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229 terms

AP Language Terms

PPT Answers and Terms
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Abstract Diction
Language that denotes ideas, emotions, conditions, or concepts that are intangible-impenetrable, incredible, inscrutable, inconceivable, unfathomable
ad hominem
Latin for "against the man."
Attacking the person instead of the argument proposed by that individual.
An argument directed to the personality, prejudices, previous words and actions of an opponent rather than an appeal to pure reason.
Example: "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot," writes left-wing comedian Al Franken.
adverbial phrases
First, let's define an adverb: word that modifies a verb, verb form, adjective or another adverb.
Thus, an adverbial phrases is a group of words that modifies, as a single unit, a verb, verb form, adjective or another adverb.
Example: He lost the first game due to carelessness.
allegory
A fiction or nonfiction narrative, in which characters, things, and events represent qualities, moral values, or concepts.
Playing out of the narrative is designed to reveal an abstraction or truth.
Characters and other elements may be symbolic of the ideas referred to in the allegory.
Example: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan or A Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Alliteration
The repetition of the same consonant sound, especially at the beginning of words. For example, "Five miles meandering with a mazy motion" Kubla Khan by S.T. Coleridge
allusion
A reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place, or event, or to another literary work or passage.
Generally speaking, the writer assumes the educated reader will recognize the reference.
Often humorous, but not always.
Establishes a connection between writer and reader, or to make a subtle point.
Example: "In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings."
Ambiguity
Use of language where the meaning is unclear or has two or more possible interpretations or meanings. It could be created through a weakness in the way the writer has expressed himself or herself, but often it is used by writers quite deliberately to create layers of meaning in the mind of the reader.
Ambivalence
This indicates more than one possible attitude is being displayed by the writer towards a character, theme, or idea, etc.
Anachronism
Something that is historically inaccurate, for example the reference to a clock chiming in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
Anadiplosis
Last word of one line is the first word of the next line
analogy
A comparison to a directly parallel case, arguing that a claim reasonable for one case is reasonable for the analogous case.
A comparison made between two things that may initially seem to have little in common but can offer fresh insights when compared.
Used for illustration and/or argument.
Example: "We advance in years somewhat in the manner of an invading army in a barren land; the age that we have reached, as the phrase goes, we but hold with an outpost, and still keep open our communications with the extreme rear and first beginnings of the march." -Robert Louis Stevenson, "On Marriage."
anaphora
Repetition of a word, phrase or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row.
Deliberate form of repetition to reinforce point or to make it more coherent.
Example: In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson places the subject, "He," at the beginning of twenty accusations in a row, each as a single paragraph, to put the weight of responsibility for the problems with King George III, whom Jefferson refers to in the third person.
Anastrophe (Inversion)
Inversion of the normal syntactical structure of a sentence. Ex. "Ready are you?"
Antecedent
The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun
Anthropomorphism
The endowment of something that is not human with human characteristics.
anticlimax
In writing, denotes a writer's intentional drop from the serious and elevated to the trivial and lowly, in order to achieve a comic or satiric effect.
An event (as at the end of a series) that is strikingly less important than what has preceded it.
The transition towards this ending.
Antimetabole
A sentence strategy in which the arrangement of ideas in the second clause is a reversal o the first; it adds power to the sentence.
antithesis
A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases or clauses.
Example: ". . .one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the other sees small. . . ."
Example: Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act I, Scene I, Line 11: "Fair is foul and foul is fair."
Oxymoron: rhetorical antithesis, juxtaposing two contradictory terms like "wise fool" or "eloquent silent."
anecdote
A brief recounting of a relevant episode.
Used in fiction and nonfiction.
Develops point or injects humor.
Commonly used as an illustration for an abstract point being made.
Example: Mark Twain is famous for his short anecdotes about growing up in Missouri intertwined with humor and an abstract truth about human nature.
Aphorism
A terse statement of known authorship that expresses a general truth or moral principle
Apostrophe
An interruption in a poem or narrative so that the speaker or writer can address a dead or absent person or particular audience or notion directly. "Oh Time thou must untangle this not I" Viola in Twelfth Night
appositive
Nonessential word groups (phrases and clauses) that follow nouns and identify or explain them.
Example: My aunt, who lives in Montana, is taking surfing lessons in Hawaii.
The sentence above is a "nonrestrictive clause," because it is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence and it can easily be put in another sentence and still make sense. Thus, it is set off by commas.
A restrictive clause also follows a noun but is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. It is not an appositive. Thus, no commas. "That" always signals restrictive.
Example: People who can speak more than one language are multilingual.
Example: Please repair all the windows that are broken.
Archaic
Language that is old-fashioned -not completely obsolete but no longer in current use.
archetype
Meaning: model, example, standard, original, classic.
Elemental patterns of ritual, mythology and folklore that recur in the legends, ceremonies and stories of the most diverse cultures.
In literature, applies to narrative designs, character types, or images which are said to be identifiable in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as myths, and even ritualized modes of social behavior.
