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Glossary of Rhetorical Terms- AP English Lang. & Comp.
Terms in this set (34)
A figure of speech in which natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of words. Simple examples include such
words as buzz, hiss, hum, crack, whinny, and murmur. If you note examples of onomatopoeia in an essay passage, note the effect.
From the Greek for "pointedly foolish," an oxymoron is a figure of speech wherein the author groups apparently
contradictory terms to suggest a paradox. Simple examples include "jumbo shrimp" and "cruel kindness." T
A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer inspection contains
some degree of truth or validity.
Also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure, this term comes from Greek roots meaning "beside one
another." It refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural
similarity. This can involve, but is not limited to, repetition of a grammatical element such as a preposition or verbal
phrase. (Again, the opening of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities is an example: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of
times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of believe, it was the epoch of
A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or ridicule. It
exploits peculiarities of an author's expression (propensity to use too many parentheses, certain favorite words, etc.)
An adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or bookish (language that
might be described as "show-offy"; using big words for the sake of using big words).
The opposite of loose sentence, a sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end. This
independent clause is preceded by a phrase or clause that cannot stand alone. The effect of a periodic sentence is to add
emphasis and structural variety. It is also a much stronger sentence than the loose sentence. (Example: After a long,
bumpy flight and multiple delays, I arrived at the San Diego airport.)
A figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals, or inanimate objects by
endowing them with human attributes or emotions.
Figure of addition and emphasis which intentionally employs a series of conjunctions (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) not normally found in successive words, phrases or clauses; the deliberate and excessive use of conjunctions in successive words or clauses. The effect is a feeling of multiplicity, energetic enumeration, and building up—a persistence or intensity.
point of view
In literature, the perspective from which a story is told. There are two general divisions of point of view, and
many subdivisions within those.
(1) first person narrator tells the story with the first person pronoun, "I," and is a character in the story. This narrator
can be the protagonist, a secondary character, or an observing character.
(2) third person narrator relates the events with the third person pronouns, "he," "she," and "it." There are two main
subdivisions to be aware of:
a. third person omniscient, in which the narrator, with godlike knowledge, presents the thoughts and actions of
any or all characters
b. third person limited omniscient, in which the narrator presents the feelings and thoughts of only one
character, presenting only the actions of all the remaining characters.
In addition, be aware that the term point of view carries an additional meaning. When you are asked to analyze the
author's point of view, the appropriate point for you to address is the author's attitude.
an adjective, a group of adjectives, or adjective clause that follows a linking verb.
It is in the predicate of the sentence, and modifies, or describes, the subject.
a noun, group of nouns, or noun clause that renames the subject. It, like the
predicate adjective, follows a linking verb and is located in the predicate of the sentence.
one of the major divisions of genre, prose refers to fiction and nonfiction, including all its forms. In prose the printer
determines the length of the line; in poetry, the poet determines the length of the line.
The duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language, such as a sound, word, phrase, clause,
sentence, or grammatical pattern.
From the Greek for "orator," this term describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently, and
This flexible term describes the variety, the conventions, and the purposes of the major kinds of writing. The
four most common rhetorical modes (often referred to as "modes of discourse") are as follows:
(1) The purpose of exposition (or expository writing) is to explain and analyze information by presenting an idea,
relevant evidence, and appropriate discussion. The AP language exam essay questions are frequently expository
(2) The purpose of argumentation is to prove the validity of an idea, or point of view, by presenting sound reasoning,
discussion, and argument that thoroughly convince the reader. Persuasive writing is a type of argumentation having
an additional aim of urging some form of action.
(3) The purpose of description is to recreate, invent, or visually present a person, place, event or action so that the reader
can picture that being described. Sometimes an author engages all five senses in description; good descriptive
writing can be sensuous and picturesque. Descriptive writing may be straightforward and objective or highly
emotional an subjective.
(4) The purpose of narration is to tell a story or narrate an event or series of events. This writing mode frequently uses
the tools of descriptive writing.
A question (such as "How could I be so stupid?") that's asked merely for effect with no answer expected. The answer may be obvious or immediately provided by the questioner.
