Syntax = syn (together) + tax (arrangement), or the arrangement of words in a sentence
Syntax (noun), Syntactical (adjective)
In writing, our thoughts are expressed through words. First, we choose what words to use. This word choice, or selection, is called diction. Syntax refers to how we arrange the chosen words to express thoughts. Note that a writer can choose innumerable ways to express the same thought via diction, detail, and arrangement:
- I went to the store in the morning.
- In the morning, I went to the store.
- I drove to the store this morning.
- After sunrise, I went to the store.
- To the store I went in the morning.
- In the morning to the store I went.
- In the morning to the store went I.
- This morning I awoke and dressed and hustled to the store.
And so on.
As writers, we tend to use certain patterns to arrange our words into sentences. Being unique, we have our own “favorite” sentence patterns; such distinctive choices contribute to our style.
From an AP standpoint, we want to pay careful attention to a writer’s syntax. A writer’s choice of word arrangement may contribute to the meaning. Consider three of the above examples:
- I went to the store in the morning.
- To the store I went in the morning.
- In the morning to the store went I.
Observe the three positions of the subject “I.” The emphasis in each sentence shifts. The first emphasizes “I,” the second “store,” and the third “morning.” In other words, the focus shifts from person to place to time. A writer can choose what element to emphasize by its placement in the sentence. The information is the same, but the emphasis differs—thereby potentially affecting the meaning in the context of the larger passage.
On the AP test, you cannot analyze every sentence. Instead, look for patterns that appear throughout the selection. Ask yourself: Might this pattern in some way contribute to the point the author makes? Also, look for “standout sentences”—that is, a sentence whose pattern or arrangement stands in marked contrast to the surrounding ones.
Syntactical analysis is difficult and takes much practice. Remember, you are looking for choices made by the author that contribute to the meaning/understanding of the text.
The following terms and concepts pertaining to sentence structure are essential in preparing for the Advanced Placement English exams:
- Balanced Sentence
- Inversion (or inverted sentence)
- Loose/Cumulative Sentence
- Natural Order Sentence
- Periodic Sentence
- Repetition (using repetitive sentence structures or elements for effect)
- Rhetorical Question
- Rhetorical Fragment
Definitions and examples for most of the above terms follow below:
Stylistic Analysis I: Syntax
Ellipsis: Omission of a word or short phrase easily understood in context.
“The average person thinks he isn’t.” –Father Larry Lorenzoni
The term “average” is omitted but understood after “isn’t.”
John forgives Mary and Mary, John.
Note that the comma signals what has been elided, “forgives”
WHY MIGHT A WRITER USE THIS SYNTACTICAL STRUCTURE?
Parallelism: Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
parallelism of words: She tried to make her pastry fluffy, sweet, and delicate.
parallelism of phrases: Singing a song or writing a poem is joyous.
parallelism of clauses: Perch are inexpensive; cod are cheap; trout are abundant; but salmon are best.
WHY MIGHT A WRITER USE THIS SYNTACTICAL STRUCTURE? How is meaning created through syntax?
When you see very long sentences, consider:
Is the author trying to replicate the physical movement of the character (as when McCarthy describes how the hunter in “The Crossing” carefully lowers the animal after cradling it in his arms, unwraps the body, and washes the blood off the sheet)?
Is the author trying to suggest confusion or simulate the rapid flow of ideas or emotions, as when Rachel silently and furiously denies that the sweater is hers?
Is the author piling on detail after detail to illustrate the enormity, weight, or extensiveness of something, like the enormous English breakfast and the extensiveness of English domination?
When you see very short sentences, consider:
Is the author trying to stress a key idea?
Is the author trying to sound objective and/or factual?
Is the author trying to convey anxiety or quicken the pace in contrast to longer, more complex ideas?
When you see parallelism (“on the sea, in the air, over the land…”) consider:
Is the author trying to stress the sheer number of things?
Is the author trying to create rhythm, force, power?
Is the author trying to stir emotion? (“I have a dream “)
When you see repetition of key words or phrases (“Made in England”), consider:
Is the author trying to stress a key idea?
Is the author using repetition to convey emotion, such as anger, bitterness, joy?
Part 2 SYNTAX
The term syntax refers not only to the structure of sentences, their types, their uses, their connection, and the variations authors choose, but also to smaller structures within sentences. Phrases (any group of words) and clauses (groups of words that contain a subject and a verb) are also syntactic elements that require a reader’s attention.
Syntax affects the pace of a piece.
- Short, clipped phrases, sentences and clauses tend to create a feeling of quickness, decisiveness, and speed to a piece. It is important to be aware of the content of a piece and look for connections to syntax. Pay attention to how pacing relates to the action and purpose of a particular piece.
