Automated Approach to Semantic Dominant Identification as Applied to English Literary Texts


The article investigates the phenomenon of the semantic dominant of a literary text, the central focus being given to its definition, typology and means of expression. The article provides an overview of works addressing the above issues, defines the key tools for semantic dominant identification, and evaluates the results of text analysis performed to establish the relationship of the text dominant to the various types of repetitions which, in terms of text meaning and rhythmic organization, express the key ideas and intentions of the author. The study is based on short stories by R. Kipling, J. Joyce and W.S. Maugham. The research shows that the domination of some concepts and meanings over the others is strongly associated with the repetition of a specific lexicon and its derivatives as well as the frequency of occurrence of lexical units belonging to a single lexical-semantic field. Added to this are the correlation of the most frequent lexical units with different semantic dominants and the existence of semantic dominants which have varying effects on the author’s style, ranging between the non-determinant and idiospecific, e.g. dominants related to colonial policy ideas in Kipling, semantic dominants and metaphorical images of the city in Joyce, “aquatic” dominants and symbols in Maugham. Finally, the study allows for the detection of some background dominants which define the topos and the chronotopos of the texts.

Keywords: Automated analysis, idiolect, repetition, semantic dominant, text rhythm


The dominant (fr. Latin dominans, present participle of dominari, “to rule, dominate, govern”) as a term is used in various fields of knowledge including music, physiology, architecture and literature. The concept itself originated from the musical theory of modes then spreading to physiology which defines it as a focus that concentrates impulses arising in the nearby areas of the body. Ukhtomsky (2019) saw the dominant as capable of transforming into every type of mental content and manifesting itself at two levels: the lower (level of physiology) and the higher (constituting the physiological basis of attention and thought).

In literature, the concept is reflected in Bakhtin’s theory of chronotopos, as well as in the works of Jakobson (1996), who defined the dominant as the focusing component of an artistic work dominating over other components, defining and transforming them. The principle of dominance, or rather its shift from one focus to another, seems to be a fairly common process inherited from physiology.

Analysis of dominant

Analysis of the dominant structures of a text is of great interest to researchers seeking to gain a deeper insight into the essence of the author’s message. Indeed, the research output on various aspects of semantic dominance produced by Russian linguists has been quite prolific, the studies conducted both at text and language structure levels. On the other hand, presumably because the theory originated in Russian physiology and subsequently developed in other fields of domestic and “near abroad” research, becoming a cross-cutting issue, few foreign authors have addressed this topic so far, the bulk of research being carried out by Russian, Ukrainian and Polish linguists (Belyanin, 2000; Bilokonenko, 2016; Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, 2016; Shandra & Glinka, 2016; Sydorenko, 2018; Votinova, 2018; Warchał, 2019; Yatskiv, 2015).

The research undertaken by Votinova (2018) is aimed at revealing how lexical and stylistic dominants of English and Russian dystopian novels are captured in the Ukrainian translations. The author claims that translation dominants are constituted by (quazi-)realia, (quazi-)phraseologisms, (quazi-)onyms, and (quazi-)terms.

Chrzanowska-Kluczewska (2016) discusses the notion of the semantic dominant to designate the most salient element of the poetic text’s complex structure, acting as a clue to its interpretation and translation.

Shandra and Glinka (2016) look at the idiostyle dominant as the prevailing feature of artistic style, a leading principle in building up the structure of an individual‘s creative work, as well as the whole movement or epoch.

Sydorenko (2018) considers idiostyle as a verbal implementation of the author's picture of the world through a system of phonetic, lexical, phraseological, grammatical dominants.

Ponomarenko (2019) considers the cognitive dominant as the basic concept of one’s idiostyle, a mental setting, represented by a complex of dominant meanings that can form conceptual models communicating the author’s views and determine the compositional, stylistic and pragmatic organization of text.

Existing studies are focused primarily on finding dominants in particular texts, which restricts the research and allows conclusions to be drawn solely in relation to the text under study. However, the search for a dominant based on the analysis of specific parameters can be done on a larger scale using automated tools that allow for processing big amounts of text data. This is essential for making conclusions regarding the peculiarities of an idiostyle based on the author’s entire work, including their themes and ideas, motives, plots, as well as the complexity of the phenomenon of dominance itself. Thus, the relevance of this work is guided by the need for experimental research on the automation of literary text analysis from the perspective of semantic dominant expression.

