Figura etymologica

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Figura etymologica is a rhetorical figure in which words with the same etymological derivation are used adjacently. Note that to count as a figura etymologica, it is necessary that the two words be genuinely different words and not just different inflections of the same word. For example, the sentence Once I loved, but I love no more is not a figura etymologica since although love and loved are obviously etymologically related, they are really just inflections of the same word.

An example of a figura etymologica can be found in Romans (1:25) - "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator".

Other examples in modern English include the phrase "might and magic" (both of which are derived from the Indo-European mag(h)) and "chai tea," in which both come from words for tea (cha and te) in different Chinese dialects.

In fact, the figura etymologica has been both much more broadly and narrowly defined. In the narrowest definition, it is restricted to specialized uses of the accusative with cognate verbs (for example, live a good life, sing a long song, die a quiet death). In modern linguistics, this same construction goes by the name of "cognate object construction" (COC). In its less restricted sense, the figura etymologica refers to just about any sort of repetition of cognate words relatively close to each other.

References[edit]

  • Clary, Todd C. Solemnity, Banality and Sarcasm: Provenances of the Figura Etymologica in Homer, Cornell University (abstract)
  • Clary, Todd C. "Restrictions on the Figura Etymologica in Archaic Greek epic" Cornell University [1]