- Long, convoluted sentences, especially with subordinate clauses at the beginning tend to slow the pace of a piece. Often they are connected to a contemplative section, a heavy or serious subject and the writer wants to emphasize it. Sometimes, however, they are placed in a piece for the purpose of demonstrating the ramblings of a character, the ludicrousness of an idea, or the ridiculousness of a situation. Watch for occasional satire or irony in these long sentences.
- How does syntax contribute to and enhance the meaning and effect of language?
- How does syntax contribute to tone?
- “Syntax” refers to the ways words and phrases are arranged to form sentences. The reader must identify an author’s syntax and discuss the relationship it has to the content of the passage. Authors may use:
- specific patterns of phrases and sentences
- divisions within a piece with different syntax for each
- parallel structure
- different sentence types
- specific kinds of punctuation
- other syntax techniques
- To begin studying syntax, follow the following steps:
- Number the sentences in the passage. This will help analyze each sentence and discuss it efficiently.
- Make observations about the content and syntax of each sentence or group of sentences. Look for elements listed above or others observed.
- Does the sentence length fit the subject matter?
- Why is the sentence length effective?
- What variety of sentence lengths is present?
- Sentence beginnings – Variety or Pattern?
- Arrangement of ideas in sentences
- Arrangement of ideas in paragraph – Pattern?
- Write down what is observed. These observations will be the paper’s examples.
Complete this chart for the BEST BODY paragraph. Then, on the back of the chart, draw conclusions about your writing (200 word minimum) using specific examples to support your analysis.
|First 4 words||Verbs
(write all verbs)
|Special Features: imagery, periodic sentence, figurative language, etc.)||Transitions||# of words|
- Examine sentence beginnings. Is there a good variety or does a pattern emerge?
- Examine the arrangement of ideas in a sentence. Are they set out in a special way for a purpose?
- Examine sentence patterns.
Describe the sentence structure by considering the following:
- Examine the sentence length. Are the sentencestelegraphic (shorter than 5 words in length), short (approximately 5 words in length), medium (approximately 18 words in length), or long and involved (30 or more words in length)? Does the sentence length fit the subject matter? What variety of lengths is present? Why is the sentence length effective?
|telegraphic||shorter than 5 words in length|
|short||approximately 5 words in length|
|medium||approximately 18 words in length|
|long||long and involved – 30 words or more length|
- Examine sentence beginnings. Is there a good variety or does a pattern emerge?
- Examine the arrangement of ideas in a sentence. Are they set out in a special way for a purpose?
- Examine the arrangement of ideas in a paragraph. Is there evidence of any pattern or structure?
- the beginning and ending of the passage
- a particular sequence that is important
- a noticeable chronology
- prominent literary techniques
- a focus or emphasis on any one part that makes it stand out
- Examine the sentence patterns. Some elements to consider are listed below:
|Types of sentences|
|declarative||The king is sick.||makes a statement||assertive|
|imperative||Cure the king!||gives a command||authoritative|
|interrogative||Is the king sick?||asks a question||questioning|
|exclamatory||The king is dead; long live the king!||makes an exclamation||emotional|
|simple sentence||contains one subject and one verb
has only one main, complete thought
The singer bowed to her adoring audience.
|compound sentence||contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinate conjunction (and, but, or) or by a semicolon
has two or more main, complete thoughts. Two or more simple sentences are joined, usually with or, but, or and.
The singer bowed to the audience, but she sang no encores.
|complex sentence||has one simple sentence and one or more clauses. These clauses are connected to the simple sentence with words like because, while, when, if, as, although, since, unless, after, so, which, who, and that.
contains an independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses
After she bowed to the audience, the singer sang an encore.
|compound-complex sentence||a combination of the above
contains two or more principal clauses and one or more subordinate clauses
The singer bowed while the audience applauded, but she sang no encores.
|Loose sentence||makes complete sense if brought to a close before the actual ending
We reached Edmonton/that morning/after a turbulent flight/and some exciting experiences.
|Periodic sentence||makes sense only when the end of the sentence is reached
That morning, after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, we reached Edmonton.
|Balanced sentence||the phrases and clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness of structure, meaning, or length
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters
The Cumulative or Loose Sentence
A cumulative or loose sentence is a type of parallel sentence which builds through parallel constructions (dependent phrases or clauses) after a main clause. Remember: in the cumulative sentence, the main clause (with the subject and verb) comes first.
Formula: Main clause + Parallel Dependent phrases or clauses
A loose or cumulative sentence is one in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by dependent clauses and phrases; therefore, a loose sentence makes complete sense if brought to a close before the actual ending: e.g., “We reached Edmonton that morning after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, tired but still exhilarated, full of stories to tell our friends and neighbors.” The sentence could end before the modifying phrase without losing its coherence. Loose sentences are the most natural for English speakers, who almost always talk in loose sentences: even the most sophisticated English writers tend to use loose sentences much more often than periodic sentences.
