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The Language of Literary Analysis

The following terms, mainly used in literary criticism, are primarily here for teacher reference and to facilitate hypertext links from the on-line units.

Teachers needing authoritative guidance on terminology and its place in the English classroom should consult:

Exploring Language, Ministry of Education 1996 (available from Learning Media)

Acronym:
word formed from the initial letters of others words. eg. ANZAC.

Alliteration:
repetition of consonants. eg. 'wild and whirling words'.

Allegory:
where a character or incident represents abstract qualities eg. Death, Greed, Hope, Truth.

Antithesis:
balanced contrast, often of grammatical pattern and meaning eg. 'the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak' ' to err is human; to forgive divine'.

Aphorism:
a short pointed expression of a principle or a precept. 'A crowd is not company'.

Apostrophe:
a direct address eg. 'Oh Death'. (prolific in Odes).

Archaisms:
words used in the past which now date a piece of writing. eg. thee, thou, shalt etc.

Bathos Anticlimax:
descending order to spoil effect of climax. Often deliberate and for humour eg.

CLOSE by those Meads for ever crown'd with Flow'rs,
Where Thames with Pride surveys his rising Tow'rs,
There stands a Structure of Majestick Frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its Name.
Here Britain's Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of Foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at home;
Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take--and sometimes Tea.

(The Rape of Lock - Alexander Pope)

Contractions:
shortening of words in informal speech and writing eg cannot is contracted to can't.

Cliche:
a well worn or stereotyped expression. eg. his better half.

Circumlocution:
using more words than necessary for a desired effect. eg. 'in the event of illness continuing for an extended time, your son should make application for leave'.

Colloquialism:
a word or phrase used in speech but not dignified in formal writing or speech. eg. 'cop' for policeman.

Compound Words:
2 words joined together, often to make up a name. eg. Daylong. Prolific in advertising.

Connotation:
is the emotional association which many words have and they mean different things to different people. eg. 'gang' 'Communist' 'white'

Denotation:
is the object or concept a word stands for. eg. House denotes a dwelling of wood or stone etc used by people for living in.

Ellipsis:
the omission from a sentence of words and phrases necessary for grammatical completeness, but not for meaning. eg. 'one man was dead, the other (man was) dying".

Epigram:
a brief expression of worthwhile thought (proverbs are usually epigrams) eg. faint heart never won a fair maiden

Euphemism:
expressions or words which are a 'nicer' way of saying something which may otherwise be distasteful. eg. ' I'm going to powder my nose'; 'he passed away'.

Hyperbole:
a deliberate exaggeration for effect. eg. I've a ton of homework.

Idiom:
a combination of words which is not strictly in accordance with grammatical rules. Peculiar to a nation or a people. eg. to have a hair of the dog that bit you.

Inversion:
a change in the natural order of words of a sentence eg. 'They shall grow not old'.

Irony:
intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed.

Litotes:
the use of understatement for effect eg. 'a slight embarrassment'.

Metaphor:
this also makes comparisons but these are direct. eg. 'The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas'.

Metonymy:
the mentioning of one or two things so closely associated that the mention of the first suggests the second eg. the crown (the Queen)

Neologisms:
newly coined words. eg. Internet

Onomatopoeia:
words which recreate the sound they describe. eg. buzz.

Oxymoron:
a rhetorical figure in which effect is produced by apparent self-contradiction eg. 'more haste, less speed'.

Paradox:
this is a statement that apparently contradicts accepted facts, but holds some truth eg. the son is father to the man.

Parody:
imitation of another's style or work usually to deride.

Pathos:
exciting feelings of sorrow eg. a blind child.

Personification:
inanimate objects or abstract things are given human qualities. eg. night stares through the window.

Portmanteau Words:
a word which combines the sounds and meanings of two others eg. 'slithy' (lithe and slimey).

Pun:
a word which employs two meanings; a play on words. eg. 'The cake shop owner sponged on his friend'.

Repetition:
words phrases or sentences are repeated for emphasis. eg. Alone, alone, all, all alone.

Rhetorical Question:
a question, often used in oratory, to which an answer is not required. eg. is this the way for a man to behave?

Satire:
use of language to expose vice or folly eg. Animal Farm.

Simile:
the writer brings out a similarity which is introduced using words 'like' or 'as'. eg. 'Love is like a butterfly', 'as red as a rose'.

Slang:
words or phrases that have not been accepted as standard English even in everyday speech eg. 'crap'.

Synecdoche:
allusion to the part is used to imply the whole eg. all hands on deck.