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Thread: Rhetorical Terms & Glossary

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    Rhetorical Terms & Glossary

    These terms should be of use to you in answering the multiple-choice questions, analyzing prose passages, and composing your essays.

    1. Abstract refers to language that describes concepts rather than concrete images (ideas and qualities rather than observable or specific things, people, or places). The observable or “physical” is usually described in concrete language.
    2. Ad Hominem In an argument, this is an attack on the person rather than on the opponent’s ideas. It comes from the Latin meaning “against the man.”
    3. Allegory an extended narrative in prose or verse in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities and in which the writer intends a second meaning to be read beneath the surface of the story; the underlying meaning may be moral, religious, political, social, or satiric.
    4. Alliteration repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are close to one another: Mickey Mouse; Donald Duck
    5. Allusion a reference to a well-known person, place, or thing from literature, history, etc. Ex: Eden
    6. Analogy Comparison of two similar but different things, usually to clarify an action or a relationship, such as comparing the work of a heart to that of a pump. An analogy is a comparison to a directly parallel case.
    7. Anaphora Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row. This is a deliberate form of repetition and helps make the writer’s point more coherent. (Example: “There was the delight I caught in seeing long straight rows. There was the faint, cool kiss of sensuality. There was the vague sense of the infinite….”)
    8. Anecdote a short, simple narrative of an incident; often used for humorous effect or to make a point.
    9. Annotation Explanatory notes added to a text to explain, cite sources, or give bibliographical data.
    10. Antithesis the presentation of two contrasting images. The ideas are balanced by word, phrase, clause, or paragraphs. “To be or not to be…” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country….”
    11. Aphorism a short, often witty statement of a principle or a truth about life: “Early bird gets the worm.”
    12. Apostrophe usually in poetry but sometimes in prose; the device of calling out to an imaginary, dead, or absent person or to a place, thing, or personified abstraction
    13. Argumentation writing that attempts to prove the validity of a point of view or an idea by presenting reasoned arguments; persuasive writing is a form of argumentation
    14. Assonance repetition of vowel sounds between different consonants, such as in neigh/fade
    15. Asyndeton Commas used (with no conjunction) to separate a series of words. The parts are emphasized equally when the conjunction is omitted; in addition, the use of commas with no intervening conjunction speeds up the flow of the sentence. Asyndeton takes the form of X, Y, Z as opposed to X, Y, and Z.
    16. Cacophony harsh, awkward, or dissonant sounds used deliberately in poetry or prose; the opposite of euphony.
    17. Caricature descriptive writing that greatly exaggerates or distorts, for comic effect, a person’s physical features or other characteristics.
    18. Colloquialism a word or phrase (including slang) used in everyday conversation and informal writing but that is often inappropriate in formal writing (y’all, ain’t)
    19. Coherence quality of a piece of writing in which all the parts contribute to the development of the central idea, theme, or organizing principle
    20. Concrete Language Language that describes specific, observable things, people, or places, rather than ideas or qualities.
    21. Connotation implied or suggested meaning of a word because of its association in the reader’s mind.
    22. Consonance repetition of identical consonant sounds within two or more words in close proximity, as in boost/best; it can also be seen within several compound words, such as fulfill and ping-pong
    23. Conundrum a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun; it may also be a paradox or difficult problem
    24. Deduction the process of moving from a general rule to a specific example
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    25. Denotation literal meaning of a word as defined
    26. Description the picturing in words of something or someone through detailed observation of color, motion, sound, taste, smell, and touch; one of the four modes of discourse
    27. Diction word choice, an element of style; Diction creates tone, attitude, and style, as well as meaning. Different types and arrangements of words have significant effects on meaning. An essay written in academic diction would be much less colorful, but perhaps more precise than street slang.
