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Language techniques every student must know
The English language serves as a vast reserve of devices, terms and techniques to enhance the quality of a write-up. Naturally, students are often encouraged to become familiar with Literary techniques. That said, these literary techniques can be tough specifically because of the sheer volume they come in.
In fact, you may become dumbfounded trying to decipher the definition of each of these literary conventions. On that note, we have created a precise list of features of all the language techniques, along with pertinent examples to go with each one.
Alliteration is a technique that involves the application of multiple words, each beginning with a similar sounding letter. This figure of speech is often discovered in marketing content, newspaper headlines and branding because it’s memorable. It helps in retaining the concept in the minds of the audience.
In a literary context, it’s often employed in poetry to express a specific feeling. The author generally draws the reader’s attention on a certain section of a text by giving it a certain rhythm and by applying specific connotation.
The following are some pertinent examples of this literary device.
- O wild west wind thou breath of Autumn’s being
- Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
A word or phrase that comes with an underlying meaning or provokes thoughts for a deeper understanding has “connotations.” Writers often employ certain terms or phrases because they realise that readers will connect them with other things, and they can enhance their writing with many insightful layers. Also, words may have negative or positive connotations based on the cultural, social, and personal experiences of different individuals.
For instance, the word “white” comes with the connotations of peace, purity, good, cleanliness, and innocence.
The origin of this term is traced back to a Greek word that means “over-casting.” It’s a figure of speech that emphasises on the exaggeration of ideas.
It is a method that we tend to use in our day-to-day speeches. For instance, when you chance upon an acquaintance after a long time, you say, “It’s been ages since we’ve met.” Now you may not have met since only a couple of days but the use of the term “ages” exaggerates this statement to emphasise wait. Hyperbole is an unrealistic exaggeration to highlight the real situation.
Litotes originates from a Greek word meaning “simple.” It’s a literary technique that involves presenting an understatement through the use of double negatives. While understatement may seem a peculiarly British trait, the application of litotes is rather usual in a number of European languages. In fact, it was a prominent feature of Old English poems.
For instance, the expression “not too bad” in place of “very good” indicates an understatement. It’s also a double negative statement, which conveys a positive idea by countering the opposite idea. Similarly, saying “I am not as youthful as I used to be,” to avoid saying “I am old” is another example. Litotes is an intentional use of understatement that creates an ironic effect.
Pathetic fallacy is a literary convention in which human emotions are designated to different aspects of nature, like the weather. For example, the weather can be employed to reflect an individual’s mood, with rain or dark clouds present in a narrative that involves sorrow. It’s a variant of personification, which is another extremely prevalent literary device in English literature.
Pathetic fallacy is often connected only with the attribution of human emotions to different elements of nature (sun, wind, sky, etc.), while personification is adopted in a much broader context.
In Robert Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, the narrator talks about the wind as sullen and destroying trees out of anger.
“The sullen wind
was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
and did its worst to vex the lake.”
An aside is a technique that has been applied in plays for a long time. This involves a character directly talking to the audience (without the other characters within the narrative being able to hear). It’s a part of the story, generally kept brief. It’s often applied in a comical sense to gossip or make a comment about another character without their knowledge.
Some films also make use of this method, with a character staring directly into the camera to talk to the audience. This is popularly known as ‘breaking the fourth wall.’
A common example of this literary convention is present in Hamlet. It is spoken by the title character about Claudius, “A little more than kin, and less than kind.”
This literary device refers to words that replicate the natural sounds of a thing (both living or non-living). It presents a sound effect that imitates the object described, which makes the description more appealing and attractive.
“Gushing stream” can be a pertinent example, and so are most of the words we use to describe animal noises, such as “hiss,” “meow,” etc. Another instance could be words related to collisions, which often sound like various noises connected with two things colliding, e.g. “thud” or “clash” or “bang”.
Here’s a good example of onomatopoeia.
- I lay awake to the sound of rustling leaves.
- The stack of papers fell to the ground with a loud thud.
Allegory is a language technique in which abstract principles and theories are defined in terms of figures, characters, and events. It can be adopted in prose and poetry to narrate a story. The objective behind using this is to explain a principle or a thought.
Writers employ allegory to incorporate multiple layers of meanings to their works. Allegory lends a multidimensional form to their stories and characters. This way, they stand for something broader in meaning than what they literally stand for.
This example from the Oxforddisctionaries.com is a perfect specimen of an allegory.
Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegorical representation of the spiritual journey.
Irony is a technique in which words are used in a way that their intended meaning differs from the original meaning of the words. It could also be a situation that ends up in a different way than is usually anticipated. Simply put, it is a distinction between appearance and reality.
On the basis of this understanding, Irony can be categorised as situation and verbal. Verbal irony denotes what one does not mean. For instance, as a response to a foolish idea, we often say, “What an excellent idea!” This is verbal irony. Situational irony can be understood with this example, “A man is amused at the misfortune of another, even when the same misfortune may fall upon him.”
The following is a pertinent example.
He enjoyed his vacation about as much as a root canal.
Now that you have gained a little perspective on these techniques, make sure to implement them appropriately within your written pieces and assignments. That way you will be able to impress your professor to award you some brownie points.
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