From the Greek meaning "to tear flesh," sarcasm involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule
someone or something. It may use irony as a device, but not all ironic statements are sarcastic (that is, intended to
ridicule). When well done, sarcasm can be witty and insightful; when poorly done, it is simply cruel.
A work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule. Regardless of
whether or not the work aims to reform human behavior, satire is best seen as a style of writing rather than a purpose for
writing. It can be recognized by the many devices used effectively by the satirist: irony, wit, parody, caricature,
hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm. The effects of satire are varied, depending on the writer's goal, but good satire,
often humorous, is thought provoking and insightful about the human condition
The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development, their
connotations, and their relation to one another.
The consideration of style has two purposes:
(1) An evaluation of the sum of the choices an author makes in blending diction, syntax, figurative language, and other
literary devices. Some authors' styles are so idiosyncratic that we can quickly recognize works by the same author.
We can analyze and describe an author's personal style and make judgments on how appropriate it is to the author's
purpose. Styles can be called flowery, explicit, succinct, rambling, bombastic, commonplace, incisive, laconic, etc.
(2) Classification of authors to a group and comparison of an author to similar authors. By means of such classification
and comparison, we can see how an author's style reflects and helps to define a historical period, such as the
Renaissance or the Victorian period, or a literary movement, such as the romantic, transcendental, or realist
The word (with any accompanying phrases) or clause that follows a linking verb and complements, or
completes, the subject of the sentence by either (1) renaming it (the predicate nominative) or (2) describing it
Like all clauses, this word group contains both a subject and a verb (plus any accompanying phrases or
modifiers), but unlike the independent clause, it cannot stand alone; it does not express a complete
thought. Also called a dependent clause, it depends on a main clause (or independent clause) to
complete its meaning. Easily recognized key words and phrases usually begin these clauses. For example: although,
because, unless, if, even though, since, as soon as, while, who, when, where, how and that.
From the Greek for "reckoning together," a syllogism (or syllogistic reasoning or syllogistic logic) is a deductive
system of formal logic that presents two premises (the first one called "major" and the second called "minor") that
inevitably lead to a sound conclusion. A frequently cited example proceeds as follows:
major premise: All men are mortal.
minor premise: Socrates is a man.
conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is a mortal.
Generally, anything that represents itself and stands for something else. Usually it is something
concrete -- such as an object, action, character, or scene - that represents something more abstract.
a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole or, occasionally, the whole is used to
represent a part.
The way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences. It is similar to diction, but you can
differentiate them by thinking of it as groups of words, while diction refers to the individual words. In the multiple choice
section of the AP exam, expect to be asked some questions about how an author manipulates it. In the essay
section, you will need to analyze how it produces effects.
The central idea or message of a work, the insight it offers into life. Usually theme is unstated in fictional works, but in
nonfiction, the theme may be directly state, especially in expository or argumentative writing.
In expository writing, the statement is the sentence or group of sentences that directly expresses the author's
opinion, purpose, meaning, or position. Expository writing is usually judged by analyzing how accurately, effectively,
and thoroughly a writer has proven it.
Similar to mood, it describes the author's attitude toward his material, the audience, or both. it is easier to determine
in spoken language than in written language. Considering how a work would sound if it were read aloud can help in
identifying an author's tone. Some words describing tone are playful, serious, businesslike, sarcastic, humorous, formal,
ornate, sardonic, somber, etc.
A word or phrase that links different ideas. Used especially, although not exclusively, in expository and
argumentative writing,those effectively signal a shift from one idea to another. A few commonly used transitional
words or phrases are furthermore, consequently, nevertheless, for example, in addition, likewise, similarly, on the
the ironic minimizing of fact, it presents something as less significant than it is. The effect can
frequently be humorous and emphatic. It is the opposite of hyperbole
An attitude that may lie under the ostensible tone of the piece.
in modern usage, intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. A statement is humorous, while
suggesting the speaker's verbal power in creating ingenious and perceptive remarks. It usually uses terse language that
makes a pointed statement. Historically, it originally meant basic understanding. Its meaning evolved to include speed
of understanding, and finally, it grew to mean quick perception including creative fancy and a quick tongue to articulate
an answer that demanded the same quick perception.
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