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Syllepsis

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Syllepsis

This article is about the rhetorical concept. For other uses, see Zeugma (disambiguation).

Zeugma (

Definition

There are multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions for "zeugma" and “syllepsis” in current use. This article will categorize the figures into four types, based on four different definitions. The most common definitions are:

Zeugma: (Type 1) where a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence but must be understood differently in relation to each.[4][5][6][7] This is also called "semantic syllepsis." Example: "He took his hat and his leave."

Syllepsis: (Type 2) where a single word is used in relation to two other parts of a sentence although the word grammatically or logically applies to only one.[8] This is also called "grammatical syllepsis," and is sometimes called Zeugma. Example: "He works his work, I mine." This is "technically" ungrammatical, because "works" does not go with (agree with) "I". The sentence "I works mine" would be ungrammatical. In a syllepsis of this type, sometimes the "error" is logical, rather than grammatical, as in, "They saw lots of thunder and lightning." Logically, they "saw" only the lightning.

There are also the following definitions:

Syllepsis: (Type 3) where a word or phrase is used in both figurative and literal senses at the same time.[3] Example (advertisement for a transport company): "We go a long way for you."

Zeugma: (Type 4) The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms offers a much broader definition for zeugma, describing a zeugma as any case of parallelism and ellipsis working together so that a single word governs two or more other parts of a sentence.[9] To see how this works, start with a parallelism in which a common element is present in each clause:

"Mary likes chocolate, John likes vanilla." Grammatically, this a pair of "parallel" clauses, called parallel because each has the same word order -- subject, verb, object. The verb "likes" is a common element in each clause.

Now remove the duplicate element. Doing so is called ellipsis:

"Mary likes chocolate, John vanilla." And the result is a zeugma -- parallelism plus ellipsis. Note how the ellipsis word "likes" now is said to "govern" both clauses, and is now called the "governing word."

Zeugmas are also defined in this "Type 4" sense in Samuel Johnson's 18th-century Dictionary of the English Language.[10]

Type 1

Zeugma (often also called Syllepsis, or Semantic Syllepsis): where a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence but must be understood differently in relation to each

This type of figure is not grammatically incorrect, but creates its effect by seeming at first hearing to be incorrect, by exploiting multiple shades of meaning in a single word or phrase.

When the meaning of a verb varies for the nouns following it, there is a standard order for the nouns. The standard order is first the noun taking the most prototypical or literal meaning of the verb, followed by the noun or nouns taking the less prototypical, or more figurative, verb meanings.

  • "The boy swallowed milk and kisses," as opposed to "The boy swallowed kisses and milk." (Kelly, Bock & Keil, 1986).[13]


Type 2

Grammatical Syllepsis (sometimes also called Zeugma): where a single word is used in relation to two other parts of a sentence although the word grammatically or logically applies to only one.

Grammatical syllepsis by definition will most often be grammatically "incorrect" according to prescriptivist rules. However, such solecisms are sometimes not errors but intentional constructions in which the rules of grammar are bent by necessity or for stylistic effect.

Sometimes the "error" is logical, rather than grammatical:

  • "They saw lots of thunder and lightning." Logically, they only "saw" the lightning.

Type 3

A special case of semantic syllepsis occurs when a word or phrase is used both in its figurative and literal sense at the same time.[3] In this case, it is not necessary for the governing phrase to relate to two other parts of the sentence, for example in an advertisement for a transport company: "We go a long way for you." A syllepsis of this type is similar to a homonymic pun.

Type 4

Zeugma: a case of parallelism and ellipsis working together so that a single word governs two or more other parts of a sentence.

  • Vicit pudorem libido timorem audacia rationem amentia. (Cicero, Pro Cluentio, VI.15)
    "Lust conquered shame; audacity, fear; madness, reason."

The more usual way of phrasing this would be: "Lust conquered shame, audacity conquered fear, and madness conquered reason."

  • Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend. (Francis Bacon[14]).

The more usual way of phrasing this would be: "Histories make men wise, poets make them witty, the mathematics make them subtile, natural philosophy makes them deep, moral makes them grave, and logic and rhetoric make them able to contend."

Other types, and related figures

There are several other definitions of zeugma, encompassing other ways in which one word in a sentence can relate to two or more others. Even a simple construction such as "this is easy and comprehensible" has been called[3] a "zeugma without complication," because "is" governs both "easy" and "comprehensible."

Specialized figures have been defined to distinguish zeugmas with particular characteristics, such as the following figures that relate to the specific type and location of the governing word:

Prozeugma

A prozeugma,[15] synezeugmenon, or praeiunctio is a zeugma where the governing word occurs in the first clause of the sentence.[16]

  • Vicit pudorem libido timorem audacia rationem amentia. (Cicero, Pro Cluentio, VI.15)
    "Lust conquered shame; audacity, fear; madness, reason."
  • Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend. (Francis Bacon[17]).

Mesozeugma

A mesozeugma[18] is a zeugma where the governing word occurs in the middle of the sentence and governs clauses on either side. The form of mesozeugma where the common term is a verb is called "conjunction" (coniunctio) in the Roman Rhetorica ad Herennium.[19]

  • "What a shame is this, that neither hope of reward, nor feare of reproch could any thing move him, neither the persuasion of his friends, nor the love of his country. [sic]" (Henry Peacham)

Hypozeugma

Hypozeugma[20] is created by placing last, in a construction containing several words or phrases of equal value, the word or words on which all of them depend.

  • Assure yourself that Damon to his Pythias, Pylades to his Orestes, Titus to his Gysippus, Theseus to his Pyrothus, Scipio to his Laelius, was never found more faithful than Euphues will be to his Philautus. (John Lyly, Euphues)[21]

The more usual way of phrasing this would be: "Assure yourself that Damon was never to his Pythias, Pylades was never to his Orestes, Titus was never to his Gysippus, Theseus was never to his Pyrothus, Scipio was never to his Laelius, found more faithful than Euphues will be to his Philautus."

  • Of soup and love the first is the best. English proverb[22]

The more prosaic way of phrasing this would be: The first soup [from a fresh pot] is the best, and the first love [of your life] is the best.

Both prozeugmas and hypozeugmas are called "adjunctions" (adiunctio) in the Rhetorica ad Herennium.

Diazeugma

A diazeugma[23] is a zeugma where a single subject governs multiple verbs. A diazeugma where a single subject begins the sentence and controls a series of verbs was called a "disjunction" (disiunctio) in the Rhetorica ad Herennium.[19]

Contrasting figures

Figures contrasting with zeugma would include hypozeuxis, where each clause is independent, and anaphora, where common words are repeated across clauses.

See also

References

External links

  • Some examples of zeugma as a synonym for syllepsis
  • Perseus Project with links to original sources on rhetoric
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