The belles- letters style is a generic tern for three substyles in which the main principles and the most general properties of the style are materialized. These three substyles are:
- The language of poetry, or simple verse.
- Emotive prose or the language of fiction.
- The language of drama.
Each of these substyles has certain common features, typical of the general belles letters style, which make up the foundation of the style, by which the particular style is made recognizable and can therefore be singled out. Each of them also enjoys some individuality. This is revealed in definite futures typical only of one or another substyle. This correlation of the general and the particular in each variant of the belles letters style had manifested itself differently at different stages in its historical development. The common features of the subsyles may be summed up as follows.
First of all comes the common function, which may broadly be called “aesthetico-cognitive”. This is a double function, which aims at the cognitive process, which secures the gradual unfolding of the idea to the reader and at the same time calls forth a feeling of pleasure, a pleasure, which is derived from the form in which the content is wrought. Since the belles- letters style has a cognitive function as well as an aesthetic one, it follows that it has something in common with scientific style. The purpose of science as a branch of human activity is to disclose by research the inner substance of things and phenomena of objective reality and find out the laws regulating them, thus enabling man to predict, control and direct the further development in order to improve the material and social life of mankind. The style of scientific prose is therefore mainly characterized by an arrangement of language means which will bring proofs to clinch a theory. The selection of the language means must therefore meet this principle requirement. The purpose of the belles letters style is not to prove but only to suggest a possible interpretation of the phenomena of life by forcing the reader to see the viewpoint of the writer. This is the cognitive function of the belles-letters style. From all this it follows, therefore, That the belles- letters style must select a system of language means which will secure the effect sought, which is an aesthetico- cognitive effect.
The belles letters style rests on certain indispensable linguistic features which are:
- Genuine, not trite imagery, achieved by purely linguistic devices.
- The use of words in contextual and very often in more than one dictionary meaning, or at least greatly influenced by the lexical environment.
- A vocabulary which will reflect to a greater or lesser degree the author’s personal evaluation of things or phenomena.
- A peculiar individual selection of vocabulary and syntax, a kind of lexical and syntactical idiosyncrasy.
- The introduction of the typical futures of colloquial language to a full degree, (in plays or a lesser one in emotive prose) or a slight degree, if any (in poems).