Figure of speech

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"Figures of speech" redirects here. For the hip hop group, see Figures of Speech.

A figure of speech is the use of a word or a phrase, which transcends its literal interpretation. It can be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, or synecdoche. Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation. A figure of speech is sometimes called a rhetorical figure or a locution.

Rhetoric originated as the study of the ways in which a source text can be transformed to suit the goals of the person reusing the material. For this goal, classical rhetoric detected four fundamental operations[1] that can be used to transform a sentence or a larger portion of a text: expansion, abridgement, switching, transferring and so on.

The four fundamental operations[edit]

Main article: Rhetorical operations

The four fundamental operations, or categories of change, governing the formation of all figures of speech are:[1]

These four operations were detected by classical rhetoricians, and still serve to encompass the various figures of speech. Originally these were called, in Latin, the four operations of quadripartita ratio. The ancient surviving text mentioning them, although not recognizing them as the four fundamental principles, is the Rhetorica ad Herennium, of unknown authorship, where they are called πλεονασμός (addition), ἔνδεια (omission), μετάθεσις (transposition) and ἐναλλαγή (permutation).[2] Quintillian then mentioned them in Institutio Oratoria.[3] Philo of Alexandria also listed them as addition (πρόσθεσις), subtraction (ἀφαίρεσις), transposition (μετάθεσις), and transmutation (ἀλλοίωσις).[4]

Examples[edit]

Figures of speech come in many varieties. The aim is to use the language inventively to accentuate the effect of what is being said. A few examples follow:

Whereas, "Sister Suzy sewing socks for soldiers" is a particular form of alliteration called sibilance, because it repeats the letter s.
Both are commonly used in poetry.
"An Einstein" is an example of synecdoche, as it uses a particular name to represent a class of people: geniuses.
To say "it was like having some butterflies in my stomach" would be a simile, because it uses the word like which is missing in the metaphor.

Scholars of classical Western rhetoric have divided figures of speech into two main categories: schemes and tropes. Schemes (from the Greek schēma, form or shape) are figures of speech that change the ordinary or expected pattern of words. For example, the phrase, "John, my best friend" uses the scheme known as apposition. Tropes (from the Greek trepein, to turn) change the general meaning of words. An example of a trope is irony, which is the use of words to convey the opposite of their usual meaning ("For Brutus is an honorable man; / So aire they all, all honorable men").

During the Renaissance, scholars meticulously enumerated and classified figures of speech. Henry Peacham, for example, in his The Garden of Eloquence (1577), enumerated 184 different figures of speech. Professor Robert DiYanni, in his book "Literature - Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama and the Essay" [5] wrote: "Rhetoricians have catalogued more than 250 different figures of speech, expressions or ways of using words in a nonliteral sense.".

For simplicity, this article divides the figures between schemes and tropes, but does not further sub-classify them (e.g., "Figures of Disorder"). Within each category, words are listed alphabetically. Most entries link to a page that provides greater detail and relevant examples, but a short definition is placed here for convenience. Some of those listed may be considered rhetorical devices, which are similar in many ways.

Schemes[edit]

Main article: Scheme (linguistics)

Tropes[edit]

Main article: Trope (linguistics)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jansen (2008), quote from the summary:

    Using these formulas, a pupil could render the same subject or theme in a myriad of ways. For the mature author, this principle offered a set of tools to rework source texts into a new creation. In short, the quadripartita ratio offered the student or author a ready-made framework, whether for changing words or the transformation of entire texts. Since it concerned relatively mechanical procedures of adaptation that for the most part could be learned, the techniques concerned could be taught at school at a relatively early age, for example inthe improvement of pupils’ own writing.

    [full citation needed]
  2. ^ Book V, 21.29, pp.303-5
  3. ^ Institutio Oratoria, Vol. I, Book I, Chapter 5, paragraphs 6 and 38-41. And also in Book VI Chapter 3
  4. ^ Rhetorica ad Herennium
  5. ^ Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-557112-9, pp.451
  6. ^ The scientific and literary treasury - Samuel Maunder - Google Books. Books.google.se. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  7. ^ Universal Technological Dictionary Or Familiar Explanation of the Terms Used ... - George Crabb - Google Books. Books.google.se. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  8. ^ Naming-day in Eden: The Creation and Recreation of Language - Noah Jonathan Jacobs - Google Books. Books.google.se. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  9. ^ "Henry Peachum., The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Schemas". Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Bernard Marie Dupriez (1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradius, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-8020-6803-3. Retrieved 31 May 2013. Dupriez, Bernard Marie (1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-8020-6803-3. 
  11. ^ Kevin Wilson; Jennifer Wauson (2010). The AMA Handbook of Business Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Style, Grammar, Usage, Punctuation, Construction, and Formatting. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-8144-1589-4. 
  12. ^ a b Stephen Cushman; Clare Cavanagh; Jahan Ramazani; Paul Rouzer (26 August 2012). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition. Princeton University Press. p. 647. ISBN 978-1-4008-4142-4. 
  13. ^ "rhythm - definition and examples of rhythm in phonetics and poetics". Grammar.about.com. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  14. ^ Shipley, Joseph T. (1943). "Trope". Dictionary of World Literature: Criticism, Forms, Technique. Philosophical Library. p. 595.