Problem Statement

Literary criticism disposes of multiple studies of the dominant, focusing on such aspects as its basic properties and functions, its interaction with psychological processes, its nature and hierarchical structure. The linguistics of text distinguishes between lexical and grammatical dominants (Moskalskaya 1981; Shendels, 1987), categorial (Bondarko, 2001), stylistic textual (Chernyavskaya, 2014) semantic (Volkov & Volkova, 2014) and rhematic dominants (Zolotova, 2007), linguistic, cultural, aesthetic, spiritual, psychological, sociological, emotiological and complex textual constants (Kazarin, 1999), functional (Schweizer, 1988) and typological dominants (Shutemova, 2015). Considered in an integrated way, these theories allow for a multifaceted characteristic of the dominant, with a special emphasis on the emotional-semantic dominant seen as generalizing various types of domination. Human behaviour being viewed through the lens of physiological and psychological factors, the analysis of a literary text is above all centered on the emotional and conceptual nature of the dominant.

In Vygotsky’s (1996) theory the dominant indicates the possibility of comparison and flexible correlation of isolated images of reality perception, which in a certain textual complex function as a single system of speech-meaning generation. The emotional dominant guides the creative activity of the recipient aimed at reaching an understanding the author’s message.

Belyanin (2000) develops a psycholinguistic typology of literary texts based on the criterion of emotional-semantic dominance, where the dominant is defined as a system of cognitive and emotive reference standards characteristic of a particular type of personality and serving as a psychological basis for direct and metaphorical expression of the world picture in a text. Belyanin (2000) distinguishes six types of texts, each with a corresponding set of themes and plots which correlate with the lexical units employed, the list including “light”, “dark”, “sad”, “fun”, “beautiful” and “complex” texts.

Khizroeva (2009) explores vocabulary with a negative emotional colouring in Mansfield’s story “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”. The analysis of the lexical aspect consists in establishing a cluster of content words with the connotative value of depression which develop synonymous meanings in the context, thus forming a correspondent semantic field. The study of the text lexicon is complemented by a research into the grammar level of the text at which unfinished sentences, questions and exclamations enhance the emotional-semantic dominant of guilt and remorse, which causes the author to characterize the text as «sad», with a strong focus on depression.

In Volkov and Volkova’s (2014) theory, the notion of semantic dominance is viewed as intersecting with the concepts of keywords and motives. However, the authors are skeptical of considering the frequency of lexicon in the text as the only dominant marker, claiming that the uniqueness or low frequency of certain words stand for a manifestation of the author’s particularly sensitive attitude to their denotata.

Valentinova et al. (2016) distinguishes three stages of text dominant functioning: pre-textual, existing in the form of the writer’s intention, textual proper seeing the dominant “come to life”, and post-textual arising in the reader’s mind when the stimulus is renewed. The specificity of the dominant activity can be seen in the regularity and stability of its manifestations, the principle leading to the idea of text rhythm defined here as a periodic manifestation of phonetic, lexical and grammatical means of expression within a rhythmic unit, as well as a periodic sequence of text parts and an ordered change of elements of the text narrative structure and imagery.

Text rhythm stands in close contact with the repetition of keywords as a means of dominant creation. According to Bolotnova (2009), keywords are intentionally chosen by the author as essential for the expression of their themes and ideas.

In her research into Tvardovsky’s poetics, Devina (2011) argues that the author’s modality finds expression at the grammar, lexical, phraseological, syntactic, stylistic and compositional levels. Semantic dominants function as centerpoints where the means of modality expression converge. The researcher discovers three semantic dominants – those of movement, space and time, represented primarily at the lexical level of the text and “supported” by certain structures at the syntax and compositional levels.

Rogovskaya’s (2004) research based on the works of modern American authors shows that the emotional dominant conditions the adequacy of translation. The author proposes the following algorithm for identifying the emotional dominant of text: 1) estimating the level of emotion experienced by recipients when perceiving the dominant emotion of the text; 2) defining the structural elements (emotional cues) of literary text; 3) comparing the dominanting personal meaning and the dominanting esthetisized emotion of literary text. To define the emotional-semantic structure of the text, selected keywords representing the semantic nuclei of the text are used (Rogovskaya, 2004).