Example: Over 300 different versions of the Cinderella tale exist from around the world, and all of them have certain archetypal characteristics: wicked step-mother, mean sisters, handsome prince who rescues the girl. These common characteristics are qualities that strike a strong emotional reaction in all who own the story.
assonance
Repetition of a vowel sound within two or more words, usually with different consonant sounds either before or after the same vowel sounds.
Example: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary," Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."
Example: "Thou foster child of silence and slow time," John Keat's "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
asyndeton
Sentence where commas are used with no conjunctions to separate a series of words.
Gives equal weight to each part.
Speeds up the flow of the sentence.
Formula: X, Y, Z. As opposed to X, Y, and Z.
See polysyndeton for variation.
Atmosphere
The prevailing mood created by a piece of writing.
Balanced Sentence
The phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness or structure, meaning, or length. Ex. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters."
Ballad
A narrative poem that tells a story (traditional ballads were songs) usually in a straightforward way. The theme is often tragic or contains a whimsical, supernatural, or fantastical element.
bathos
Noun.
Etymology: Greek.
A sudden drop from the sublime or elevated to the ludicrous.
An anticlimax.
Example: Within the last decade, the Catholic community in North America has faced its greatest bathos as they wrestle with the dozens of arrests and convictions of priests for child molestation.
Blank Verse
Unrhymed poetry that adheres to a strict pattern in that each line is an iambic pentameter (a ten-syllable line with five stresses). It is close to the natural rhythm of English speech or prose, and is used a great deal by many writers including Shakespeare and Milton.
bombast
Originally meant "cotton stuffing."
Adopted to signify verbose and inflated diction that is disproportionate to the matter it expresses.
Popular with the heroic drama of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Although a century after the height of this style, James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Sagas (Last of the Mohicans for example) are typical of bombastic speeches.
bowdlerize
Named after Thomas Bowdler, who tidied up his Family Shakespeare in 1815 by omitting whatever is unfit to be read by a gentleman in the presence of a lady.
Means to expurgate from a work any passages considered indecent or indelicate.
High school and some college texts are guilty of this censuring
Cacaphony
Harsh clashing, or dissonant sounds, often produced by combinations of words that require a clipped, explosive delivery or words that contain a number of plosive consonants. Opposite of Euphony
Caesura
A conscious break in a line of poetry
Caricature
A character described through the exaggeration of a small number of features that he or she possesses.
Catharsis
A purging of the emotions which takes place at the end of a tragedy.
Chiasmus/Antimetabole
Arrangement of repeated thoughts in the pattern of X Y Y X.
Usually short and summarizes the main idea.
Example: From Yeats' "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," the poet writes:
"The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind."
Cliché
A phrase, idea, or image that has been used so much that it has lost much of its original meaning, impact, and freshness.
Clause
A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb
coin a verb
This is not a literary term, but it confused more than one student. So, I am including it here.
coin (intransitive verb) means "to invent."
Thus, to "coin a verb" is to "invent a verb."
Shakespeare "coined" more than 1,700 words by changing nouns to verbs, making verbs adjectives, making new combination of words paired together, etc.
Example: Olivia: "There lies your way, due west."
Viola: "Then westward ho!"
From Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Act III, Scene I, Line 135.
Some words Shakespeare coined: advertising, alligator, anchovy, countless, gust, investment, obscene, puke, puppy dog, tranquil, zany.
Colloquial
Ordinary, everyday speech and language
Colloquial expressions are non-standard, often regional, ways of using language appropriate to informal or conversational speech and writing. Ex. "ya'll"
Comedy
Originally simply a play or other work which ended happily. Now we use this term to describe something that is funny and which makes us laugh. In literature the comedy is not necessarily a lightweight form. A play like Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, for example, is, for the most part a serious and dark play but as it ends happily, it is often described as a comedy.
common knowledge
Shared beliefs or assumptions between the reader and the audience.
Used to argue that if something is widely believed, readers should accept it.
A self-evident, obvious truth, especially one too obvious to mention is a truism.
Complex Sentence
Contains an independent clause and one or more subordinate clause "Because the singer was tired, she went straight to bed after the concert"
Compound Sentence
Contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon
Compound-Complex Sentence
Contains two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses. Ex. The singer bowed while the audience applauded, but she sang no encores."
Conceit
An elaborate, extended, and sometimes surprising comparison between things that, at first sight, do not have much in common.
Concrete Diction
Specific words that describe physical qualities or conditions
Connotation
An implication or association attached to a word or phrase. A connotation is suggested or felt rather than being explicit.
Contrast
A traditional rhetorical strategy based on the assumption that a subject may be shown more clearly by pointing out ways in which it is unlike another subject
consonance
Repetition of a consonant sound within two or more words in close proximity.
Sometimes refers to repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or at the end of words.
Example: "And all the air a solemn stillness holds." from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."
Sometimes refers to slant rhyme or partial rhyme: Initial and final consonants are the same but the vowels are different.
Example: litter and letter, or green and groan.
conventional
Following certain conventions, or traditional techniques of writing.
Over-reliance on conventions may result in a lack of originality.