    28. Didactic writing whose purpose is to instruct or to teach. A didactic work is usually formal and focuses on moral or ethical concerns. Didactic writing may be fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.
    29. Discourse spoken or written language, including literary works; the four traditionally classified modes of discourse are description, exposition, narration, and persuasion
    30. Dissonance harsh or grating sounds that do not go together
    31. Dramatic Irony When the reader is aware of an inconsistency between a fictional or nonfictional character’s perception of a situation and the truth of that situation.
    32. Emotional Appeal When a writer appeals to readers’ emotions (often through pathos) to excite and involve them in the argument.
    33. Epigraph the use of a quotation at the beginning of a work that hints at its theme. Hemingway begins The Sun Also Rises with two epigraphs. One of them is “You are all a lost generation” by Gertrude Stein.
    34. Ethical Appeal When a writer tries to persuade the audience to respect and believe him or her based on a presentation of image of self through the text. Reputation is sometimes a factor in ethical appeal, but in all cases the aim is to gain the audience’s confidence.
    35. Euphemism a more acceptable and usually more pleasant way of saying something that might be inappropriate or uncomfortable. “He went to his final reward” is a common euphemism for “he died.” Euphemisms are also often used to obscure the reality of a situation. The military uses “collateral damage” to indicate civilian deaths in a military operation.
    36. Euphony a succession of harmonious sounds used in poetry or prose; the opposite of cacophony
    37. Example An individual instance taken to be representative of a general pattern. Arguing by example is considered reliable if examples are demonstrable true or factual as well as relevant.
    38. Explication The art of interpreting or discovering the meaning of a text. Explication usually involves close reading and special attention to figurative language.
    39. Exposition the immediate revelation to the audience of the setting and other background information necessary for understanding the plot; also, explanation; one of the four modes of discourse
    40. Extended Metaphor a sustained comparison, often referred to as a conceit. The extended metaphor is
    developed throughout a piece of writing
    41. False Analogy When two cases are not sufficiently parallel to lead readers to accept a claim of connection between them.
    42. Figurative Language language that contains figures of speech, such as similes and metaphors, in order
    to create associations that are imaginative rather than literal.
    43. Figures of Speech expressions, such as similes, metaphors, and personifications, that make imaginative, rather than literal, comparisons or associations.
    44. Foreshadowing the use of a hint or clue to suggest a larger event that occurs late in the work
    45. Freight-Train Sentence consisting of three or more very short independent clauses joined by
    46. Generalization When a writer bases a claim upon an isolated example or asserts that a claim is certain rather than probable. Sweeping generalizations occur when a writer asserts that a claim applies to all instances instead of some.
    47. Genre a type of literary work, such as a novel or poem; there are also subgenres, such as science fiction or sonnet, within the larger genres
    48. Hubris the excessive pride of ambition that leads a tragic hero to disregard warnings of impending doom, eventually causing his or her downfall.
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    49. Humor anything that causes laughter or amusement; up until the end of the Renaissance, humor meant a person’s temperament
    50. Hyperbole deliberate exaggeration in order to create humor or emphasis (Example: He was so hungry he could have eaten a horse.)
    51. Image A word or words, either figurative or literal, used to describe a sensory experience or an object perceived by the sense. An image is always a concrete representation.
    52. Imagery words or phrases that use a collection of images to appeal to one or more of the five senses in order to create a mental picture
    53. Induction the process that moves from a given series of specifics to a generalization
    54. Inference a conclusion one can draw from the presented details
    55. Interior Monologue writing that records the conversation that occurs inside a character’s head
    56. Invective a verbally abusive attack
    57. Inversion reversing the customary (subject first, then verb, then complement) order of elements in a sentence or phrase; it is used effectively in many cases, such as posing a question: “Are you going to the store?” Usually, the element that appears first is emphasized more than the subject.