Research Questions

As has been mentioned previously, there is little foreign research into the problem of the dominant. Chrzanowska-Kluczewska’s (2016) work should be mentioned though. Based on Barańczak’s research into the semantic dominant, renames it the stylistic dominant claiming that the semantic content is inseparably tied to a peculiar instrumentation (the totality of the sound, rhyme and rhythm effects). The author assumes that the means of the semantic / stylistic dominant formation can be attributed to one of the three organizational levels at which tropes appear: 1) the level of microtropes (within a phrasal or sentential scope); 2) the level of macrotropes (often an overt chain or cluster of tropes) and 3) highest level of megatropes (which have to be deduced from the text as an entirety) (Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, 2016). The core means forming the dominant of poetic text involve rhyming repetition, assonance, alliteration, homophony, meter, tropes, length of particular lines, specific punctuation, enjambments, elliptical syntactic structure, archaisms, antithesis, non-canonical word order, parallelism, typography and shape of the poem etc. (Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, 2016).

Balcerzan (2008) points out the importance of understanding the coexistence of several dominants in the text, the “game of several dominants never played out to the end” (p. 15, translation E. Chrzanowska-Kluczewska).

The study in hand focuses on the semantic dominant of text, which certainly involves a stylistic aspect, being based on the principle of regularity and repeatability of a lexicon in the text as well as certain stylistic figures determining the text’s rhythmic structure. Given the complexity of the text dominant as well as the diversity of its manifestations, it should be treated as a semantic-stylistic one. The principle of repetition regularity is expressed both in the analysis of the most frequent vocabulary of the text (keywords) and in the use of stylistic figures containing repetition in their structure (anaphora, epiphora, simploce, epanalepsis, epizeuxis, anadiplosis, diacope and polysindeton), the choice being based on the peculiarities of their structure as well as a relative simplicity of rules for their automated search.

Purpose of the Study

In this context, we define the main purpose of the study as automated search for the semantic dominant of a literary text as applied to British short fiction. The main objectives of the research involve (1) summarizing the current works on the study of the text dominant, (2) establishing the basic criteria for the definition of the text dominant including those based on rhythm indicators, (3) exploring the possibilities of the Prose Rhythm Detector automated tool in finding the semantic dominant in English literary texts, (4) specifying semantic dominant parameters for an aggregate of English texts.

Research Methods

The ProseRhythmDetector (PRD) tool was used to conduct the search for the above stylistic figures, as well as determine the frequency of vocabulary occurrence in English authors. The technical parameters and capabilities of the tool are described in our previously published articles (Lagutina et al., 2020). Since this is an automated tool, it implies a researcher’s involvement in rhythmic device analysis, their role seen in differentiating between the controversial or borderline cases, whose occurrence is basically attributable to the problem of setting explicit criteria for the automatic search of a particular device (Anonymous et al., 2019).

The tool generally does a good job distinguishing between rhythmic devices (Lagutina et al., 2021), the main pitfalls occurring when defining the stylistic nature of repeated pronouns and certain types of function words to differentiate between, e.g., a pronominal anaphora and a random repetition of pronouns being of no importance to the sentence meaning or message. The above questions the appropriateness of including words repeated in this manner to the list of keywords or the list of dominants.

Another problem lies in separating rhythmic devices based on notional word repetition in the positions different in relation to the main element and thus dependent on the punctuation, which becomes the only means of distinguishing between them (e.g. epizeuxis and anadiplosis).

These problems are compounded by different interpretations of rhythmic devices for different languages, which results in the lack of common view on such means as anadiplosis, epanalepsis, diacope, and epizeuxis.