Example: Five-paragraph theme is a conventional format of argument.
Couplet
Two consecutive lines of verse that rhyme
Declarative Sentence
Makes a statement
deconstruction
A critical approach that debunks single definitions of meaning based upon the instability of language.
Deconstructionist: reexamines literary conventions in light of the belief that because of the instability of language, the text has already dismantled itself.
Denotation
Exact, literal definition of a word independent of any emotional association or secondary meaning
Denouement
The ending of a play, novel, or drama where "all is revealed" and the plot is unraveled
Dialect
Nonstandard subgroup of a language with its own vocabulary and grammatical features; writers often use regional dialects or dialects that reveal a person's economic or social class
diatribe
From Latin diatriba meaning "to spend time," or "to wear away."
Archaic meaning: a prolonged discourse.
A bitter and abusive speech or writing.
Ironical or satirical criticism.
Example: The challenging candidate shouted his diatribe against the incumbent platform to several thousand supporters in attendance.
diction
Means "word choice."
Refers to word choice as a reflection of style.
Different types and arrangements of words have significant effects on meaning.
Purpose, tone, point of view, persona, verve, color, all are affected by diction.
didactic
Fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.
Designed to expound a branch of theoretical, moral, or practical knowledge, or else to instantiate, in an impressive and persuasive imaginative or fictional form, a moral, religious, or philosophical theme or doctrine.
Example: "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius; "Essay on Man" by Pope; "Faerie Queene" by Spencer; "The Pilgrim's Progress" by Bunyan.
Dramatic Monologue
A poem or prose piece in which a character addresses an audience. Often the monologue is complete in itself, as in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads.
double entendre
A corruption of a French phrase meaning "double meaning."
The term is used to indicate a word or phrase that is deliberately ambiguous, especially when one of the meanings is risqué or improper.
Example: The Elizabethan usage of the verb "die," which refers both to death and to orgasm.
either-or reasoning
Reducing an argument or issue to two polar opposites and ignoring any alternatives.
Elegy
A meditative poem, usually sad and reflective in nature. Sometimes, though not always, it is concerned with the theme of death.
Ellipsis
The deliberate omission of a word or words that are readily implied by the context; it creates and elegant or daring economy of words.
Empathy
A feeling on the part of the reader of sharing the particular experience being described by the character or writer.
emotional appeal
Appealing to the emotions of the reader in order to excite and involve them in the argument.
Makes use of pathos: the quality in an experience, narrative, literary work, etc., which arouses profound feelings of compassion or sorrow.
Pathos is Greek for "suffering."
End stopping
A verse line with a pause or a stop at the end of it.
Enjambment
A line of verse that flows on into the next line without a pause.
Epanalepsis
The repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause; it tends to make the sentence or clause in which it occurs stand apart from its surroundings.
Epic
A long narrative poem, written in an elevated style and usually dealing with a heroic theme or story. Homer's The Iliad and Milton's Paradise Lost are examples of this.
epic simile
Formal and sustained similes that are developed far beyond its specific points of parallel to the primary subject.
Primary subject is called "tenor."
Secondary subject (the simile) is called "vehicle."
Homer (Iliad and Odyssey) invented the technique; Virgil, Milton and other epic writers copied the style.
Example: Milton in Paradise Lost I, lines 768-76 describes the fallen angels (tenor) thronging towards their newly built palace of Pandemonium by an elaborate comparison to swarming of bees (vehicle) that lasts an entire stanza.
epigraph
A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work suggestive of the theme of the fiction or nonfiction text.
An aphorism is a short clever saying parting truth. Example: "waste not, want not."
epigram
Originally in Greek meant "an inscription."
Extended to encompass a very short poem whether amorous (sexual love), elegiac (longing for the past), meditative (contemplative), anecdotal (description, story, episode), or satiric (witty, sarcasm).
Poem is polished, condensed, and pointed, often with a witty end.
In his epigram "On a Volunteer Singer" Coleridge explains:
Swans sing before they die—'twere no bad thing
Should certain people die before they sing!
epiphany
Literally means "a manifestation."
Traditionally, Christianity used the word to signify a manifestation of God's presence in the world.
Irishman James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, first adapted the word to a secular meaning: a sudden radiance and revelation while observing a commonplace object.
Joyce replaced what earlier writers had called "the moment," an instance or moment of revelation.
Epistrophe
The repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses; it sets up a pronounced rhythm and gains a special emphasis both by repeating the word and by putting the words in the final position.
Epithet
An adjective or adjective phrase applied to a person or thing to emphasize a characteristic quality or attribute, such as "lily-livered coward"
equivoque
Special type of pun that makes use of a single word or phrase which has two disparate meanings, in a context which makes both meanings equally relevant.
The art of writing this pun is equivocation.
As an example, an epitaph for a bank teller might read:
He checked his cash, cashed in his checks,
And left his window. Who is next?
ethical appeal
When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect him or her based upon a presentation of self through the text.
Reputation of the author is often a factor in ethical appeals.
Regardless of the topic or over-all purpose of the essay, the ethical appeal is always done to gain the audience's confidence
ethos
Etymology: Greek.
