Rethorical Devices

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Rhetorical Terms/Devices

Figurative language is the generic term for any artful deviation from the ordinary mode of speaking or writing. It is what makes up a writer’s style – how he or she uses language. The general thinking is that we are more likely to be persuaded by rhetoric that is interesting, even artful, rather than mundane. When John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (an example of anastrophe), it was more interesting – and more persuasive – than the simpler, “Don’t be selfish.” Indeed, politicians and pundits use these devices to achieve their desired effect on the reader or listener nearly every time they speak. The stylistic elements in a piece of writing work to produce a desired effect related to the text’s (and author’s) purpose, and thus reveals the rhetorical situation.

In classical rhetoric, figures of speech are divided into two main groups: Schemes — Deviation from the ordinary pattern or arrangement of words (transference of order). Tropes — Deviation from the ordinary and principal meaning of a word (transference of meaning).

*Important Note: Words marked with an asterisk* are words for which it would be impossible for you to write 3 examples for your weekly vocabulary assignment. In those cases, please write only the definition, in your own words, and the rhetorical uses/effect of that device, or do what you are instructed to do under those words. Please mark these words that deviate from the ordinary assignment with an asterisk* when you type them on your page.

COMMON SCHEMES — Deviation from the ordinary pattern or arrangement of words (transference of order).

Schemes of Construction — Schemes of Balance

1. Parallelism — similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses. This basic principle of grammar and rhetoric demands that equivalent things be set forth in coordinate grammatical structures: nouns with nouns, prepositional phrases with prepositional phrases, adverb clauses with adverb clauses, etc. a.“…for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” (The Declaration of Independence) b."We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We've seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers -- in English, Hebrew, and Arabic." (George W. Bush, 9-20-01 Address to the Nation on Terrorism) c.“So Janey waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time.” (Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God) d.“It will be long before our larger life interprets itself in such imagination as Hawthorne’s, such wisdom as Emerson’s, such poetry as Longfellow’s, such prophesy as Whittier’s, such grace as Holmes’s, such humor and humanity as Lowell’s.” (William Dean Howells)

2. Isocolon is a scheme of parallel structure that occurs when the parallel elements are similar not only in grammatical structure but also in length (number of words or even number of syllables). This is very effective, but a little goes a long way. a.“His purpose was to impress the ignorant, to perplex the dubious, and to confound the scrupulous.” b.“An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.” (Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God)

3. Antithesis — the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, often in parallel structure. The contrast may be in words or in ideas or both. When used well, antithesis can be very effective, even witty. a.“ What if I am rich, and another is poor—strong, and he is weak—intelligent, and he is benighted—elevated, and he is depraved? Have we not one Father? Hath not one God created us?” (William Lloyd Garrison, “No Compromise with Slavery”) b.“Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found...
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