Home Random Page




It has already been pointed out that repetition is an expressive means of language used when the speaker is under the stress of strong emotion. It shows the state of mind of the speaker, as in the following passage from Galsworthy:

"Stop!"óshe cried, "Don't tell me! / don't want to hear;

I don't want to hear what you've come for. / don't want to hear."

The repetition of 'I don't want to hear', is not a stylistic device; it is a means by which the excited state of mind of the speaker is shown. This state of mind always manifests itself through intonation, which is suggested here by the words 'she cried'. In the written language, before" direct speech is introduced one can always find words indicating the intonation, as sobbed, shrieked, passionately, etc. J. Vandryes writes:

"Repetition is also one of the devices having its origin in the emotive language. Repetition when applied to the logical language becomes simply an instrument of grammar. Its origin is to be seen in the excitement accompanying the expression of a feeling being brought to its highest tension." When used as a stylistic device, repetition acquires quite different functions. It does not aim at making a direct emotional impact. On the contrary, the stylistic device of repetition aims at logical emphasis, an emphasis necessary to fix the attention of the reader on the key-word of the utterance. For example:

"For that was it! Ignorant of the long and stealthy march of passion, and of the state to which it had reduced Fleur; ignorant of how Soames had watched her, ignorant of Fleur's reckless desperation...ó ignorant of all this, everybody felt aggrieved." (Galsworthy)

Repetition is classified according to compositional patterns. If the repeated word (or phrase) comes at the beginning of two or more consecutive sentences, clauses or phrases, we have anaphora, as in the example above. If the repeated unit is placed at the end of consecutive sentences, clauses or phrases, we have the type of repetition called epiphora, as in:

"I am exactly the man to be placed in a superior position in such a case as that. I am above the rest of mankind, in such a case as that. I can act with philosophy in such a case as that.


Here the repetition has a slightly different function: it becomes a background against which the statements preceding the repeated unit are made to stand out more conspicuously. This may be called the background function. It must be observed, however, that the logical function of the repetition, to give emphasis, does not fade when it assumes the background function. This is an additional function. Repetition may also be arranged in the form of a frame: the initial parts of a syntactical unit, in most cases of a paragraph, are repeated at the end of it, as in:

"Poor doll's dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when losing her way on the eternal road and asking guidance. Poor, little doll's dressmaker". (Dickens)

This compositional pattern of repetition is called framing. The semantic nuances of different compositional structures of repetition have been little looked into. But even a superficial examination will show that framing, for example, makes the whole utterance more compact and more complete. Framing is most effective in singling out paragraphs.

Among other compositional models of repetition is linking or reduplication (also known as anadiplosis). The structure of this device is the following: the last word or phrase of one part of an utterance is repeated at the beginning of the next part, thus hooking the two parts together. The writer, instead of moving on, seems to double back on his tracks and pick up his last word.

"Freeman and slave... carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." (Marx, Engels)

Any repetition of a unit of language will inevitably cause some slight modification of meaning, a modification suggested by a noticeable change in the intonation with which the repeated word is pronounced.

Sometimes a writer may use the linking device several times in one utterance, for example:

"A smile would come into Mr. Pickwick's face: the smile extended into a laugh: the laugh into a roar, and the roar became general." (Dickens)

"For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs, sighs wishes, wishes words, ^K and words a letter." (Byron)

This compositional pattern of repetition is also called c h a i n-r e p-e t i t i o n.

What are the most obvious stylistic functions of repetition?

The first, the primary one, is to intensify the utterance. Intensification is the direct outcome of the use of the expressive means employed in ordinary intercourse; but when used in other compositional patterns, the immediate emotional charge is greatly suppressed and is replaced by a purely aesthetic aim, as in the following example:


A weary lot is thine, fair maid,

A weary lot is thine! To pull the thorn thy brow to braid,

And press the rue for wine. A lightsome eye, a soldier's mien

A feather of the blue, A doublet of the Lincoln greenó No more of me you knew My Love!

No more of me you knew. (Walter Scott)

The repetition of the whole line in its full form requires interpretation. Superlinear analysis based on associations aroused by the sense of the whole poem suggests that this repetition expresses the regret of the Rover for his Love's unhappy lot. Compare also the repetition in the line of Thomas Moore's:

"Those evening bells! Those evening bells!"

Meditation, sadness, reminiscence and other psychological and emotional states of mind are suggested by the repetition of the phrase with the intensifier 'those'.