A person's character or disposition.
The characteristic spirit or prevalent tone of a people or a community.
The essential identity of an institution or system.
Ideal excellence; nobler than reality.
Example: "The real is preferred to the ideal, transient emotions to permanent lineaments, pathos to ethos."
euphemism
Originally in Greek meant "to speak well."
Has come to mean: to speak well in the place of the blunt, disagreeable, terrifying or offensive term.
Example: death becomes "to pass away."
Example: "Damn it" becomes "Darn it!"
Example: Victorians first used "limb" for leg or "privates" for sexual organs.
Euphony
Use of pleasant or melodious sounds.
Exclamatory Sentence
Provides emphasis or expresses strong emotion often indicated by punctuation
Exemplum
A story that contains or illustrates a moral point put forward as an "example."
exposition
Background information provided by author to enhance the audience's understanding of the context of a fiction or nonfiction story.
Example: Robert Louis Stevenson gives the reader plenty of cultural background on the small seaside village of his youth in hopes the audience will better appreciate the context of "The Lantern-Bearers."
Extendend Metaphor
A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work.
Fable
A short story that presents a clear moral lesson.
Fabliau
A short comic tale with a bawdy element, akin to the "dirty story." Chaucer's The Miller's Tale contains elements of the fabliau.
Farce
A play that aims to entertain the audience through absurd and ridiculous characters and actions.
Feminine Ending
An extra unstressed syllable at the end of a line of poetry. (Contrast with a stressed syllable, a masculine ending).
Figurative Language
Language that is symbolic or metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally.
Figure of Speech
A device used to produce figurative language
Flat Character
Forester's term for a character with a single quality
Foil
Usually a character who by contrast points up the qualities or characteristics of another character
Foot
A group of syllables forming a unit of verse
The basic unit of "metre"
Frame Device
Overall unifying story within which one or more tales are related. Ex. Frankenstein.
Free Verse
Verse written without any fixed structure (either in metre or rhyme)
freight-train
Sentence consisting three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions
Generic Conventions
Refers to traditions for each genre
Genre
A particular type of writing
e.g. prose, poetry, drama
Heptameter
A verse line containing seven feet
Hexameter
A verse line containing six feet
High/Formal Diction
Contains language that creates an elevated tone; free of slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and contractions; contains polysyllabic words, sophisticated syntax, and elegant word choice
Homily
Literally "sermon." A usually short sermon. A lecture or discourse on a moral theme
hyperbole
Originally in Greek meant "overshooting."
A bold overstatement or extravagant expression of fact, used for serious or comic effect.
Easily recognized as exaggeration for effect.
Example: There must have been ten million people at our Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving.
Or, Shakespeare's, Othello, Act III, Scene III, Lines 330-33 reads:
Not poppy nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou ow 'dst yesterday.
Iamb
The most common metrical foot in English poetry, consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable
Idyll
A story, often written in verse, usually concerning innocent and rustic characters in rural, idealized surrounds
This form can also deal with more heroic subjects
Tennyson's Idylls of the King
Similar to Pastoral
imagery
Use of images, especially in a pattern of related images, often figurative, to create a strong, unified sensory impression.
Use of sensory details to create images that support the theme of the essay.
Imperative Sentence
Gives a Command
Infer (inference)
To draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented
Informal/low diction
The language of everyday use; relaxed and conversational; common and simple words, idioms, slang, jargon
Internal Rhyme
Rhyming words within a line rather than at the end of lines
Interrogative Sentence
Asks a question
Inter-textual
Having clear links with other texts through the themes, ideas, or issues which are explored
irony
Originated in Greek comedy with the character eiron, who was a "dissembler." Appeared less intelligent than he was, spoke in understatement, and triumphed over the alazon—the self-deceiving and stupid braggart.
Greek dramatist Sophocles developed the "tragic" or "dramatic" irony in his 100-plus tragedies, including Antigone and Oedipus Rex.
Four kinds of irony: verbal, structural, dramatic, and situational.
Invective
An emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language.
Inversion/ Inverted order of a sentence
Variation of the normal word order (subject, verb, complement) which puts the verb or complement at the head of the sentence.
The sentence element appearing first is emphasized more than the subject that is buried in the sentence.
irony (verbal)
Verbal irony: demands the most audience sophistication. This requires "reading between the lines."
Also, this irony takes the greatest risks with the audience who might misinterpret what is irony and what is literal.
Might be simple reversal of literal meanings of words spoken or more complex, subtle, indirect and unobtrusive messages that require the collection of hints from within the text.
Compliments the intelligence of the reader, who, by perceiving the irony, is in partnership with the author and the minority of characters who understand, too.
Example: "It is truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice). The subtle irony is that a single woman is in want of a rich husband as manifested by the evidence in the novel that follows this opening line.
Sarcasm: a type of verbal irony that is crude and blatant praise or dispraise. Example: "Oh, you're God's great gift to women, you are!"
irony (structural)
Structural irony: some works show sustained irony throughout the text.
