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English Stylistics Class 2014. Syntactical SD-s and EM-s


Another week, another new stylistic devices! This time such as climax, anticlimax, antithesis, attachment, asyndeton, polysyndeton, break-in-the-narrative, chiasmus, detachment, ellipsis, enumeration, litotes, parallel constructions, question-in-the-narrative, represented speech, rhetorical question, suspense, inversion, repetition.

I will give a brief overview of some.

Anticlimax or back gradation a figure of speech that consists of the usually sudden transition in discourse from a significant idea to a ludicrous one. Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock uses anticlimax liberally; an example is

Here thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea.

Attachment the utterance is separated by a full stop from the first as if in the afterthought.The second part appears as an afterthought and is often connected with the beginning of the utterance with the help of a conjunction which brings the latter into the foregrounded opening position.

1) It wasn't his fault. It was yours. And mine.

2) A lot mills. And a chemical factory. And a grammar school. And a war memorial…

Asyndeton is a deliberate omission of connectives between parts of sentences where they are generally expected to be according to the norms of the language.

He couldn’t go abroad alone, the sea upset his lives, he hated hotels.People say, people fight, people loved.

Polysyndeton identical repetition of conjunctions (cojunctions and, but, or on most cases), used to emphasize simultaneousness of the described action. The repetition of conjunctions and other means of connection makes an utterance more rhythmical. A stylistic means opposite to asyndeton.
Example from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they would not object to know more of.

Austen uses polysyndeton frequently to convey a sense of enthusiasm and breathlessness.

Break-in-the-narrative or Aposiopesis - a sudden breaking off of a thought in the middle of a sentence, as though the speaker were unwilling or unable to continue.

"I won't sleep in the same bed with a woman who thinks I'm lazy! I'm going right downstairs, unfold the couch, unroll the sleeping ba--uh, goodnight." (Homer Simpson in The Simpsons)

"She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom..." (Aunt Polly in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876)

Chiasmus a sudden change from active voice to passive, or vice versa: two syntactical constructons are parallel, but their words change places.

"You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget."

(Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006)

Question-in-the-narrative - asked and answered by the same person.

Here are some cases of question-in-the-narrative taken from Byron's "Don Juan":

"For what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush — for Greece a tear."


Rhetorical Question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. The question might be one that does not have an answer. It might also be one that has an obvious answer.

Rhetorical questions have popped up in pop music. Stevie Wonder, for example, wrote a famous song called “Isn’t She Lovely” whose lyrics begin:

“Isn't she lovely,

Isn't she wonderful,

Isn't she precious,”

Mr. Wonder definitely thinks the girl is lovely, wonderful, and precious. No question about that.




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