Stylistic Devices of Identity
Figures of identity: co-occurrence of synonymous or similar notions: A =
Synonymous replacement is use of synonymous phrases to avoid
monotony or as situational substitutes, e.g. He brought home
numberless prizes. He told his mother countless stories.
Stylistic synonyms: I continued to meet a want - a hiatus - a demand- a
need – an exigency – a requirement of exactly five dollars. (O.Henry)
Contextual synonyms: The words “image, shadows, spirit” became
situational synonyms as to describe poet love ( W. Shakespeare, sonnet
Simile is an explicit statement of partial identity: affinity, likeness,
similarity of 2 objects, e.g.
Figures of inequality: those based on differentiation of co-occurring
notions: A ≠ B
Climax is gradation of emphatic elements growing in strength: What
difference if it rained, hailed, blew, snowed, cycloned? (O΄Henry).
Anti-climax is back gradation, in which case the final element is obviously
weaker in degree, or lower in status than the previous: But today I have
other memories. Dark, searing images of desperation, hopelessness and
Pun is play upon words based on polysemy or homonymy, e.g. What
steps would you take if an empty tank were coming toward you? –Long
Disguised tautology is semantic difference in formally coincidental parts
of a sentence, repetition here does not emphasise the idea but carries a
Figures of contrast: those based on opposition (incompatibility) of cooccurring notions:
A → B
Antithesis is based on logical and relative opposition which arises out of
the context through the expansion of objectively contrasting pairs. It is antistatement, active confrontation of notions used to show the contradictory
nature of the subject described:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (Dickens);
Youth is lovely, age is lonely,
Youth is fiery, age is frosty; (Longfellow)
Oxymoron This is a device which combines, in one phrase, two words
(usually: noun + adjective) whose meanings are opposite and incompatible:
a living corpse; sweet sorrow; a nice rascal; awfully (terribly) nice; a
order of elements ( a reversed version of syntactic parallelism:
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low (Wordsworth).
high – delight
dejection – low
This chiasmus is built on the basis of lexical and syntactical opposition.
Down dropped the breeze,
The sails dropped down (Coleridge);
Figures of co-occurrence: devices on interrelations of two or more units of meaning
actually following one another: A + B + C + D
Repetition: Lexical repetition is often used to increase the degree of emotion:
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea (Coleridge).
The repetition of the same elements at the beginning of several sentences is called
The repetition of the same elements at the end of several sentences is called
epiphora: I am going to the sea again. To the lonely sea again, to the stars and lonely
Framing is repetition of some element at the beginning and at the end of a sentence,
paragraph or stanza.
E.g. Never wonder. By means of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division,
settle everything somehow, and never wonder. (Dickens)
This term refers to repetition of syntactic elements or
constructions. A special variant of this device is
Syntactic parallelism, which means repetition of similar
syntactic constructions in the text in order to strengthen the
emotional impact or expressiveness of the description:
There were real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china
cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same to hold the cakes.
Syntactic tautology is the repetition of the subject of a
sentence, which is typical of English folklore:
Ellen Adair she loved me well,
Against her father̕s and mother΄s will. (Tennison)
(conjunctions, prepositions) before several parts of the
sentence, which increases the emotional impact of the text:
E.g. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could
boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.
Polysyndeton makes a text more rhythmical:
E.g. And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The Moon was at its edge.
phrase or sentence
containing an expressive characteristic of the
object, based on the interplay of emotive and
logical meaning. The epithet points out to the
reader some of the properties or features of the
object with the aim of giving an individual
perception and evaluation of these features or
properties. The epithet is markedly subjective and
evaluative: wild wind, loud ocean, a cutting smile.
The logical attribute is purely objective, nonevaluating: round table, white snow, blue skies.
Associated epithets point to a
feature which is essential to the
objects they describe: fantastic
terrors, dreary midnight, careful
Unassociated epithets are attributes
used to characterize the object by
adding a feature not inherent in it:
sullen earth, bootless cries, etc.
Fixed epithets are conventional,
standing epithets mostly used in
ballads and folk songs: true love,
dark forest, sweet Sir, green wood,
good ship, brave cavaliers.
Simple epithets are ordinary
adjectives: silvery laugh, thrilling
Compound epithets are built like
compound adjectives: heartburning sigh, spinster-aunt-like
Phrase epithets are phrases or
whole sentences attributive
used: I-am-not-that-kind- of –girl
look; To produce facts in a
Would- you-believe-it kind of
homogeneous parts of an utterance are made heterogeneous
from the semantic point of view.
According to I.R.Galperin, homogeneous enumerations
(logical-semantic) do not make some extra impact on the
E.g. Famine, despair, cold, thirst and heat had done
Their work on them by turns, and thinn̕d them too…(Byron)
Heterogeneous enumerations (striking) assume the stylistic
function and may be regarded as stylistic devices:
The principle production of these towns… appear to be
solders, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers and dock-yard