The brilliant assembly filed past us, the marshals with their batons and ceremonial red hats, the professors draped in their doctoral hoods, the graduates in somber black that contrasted with their jubilant mood.
Nothing could deflect that wall of water, sweeping away trees and boulders, engulfing streets and villages, churning and roaring like a creature in pain.
Then I saw that the child had died, never more to enjoy getting into trouble with his friends, never again to tell innocent lies to his parents, never to look with hopeful shyness at a girl he desires.
Cumulative sentences add parallel elements at the end. These sentences are especially effective for description, even if they use only a single detail at the end.
The student sat quietly, trembling at the thought of writing an essay. [using a single detail]
The hounds continued to bray—uncontrollably, maddeningly, horribly. [using multiple details]
Famous Cumulative Sentence
George was coming down in the telemark position, kneeling, one leg forward and bent, the other trailing, his sticks hanging like some insect’s thin legs, kicking up puffs of snow, and finally the whole kneeling, trailing figure coming around in a beautiful right curve, crouching, the legs shot forward and back, the body leaning out against the swing, the sticks accenting the curve like points of light all in a cloud of snow.
[An example of a complex cumulative sentence from Hemingway’s In Our Time –quoted in Miles, Bertonasco and Karns, Prose Style: A contemporary Guide (1991)
The Periodic Sentence
A periodic sentence is a type of parallel sentence which builds through three or more parallel constructions (dependent phrases or clauses) to a main clause.
Remember: in the periodic sentence, the main clause (with the subject and verb) comes last.
Formula= Parallel Dependent Clauses and Phrases + Main Clause
A periodic sentence (also called a period) is a sentence that is not grammatically complete until its end. Periodicity is accomplished by the use of parallel phrases or clauses at the opening or by the use of dependent clauses preceding the independent clause; that is, the kernel of thought contained in the subject/verb group appears at the end of a succession of modifiers: e.g., “That morning, after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, we finally reached Edmonton.” The periodic sentence has become much rarer in formal English writing over the past hundred years, and it has never been common in informal spoken English (outside of bad political speeches). My own biased opinion is that this is a result of our fast-food approach to contemporary life and all aspects of culture, including both non-fiction and literature. In fact, I think this is regrettable, because periodicity is a powerful rhetorical tool. An occasional periodic sentence is not only dramatic but persuasive: even if the readers do not agree with your conclusion, they will read your evidence first with open minds. If you use a loose sentence with hostile readers, the readers will probably close their minds before considering any of your evidence. Therefore, when it is used to arouse interest and curiosity, and to hold an idea in suspense before its final revelation, a periodic sentence is most effective.
But if life hardly seems worth living, if liberty is used for subhuman purposes, if the pursuers of happiness know nothing about the nature of their quarry or the elementary techniques of hunting. these constitutional rights will not be very meaningful. (E. Warren)
As long as politicians talk about withdrawal while they attack, as long as the government invades privacy while it discusses human rights, as long as we act in fear while speak of courage, there can be no security, there can be no peace. If students are absorbed in their own limited worlds, if they are disdainful of the work of their teachers, if they are scornful of the lessons of the past, then the great cultural heritage which must be transmitted from generation to generation will be lost.
The Balanced Sentence
A balanced sentence is a type of parallel sentence in which two parallel elements are set off against each other like equal weights on a scale. In reading the sentence aloud, one tends to pause between the balanced parts, each seeming equal. When writing a balanced sentence, be certain that both parts of the sentence have the clear parallels of form, that they appear parallel grammatically.
In a balanced sentence, the phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their
likeness of structure, meaning, or length: e.g., “He maketh me lie down in green
pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.”
George Bernard Shaw said of writers: The ambition of the novice is to acquire the Literary Language; the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it. [Each part of the sentence follows the same pattern: subject, verb, infinitive phrase.]
Content of a Balanced Sentence
Balanced sentences are particularly effective if you have an idea that has a contrast or antithesis. Balanced sentences can emphasize the contrast so that the rhetorical pattern reflects and supports the logical pattern.
No man has ever seen anything that Burne-Jones cannot paint, but many men have painted what Burne-Jones cannot see.
And so my fellow Americans—ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
It is not that today’s artists cannot paint, it is that today’s critics cannot see.
Some of the above examples illustrate not only balanced sentences but also a device called “antimetabole,” in which the order of words is reversed in one of the parallel structures to produce a clever effect. The following are examples of antimetabole:
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
- You can take the gorilla out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the gorilla.
The Balanced Paragraph
One can also develop an entire paragraph by balance. This is particularly useful if you are developing a series of contrasts.
