Literature In English

Topic: Figures of Speech

Learning Objectives: By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:

  • give the meaning of the term figures of speech,
  • Classify figure of speech into seven categories,
  • State and explain the types of figure of speech under each categories.

Figures Of Speech

Let’s take a look at the meaning of the term figures of speech. Figures of speech are literary styles or devices that involves the use of words to effectively express a given concept. The words are used in such a way that they convey the image of what is being expressed in the mind’s eye of the listener or reader. Thus, figures of speech express deeper meanings than the ordinary meanings of the words.

Classification Of Figures of Speech

Figures of speech can be further classified into seven categories. These categories are made up of different figures of speech according to their types which are explained below as thus:

1. Figures of Similarity: The principal figures of similarity or comparison are simile and metaphor. Others are: allogory, parable and fable. These are explained below.

a. Simile: It is one of the most used figure of speech. It involves comparison between two persons or things that have features that can be said not to be similar or comparable. Simile is usually introduced by words such as ” as, like, as and as”. For example,

  • “The girl talks like a part”
  • “The boy is as brave as a lion”.
  • “Her lip is as soft as a pillow”.
  • “My father’s love for me is as deep as the ocean”.
  • “Her face is as bright as the sun”.
  • The little boy swims like a fish

b. Metaphor: This figure of speech is a comparison which is only implied, not made directly between two or more different persons or objects. For example:

  • “He is a lion in the battle Field”.
  • “She is a part”.

c. Allogory: Here, the comparison is a long extended one. A person or thing is described thoroughly to enable the reader to understand the other, following the comparison. For instance, the gods are not to blame is an allogory. In the novel the gods are not to blame, the character Odewale remains the vicissitudes of Moses in the Holy Bible.

d. Parable: This is usually a short story that has a deeper meaning than the ordinary meaning. The implied meaning is parallel to the ordinary meaning or the story in question. Examples are : ” the story of the prodigal son” and the ” Ten virgins”.

e. Fable: In fable, animals are personified to act as humans. A fable is usually didactic due to its ability to teach morals.

2. Figures of Contrast: These include Antithesis, Parallel, Epigram, and Oxymoron. Others are Paradox, Climax, and Anti-climax ( Bathos).

a. Antithesis: Here, two ideas are used against each other and following contrast, one appears very striking than the other. Examples:

“God made the country, man made the town”.

” United we stand, divided we fall”.

b. Parallel: It can be regarded as an extended antithesis, which involves a prolonged comparison that brings to focus the difference between two persons or things. For instance:

“So shines a good deed in a naughty world”.

” How far that little candle throws it beams”.

c. Epigram: This refers to a brief witty story or poem that seems contradictory but on closer examination sounds correct and witty. Examples:

“Clever men are good but they are not the best”.

“To look is much less easy than to over look”

d. Oxymoron: It is an extreme form of epigram. Oxymoron is a literary device that places two opposing words together to creatba sharp contrast. For example:

” It was a butter sweet experience “.

” She was faultily faultless “.

e. Paradox: It is an expression that seems absurd at first sight and yet proves to be true on a second thought. Examples:

“The child is father of the man”.

” More haste, less speed”.

f. Climax: It shows the upward movement in an expression. That is, a gradual ascension from low to high through successive movement. For example:

“Some are born great, dome archive greatness, and on some greatness is thrust”.

“I came, I saw, I conquered”.

g. Anti-climax or Bathos: Unlike climax, there is a downward successive descend from higher levels to lesser heights, and the intensity weakens, rather than increase towards the end. It is illustrated in the examples below:

“He lost his wife, his child, his household properties and his dog at one fell swoop of fate”.

” Sir, you have not only broken all the laws of God by your rash action but received that police man’s trousers”.

3. Figures of Association or Connection: These figures of speech are metonym, synecdoche, hypallage (transferred Epithet), and Allusion.

a. Metonym: This involves a change of name, by which a person or thin is known. The new name is formed from the accompaniment of the person or thing rather than the name. For instance:

“Ali the world known him”( people of the world)

” The pen (writer) is mightier than the sword (soldier) “.

b.Synecdoche: It also involves a change in name. Here, it is by substitution and not accompaniment of the original thing or person. Thus:

” The man in him soon asserted itself (manliness)”.

c. Hypallage (transferred Epithet): In this figure of speech, the modifying adjectives is transferred from a person to a thing. Ad in:

“He lay all night on a sleepless pillow”.

d. Allison: It makes reference to some well-known event, person, or place. As in:

” A prodigal” (Biblical allusion).

“My shylock of a landlord increased the house rent four times last year”.

4. Figures of Imagination: These include personification, personal metaphor or pathetic fallacy. Others are Apostrophe, Vision, and hypabole.

a. Personification: This refers to the attribution of life to inanimate things in oder to make them human. Example:

” The sun smiled at me”.