The study of the semantic dominant was conducted on short stories by R. Kipling (“Plain Tales from the Hills”, 1888), J. Joyce (“Dubliners”, 1914) and W.S. Maugham (“The Тгеmbling of а Leaf: Little Stories of the South Sea Islands”, 1921). The choice of the genre is not fortuitous. It allows coverage of more than one literary piece at once thus providing for more objective conclusions. Short stories ensure a more thorough analysis seeking to verify the statistical data collected automatically (see Research methods). At the same time the stories from the same series are integrated into a coherent whole, which offers grounds for an assumption that they share the semantic dominant along with the general theme, message and narrative line. The above collections of short stories are comparable in their creation time, and though belonging to authors of different literary streams they all bear traces of the leading trends in the literature of the period encompassing realism, romanticism and early modernism (J. Joyce in the first place). The stories of the three collections are site-specific being set in India (R. Kipling), the Pacific Islands (W.S. Maugham) and Dublin (J. Joyce), the factor that did not come amiss when choosing the study material.

As has been mentioned above the criteria for semantic dominant identification involve absolute frequency of occurrence, occurrence in more than one story, inclusion in stylistic (syntactic) devices based on repetition.

The analysis showed the following results.

The semantic dominants of R. Kipling’s stories “Plain Tales from the Hills” undoubtedly include men and women relationship (man (men) – 462 uses, mr – 25, master – 15, mrs – 204 uses, woman (women) – 126, miss – 83, lady – 34), love (love (and derivatives lover, beloved) – 86 uses), family and marriage (marry, marriage – 80 uses, home – 75, wife – 109, husband – 29, son – 33, child(ren) – 29, daughter – 20, baby – 18, family – 9), house (house – 63 uses, room 77, door – 17, wall – 15, verandah – 14, floor – 11, garden – 9) – issues that Kipling’s readership must have displayed continuing interest to. In addition, a family or a household is a society in the miniature with which you can show the laws and rules of the game, standards and deviations, the problems and vulnerabilities of human relations, values, morals and beliefs.

A separate layer of dominant meanings is associated with the United Kingdom’s colonial policy in India. These meanings are primarily represented by the “military” vocabulary – colonel (92 uses), major (60), regiment (54), subaltern (39), hussar (22), sergeant (16), commissioner (16), officer (13), army (9), peace (7) war (4) etc., vocabulary associated with war – horse (120 uses), social and political vocabulary – government (60 uses), office (55), station (48), viceroy (39), state (19), border (8), empire (9), empress (4), queen (3). Neither can we ignore the “English (Englishman) – native” (62 и 66 uses respectively) including the “sahib (27 uses) and memsahib (13 uses)” correlation. The contextual analysis of the stories reveals that English imperial policy in India is presented in a positive or neutral light, which is consistent with the critics’ general opinion of R. Kipling’s political views which are reflected in the “bard of imperialism” cliché periphrasis.

Many critics note the influence of Kipling’s journalist habits on his writing style. A skilful reporter, Kipling made his works concise, filling them with the insight, the power of observation. He was distinguished by the precision of style and the ability to choose the most typical and the most essential “from the thick of things” (Sklyar, 1979). In his stories, Kipling strives to be truthful, appealing to other people’s words (said (say, says) – 468 uses, know (knew) and derivatives knowledge, (un)known – 308 uses, tell (told) – 130, think (thought) – 123, write (wrote) – 62, explain (explanation) – 36, prove – 25, answer – 18, question – 14, state (statement) – 11, report – 6 etc.), observations (see – 183 uses, look – 97, watch – 45) and documentary evidence (letter – 66 uses, information – 11, essay – 3), justifying his opinions (because – 75 uses). In our view, the recurrence of the above-mentioned lexical units can also be attributed to the dominant semantic fields of Kipling’s short stories.

The Indian setting of his stories aligned with the author’s commitment to factual accuracy provides for a whole palette of proper names (toponyms in the first place), some of which form the background dominant of Kipling’s collection, e.g. India (Indian) – 75 uses, Simla – 66 uses, Hills – 50.

Kipling’s stories are extremely rhythmic and replete with corresponding stylistic figures – diacopes, anaphoras and other rhythmic devices. In a few cases, rhythmic devices based on repetition include vocabulary representing the semantic dominants. The central concepts are thus reinforced: “Then she dried her tears (…) and said to the Chaplain’s wife, (…) And the Chaplain’s wife soothed Lispeth and said…” (Lispeth – anadiplosis, syntactic parallelism, chiasmus).

