anything is the reason for the shift in style.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re: 'lost in translation'...
    the 'original' language much of the bible was written in was aramaic, not greek... other parts were originally written in hebrew... and per wikipedia and other sources, the New Testament of the King James version was translated from Greek, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin... add to that the fact that all of the written versions were transcribed from oral versions...

    and anyone who's ever played 'the telephone game' as a child knows that what one ear hears turns into something completely different by the time it makes its way around the circle...
     

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