- I felt myself in rebellion against the Greek concept of justice. That concept excused Laius of attacking Oedipus, but condemned Oedipus for defending himself. It tolerated a king’s deliberate attempt to kill his baby son by piercing the infant’s feet and abandoning it on a mountain, but later branded the son’s unintentional killing of his father as murder. It held Oedipus responsible for his ignorance, but excused those who contributed to that ignorance. (Krutch)
|Natural order of a sentence||involves constructing a sentence so the subject comes before the predicate
Oranges grow in California.
|Inverted order of a sentence (sentence inversion)||involves constructing a sentence so the predicate comes before the subject (this is a device in which normal sentence patterns are reversed to create an emphatic or rhythmic effect)
In California grow oranges.
|Split order of a sentence||divides the predicate into two parts with the subject coming in the middle
In California oranges grow.
|Juxtaposition||a poetic and rhetorical device in which normally unassociated ideas, words, or phrases are placed next to one another, creating an effect of surprise and wit
The apparition of these faces in the crowd; /Petals on a wet, black bough.
|Parallel structure (parallelism)||refers to a grammatical or structural similarity between sentences or parts of a sentence; it involves an arrangement of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs so that elements of equal importance are equally developed and similarly phrased
He was walking, running and jumping for joy.
|Repetition||a device in which words, sounds, and ideas are used more than once to enhance rhythm and create emphasis
“…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”
|Rhetorical question||a question that expects no answer; it is used to draw attention to a point and is generally stronger than a direct statement
If Mr. Ferchoff is always fair, as you have said, why did he refuse to listen to Mrs. Baldwin’s arguments?
|a sentence fragment used deliberately for a persuasive purpose or to create a desired effect
Something to consider.
|Anaphora||the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.”
|Asyndeton||a deliberate omission of conjunctions in a series of related clauses
“I came, I saw, I conquered.”
|a sentence strategy in which the arrangement of ideas in the second clause is a reversal of the first
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”
|Polysyndeton||the deliberate use of many conjunctions for special emphasis to highlight quantity or mass of detail or to create a flowing, continuous sentence pattern
The meal was huge – my mother fixed okra and green beans and ham and apple pie and green pickled tomatoes and ambrosia salad and all manner of fine country food – but no matter how I tried, I could not consume it to her satisfaction.
|Stichomythia||dialogue in which the endings and beginnings of each line echo each other, taking on a new meaning with each new line
“Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
Mother, you have my father much offended.”
|Zeugma||the use of the verb that has two different meanings with objects that complement both meanings
He stole both her car and her heart that fateful night.
a trailing off; equally etc.; going off into a dreamlike state
interruption of a thought; an interjection of a thought into another
parallel ideas; equal ideas; a piling up of detail
a list; a definition or explanation; a result
for emphasis; for emotion
One of the most important elements of syntax is the way the words, phrases, and clauses are arranged. This is a key element of the author’s style and can have a marked effect on meaning. You should become familiar with the following sentence patters and their effect on the reader.
- A declarative sentence makes a statement: e.g., “The king is sick.”
- An imperative sentence gives a command: e.g., “Cure the king!”
- An interrogative sentence asks a question: e.g., “Is the king sick?”
- An exclamatory sentence provides strong emphasis or expresses strong emotion: e.g., “The king is dead! Long live the king!”
- A simple sentence contains one independent clause: e.g., “The singer bowed to her adoring audience.”
- A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or by a semicolon: e.g., “The singer bowed to the audience, but she sang no encores.”
- A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses: e.g., “Because the singer was tired, she went straight to bed after the concert.”
- A compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses: e.g., “The singer bowed while the audience applauded, but she sang no encores.”
- A loose or cumulative sentence is one in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by dependent clauses and phrases; therefore, a loose sentence makes complete sense if brought to a close before the actual ending: e.g., “We reached Edmonton that morning after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, tired but still exhilarated, full of stories to tell our friends and neighbors.” The sentence could end before the modifying phrase without losing its coherence. Loose sentences are the most natural for English speakers, who almost always talk in loose sentences: even the most sophisticated English writers tend to use loose sentences much more often than periodic sentences.
- A periodic sentence (also called a period) is a sentence that is not grammatically complete until its end. Periodicity is accomplished by the use of parallel phrases or Tab 6: Analysis clauses at the opening or by the use of dependent clauses preceding the independent clause; that is, the kernel of thought contained in the subject/verb group appears at the end of a succession of modifiers: e.g., “That morning, after a turbulent flight and some exciting experiences, we finally reached Edmonton.” The periodic sentence has become much rarer in formal English writing over the past hundred years, and it has never been common in informal spoken English (outside of bad political speeches). My own biased opinion is that this is a result of our fast-food approach to contemporary life and all aspects of culture, including both non-fiction and literature. In fact, I think this is regrettable, because periodicity is a powerful rhetorical tool. An occasional periodic sentence is not only dramatic but persuasive: even if the readers do not agree with your conclusion, they will read your evidence first with open minds. If you use a loose sentence with hostile readers, the readers will probably close their minds before considering any of your evidence.Therefore, when it is used to arouse interest and curiosity, and to hold an idea in suspense before its final revelation, a periodic sentence is most effective. (Did you notice I used one there?)
