In rhetoric, chiasmus (Latin term from Greek χίασμα, "crossing", from the Greek χιάζω, chiázō, "to shape like the letter Χ") is the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism. Chiasmus was particularly popular in the literature of the ancient world, including Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, where it was used to articulate the balance of order within the text. As a popular example, many long and complex chiasmi have been found in Shakespeare and the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible. It is also found throughout the Quran and the Book of Mormon.
Today, chiasmus is applied fairly broadly to any "criss-cross" structure, although in classical rhetoric it was distinguished from other similar devices, such as the antimetabole. In its classical application, chiasmus would have been used for structures that do not repeat the same words and phrases, but invert a sentence's grammatical structure or ideas. The concept of chiasmus on a higher level, applied to motifs, turns of phrase, or whole passages, is called chiastic structure.
The elements of simple chiasmus are often labelled in the form A B B A, where the letters correspond to grammar, words, or meaning. For example John F. Kennedy said, "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country".
"Dotes" and "strongly loves" share the same meaning and bracket "doubts" and "suspects".
Chiasmus can be used in the structure of entire passages to parallel concepts or ideas. This process, termed "conceptual chiasmus", uses a criss-crossing rhetorical structure to cause an overlapping of "intellectual space". Conceptual chiasmus utilizes specific linguistic choices, often metaphors, to create a connection between two differing disciplines. By employing a chiastic structure to a single presented concept, rhetors encourage one area of thought to consider an opposing area's perspective.
Effectiveness of chiasmus
Chiasmus derives its effectiveness from its symmetrical structure. The structural symmetry of the chiasmus imposes the impression upon the reader or listener that the entire argument has been accounted for. In other words, chiasmus creates only two sides of an argument or idea for the listener to consider, and then leads the listener to favor one side of the argument. In former President John F. Kennedy's famous quote, "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country", the only two questions that the chiastic statement allows for are whether the listener should ask what the country can do for him, or ask what he can do for his country. The statement also proposes that the latter statement is more favorable. Thus, chiasmus gains its rhetorical efficacy through symmetrical structure causing the belief that all tenets of an argument have been evaluated.
- Lund, Nils Wilhelm (1942). Chiasmus in the New Testament, a study in formgeschichte. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. OCLC 2516087.
- McCoy, Brad (Fall 2003). "Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature" (PDF). CTS Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico: Chafer Theological Seminary) 9 (2): 18–34.
- Parry, Donald W. (2007). Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon (PDF). Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. ISBN 978-0-934893-36-7.
- Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book Company. p. 677. OCLC 402001.
- Welch, John W. (1995). "Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus". Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (Brigham Young University) 4 (2).
- Welch, John W. (1999) . Chiasmus in antiquity: structures, analyses, exegesis. Provo, Utah: Research Press. ISBN 0934893330. OCLC 40126818.
|Look up chiasmus in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Chiasmus, Rhetorical Figures, by Gideon O. Burton (Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, BYU), at humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric
- Chiasmus Explained at LiteraryDevices
- Ramirez, Matthew Eric (January 2011). "Descanting on Deformity: The Irregularities in Shakespeare's Large Chiasms". Text and Performance Quarterly 31 (1): 37–49. doi:10.1080/10462937.2010.526240.
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- Ceccarelli, Leah (2001). Shaping Science with Rhetoric: The Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrödinger, and Wilson. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 5. ISBN 0226099067. OCLC 45276826.
- Lissner, Patricia (2007). Chi-thinking: Chiasmus and Cognition (PDF). University of Maryland. p. 217. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Kennedy, John. "Inaugural Address". American Rhetoric. American Rhetoric. Retrieved November 5, 2014.