Observations on the semantic dominants of J. Joyce’s “Dubliners” should be made starting with the now textbook leitmotif of this collection – the spiritual and moral paralysis of Dublin, and more broadly, Irish and human society, as compared to the hope of a cure and a return to life full of interest and passion for what is going on. The image of paralysis (paralysis, paralytic) itself is infrequent, occurring three times in “The Sisters”, which opens the story series, but the semantic dominant of weakness, lifelessness, emptiness and lack of move forward is reproduced very convincingly by repeating such words as old (over 150 uses), long (74 uses – most frequently followed by “time ago” and “before”), slow (39 uses), dead (28), death (18), pale (15), dull (9 uses), empty (9), ago (11), past (8), fade (faded, fading) (6 uses) etc.

Added to sluggishness and lifelessness are cold, gloom and loneliness – images that can also be considered dominant due to the high frequency of reproduction of the words: dark (64 uses), gloom(y) (7), cold (38), lonely (alone) (20 uses). In critical literature, the words “cold” and “dark” appear as characteristics of J. Joyce’s literary method chosen for these stories, a method of detached portraiture of characters (Kisseleva, 1984).

It is interesting to note that the word “life” has a high frequency of occurrence (81 uses), which brings us to attribute this concept to the semantic dominants of the text as well. Combined with the words of different, sometimes polar, semantic fields, the concept of “life” enters into the semantic cluster of paralysis or lack of life ((less) weary of his life; his life rolled out evenly – an adventureless tale; he felt that he had been outcast from life's feast etc.) along with the cluster denoting anticipation of change and hope of deliverance (explore another life, to see a little life, the genuine pulse of life, wake to life, vagrant and triumphant life etc.). In 10 cases the semantic dominant of life is associated with spirituality and intellect (spiritual, religious, intellectual life) entering into the rhythmic devices of epiphora, diacope and anadiplosis.

The dominant meaning of aspiration for change in life as well as the disposal of apathy and stagnation the author hopes to see is also linked to the active use of such words as young (121 cases), light (72), change (37), new (36), strong (14 cases).

Just like Kipling’s “Plain Tales from the Hills”, “Dubliners” are stories put in the most authentic and true-to-life context. J. Joyce is very precise, almost documental in the description of streets, houses and public places in Dublin.

The meticulous description of Dublin and the elaborately created symbolic images the city atmosphere conjures have brought to life such semantic dominants as “city”, “street” and “house” (city (cities, citizen) – 38 uses), street (over 100), lane (10), garden (10), public-house (7), house (over 150 uses), hall (about 100, including City Hall and music-hall), shop (over 30, including cake-shop, pawnbroker’s shop, grocer’s shop, huckster’s shop, hand-me-down shop, draper’s shop, Christmas card shop). It should also be pointed out that “Dubliners” abounds with place names (names of Dublin streets and city names, the most frequent of which is apparently Dublin itself – over 40 uses).

Just like Maugham’s “The Тгеmbling of а Leaf:… (see below), “Dubliners” are reflective but full of dialogue. Hence a substantial number of speech and thought verbs: say (said) (over 600 uses), think (thought) (over 250 uses), know (knew) (about 200 uses), because (about 50 uses).

These statistics are consistent with the critics’ opinion that Dublin is of interest to Joyce both as a particular city whose life and morals are familiar to him to the last detail, and as a city in general, “in abstracto”. Joyce’s Dublin becomes the symbol of the dead world, the city as an abstract symbol is an allegory of people’s alienation from each other (Kisseleva, 1984).

The concept of “father” (over 60 uses) should also be attributed to the semantic dominants of “Dubliners”. In a quarter of cases the word “father” is used in the religious sense. It has the meaning of “an ancestor, the founder of something” in 10 cases. In other contexts the word bears its direct meaning – a male parent. The presence of priests among Joyce’s characters is most likely due to some involvement of the author in the religious community as well as his peculiar attitude to church and faith. The image of the father as a parent is mostly presented in the negative aspect (e.g. Eveline), sometimes with a touch of bitter sympathy (A Mother). In some cases, an autobiographical line can be traced, e.g. in “After the Race”, a story containing a counter-allusion to the absence in Joyce’s father of any business sense and, as a consequence, his financial insolvency. The concept of “mother” is also characterized by high frequency (more than 40 uses), the author offering a variety of its presentations.

