Literary Terms: Dialect to Irony

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Last updated: December 3, 2019

dialect
the language and speech idiosyncrasies of a specific area, region, or group. For example, Minnesotans say “you betcha” when they agree with you. Southerners refer to the gathering of folks as “y’all.”

diction
the specific word choice an author uses to persuade or convey tone, purpose, or effect.

didactic
(from the Greek, meaning “good teaching”) writing or speech is didactic when it has an instructive purpose or a lesson. It is often associated with a dry, pompous presentation, regardless of its innate value to the reader/listener.

elegy
a poem or prose work that laments, or mediates upon the death of, a person or persons.

epistrophe
in rhetoric, the repetition of a phrase at the end of successive sentences. For example: “If women are healthy and educated their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work…their families will flourish” (Hillary Clinton, October 1, 1995).

epitaph
writing in praise of a dead person, most often inscribed upon a headstone.

ethos
in rhetoric, the appeal of a text to the credibility and character of the speaker, writer, or narrator.

eulogy
a speech or written passage in praise of a person; an oration in honor of a deceased person.

euphemism
an indirect, kinder, or less harsh or hurtful way of expressing unpleasant information.

exposition
writing that explains its own meaning or purpose

extended metaphor
a series of comparisons within a piece of writing. If they consistently involve one concept, this is also known as a conceit.

figurative language/figure of speech
has levels of meaning expressed through personification, metaphor, hyperbole, irony, oxymoron, litote, and others.

flashback
an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronology of the narration

genre
a type or class of literature, such as epic, narrative, poetry, biography, history

homily
a sermon, but more contemporary uses include any serious talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual life.

hyperbole
overstatement characterized by exaggerated language, usually to make a point or draw attention.

imagery
broadly defined, any sensory detail or evocation in a work; more narrowly, the use of figurative language to evoke a feeling, to call to mind an idea, or to describe an object. Involves the five senses.

inductive reasoning (induction)
the method of reasoning or argument in which general statements and conclusions are drawn from specific principles; movement from the specific to the general.

inference
a conclusion or proposition arrived at by considering facts, observations, or some other specific data.

irony (ironic)
the contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant.

verbal irony
what the author/narrator says is actually the opposite of what is meant

situational irony
when events end up the opposite of what is expected

dramatic irony
facts or situations are known to the reader or audience but not to the characters

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