• In a balanced sentence, the phrases or clauses balance each other by virtue of their likeness of structure, meaning, or length: e.g., “He maketh me lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.”
• Natural order of a sentence involves constructing a sentence so the subject comes before the predicate: e.g., “Oranges grow in California.”
• Inverted order of a sentence involved constructing a sentence so the predicate comes before the subject: e.g., “In California grow the oranges.”
Other syntactical elements which we have studied separately include: juxtaposition, parallel structure, repetition, rhetorical questions and rhetorical fragments, anaphora, and antimetabole.
Example 1: Reading a Selection by Nathaniel Hawthorne The prose of earlier centuries tends to be syntactically more complex than contemporary writing. Hawthorne’s writing in The Scarlet Letter typifies this style—ornate description, elevated language, frequent use of periodic sentence, and sentences in which several parts combine to describe the subject or clarify the major action of the verb.
Consider the first sentence of passage #1 from your packet:
The door of the jail being flung open from within there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into the sunshine, the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle, with a sword by his side, and his staff of office in his hand.
Note first the inverted sentence structure. The subject is “the grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle,” and the verb “appeared” precedes it. The word “there,” which seems like the grammatical subject, is actually only a place holder, since it doesn’t tell us what appeared. Consider the effect of this order. Note the reader is first introduced to the door being flung open, then the tone-laden simile of a shadow emerging into sunshine, then the “grim and grisly presence of the town-beadle,” and finally his sword Tab 6: Analysis and staff. The inverted syntax presents the visual details in the exact sequence Hawthorne wants the reader to imagine. Within the sentence, in other words, the simile foreshadows the town-beadle’s impression on the crowd. Likewise, the tone established by the town beadle’s “grim and grisly presence” anticipates and sets the mood for the character who follows him (both in the order of the passage and literally through the jail-house door)— the shame-faced Hester Prynne.
- (chapter 8) Hawthorne uses very long syntax to emphasize the details and lavishness of his characters. Hawthorne writes, “This creed was never taught, for instance, by the venerable pastor, John Wilson, whose beard, white as a snow-drift, was seen over Governor Bellingham’s shoulder; while its wearer suggested that pears and peaches might yet be naturalized in the New England climate, and that purple grapes might possibly be compelled to nourish against the sunny garden-wall” (Chap 8). This lengthiness of Hawthorne’s descriptive sentences emphasize the importance and greatness of the people he is describing. Hawthorne also implements the use of simile when he says,” white as a snow-drift”, to make a comparison between Wilson’s beard and a well known type of weather to people living in the region. The simile helps to further a connection between the reader and the story.
- (chapter 8) Hawthorne also uses somewhat parallel sentence structure to create a form of antithesis when introducing two different characters, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. He writes, “two other guests: on the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whom the reader may remember as having taken a brief and reluctant part in the scene of Hester Prynne’s disgrace; and, in close companionship with him, old Roger Chillingworth, a person of great skill in physic, who, for two or three years past, had been settled in the town” (Chap 8). This also includes Hawthorne’s lengthy syntax that highlights the importance of these two men.
- (chapter 16 diction analysis) Hawthorne implements the use of redundant diction to show symbolism and imagery. Hawthorne writes, ” There would have been no scandal, indeed, nor peril to the holy whiteness of the clergyman’s good fame” (Chap 16). The words “holy” and “whiteness” often have the same literary connotation of innocence. Hawthorne’s repetition of this idea helps to emphasize the innocent reputation that the clergyman possessed.
- Hawthorne also uses a combination of long sentences and parallel structure to portray the severity of the path in the forest. Hawthorne writes, ” This hemmed it in so narrowly, and stood so black and dense on either side, and disclosed such imperfect glimpses of the sky above” (Chap 16). Through the use of parallel structure and lengthy sentences, Hawthorne is able to convey the widespread fear and spookiness of the forest that so many Puritans were afraid of. He lays out this scary image of the woods, yet chooses to send Hester into the forest to show contrast between Hester and the average Puritan.
- (non-syntax analysis) Hawthorne uses irony in his writing when he has Pearl describe her bare bosom. He writes, “I am but a child. It will not flee from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!” (Chap 16). This is ironic because just a chapter earlier, Pearl had made herself an A out of seaweed and placed it on her bosom, yet Pearl seems as if she has completely forgotten this has happened. Hawthorne uses this irony to emphasize the ignorance and youthful innocence of Pearl and her thoughts and memories.