    58. Irony a situation or statement in which the actual outcome or meaning is opposite to what was expected.
    59. Jargon The special language of a profession or group. The term jargon usually has pejorative associations, with the implication that jargon is evasive, tedious, and unintelligible to outsiders. The writings of the lawyer and the literary critic are both susceptible to jargon.
    60. Logic the process of reasoning
    61. Logical Fallacy a mistake in reasoning
    62. Lyrical Songlike; characterized by emotions, subjectivity, and imagination.
    63. Metaphor a figure of speech in which one thing is referred to as another; for example, “my love is a fragile flower”
    64. Metonymy a figure of speech that uses the name of an object, person, or idea to represent something with which it is associated, such as using “the crown” to refer to a monarch ; Also, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
    65. Mode the method or form of a literary work; the manner in which a work of literature is written
    66. Mood similar to tone, mood is the primary emotional attitude of a work (the feeling of the work; the atmosphere). Syntax is also a determiner of mood because sentence strength, length, and complexity affect pacing.
    67. Moral The lesson drawn from a fictional or nonfictional story. It can also mean a heavily didactic story.
    68. Motif main theme or subject of a work that is elaborated on in the development of the piece; a repeated pattern or idea
    69. Narration the telling of a story in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or drama; one of the four modes of discourse
    70. Negative-Positive Sentence that begins by stating what is NOT true, then ending by stating what is true.
    71. Non-sequitur Latin for “it does not follow.” When one statement isn’t logically connected to another
    72. Objectivity an impersonal presentation of events and characters. It is a writer’s attempt to remove himself or herself from any subjective, personal involvement in a story. Hard news journalism is frequently prized for its objectivity, although even fictional stories can be told without a writer rendering personal judgment.
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    73. Onomatopoeia the use of words that sound like what they mean, such as “hiss,” “buzz,” “slam,” and “boom”
    74. Oversimplification When a writer obscures or denies the complexity of the issues in an argument
    75. Oxymoron a figure of speech composed of contradictory words or phrases, such as “wise fool,” “bitter-sweet,” “pretty ugly,” “jumbo shrimp,” “cold fire”
    76. Pacing the movement of a literary piece from one point or one section to another
    77. Parable a short tale that teaches a moral; similar to but shorter than an allegory
    78. Paradox a statement that seems to contradict itself but that turns out to have a rational meaning, as in this quotation from Henry David Thoreau; “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
    79. Parallelism the technique of arranging words, phrases, clauses, or larger structures by placing them side by side and making them similar in form. Parallel structure may be as simple as listing two or three modifiers in a row to describe the same noun or verb; it may take the form of two or more of the same type of phrases (prepositional, participial, gerund, appositive) that modify the same noun or verb; it may also take the form of two or more subordinate clauses that modify the same noun or verb. Or, parallel structure may be a complex bend of singe-word, phrase, and clause parallelism all in the same sentence.
    Example (from Churchill): “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields.”
    80. Parody a work that ridicules the style of another work by imitating and exaggerating its elements. It can be utterly mocking or gently humorous. It depends on allusion and exaggerates and distorts the original style and content.
    81. Pathos the aspects of a literary work that elicit sorrow or pity from the audience. An appeal to emotion that can be used as a means to persuade. Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.
    82. Pedantic a term used to describe writing that borders on lecturing. It is scholarly and academic and often overly difficult and distant
    83. Personification the attribution of human qualities to a nonhuman or an inanimate object
    84. Persuasion a form of argumentation, one of the four modes of discourse; language intended to convince through appeals to reason or emotion.
    85. Point of View the perspective from which a story is presented; common points of view include the following:
    86. First person narrator
    a narrator, referred to as “I,” who is a character in the story and relates the actions through his or her own perspective, also revealing his or her own thoughts