Instead of using occasional verbal irony, the author introduces a structural feature which serves to sustain duplicity of meaning.
Common device: naïve hero or naïve narrator.
Example: Jonathan Swift's well-meaning but insanely rational economist who is the naïve narrator in "A Modest Proposal." The reader perceives the irony of one who, though well meaning, proposes the conversion of the excess children of the oppressed and poverty-stricken Irish into financial and gastronomical assets
irony (dramatic)
Involves a situation in a play or narrative in which the audience shares with the author knowledge of which the character is ignorant.
The character expects the opposite of what is destined, or says something that anticipates the outcome, but not in a way that is meant when said.
Example: In Macbeth, by Act I, Scene I, the audience knows that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have already planned out Duncan's murder—yet King Duncan never suspects that he is walking into a trap.
irony (situational)
When the writer shows a discrepancy between the expected results of some action or situation and it actual results.
The work has a surprise ending, that, although a "surprise," still fits the purpose, point of view, evidence and tone of the text.
Example: In Thomas Hardy's "The Three Strangers," it is a surprise to the characters and the audience when the two strangers at the chimney corner turn out to be the hangman and his intended victim.
Jargon
A characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves); "they don't speak our lingo"
Juxtaposition
A poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, often creating an effect of surprise and wit. Ex. "The apparition of these faces in the crowd:/ Petals on a wet, black bough." ("In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound).
Lament
A poem expressing intense grief
litotes
Noun.
From Greek lítōtēs for "plain" or "simple."
Assertion of an affirmative by negating its contrary. Example: "He's not the brightest man in the world," meaning "he is stupid."
It is a simple form of understatement, often in Anglo-Saxon poetry, like Beowulf, it is a statement of grim irony. Example, in describing the dwelling place of the monster Grendel, Hrothgar states, "That is not a pleasant place."
General example: "He is two bricks shy of a full load," meaning his reasoning powers are not all there.
Long and Involved sentence
About 30 words in length
Loose or Cumulative Sentence
Makes complete sense if brought to a close before the actual ending. Ex. "We reached Edmonton that morning after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, tired but exhilarated, full of stories to tell our friends and neighbors." The sentence could end before the modifying phrases without losing its coherence.
Lyric
Originally a song performed to the accompaniment of a lyre (an early harp-like instrument) but now it can mean a song-like poem or a short poem expressing personal feeling
Medium Sentence
Approximately 18 words in length
melodramatic redundancy
This AP exam phrase incorporates two terms: melodramatic and redundancy.
Melodramatic: exaggerated, sensational, overly dramatic.
Redundancy: the state of being unnecessarily repetitive or superfluous
Thus, melodramatic redundancy means, "unnecessary repetition that is exaggerated, sensational and overly dramatic."
metaphor
A figure of speech that compares two things which are basically dissimilar. (Example: The ship plowed the sea.)
Unlike a simile, metaphors do not have a connective word (like, as, or than).
Many metaphors are implied or suggested. (Example: Anne Bradstreet in "Upon the Burning of Our House" calls heaven "the beautiful house" built by "the mightiest architect.")
An "extended" or "controlling" metaphor is used throughout the essay.
A dead metaphor is one that is overly used and is no longer considered figurative, but rather literal. (Example: the leg of a chair.)
A mixed metaphor is the use of two or more inconsistent metaphors in one expression. Mixed metaphors make no sense upon examination and are often used as humorous. (Example: To hold the fort, he'd have to shake a leg.)
metonymy
Noun.
From Greek metōnymía for "change of name."
A figure of speech where the term for one thing is applied for another with which it has become closely associated in experience, or where a part represents the whole.
Example: "the crown" is figuratively the king.
Example: the word "petticoat" represents femininity; whereas the word "pants" represents being in control.
Reminder: This is not a synecdoche; the tools are different. For one, a metonymy is used so much that it has become a figure of speech.
Metre
The regular use of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry
Mock heroic
A poem that treats trivial subject matter in the grand and elevated style of epic poetry
The effort produced is often satirical, as in Pope's The Rape of the Lock
monologue
From Greek monologos meaning "to speak alone."
A long speech by one person; a dramatic speech by one actor.
Also known as a "soliloquy" if the character speaks inner thoughts to the audience and no other character hears.
An "aside" is a short soliloquy.
Monometer
A verse line consisting of only one metrical foot
mood
The atmosphere in the text created by the author's tone towards the subject.
Sometimes called "atmosphere" or "ambience."
Tools used:
-Style (how sentences are combined)
-syntax (strength, length and complexity of each sentence)
-diction (individual word choice)
Motif
A dominant theme, subject or idea which runs through a piece of literature
Often a "motif" can assume a symbolic importance
Narrative
A piece of writing that tells a story
Natural Order of a Sentence
Involves constructing a sentence so the subject comes before the predicate. Ex, "Oranges grow in California."
naturalistic novel
This AP exam phrase incorporates two literary terms: naturalism and novel.
Naturalism: centering upon nature and excluding supernatural or spiritual elements, with special attention to effects of environment and heredity on human nature and action.