- (language analysis) Chapter 21: Hawthorne once again implements figurative language in this chapter by using personification regarding the ocean. Hawthorne writes, “…and the deep, mysterious ocean will quench and hide for ever the symbol which ye have caused to bur upon her bosom!” (Chap 21). This use of personification demonstrates how symbolic Hester’s passage to Europe will be, for the distance across the ocean will diminish the once important meaning of her scarlet letter.
- (imagery analysis) Chapter 21: Hawthorne uses imagery to describe how Pearl is moving along in the town center. He writes, “This effervescence mad her flit with a bird-like movement, rather than walk by her mother’s side. She broke continually into shouts of a wild, inarticulate, and sometimes piercing music. When they reached the market-place, she became still more restless, on perceiving the stir and bustle that enlivened the spot; for it was usually more like the broad and lonesome green before a village meeting-house, than the centre of a town’s business” (Chap 21). This imagery invokes feeling of sight and sound in the readers mind, however, these ideas of Pearl’s actions are controversial in Puritan Society. In old Puritan Society, it was a sin to have fun and enjoy yourself, which Pearl obviously did in this scene. Using distinct imagery, Nathaniel Hawthorne works to clearly emphasize to the reader that Pearl, like her mother, was essentially a sinner and might have portrayed parts of the devil child that many townspeople claimed she was.
Part 4: Antimetabole (an-tee-meh-TA-boe-lee): Figure of emphasis in which the words in one phrase or clause are replicated, exactly or closely, in reverse grammatical order in the next phrase or clause; an inverted order of repeated words in adjacent phrases or clauses (A-B, B-A).
Example #1: In the U.S., all crimes are illegalities but not allillegalities are crimes.” To wit: It is not a federal crime for an immigrant to be in the U.S. illegally. – M.E.
Example #2: “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” — Carl Sagan
Example #3: “Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for theriches of men.” — Luther, Ninety-Five Theses
Example #4: “I don’t throw darts at balloons. I throw balloons at darts.” – Joe Montana (on his throwing velocity)
Example #5: “We gotta play with emotion but not let emotion playwith us.” – Coach Chip Kelly, (2011 University of Oregon vs. Arizona State University football game halftime remarks)
Example #6: “We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — Benjamin Franklin
Example #7: “Those who can’t do — teach; and those who can’tteach — do.” — delivered by Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and The City, Episode “Frenemies”)
Example #8: “The richer they get, the tighter they become; and thetighter they become, the richer they get.” — Anonymous
Example #9: “Man is not a creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men.” — Benjamin Disraeli
Example #10: “There is considerable irony in the Federal Communications Commission classifying the Internet as an information service and not as a communications service insofar as while that may have been a gambit to relieve ISPs of telephone-era regulation, the value of the Internet is ever more the bits it carries, not the carriage of those
bits.” — Dan Geer, USA Black Hat 2014 Keynote
Example #11: “Intellectuals must never be given power because they want people to get down on their knees and learn to love what they really hate and hate what they really love.” — Eric Hoffer
Example #10: “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” — Frederick Nietzsche
“Any psychiatrist will tell you, if you suppress memories they come back with fury. You must face them. Even if you cannot articulate them, we must face them. And memories are many and varied: memories of those who died with weapons in their hands; and those who died with prayers on their lips. And let no one say that some were heroes and others martyrs. In those times the heroes were martyrs and the martyrs were heroes. It was heroic for a friend to give his piece of bread to his friend. It was heroic to go around on Shabbat and simply say to his or her friends: ‘It’s Shabbat, today.’ It was heroic to have faith; it was heroic to be human.”
— Elie Wiesel, Remarks at the New Holocaust Museum Dedication
“After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of [the civil rights] movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address
“…that development, security, and human rights must go hand in hand; and that there can be no security without development and no development without security; and neither can be sustained in the longer term without it being rooted in the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
— Kofi Annan, Final Address to the United Nations General Assembly
“What I am claiming here is not that television is ertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience. Our television set keeps us in constant communion with the world, but it does so with a face whose smiling countenance is unalterable. The problem is not thattelevision presents us with entertaining subject matter, but that all [television] subject matter is presented as entertaining — which is another issue altogether. To say it still another way: Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television. No matter what is depicted, or from what point of view, the overarching presumption is that it is there for our amusement and pleasure.”
— delivered by Jeff Riggenbach, from the audio book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman.
Prose Analysis: Diction
Objectives: Students will illustrate how to discuss an author’s diction by analyzing chapter 9, The Leech.
Aim: How do we analyze an author’s diction to bring out implications of a text?
- Do Now: Review the Prison Door analysis in the aspect of ” diction”
- Meaning making- small groups work on analyzing the diction in chapter 9.
- Transfer: assessment
Do Now: Review the Prison Door analysis in the aspect of ” diction”
- Purpose: On both the prose and poetry essay questions of the AP Exam, the opportunity to show off what you know about diction, an author’s word choice, frequently appears. These notes are meant to give you a framework and a vocabulary so that you can analyze and discuss questions of diction and score major points.
