Syntax and Literary Terms

Topics: ArtSymbolism

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Last updated: November 30, 2019

allegory
using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to the literary meaning

alliteration
the repetition of sounds, especially initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words (she sells sea shells)

allusion
a direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably common known such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art

ambiguity
the multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage

anadiplosis
the repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause (fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering)

analogy
a similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them

anaphora
the same expression (word or words) is repeated at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences (it was the best of times; it was the worst of times)

anecdote
a short narrative detailing particulars of an interesting episode or event

antecedent
the word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun

aphorism
a terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle

apostrophe
a figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or a personified abstraction, such as liberty or love; an address to someone or something that cannot answer

atmosphere
the emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly by setting and partly by the author’s choice of objects that are described

clause
a grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb

colloquial/colloquialism
the use of slang or informalities in speech or writing

coherence
a principle demanding that the parts of any composition be arranged so that the meaning of the whole may be immediately clear and intelligible

conceit
a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between dissimilar objects

connotation
the nonliteral, associative meaning of a word; the implied suggested meaning

denotation
the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or color

diction
related to style, this refers to the writer’s word choices, especially with regard to their correctness, clearness, or effectiveness

didactic
literally means “teaching”; these type of works have the primary aim of teaching or instructing (especially morals or principles)

epistrophe
the opposite of anaphors; repetition at the end of successive clauses (they saw no evil, they spoke no evil, and they heard no evil)

euphemism
a more agreeable or less offensive substitute for a generally unpleasant word or concept

exposition
one of the chief types of composition in essays; the purpose is to explain something; in dramas this is the introductory material

extended metaphor
a lengthy comparison, occurring frequently in or throughout the book

figurative language
writing or speech that is not intended to carry literal meaning and is usually meant to be imaginative and vivid

figure of speech
a device used to produce figurative language

generic conversations
this term describes traditions for each genre

genre
the major category into which which a literary work fits

homily
the term literally means “sermon”; more informally it can include any serious talk, speech or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice

hyperbole
a figure of speech using deliberate exaggeration or overstatement

imagery
the sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions

inference/infer
to draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented

invective
an emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language

irony/ironic
the contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant

verbal irony
the words literally state the opposite of the writer’s (or speaker’s) true meaning

situational irony
events turn out the opposite of what was expected

dramatic irony
facts or events unknown to a character in a play or piece of fiction but known to the reader, audience, or other characters in the work

loose sentence
a type of sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by the dependent grammatical units such as phrases and clauses

metaphor
a figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the substitution of one for the other, suggesting some similarity

metonymy
a term from the Greek meaning “changed lane” or “substitute name”; a figure of speech in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it

mood
this term has two distinct technical meanings; one is grammatical and deals with the speaker’s attitude; the other is subjunctive mood which is used to express conditions contrary to fact

narrative
the telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events

onomatopoeia
a figure of speech in which natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of the words

oxymoron
Greek for “pointedly foolish”; a figure of speech wherein the author groups apparently contradictory terms to suggest a paradox

paradox
a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon close inspection contains some degree of truth or validity

parallelism
Greek for “beside one another”; refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity

parody
a work that closely imitates the style or context of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or ridicule; it mimics the work by repeating and borrowing word, phrases, or characteristics in order to illuminate weaknesses in the original

pedantic
an adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or bookish

periodic sentence
a sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end

personification
a figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals, or inanimate objects by endowing them with human attributes or emotions

point of view
the perspective from which a story is told

predicate adjective
one type of subject complement; an adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective clause that follows a linking verb; in the predicate of the sentence, and modifies, or describes, the subject

predicate nominative
a second type of subject complement; a noun group of nouns, or noun clause that renames the subject; follows a linking verb and is in the predicate of the sentnce

prose
one of the major divisions of genre; refers to fiction and nonfiction (including all its forms); the printer determines the length of the line in this genre

repetition
the duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language (such as sound, word, phrase, clause, sentence, or grammatical pattern)

rhetor
the speaker who uses elements of rhetoric effectively in an oral or written test

rhetoric
means “orator” in Greek; describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently, and persuasively

rhetorical modes
describes the variety, the convention, and the purposes of the major kinds of writing (sometimes referred to as modes of discourse)

exposition (or expository writing)
the purpose is to explain and analyze information by presenting an idea, relevant evidence, and appropriate discussion

argumentation
the purpose is to prove the validity of an idea, or point of view, by presenting sound reasoning, discussion, and argument that thoroughly convinces the reader

persuasive
a type of argumentation that has an additional aim of urging some form of action

description
the purpose is to re-create, invent, or visually present a person, place, event, or action so that the reader can picture that being described

narration
the purpose is to tell a story or narrate an event or series of events

sarcasm
means “to tear flesh” in Greek; involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something; may use irony as a device

satire
a work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule; style of writing not a purpose for writing

semantics
the branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development, their connotations, and their relation to one another

style
an evaluation of the sum of the choices an author makes in blending dictation, syntax, figurative language, and other literary devices; classification of authors to a group and comparison of an author to similar authors

subject complement
the word or clauses that follows a linking verb and complements, or completes, the subject of the sentence by either renaming it or describing it

subordinate clause
this word group contains both a subject and a verb but it cannot stand alone

syllogism
means “reckoning together” in Greek; a deductive system of formal logic that presents two premises (the first one is called “major” and the second “minor”) that inevitably leads to a sound conclusion

symbol/symbolism
anything that represents itself and stands for something else

syntax
the way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences

theme
the central idea or message of a work; the insight it offers into life

tone
describes the author’s attitude toward his material, the audience, or both

transition
a word or phrase that links different ideas

trope
an artful variation from expected modes of expression of thought and ideas; a figure of speech involving a “turn” or change of sense

understatement
the ironic minimizing of fact; presents something as less significant than it is

undertone
an attitude that may lie under the ostensible tone of the piece

unreliable narrator
an untrustworthy or naive commentator on events and characters in a story

wit
intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights

zeugma
one word that governs two other words not related in meaning

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