Semantic dominants are to be found in a few means of syntactic expression: “A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles.” (The Dead – diacope). Other examples include epizeuxis and diacope in Clay, anaphora and diacope in Ivy Day in the Committee Room etc.

The analysis of W.S. Maugham’s short stories revealed a vast amount of “speech” words: say – 492 uses, tell – 146, talk – 75, speak – 79, answer – 72, question – 18, explain – 8, discuss – 6, “visual perception” words: see – 304 uses, look – 245, eye – 149, watch – 48 and “reflection and thought” words: think / thought – 237 uses, know (knew, knowledge, (un)known) – 288, feel – 115. This, on the one hand, points to the expressed meditativeness of W.S. Maugham’s small prose, a flair for reflection and analysis of life events and human relations displayed by the author and his characters. On the other hand, it highlights the dialogical nature of the author’s stories, the significance of “talking things through” either with a partner or oneself. According to Pivovarova (2008), the stories of the series (especially the first and the last) “invite the reader to meditate”, the prologue being “the philosophical reflection of the writer on the relationship between the world and man, as well as the aspirations of the individual”, while the Pacific Ocean is the central “meditative symbol” of the stories, their “rhythmic-emotional tuning-fork”.

Lexis associated with the concepts of “house” and “home” also display high frequency of occurrence: house – 83 uses, home – 38 uses, comfort – 17 uses, although Maugham develops them in a rather peculiar way: most of his characters are homeless, they left their home country for various (often tragic) reasons to find themselves at the edge of the world (Pivovarova, 2008). This brings us to point at the high incidence of negative forms in the stories analyzed: no, not, none, nothing, nor, nowhere, nonsense, notwithstanding – over 350 uses, never – 99, un- (negative prefix + adj stem) – unwilling, unfortunate, unnatural, unusual, unconcerned, uneasy, uncomfortable, unimaginable, unclouded, unknown, unused etc.) – over 100 uses). We assume that the writer used them to enhance the rhetorical effect of his language as well as to show the mechanism for the psychological defense trigger in characters in situations of crisis.

The problem of personality crisis, fear and loneliness is another semantic dominant of W.S. Maugham’s stories. It is expressed in the apparent predominance of the singular first person pronouns over the corresponding plural forms: I \ me \ my (over 1000 uses) versus we \ us\ our (slightly over 100 uses), high incidence of words denoting loneliness: one (alone, someone, oneself, loneliness (about 200 uses), fear, pain and bitterness: tragic (6 uses), terror (6), bitter (25), fear (12), frightened (7), afraid (11), anxious (13), shiver (4), tremble (14), shudder (5) etc.

The “man – woman” opposition (man and its derivatives – 365 uses, woman / lady – over 70 uses), a wide repertoire of geographical names and language names (London (10), Ephesus (1), California (1), Sydney (11), Honolulu (23), Philippines (1) etc.), place names (island – 85 uses, harbour – 10 uses etc.) western and eastern realia (cribbage versus ukulele etc.) are correlated with the “West – East” opposition, an opposition of principles and philosophies of life – career, accumulation of assets, struggle for public recognition (the West) versus spontaneity, authenticity and ability to settle for small (the East). Maugham portrays the meeting of Western and Eastern cultures as a clash of civilizations, followed by a conflict of customs, traditions and morals (Pivovarova, 2008).

The author’s thoroughness in presenting the concepts of “time” and “attributes of time” deserves special attention: time(s) (141 uses), year (91), hour (s / ‘s) (39), week(s) (24), moment (46), night (97), morning (45), evening (45), Moon (15), Sun and derivatives (sunny, sunset, sundry etc.) (34), winter (25), summer (3), bright (10), dark (54). The recurrent use of the time vocabulary gives the narrative a sense of graduality and discretion. Second, participating in the creation of metaphorical images, some of the above words reinforce the depression, anguish and nostalgia of Maugham’s characters: the South Sea Islands should be associated with the light and the sun, the serenity and ease of life, however, as statistical observations show that “winter” dominates over “summer”, “night (evening, the Moon and the dark)” outweighs the “sun” and “daylight”.