Novel: extended fictional narrative that allows greater complication of plot and more subtle examinations of character.
Example: Jack London's Call of the Wind and White Fang are naturalistic novels, where premise of "survival of the fittest" is examined.
Neutral Diction
Uses standard language and vocabulary without elaborate words and may include contractions
new journalism
Noun.
Became popular during the Modernism movement in American culture following WWII, but is an earlier phenomenon.
No longer objective; doesn't make any pretense to being objective.
Features author's subjective responses to people and events covered in essay.
Sometimes includes fictional elements meant to illuminate and dramatize those responses of the author.
Example: "The Execution of Tropmann" by Ivan Turgenev in which the author reacts subjectively to the sights and sounds of attending his first public execution. His opinion about such government events is clear by the last paragraph of the essay. Persuasion is the key.
Non Sequitur
A fallacy of argument in which claims, reasons or warrants fail to connect logically; one point doesn't follow from another.
novel and forms thereof
Novel: extended fictional narrative that allows greater complication of plot and more subtle examinations of character.
Novelette or Novella: fictional narrative of middle length. Examples: Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway or Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Octameter
A verse line consisting of eight feet
Octave
The first eight lines of a sonnet
Ode
A verse form similar to a lyric but often more lengthy and containing more serious and elevated thoughts
Omission
1 a : something neglected or left undone b : apathy toward or neglect of duty
2 : the act of omitting : the state of being omitted
Onomatopoeia
The use of words whose sound copies the sound of the thing or process that they describe
On a simple level, words like "bang", "hiss", and "splash" are onomatopoeic, but it also has more subtle uses
oxymoron
Noun.
From Greek: oxi means "sharp, keen, acute, pungent, acid"; moron means "dull, stupid, foolish."
A figure of speech in which two contradictory words are placed side-by-side for effect.
Words are obviously opposed or markedly contradictory terms.
Casually reference: contradiction of terms.
Examples: "civil war," "alone together," "deafening silence," or "jumbo shrimp."
paean
From Greek paian meaning "hymn to Apollo" (Paian or Paion, being a name for Apollo).
Pronounced "pie-un."
Any song of joy, praise or triumph.
Shakespeare's Hamlet, the protagonist offers a paean to man:
What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason,
how infinite his faculties, in form and moving how
express and admirable, in action how like an angel,
in apprehension, how like a god: the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals . . . . (II, ii, 292-95)
paradox
A statement that reveals a kind of truth, although it seems at first to be self-contradictory and untrue.
Rhymes with "in your socks"
Examples: Books are a poor man's wealth. Or, as Emily Dickinson writes, "Much madness is Divinest Sense."
In John Donne's sonnet, "Death, Be Not Proud," he declares:
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Parallelism/parallel structure
Sentence construction which places in close proximity two or more equal grammatical constructions.
Might be as simple as listing two or three modifiers in a row to describe the same noun or verb.
Might be two or more of the same type of phrases (prepositional, participial, gerund, appositive).
Might be two or more subordinate clauses that modify the same noun or verb.
Might be a complex blend of single-word, phrase, and clause parallelism all in the same sentence.
Simple Example: He lived well, and he died well.
parody
Imitates the serious materials and manner of a particular work, or the characteristic style of a particular author, and applies it to a lowly or grossly discordant subject.
An exaggerated imitation of a serious work for humorous purposes.
Sometimes called "burlesque" and "travesty."
An English essayist of the early twentieth century, Max Beerbohm is known for his parody.
James Thurber of The New Yorker magazine was an American writer also known for parody.
The cartoon series The Simpsons often does a parody of a famous poem or novel.
Pastoral
Generally, literature concerning rural life with idealized settings and rustic characters
Often pastorals are concerned with the lives of shepherds and shepherdesses presented in idyllic and unrealistic ways
Similar to Idyll
pathos
Noun.
Etymology: Greek.
A quality in an experience, narrative, literary work, etc., which arouses profound feelings of compassion or sorrow.
Pathetic expression or emotion; transient or emotional.
Example: For many audience members, the first time viewing Braveheart in a darkened theatre produced a profound pathos while watching William Wallace scream out "Freedom!" in his last dying moments after suffering a barbaric torture at the hands of the civilized English.
Pedantic
An adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or bookish
Pentameter
A line of verse containing five feet
Periodic sentence
Sentence that places the main idea or central complete thought at the end of the sentence, after all introductory elements.
Periphrasis
A round-about or long-winded way of expressing something
Personification
The attribution of human feelings, emotions, or sensations to an inanimate object
Personification is a kind of metaphor where human qualities are given to things or abstract ideas, and they are described as if they were a person
Plot
The sequence of events in a poem, play, novel, or short story that make up the main storyline
Point of View
The perspective from which a narrative is told. 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
The perspective from which a story is told (first person, third person omniscient, or third person limited omniscient)
polysyndeton
Sentence that uses and or other conjunctions multiple times with no commas to separate items in a series.
Stresses equally each member of the series.
Slows the flow of the sentence for effect, making items more emphatic than in the asyndeton.
