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The Use of Repetition as a Rhetorical Device: Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Symploce

Go to Grammar.com to read about the words: Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Symploce. These are all words that Use Repetition as a Rhetorical Device. Relax and enjoy!


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  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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Do you know these three words: Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Symploce?

In this article, The Use of Repetition as a Rhetorical Device, I will:

1. Discuss the use of repetition as a rhetorical device. 
2. Define Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Symploce - three examples of rhetorical devices that use the technique of repetition.
3. Describe the characteristics of each technique, comparing their similarities and their differences.  

The Use of Repetition

Repetition is a powerful rhetorical device in which the same words and phrases are strategically repeated to emphasize an image or a concept; it is a tool that can be used to evoke an emotion or to communicate a point of view. 

Repetition can be found within the same sentence, spread out throughout a paragraph, or even scattered within a chapter. 

When you encounter a repeated word or phrase in the text that you are reading or in the words that you are hearing, pay attention. Repetition is a marker, indicating something of significance. 


Examples of Repetition as a Rhetorical Devise


What is an Anaphora?
 
The word anaphora is a noun, and it is pronounced: a·naph·o·ra, where the emphasis is put on the second syllable. It is derived from Greek word for “carrying back.”

An anaphora a rhetorical device that uses the technique of repetition; it repeats the first word or sequence of words at the beginning of successive sentences, clauses or phrases. 

As a tool with a purpose, an anaphora can be used by writers for poetic effect, to add emphasis, to reinforce meaning, or to build a sense of urgency. An anaphora is a strong and effective technique, capturing audience attention by creating rhythm through its repetition. 

It is used in a wide variety of genres: prose, poetry, songs, political treaties, idioms, sermons, and advertisements. 

For example:

In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the author’s use of “It was…,” creates a rhythm that emphasizes and intensifies the comparisons that he is making.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” 

Go to Literature.com  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (literature.com) to access the full quote and the full text of this novel. 


What is an Epistrophe?
 
The word epistrophe (also epiphora) is a noun, and it is pronounced: eh-pis·truh-phee, where the emphasis is put on the second syllable. It is derived from Greek word epistrophē, (epi- + strophe), meaning “turning about, turning from.”

Like an anaphora, an epistrophe is also a rhetorical device that uses the technique of repetition to emphasize important images and ideas. 

However, an epistrophe is the opposite of an anaphora. It involves repeating the last word, or sequence of words, at the end of sentences, clauses or phrases. 

Like an anaphora, an epistrophe adds emphasis and reinforces meaning, and it is widely used in prose, poetry, songs, speeches, idioms, sermons, and advertisements. It too is a technique that can evoke emotion, manipulate, and be persuasive. 

For example:

In “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens, the author’s use of the word, “despairing” at the end of each phrase, emphasizes and intensifies the emotions that the protagonist is feeling. 

“I confided all to my aunt when I got home; and in spite of all she could say to me, went to bed despairing. I got up despairing and went out despairing.” — 

Go to Literature.com  David Copperfield Book (literature.com) to access the full quote and the full text of this novel. 

What is a Symploce?

The word symploce is pronounced sim-plo-see. From the Greek, simplokeen, "interweaving"

A symploce (also known as a complexio) combines an anaphora and an epistrophe

In a symploce, there is a repetition of words or phrases both at the beginning and at the end of a sentence. That is, it is an anaphora plus an epistrophe being used in the same sentence or phrase. It usually will add balance to a sentence or a phrase by keeping the beginning and the end consistent while changing the middle. 

For example:

In Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric," the author uses symploce by repeating the same words at the beginning as well as at the end of each sentence:
 
“Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal
themselves;
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?”

Go to Poetry.com I Sing The Body Electric by Walt Whitman (poetry.com) to access the full poem.


Final Thoughts

Let’s review what we have learned today.
 
If we repeat the first part of a phrase: 
We are emphasizing,
We are establishing a rhythm,
We are creating an Anaphora.

If we repeat the last part of a phrase:
Our words are evoking an emotion,
Our descriptions are inviting an emotion,
We are creating an Epistrophe.

When we repeat the beginning and the end: 
The language is as strong as it is stable.
The language is as convincing as it is stable.
And we are creating a Symploce.


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