    87. Stream of Consciousness
    like a first person narrator, but instead placing the reader inside the character’s head, making the reader privy to the continuous, chaotic flow of disconnected, half-formed thoughts and impressions in the character’s mind

    88. Omniscient narrator
    third person narrator, referred to as “he,” “she,” or “they,” who is able to see into each character’s mind and understands all the action

    89. Limited Omniscient narrator
    a third person narrator who reports the thoughts of only one character and generally only what that one character sees

    90. Objective narrator
    a third person narrator who only reports what would be visible to a camera; thoughts and feelings are only revealed if a character speaks of them
    91. Polysyndeton Sentence which uses and or another conjunction (with no commas) to separate the items in a series. Polysyndeton appear in the form of X and Y and Z, stressing equally each member of a series. It makes the sentence slower and the items more emphatic than in the asyndeton.
    92. Protagonist the main character of a literary work
    93. Red Herring When a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue
    94. Reductio ad Absurdum the Latin for “to reduce to the absurd.” This is a technique useful in creating a comic effect and is also an argumentative technique. It is considered a rhetorical fallacy because it reduces an argument to an either/or choice
    95. Regionalism an element in literature that conveys a realistic portrayal of a specific geographical locale, using the locale and its influences as a major part of the plot
    96. Repetition Word or phrase used two or more times in close proximity
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    97. Rhetoric the art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse; Rhetoric focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create felicitous and appropriate discourse.
    98. Rhetorical modes exposition, description, narration, argumentation
    99. Rhetorical Question one that does not expect an explicit answer. It is used to pose an idea to be considered by the speaker or audience.
    100. Sarcasm harsh, caustic personal remarks to or about someone; less subtle than irony, but more mean-spirited
    101. Satire A work that reveals a critical attitude toward some element of human behavior by portraying it in an extreme way. Satire doesn’t simply abuse (as in invective) or get personal (as in sarcasm). Satire targets groups or large concepts rather than individuals.
    102. Setting Time and place of a literary work.
    103. Simile a figure of speech that uses like, as, or as if to make a direct comparison between two essentially different objects, actions, or qualities; for example, “The sky looked like an artist’s canvas.”
    104. Speaker the voice of a work; an author may speak as himself or herself or as a fictitious persona
    105. Stereotype a character who represents a trait that is usually attributed to a particular social or racial group and who lacks individuality; a conventional patter, expression or idea.
    106. Straw Man When a writer argues against a claim that nobody actually holds or is universally considered weak. Setting up a straw man diverts attention from the real issues.
    107. Style an author’s characteristic manner of expression – his or her diction, syntax, imagery, structure, and content all contribute to style
    108. Subjectivity a personal presentation of evens and characters, influenced by the author’s feelings and opinions
    109. Syllogism A form of reasoning in which two statements are made and a conclusion is drawn from them. A syllogism is the format of a formal argument that consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
    Major Premise: All tragedies end unhappily.
    Minor Premise: Hamlet is a tragedy.
    Conclusion: Therefore, Hamlet ends unhappily.
    110. Symbolism the use of symbols or anything that is meant to be taken both literally and as representative of a higher and more complex significance
    111. Synecdoche a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent a whole, such as using “boards” to mean a stage or “wheels” to mean a car – or “All hands on deck.”
    112. Syntactic Fluency Ability to create a variety of sentence structures, appropriately complex and/or simple and varied in length.
    113. Syntactic Permutation Sentence structures that are extraordinarily complex and involved. They are often difficult for a reader to follow.
    114. Syntax the grammatical structure of a sentence; the arrangement of words in a sentence. Syntax includes length of sentence, kinds of sentences (questions, exclamations, declarative sentences, rhetorical questions, simple, complex, or compound).
    115. Theme the central idea or “message” or a literary work
    116. Thesis the main idea of a piece of writing. It presents the author’s assertion or claim. The effectiveness of a presentation is often based on how well the writer presents, develops, and supports the thesis.
    117. Tone the characteristic emotion or attitude of an author toward the characters, subject, and audience (anger, sarcastic, loving, didactic, emotional, etc.)
    118. Tricolon Sentence consisting of three parts of equal importance and length, usually three independent clauses.
    119. Understatement the opposite of exaggeration. It is a technique for developing irony and/or humor where one writes or says less than intended.
    120. Voice refers to two different areas of writing. One refers to the relationship between a sentence’s subject and verb (active and passive voice). The second refers to the total “sound” of a writer’s style
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