Formula: X and Y and Z.
See asyndeton for variation.
post hoc, egro propter hoc
Latin for "after this, therefore because of this."
When a writer implies that because one thing follows another, the first caused the second.
Predicate adjective
One type of subject compliment, an adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective clause that follows a linking verb
Predicate nominative
Another type of subject complement, a noun, group of nouns, or noun clause that renames the subject
Prose
Any kind of writing which is not verse - usually divided into fiction and non-fiction
Protagonist
The main character or speaker in a poem, monologue, play, or story
pun
A play on words that are either identical in sound (homonyms) or similar in sound, but are sharply diverse in meaning.
Example: "Thou art Peter (Petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build my church."
Early puns had roots in serious literature, that like Shakespeare, can also have a comical effect in a very serious situation.
Example: In Romeo and Juliet, while bleeding to death, Mercutio says "Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man."
By the eighteenth century and after, the literary use of puns has been almost exclusively comic.
Equivoque: the use of a single word or phrase which has two disparate meanings, in a context which makes both meanings equally relevant.
Example: An epitaph suggested for a bank teller, which states, "He checked his cash, cashed in his checks. And left his window. Who is next?"
purple patch
Translation of "purpureus . . . Pannus" from Horace's Ars Poetica.
Signifies a sudden heightening of rhythm, diction, and figurative language that makes a section of verse or prose—especially a descriptive passage—stand out from its context.
Sometimes applied to a set piece, separable and quotable, in which an author rises to an occasion.
Example: From the 1999 film Cider House Rules, in which Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) salutes the boy orphans crowded in the attic bedroom with, "Goodnight, you princes of Maine. You kings of New England," thereby heightening just how precious these orphaned lads and the struggling orphanage are to the doctor.
Example: Shakespeare's eulogy of England by the dying John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II (Act II, Scene I, lines 40-43). The dying John says:
This royal throne of kings, this scept'red isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise . . . .
Quatrain
A stanza of four lines which can have various rhyme schemes
red herring
When a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue.
refrain
A line, or part of a line, or a group of lines which is repeated in the course of a poem or an essay.
There might be slight variations within the repeated refrain.
The repetition is done for effect.
Example: If an essay incorporated repeated phrases like "I believe" or "This is love" each refrain focuses the audience on a particular subject.
Perhaps the most famous refrain in American writing is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" which is simply "Nevermore." The audience is focused on the concept of never will the narrator be able to forget his lost love, find relief from the pain, or be able to hold her again.
refutation
The art of mustering relevant opposing arguments.
The author "refutes" through evidence logical opposition.
Repetition
A device in which words, sounds, and ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm and to create emphasis. Ex. "...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth." ("Address at Gettysburg" by Abraham Lincoln)
rhetoric
The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse.
Focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create fitting and appropriate discourse.
Might also be used as an adjective to describe the elements of effective communication (rhetorical situation, rhetorical question, rhetorical example, etc.).
Rhetorical Fragment
A sentence fragment used deliberately for a persuasive purpose or to create a desired effect. Ex. "Something to consider."
Rhetorical Modes
The variety, conventions, and purposes of the major kinds of writing (exposition explains and analyzes information; argumentation proves validity of an idea; description re-creates, invents, or presents a person, place, event or action; narration tells a story recount an event)
Rhetorical Question
A question that requires no answer. It is used to draw attention to a point and is generally stronger than a direct statement. Ex. "If Mr. Ferchoff is always fair, as you have said, why did he refuse to listen to Mrs. Baldwin's arguments?"
Rhyme
Corresponding sounds in words, usually at the end of each line but not always
Similar to Internal Rhyme
Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of the rhymes in a poem
Rhythm
The "movement" of the poem as created through the metre and the way that language is stressed within the poem
Sarcasm
From the Greek for "to tear flesh," involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something
satire
Text that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behavior by portraying it in an extreme way.
Satire is meant to improve society through humor, not to tear it down through vicious ridicule.
Doesn't simply abuse (as in invective) or get personal (as in sarcasm).
Targets groups or large concepts rather than individuals.
As opposed to sarcasm, which is meant to abuse and ridicule an individual.
Very creative and takes audience knowledge and perception to appreciate.
Scansion
The analysis of metrical patterns in poetry
Semantics
The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development (etymology), their connotations, and their relation to one another.
sentimentalism
What is perceived as an excess of emotion to an occasion.
In a more limited sense, refers to an overindulgence in the "tender" emotions of pathos and sympathy.
Relative to audience and cultural perceptions.
Septet
A seven-line stanza
Sestet
The last six lines of a sonnet
Short Sentence
Approximately 5 words
signal words
Words in an essay that alert the reader to a change in tone, direction, section, or category.
Examples: however, on the other hand, contrary to, and now, next, following, etc.
Time Examples: At one in the morning, by sunset, at noon, etc.
simile
A figure of speech, comparing two essentially unlike things through the use of a specific word of comparison (like, as, or than, for example).
Example: "This is the Arsenal. From the floor to ceiling, like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms."
