Figures of Speech: Schemes and Tropes

Schemes and Tropes

Schemes and tropes are figures of speech, having to do with using language in an unusual or “figured” way:

Trope: An artful deviation from the ordinary or principal signification of a word. A trope uses a word in an unusual or unexpected way.

Scheme: An artful deviation from the ordinary arrangement of words. A scheme is a creative alteration in the usual order of words.

Schemes and tropes are figures of speech.

Examples

“I work like a slave” [trope: simile]

“I don’t know if I’m working my job or my job, me” [schemes: antimetabole, ellipsis, personification]

Kinds of Tropes

Trope: An artful deviation from the ordinary or principal signification of a word.

Reference to One Thing as Another

  • Metaphor Reference to one thing as another, implying a comparison.
  • Simile Explicit comparison of one thing to another.
  • Synecdoche A whole is represented by naming one of its parts.
  • Metonymy Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes.
  • Personification Reference to abstractions or inanimate objects as though they had human qualities or abilities.

Wordplay and puns

  • Antanaclasis Repetition of a word in two different senses.
  • Paronomasia Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning (punning).
  • Syllepsis Using a word differently in relation to two or more words that it modifies or governs (sometimes called zeugma).
  • Onomatopoeia Use of words whose sound correspond with their semantic value.

Substitutions

  • Anthimeria Substitution of one part of speech for another.
  • Periphrasis Substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name.

Overstatement/Understatement

  • Hyperbole Use of exaggerated terms for emphasis or effect.
  • Auxesis Reference to something with a name disproportionately greater than its nature (a kind of hyberbole).
  • Litotes Understatement used deliberately.
  • Meiosis Reference to something with a name disproportionately lesser than its nature (a kind of litotes).

Semantic Inversions

  • Rhetorical Question Asking a question for a purpose other than obtaining the information requested.
  • Irony Using language in such a way as to convey a meaning opposite of what the terms used denote (often by exaggeration).
  • Oxymoron Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. A compressed paradox.
  • Paradox An apparently contradictory statement that contains a measure of truth.

Kinds of Schemes

Scheme: An artful deviation from the ordinary arrangement of words.

Structures of Balance

  • Parallelism Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
  • Isocolon A series of similarly structured elements having the same length.
  • Tricolon Three parallel elements of the same length occurring together.
  • Antithesis Juxtaposition of contrasting ideas (often in parallel structure).
  • Climax Generally, the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of increasing importance, often in parallel structure.

Change in Word Order

  • Anastrophe Inversion of natural word order.
  • Parenthesis Insertion of a verbal unit that interrupts normal syntactical flow.
  • Apposition Addition of an adjacent, coordinate, explanatory element.

Omission

  • Ellipsis Omission of a word or words readily implied by context.
  • Asyndeton Omission of conjunctions between a series of clauses.
  • Brachylogia Omission of conjunctions between a series of words.
  • (Polysyndeton) Opposite of asyndeton, a superabundance of conjunctions

Repetition

  • Alliteration Repetition of initial or medial consonants in two or more adjacent words.
  • Assonance Repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words.
  • Polyptoton Repetition of words derived from the same root.
  • Antanaclasis Repetition of a word in two different senses.
  • Anaphora Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses.
  • Epistrophe Repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses.
  • Epanalepsis Repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause.
  • Anadiplosis Repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause.
  • Climax Repetition of the scheme anadiplosis at least three times, with the elements arranged in an order of increasing importance.
  • Antimetabole Repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order. (Sometimes mistaken as chiasmus)
  • Chiasmus Repetition of grammatical structures in reverse order in successive phrases or clauses (not to be mistaken with antimetabole).

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
Please cite “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)

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