The distributional model of repetition, the aim of which is intensification, is simple: it is immediate succession of the parts repeated.

Repetition may also stress monotony of action, it may suggest fatigue, or despair, or hopelessness, or doom, as in:

"What has my life been? Fag and grind, fag and grind. Turn the wheel, turn the wheel." (Dickens)

Here the rhythm of the repeated parts makes the monotony and hopelessness of the speaker's life still more keenly felt.

This function of repetition is to be observed in Thomas Hood's poem "The Song of the Shirt" where different forms of repetition are employed.


Till the brain begins to swim! Workóworkówork

Till the eyes are heavy and dim! Seam, and gusset, and band,

Band, and gusset and seam,ó Till over the buttons I fall asleep,

And sew them on in a dream."

Of course, the main idea, that of long and exhausting work, is expressed by lexical means: work 'till the brain begins to swim' and 'the eyes are heavy and dim', till, finally, 'I fall asleep.' But the repetition here strongly enforces this idea and, moreover, brings in additional nuances of meaning.

In grammars it is pointed out that the repetition of words connected by the conjunction and will express reiteration or frequentative action. For example:

"Fledgeby knocked and rang, and Fledgeby rang and knocked, but no one came."

There are phrases containing repetition which have become lexical units of the English language, as on and on, over and over, again and again and others. They all express repetition or continuity of the action, as in:

"He played the tune over and over again."

Sometimes this shade of meaning is backed up by meaningful words, as in:

I sat desperately, working and working.

They talked and talked all night.

The telephone rang and rang but no one answered.

The idea of continuity is expressed here not only by the repetition but also by modifiers such as 'all night'.

Background repetition, which we have already pointed out, is sometimes used to stress the ordinarily unstressed elements of the utterance. Here is a good example:

"I am attached to you. But / can't consent and won't consent and / never did consent and / never will consent to be lost in you." (Dickens)

The emphatic element in this utterance is not the repeated word 'consent' but the modal words 'can't' 'won't' 'will', and also the emphatic 'did'. Thus the repetition here loses its main function and only serves as a means by which other elements are made to stand out clearly. It is worthy of note that in this sentence very strong stress falls on the modal verbs and 'did' but not on the repeated 'consent' as is usually the case with the stylistic device.

Like many stylistic devices, repetition is polyfunctional. The functions enumerated do not cover all its varieties. One of those already mentioned, the rhythmical function, must not be under-estimated when studying the effects produced by repetition. Most of the examples given above give rhythm to the utterance. In fact, any repetition enhances the rhythmical aspect of the utterance.

There is a variety of repetition which we shall call "root-repetition", as in:

"To live again in the youth of the young." (Galsworthy)

or, "He loves a dodge for its own sake; being...ó the dodgerest of all the dodgers." (Dickens)

or, "Schemmer, Karl Schemmer, was a brute, a brutish brute." (London)

In root-repetition it is not the same words that are repeated but the same root. Consequently we are faced with different words 4iaving different meanings (youth: young; brutish: brute), but the shades of meaning are perfectly clear.

Another variety of repetition may be called synonymical repetition. This is the repetition of the same idea by using synonymous words and phrases which by adding a slightly different nuance of meaning intensify the impact of the utterance, as in

"...are there not capital punishments sufficient in your statutes?

Is there not blood enough upon your penal code?" (Byron)

Here the meaning of the words 'capital punishments' and 'statutes' is repeated in the next sentence by the contextual synonyms 'blood' and 'penal code'.

Here is another example from Keats' sonnet "The Grasshopper and the Cricket."

"The poetry of earth is never dead... The poetry of earth is ceasing never..."

There are two terms frequently used to show the negative attitude of the critic to all kinds of synonymical repetitions. These are pleonasm and tautology. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines pleonasm as "the use of more words in a sentence than are necessary to express the meaning; redundancy of expression." Tautology is defined as "the repetition of the same statement; the repetition (especially in the immediate context) of the same word or phrase or of the same idea or statement in other words; usually as a fault of style."

Here are two examples generally given as illustrations:

"It was a clear starry night, and not a cloud was to be seen." "He was the only survivor; no one else was saved."

It is not necessary to distinguish between these two terms, the distinction being very fine. Any repetition may be found faulty if it is not motivated by the aesthetic purport of the writer. On the other hand, any seemingly unnecessary repetition of words or of ideas expressed in different words may be justified by the aim of the communication.