“The pen danced furiously on the paper”.

b. Personal metaphor or pathetic fallacy: This g of speech treats lifeless objects of nature as living beings. Personal metaphor, like ordinary metaphor can be restated as simile. Examples:

  • ” An angry sea” (personal metaphor).
  • “The smiling corn” (personal metaphor).
  • “The sea was rough as an angry man” (restating personal metaphor as simile).

c. Apostrophe: It is closely associated with personification. It involves a digression from the main tread of a discussion or writing in Order to address a present or absent person or thing. That is, apostrophe is expressed in the second person ad against personification which is expressed in the third person. Examples :

d. Hyperbole: This is an exaggeration or over statement of a given situation or an object that is not interns to be taken literally. Examples:

e. Vision: This describes an event that has not taken place but lies in the mind’s eye of the readers. It can also be called a historic present.

5. Figures of Indirectness: The figures of speech under this are innuendo, irony, sarcasm, and satire. Others are wit, humour, euphemism, litotes, and periphrasis.

a. Innuendo: This figure of speech is also known as insinuation. It involves a witty way of saying that something is depreciatory without necessarily saying it. Thus, it is implied in the hint given cleverly. Examples are:

“A word is enough for the wise”.

” I never consult doctors, for I hope to die without them”.

b. Irony: This figure of speech makes a deliberate attempt of saying the exact opposite of what one intend to say. The words are not to be taken literally. Examples:

“The teacher taught the students very well that they all failed”.

” His hands are so long that they cannot even touch his ears”.

c. Sarcasm: This figure of speeaxh is closely link to irony. The difference is that it is used without disguise. It employs contempt, bitterness, and sheer ridicule in expressing the irony without concealing anything. Examples include:

d. Satire: This figure of speech is a work of art that makes fun of or ridicule some vices in the society. It is done with a view to correcting these vices ridiculed and scorned. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Orwell’s Animal farm are examples of literary works that satirize.

e. Euphemism: This figure of speech expresses an unpleasant truth in such a manner that will be offensive but agreeable. For instance:

“He fell into a long last sleep” this means death.

“I am not a poor man”.

f. Litotes: This can bee regarded as an antonym of hyperbole. Here, an under statement is used ironically to express emphasis, unlike overstatement in hyperbole that is also used for the sake of emphasis. Examples:

” I am a citizen of no mean country “. (This implies very important nation)

” I shan’t be sorry when its over”. (This implies I shall e very glad).

g. Periphrasis: This can also be called circumlocution. It is a situation whereby the fact is not made known directly. Hence it is roundabout way of speaking. Also known as beating about the bush or not hitting the nail on the head. Examples:

6. Figures of Sound: The figures of speech to look out for arebpun or paranomasia, onomatopoeia or echoism, alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme.

a. Pun: This figure of speech is also called paranomasia. It involves a deliberate play on words having the same sound, used with different meaning to create fun. As in:

“He passes for a man of letters without the knowledge of a single letter”.

b. Onomatopoeia or Echoism: this figure of speech entails words which are deliberately used in such a way that the sounds naturally echo their meanings. Thus the word represent the sounds if what is being described.

c. Alliteration: This figure of speech is used to describe the repetition of consonant sounds in a poetic line so as to create special effects, especially in a poetic line. As in:

” Father Francis, from France, fried five fresh fishes for five famous friends from Finland”.

d. Rhythm: This refers to the musical flow of sound in poetry. It is often used by poets to enable the reader feel what they have experienced.

e. Rhyme: This occurs when there is similarity of sound in the final syllables of poetic lunes.

7. Figures of Construction: The figures of speech under this category are interrogation or rhetorical question, exclamation, chiasmus, hendiadys, syllepsis, zeugma, inversion or hyperbaton, tautology, and pleonasm.

a. Interrogation: This is also known as rhetorical question. It is an expression which requires no answer since the answer is already implied.

b. Exclamation: This is a sudden passionate address used interjectionally, expressing surprise, pain, etc.

c. Chiasmus:This is the opposite arrangement of words that occur in pairs of parallel phrases. Examples:

“Rose is red, red is rose”

“Failure is an orphan, orphan is a failure”.

d. Hendiadys: This occurs when two nouns joined by the conjunction ‘and’ rather than the nouns modified by the adjective formed from the other. Example:

“With joy and tidings fraught” (this means joyful tidings).

e. Syllepsis: This entails usage of a word in visa vis a pair of given words with different meaning in each time. Example can be seen in:

“Neither you nor him knows”.

f. Zeygma: This is the use of an adjective that is uncalled for, in relation to pair of given words. Zeygma can not be said to be correct grammatically.

“Stab the man and the bag”

g. Inversion: This figure of speech is also regarded as hyperbaton. It is the type in which a change occurs in the regular arrangement of words for the purpose of a particular effect. An example is:

“Out of something strong cometh honey”.

h. Tautology: This is the expression of same idea repeatedly in different ways saying anything meaningful in the course if the repetition.

i. Pleonasm: This figure of speech is closely associated with tautology. However,pleonasm involves the use of more words that are necessary to effectively express the meaning conveyed.

So you had a great time learning this aspect of literature. Here are questions to refresh your memory on the taught concept.

What is figure of speech?

State seven categories of figures of speech

Mention the types of figures of speech under each category.

I guessed you could answer those questions. If you couldn’t, it then means you have to go through it again. Don’t always be in haste when you study. Take it one at a time to achieve your desired goals. Hope to see you in our next class on literature in English.

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