When this matters: Any time an exam question asks you to do any of the following:
- Discuss or analyze how “the language” of a passage or poem achieves some effect.
- Analyze the “techniques” or “poetic devices” used to achieve some effect.
- Any prompt that specifically mentions the word “diction.”
The Axes: The term “diction” covers a lot of ground, but here is a somewhat simplified way to approach. Consider analyzing the diction according to where it falls on any of the two main axes: (1) levels of formality, and (2) Connotation
(1) Levels of formality
Diction can usually be described as one of three different “levels” of style:
High or Formal: Dignified, elevated, and often impersonal. Elaborate, or sophisticated vocabulary. In some cases, “high style” can refer to grammar, or syntax, that has been manipulated for an artistic effect—that is, the grammar calls attention to itself. Polysyllabic.
Middle or Neutral: Follows rules of grammar and uses common, unexceptional vocabulary. Grammar and vocabulary is meant to be transparent, easily understood.
Low or Informal: Plain language of everyday use, including slang, jargon, vulgarity, and dialect. Monosyllabic.
In addition to falling somewhere on the above axis, an author’s prose will fall somewhere on a scale between the two poles of denotation, a word’s dictionary meaning, or connotation, the more metaphorical or poetic usage of words.
How to talk about levels of formality
One thing that is really impressive is having a large bank of words that you know that you can use to characterize the different kinds of diction. You can use this stuff when fashioning terribly impressive thesis statements—even when you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! That is what the following notes are for. Many of these words can be used to describe syntax as well as diction.
High, Formal Style
Middle, Neutral Style
Low, Informal Style
How to talk about Connotation
Language can also fall somewhere on the following scale. Few works of literature are purely denotative, of course, but they are connotative to varying degrees. Speak of a passage as being “highly connotative” or Learn to use these words to discuss connotation.
Additional aspects of word choice.
In addition, an author’s language will fall somewhere on a scale between the poles of abstract and concrete language. That is, do they write about stuff you can hold in your hands, or stuff you can only hold in your heads?
Do the words sound nice? If so, you can talk about the euphony of the passage.. If it sounds harsh, talk about that and the relationship to meaning.
Figures of Speech
You know all these, right? Personification, Metaphor, Paradox, Alliteration, etc.
How do I use this great new vocabulary to craft smart topic sentences?
First: Don’t respond to a prompt by saying that the author “uses diction.” You are saying nothing if you say that. Everyone uses “word choice”—your job is to characterize that word choice.
What I suggest: A convoluted, excruciating, five-step process.
Step One: Levels of Formality
- “Do” a close reading on the passage, first identifying any unusual or characteristic words. If there are none, you are probably reading something with a “middle style.”
- If words stand out, you should be able to decide whether the passage leans to the high or low styles. If so, pick a snazzy vocab word to describe what kind of high or low diction it is.
Step Two: Connotation
- Examine how the words appear to be used—do they seem to be used like poetry, with lots of external, thematic meanings attached, or are they more literal, like a straightforward action story?
- Once you decide which way it leans, connotative or denotative, pick some vocab words that characterize the diction more specifically.
Step Three: Miscellaneous
- Ask yourself about abstraction/ concreteness, what figures of speech you see, and the sounds of the language.
Step Four: Purpose
- Sit back for a moment and ask yourself what purpose of the word choice appears to be fulfilling.
- For example, you can always say that it sets a tone—just make sure you have some words ready to describe that tone.
- Also consider whether the word choice is having an effect on character, symbol/theme, setting, etc.
Step Five: The topic sentence. Let’s play Madlibs!!!
“In [name of work], [Author] writes in a [connotation] [level of formality] style. Her use of [connotation vocab] and [level of formality vocab] language [achieves this purpose].”
“In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad writes in a highly connotative high style. His use of abstract, poetic, and ornate language establishes existential themes of fate and meaninglessness.”
Diction is simply the words the writer chooses to convey a particular meaning. When analyzing diction, look for specific words or short phrases that seem stronger than the others (ex. Bragg’s use of slingshot instead of travel).
Diction is NEVER the entire sentence! Also, look for a pattern (or similarity) in the words the writer chooses (ex. Do the words imply sadness, happiness, etc?). This pattern helps to create a particular kind of diction.
This pattern can also include repetition of the same words or phrases. Repeating the same word or phrase helps the reader emphasize a point, feeling, etc.
Effective diction is shaped by words that are clear, concrete, and exact. Good writers avoid words like pretty, nice, and bad because they are not specific enough. Instead, they rely on words that invoke a specific effect in order to bring the reader into the event being described.
- A coat isn’t torn; it is tattered.
- The US Army does not want revenge; it is thirsting for revenge.
- A door does not shut; it thuds.
Diction depends on subject, purpose, occasion, and audience.