For example, "The daylight is fading, the sun is setting, and night is coming on" as given in a textbook of English composition is regarded as tautological, whereas the same sentence may serve as an artistic example depicting the approach of night.

A certain Russian literary critic has wittily called pleonasm "stylistic elephantiasis," a disease in which the expression of the idea swells up and loses its force. Pleonasm may also be called "the art of wordy silence."

Both pleonasm and tautology may be acceptable in oratory inasmuch as they help the audience to grasp the meaning of the utterance. In this case, however, the repetition of ideas is not considered a fault although it may have no aesthetic function.


Enumeration is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, phenomena, properties, actions are named one by one so that they produce a chain, the links of which, being syntactically in the same position (homogeneous parts of speech), are forced to display some kind of semantic homogeneity, remote though it may seem.

Most of our notions are associated with other notions due to some kind of relation between them: dependence, cause and result, likeness, dissimilarity, sequence, experience (personal and/or social), proximity, etc.

In fact, it is the associations plus social experience that have resulted in the formation of what is known as "semantic fields." Enumeration, as an SD, may be conventionally called a sporadic semantic field, inasmuch as many cases of enumeration have no continuous existence in their manifestation as semantic fields do. The grouping of sometimes absolutely heterogeneous notions occurs only in isolated instances to meet some peculiar purport of the writer.

Let us examine the following cases of enumeration:

"There Harold gazes on a work divine,

A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,

Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine

And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells

From grey but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells." (Byron)

There is hardly anything in this enumeration that could be regarded as making some extra impact on the reader. Each word is closely associated semantically with the following and preceding words in the enumeration, and the effect is what the reader associates with natural scenery. The utterance is perfectly coherent and there is no halt in the natural flow of the communication. In other words, there is nothing specially to arrest the reader's attention; no effort is required to decipher the message: it yields itself easily to immediate perception. ,;

That is not the case in the following passage:

"Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole a$ 216 sign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and his sole mourner." (Dickens)

The enumeration here is heterogeneous; the legal terms placed in a string with such words as 'friend' and 'mourner' result in a kind of clash, a thing typical of any stylistic device. Here there is a clash between terminological vocabulary and common neutral words. In addition there is a clash of concepts: 'friend' and 'mourner' by force of enumeration are equal in significance to the business office of 'executor', 'administrator', etc. and also to that of 'legatee'.

Enumeration is frequently used as a device to depict scenery through a tourist's eyes, as in Galsworthy's "To Let":

"Fleur's wisdom in refusing to write to him was profound, for he reached each new place entirely without hope or fever, and could concentrate immediate attention on the donkeys and tumbling bells, the priests, patios, beggars, children, crowing cocks, sombreros, cactus-hedges, old high white villages, goats, olive-trees, greening plains, singing birds in tiny cages, watersellers, sunsets, melons, mules, great churches, pictures, and swimming grey-brown mountains of a fascinating land."

The enumeration here is worth analysing. The various elements of this enumeration can be approximately grouped in semantic fields:

1) donkeys, mules, crowing cocks, goats, singing birds;

2) priests, beggars, children, watersellers;

3) villages, patios, cactus-hedges, churches, tumbling bells, sombreros, pictures;

4) sunsets, swimming grey-brown mountains, greening plains, olive-trees, melons.

Galsworthy found it necessary to arrange them not according to logical semantic centres, but in some other order; in one which, apparently, would suggest the rapidly changing impressions of a tourist,. Enumeration of this kind assumes a stylistic function and may therefore be regarded as a stylistic device, inasmuch as the objects in the enumeration are not distributed in logical order and therefore become striking.

This heterogeneous enumeration gives one an insight into the mind of the observer, into his love of the exotic, into the great variety of miscellaneous objects which caught his eye, it gives an idea of the progress of his travels and the most striking features of the land of Spain as seen by one who is in love with the country. The parts of the enumeration may be likened to the strokes of a painter's brush who by an inimitable choice of colours presents to our eyes an unforgettable image of the life and scenery of Spain. The passage itself can be likened to a picture drawn for you while you wait.

Here is another example of heterogeneous enumeration:

"The principal production of these towns... appear to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers and dock-yard men." (Dickens, "Pickwick Papers")

Date: 2014-12-29; view: 1351

<== previous page | next page ==>
Parallel Construction | Suspense
doclecture.net - lectures - 2014-2019 year. Copyright infringement or personal data (0.004 sec.)