Simple Sentence
Contains one independent clause "The singer bowed to her adoring audience."
Slang
Recently coined words often used in informal situations; often come and go quickly, passing in and out of usage within months and years
Soliloquy
A speech in which a character, alone of stage, expresses his or her thoughts and feelings aloud for the benefit of the audience, often in a revealing way
Sonnet
A fourteen-line poem, usually with ten syllables in each line
There are several ways in which lines can be organized, but often they consist of an octave and a sestet
Stanza
The blocks of lines into which a poem is divided
Sometimes these are, less precisely, reffered to as verses, which can lead to confusion as a poetry is sometimes called "verse"
Stichomythia
A dialogue in which the endings and beginnings of each line echo each other, taking on a new meaning with each new line.
straw man
Argues against a claim that nobody actually holds or is universally considered weak.
Diverts attention away from the real issues.
Stream of Consciousness
A technique in which the writer records thoughts and emotions in a "stream" as they come to mind, without giving order or structure
Structure
The way that a poem or play or other piece of writing has been put together
This can include the metre pattern, stanza arrangement, and the eway the ideas are developed, etc...
style
The choices in diction, tone, syntax that a writer makes.
Together, these choices create the manner of expression in a text, which is style.
Evolves over time as writing habits are developed naturally.
Considered both conscious and unconscious and thus may be altered to fit the purpose of the text.
Subject complement
The word or clause that follows a linking verb and complements, or completes the subject or the sentence by either renaming it or describing it
Subordinate clause
Contains a subject and verb (like all clauses) but cannot stand alone; does not express complete thought
Sub-plot
A secondary storyline in a story or play
Often, as in some Shakespeare plays, the sub-plot can provide some comic relief from the main action, but sup-plots can also relate in quite complex ways to the main plot of a text
Sub-text
Ideas, themes, or issues that are not dealt with overtly by a text but which exist below the surface meaning of it
syllogism
Noun.
From the Greek word syllogismos, meaning "inference or conclusion."
A form of argument or reasoning, consisting of two premises and a conclusion.
symbol
An object, place, setting, prop, event or person that represents or stands for some idea or event.
Never hidden, but interwoven throughout the text.
It may also retain its own literal meaning while taking on the symbolic qualities.
synecdoche
Greek, for "taking together."
A part of something is used to signify the whole.
Or, more rarely, a whole to signify a part.
Examples: Milton in "Lycidas" calls the corrupt clergy of the Church of England "blind mouths," meaning their misguided sermons represent their total corruption.
Example: "Give me your hand," does not mean literally just your hand, but your entire physical help.
Reminder: do not mix this term with metonymy. They are different tools.
syntactic fluency
Ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length.
syntactic permutation
Sentence structures that are extraordinarily complex and involved.
Often difficult for the reader to follow.
Wordiness beyond effectiveness.
Syntax
The way in which sentences are structured
Sentences can be structured in different ways to achieve different effects
tautology
Noun.
From Late Latin tautologia.
A repetition of the same statement.
The repetition, within the immediate context, of the same word or phrase or the same meaning in different words; usually as a fault of style.
Example: "essential necessaries."
A repetition of something already said.
A mere repetition of acts, incidents or experiences.
Modern Logic: A self-evident truth, a truism; a compound proposition which is unconditionally true for all possibilities.
Telegraphic sentence
A sentence shorter than 5 words
Tetrameter
A verse line of four feet
theme
Central idea of a work of fiction or nonfiction.
Revealed and developed in the course of a story or explored through argument.
An abstract claim, or doctrine, whether implicit or asserted, which the text is designed to incorporate and makes persuasive to the reader.
Often discussed as a main idea when confined to the parameters of the text.
Often discussed as a theme when presented in abstract terms that go beyond the boundaries of the text.
Example: The main idea of Great Expectations is that Pip has to learn to judge others by evidence and not by appearance, through which Dickens presents the theme that humans create most of their own problems by being prejudice, pompous and placing importance on social status rather than on personal character.
Thesis
In expository writing, the thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that directly express the author's opinion, purpose, meaning, or proportion
tone
Author's attitude toward subject matter as revealed through style, syntax, diction, figurative language, and organization.
Author's tone creates mood in the text by use of the above tools.
Transition
A word or phrase that links different ideas
tricolon
Sentence consisting of three parts of equal importance and length.
Usually three independent clauses.
Trimeter
A verse line consisting of three feet
verisimilitude
The achievement of an illusion of reality in the audience. This is one of the "three unities" of Italian and French drama: unity of place, unity of time, and unity of truth (the drama must have a sense of reality and believability in the audience).
The appearance of being true.
Having a resemblance to truth, reality or fact.
A statement which has the mere show of being true or in accordance with fact; an apparent truth.
Understatement
The ironic minimalizing of fact, presents something as less significant than it is
Wit
Intellectual and verbal deftness. Emphaisis on imagination. Intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights.
Zeugma
A device that joins together two apparently incongruous things by applying a verb or adjective to both which only really applies to one of them
"Kill the boys and the luggage" (Shakespeare's Henry V )s