The subject often determines how specific or sophisticated the diction needs to be. For example, articles on computers are filled with a specialized language: e-mail, e-shopping, web, interface. Many topics generated special vocabularies to convey meaning.
The writer’s purpose – whether to persuade, entertain, inform – partly determines diction. Words chosen to impart a particular effect on the reader reflect the writer’s purpose. For example, if an author’s purpose is to inform, the reader should expect straightforward diction. On the other hand, if the author’s purpose is to entertain, the readers will likely encounter words used in ironic, playful, or unexpected ways.
Diction also depends on occasion. Formal diction is reserved for scholarly writing and serious texts. Informal diction is often used in narrative essays and newspaper editorials. Colloquial diction and slang are typically used to capture the language of a particular time frame or culture.
Finally, the type of diction a writer uses depends on the audience (readers, listeners). An author who uses sophisticated diction knows he is writing for an intelligent audience. An author who uses more informal diction knows he is writing for an audience of varied intelligence.
When you are writing an essay in which you are analyzing the diction of the writer:
Avoid saying: “The writer used diction…” – since this is obvious (diction IS the words on the page; without them, the page would be blank ).
Instead, say: “The writer creates a ______________ diction through the use of…” OR “The language of the text is ___________________.”
Below are just a few words that you may use to describe the type of diction used by the writer. You may want to add words to this list or circle the ones you use frequently.
abstract, learned, literal, academic, loaded, ambiguous,
lyrical, biting, melodious, bombastic, monosyllabic, brusque, nostalgic,
cacophonous,obscene, casual, obscure, caustic, offensive, concrete, ordinary
,colloquial, ornate, colorful, passionate, common, patriotic, connotative ,pedantic
,cultured, picturesque, crisp, plain, curt, poetic, denotative, political, detached,
polysyllabic, divisive, precise, emotional, pretentious, esoteric, provincial
euphemistic, romantic, euphonious, scholarly, everyday, sentimental, exact,
shocking ,fanciful ,sincere, flowery, slang, figurative, subdued, folksy, symbolic
,formal, tame, grandiose, technical, idiomatic, trite, inflammatory, unifying,
inflated,uppity, informal, vague, insincere, vulgar, jargon,
American Literature : The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn
- How did the role and impact of religion have on the establishment of the America colonies and its continued influence throughout the formation of the American identity?
- How is ethos established in works of fiction?
Reading Informational Texts
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.
Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
Write a synthesis response based on three texts, ” Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, ” How Religion in the United States Avails itself of Democratic Tendencies” and ” The Black Veil”. In the response, you will uncover the implicit connections of the three texts. What similar ideas do the authors convey? How? Use specific evidence to support your assertion.
In your response, be sure to –
- State your thesis (connections) in the introduction.
- State each shared point the three texts share as a topic sentence.
- Use direct quotations to support your claim.
- Analyze evidence by explaining how it connects to your assertion.
- Follow standard English conventions-grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
|Synthesis Essay 9-point Rubric|
|9||Essays earning a score of 9 meet the criteria for 8 papers and, in addition, are especially full or apt in their analysis or demonstrate particularly impressive control of language.|
|8||Essays earning a score of 8 effectively respond to the prompt. They refer to the passage explicitly or implicitly and explain the function of specific strategies. Their prose demonstrates an ability to control a wide range of the elements of effective writing but is not flawless.|
|7||Essays earning a score of 7 fit the description of 6 essays but provide a more complete analysis or demonstrate a more mature prose style.|
|6||Essays earning a score of 6 adequately respond to the prompt. They refer to the passage, explicitly or implicitly, but their discussion is more limited. The writing may contain lapses in diction or syntax, but generally the prose is clear.|
|5||Essays earning a score of 5 analyze the strategies, but they may provide uneven or inconsistent analysis. They may treat the prompt in a superficial way or demonstrate a limited understanding of the prompt. While the writing may contain lapses in diction or syntax, it usually conveys ideas adequately.|
|4||Essays earning a score of 4 respond to the prompt inadequately. They may misrepresent the author’s position, analyze the strategies inaccurately, or offer little discussion of specific strategies. The prose generally conveys the writer’s ideas but may suggest immature control of writing.|
|3||Essays earning a score of 3 meet the criteria of the score of 4 but are less perceptive about the prompt or less consistent in controlling the elements of writing.|
|2||Essays earning a score of 2 demonstrate little success in responding to the prompt. These essays may offer vague generalizations, substitute simpler tasks such as summarizing the passage, or simply list techniques. The prose often demonstrates consistent weaknesses in writing.|
|1||Essays earning a score of 1 meet the criteria for the score of 2 but are undeveloped, especially simplistic in discussion, or weak in their control of language.|
|0||Indicates an on-topic response that receives no credit such as one that merely repeats the prompt or one that is completely off topic.|