Deviations in Linguistics

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  • Last Update March 1, 2021



“A phenomenon in which a set of rules is broken in some way.”

There are five main types of deviation which are Lexical Deviation, Morphological Deviation, Syntactic Deviation, Phonological Deviation and Semantic Deviation. Now we’ll discuss all of them one by one.



  1. Lexical Deviation:


“Coining of entirely new words is called lexical deviation” It is also called neologism.

In stylistics lexical deviation refers to a new word or expression or a new expression for an old word used only on a particular occasion.

(NONCE-FORMATION) we call new words nonce-formations if they are made for a single occasion only

a. Affixation: The prefix fore is used before “tell” and “see”. But T.S Eliot uses the term “foresuffer” in his The Waste Land. ”And I Tiresias have foresuffered all”

b. Functional Conversion: She boyed her hair. “Don’t be such a harsh parent, father!” “Don’t father me!” — H. G. Wells

c. Compounding:

  1. Related
  2. Unrelated

Compounds usually have a word that is the most important one it is called the head, while the other word is usually the modifier.

d. Malapropism: Humorous confusion of words. Use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound

e.g. contagious countries for contiguous countries

Electrical votes for electoral votes

He is as strong as an allegory. (Alligator)




  1. Morphological Deviation:


“Morphological deviation is an intentional deviation from the ordinary spelling, formation, construction, or application, of words.”

Example:  motel, smog, brunch, telecast.




  1. Syntactic Deviation


“Syntactic deviation refers to departures from normal (surface) grammar.” These include use of

1) bad or incorrect grammar and 2) syntactic rearrangement/ hyperbaton


I doesn’t like him.

I know not

Saw you anything?

He me saw.

She walks in beauty, like the night (Byron)

Beauty is truth, truth beauty (Keats)





  1. Phonological Deviation:


  • Aphesis – the omission of an initial part (unstressed vowel)

amid = ‘mid; alone =‘lone ß

  • Syncope – the omission of a medial part of a word.

never = ne’er ; over = o’er

  • Apocope – the omission of a final part of a word

all = a’ ; with = wi’; of =o’ ; often = oft





  1. Semantic Deviation:


“Semantic deviation is defined as meaning relations that are logically inconsistent or paradoxical in some ways.”


It is divided into:

a. Semantic oddity

b. Transference of meaning

c. Honest Deception


a. Semantic oddity: Semantic oddity means semantic strangeness of expression. It is of five types.

i. Pleonasm: Repetition of same sense in different words.

Example: a true fact, a free gift

ii. Periphrasis: an expression which is of unnecessary length.

Example: using did go instead of went, more intelligent in place of cleverer

iii. Tautology: a statement that is vacuous and self-evidently true. Or a statement which is true in all circumstances.

Example: I met him personally.

Either he will pass or he won’t pass.

iv. Oxymoron: Conjoining two contradictory terms.

Example: deafening silence, clearly confused, act naturally

v. Paradox: self-contradictory statement.

Example: Save money by spending it over the poor

This is beginning of the end

b. Transference of Meaning: According to Leech’s classification, it is classified into four types of figurative language:

i. Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole or whole is used to represent a part. Wheels for car, Pakistan won cricket wordcup

ii. Metonymy: substitution based on association.  “The throne” refer to “monarchy” pen for written words. Sword for military aggression

iii. Metaphor (substitution based on relation)

iv. Simile (two things are brought together and asserted to be one)


c. Honest Deception:

Leech classifies it into three tropes:

i. Hyperbole: exaggeration not meant to be taken literally.

I ‘m so hungry that I can eat a cow.

He can lift over two tons.

I must have walked a hundred miles.

ii. Litotes: It’s an understatement which always involves negation. It’s a sentiment express ironically by negating its contrary. It is an expression which uses negation to state a positive

It’s not a rocket science.

It isn’t the brightest bulb in the box.

She isn’t unkind

iii. Irony: Contrast between appearance and actual reality.


These are the basic deviations in linguistics. Authors and writers deviate to make their writings different, vivid and catchy. These deviations make a writing attractive for the readers. After going through these deviations, one can understand the methods of writing of authors.

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Waseem Ahmad

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