Idiospecific semantic dominants include those of water and water spaces as well as attributes of sea and navigation: water (58 uses), sea (46), rain (33), pool (29), fall (15), shore (12), harbour (10), coast (8), lake (3), captain (82), sail (and derivatives) (43), ship (38), schooner (16), fish (18), splash (8) etc. It should be assumed that some of these words work for the creation of topographical and background images, part of which are metaphors of life and human soul, the dividing lines in the characters’ destinies etc.

The dominant vocabulary is not only characterized by a high frequency of occurrence, it is, as in previous cases, often part of the rhythmic devices based on repetition: He would wake in the night, the breathless night of the rainy season… (Mackintosh – diacope).

Positional repetition performs the aesthetic, artistic and rhetorical functions aimed at enhancing the stylistic effect of the dominant.


The analysis makes it possible to postulate the dependence of the semantic dominant on the repetition of specific lexis and its derivatives, as well as on the frequency of occurrence of lexical units belonging to a single lexical-semantic field. The effect of semantic domination is amplified by the use of lexical units conveying dominant senses in repetition-based means of syntactic expression.

Lexical units that form the key features distinguishing the author’s style can correlate with different semantic dominants. Thus, the dominance of speech and visual perception semantics may speak both for the dialogical nature of the text and the desire of the characters (through the author’s intention) to discuss their ideas or talk through their problems and experiences (W.S. Maugham), and appeal to opinions, statements, facts or testimonies (R. Kipling). Discrimination between such meanings requires a careful analysis of text at the semantic, syntactical, and compositional levels.

The importance of certain values, especially gender relations, family and marriage, makes certain semantic dominants universal (at least for national literature). Their place in an idiolect can most likely be determined by the frequency and intensity of repetition of the lexis with the indicated semantics and, beyond all doubts, by the interpretation perspective of such dominants (dominants of the presence / absence of a family, home, comfort, etc.).

Some semantic dominants prove to be idiospecific (dominants related to British colonial policy in R. Kipling, semantic dominants and metaphorical images of the city in J. Joyce, “aquatic” dominants in Maugham). Contextual analysis allowed for the detection of some background dominants which define the topos and the chronotopos of the texts. Such dominants are represented by a system of anthroponyms, toponyms and realia.

The most frequent rhythmic means, containing repetition of dominant words (or keywords) in their structure are diacope, epizeuxis, epiphora, anaphora and epanalepsis recounted in descending order.

Thus, the definition of the dominant meanings of a literary work, provided at various language levels (primarily at the lexical-stylistic level), as well as the compositional level of text, is deemed effective if due account is taken of the frequency of the most “active” lexicon of a literary work, as well as of the results of the text rhythm analysis. The study testifies to the possibility of combining these parameters in the analysis of the text dominant, including the analysis of repetitions which should be examined both from the semantic and stylistic viewpoint, i.e. as repetition-based stylistic (rhythmic) devices. The review of works addressing the issue of the text dominant has shown that linguistics lacks a clear system of means by which dominance can be expressed. However, the key means of determining the dominant idea of the work is word repetition, although some linguists do not recognize this means as indicative (Volkov & Volkova, 2014). Nevertheless, it is the repetition of keywords, as well as the rhythm of repeated lexical units, which manifests itself at the lexico-stylistic level, that leads to the conclusion on the effectiveness of these means in determining the dominant, as demonstrated by the English stories by R. Kipling (“Plain Tales from the Hills”, 1888), J. Joyce (“Dubliners”, 1914) and W.S. Maugham (“The Тгеmbling of а Leaf: Little Stories of the South Sea Islands”, 1921), analyzed using the PRD tool.


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Boychuk, E. I., & Vorontsova, I. A. (2022). Automated Approach to Semantic Dominant Identification as Applied to English Literary Texts. In V. I. Karasik, & E. V. Ponomarenko (Eds.), Topical Issues of Linguistics and Teaching Methods in Business and Professional Communication - TILTM 2022, vol 4. European Proceedings of Educational Sciences (pp. 24-35). European Publisher.