Synecdoche

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the linguistic term. For other uses, see Synecdoche (disambiguation).

A synecdoche (/sɪˈnɛkdək/, si-NEK-də-kee; from Greek συνεκδοχή, synekdoche, lit. "simultaneous understanding")[1] is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa.[2] A synecdoche is a class of metonymy, often by means of either mentioning a part for the whole or conversely the whole for one of its parts. Examples from common English expressions include "bread and butter" (for "livelihood"), "suits" (for "businesspeople"), and "boots" (for "soldiers").[3] Synecdoche also appears in the use of government buildings to refer to their occupant or agency, as "No. 10" for the British Prime Minister or "The Pentagon" for the United States Department of Defense.

Its adjectival and adverbial forms are synecdochic and synecdochically.

Definition[edit]

Synecdoche is a rhetorical trope and a type of figurative speech similar to metonymy—a figure of speech in which a term that denotes one thing is used to refer to a related thing.[4][5] Indeed, synecdoche is sometimes considered a subclass of metonymy. It is more distantly related to other figures of speech, such as metaphor.[6]

More rigorously, metonymy and synecdoche can be considered sub-species of metaphor, intending metaphor as a type of conceptual substitution (as Quintilian does in Institutio oratoria Book VIII). In Lanham's Handlist of Rhetorical Terms,[7] the three terms have somewhat restrictive definitions, arguably in tune with a certain interpretation of their etymologies from Greek:

  • Metaphor: changing a word from its literal meaning to one not properly applicable but analogous to it; assertion of identity rather than, as with simile, likeness.
  • Metonymy: substitution of cause for effect, proper name for one of its qualities, etc.

Classification[edit]

Synecdoche is often used as a type of personification, by attaching a human aspect to a non-human thing. This is used in reference to political relations, including "having a footing", used to mean a country or organization is in a position to act, or "the wrong hands", to describe opposing groups, usually in the context of military power.[8]

The two main types of synecdoche are microcosms and macrocosms. A microcosm is when a part of something is used to refer to the entirety.[9] An example of this would be someone saying that they “need a hand" with a project, when they really need the entire person.[10] A macrocosm is the opposite, when the entire structure of something is used to refer to a small part.[11] An example of this could be referring to "the world", when the speaker really means a certain country or part of the world.[12] The figure of speech is divided into the image (what the speaker uses to refer to something) and the subject (what is being referred to).

This type of reference is quite common in politics. The residence of an executive is often credited for the executive's action. A spokesperson of the Executive Office of the President of the United States is identified in "The White House announced a new plan to reduce hunger." References to the King or Queen of the United Kingdom are made in the same fashion by referring to today's official residence, Buckingham Palace. World-wide examples include "the Sublime Porte" of the Ottoman Empire, and "the Kremlin" of Russia.

Sonnets and other forms of love poetry frequently use synecdoches to characterize the beloved in terms of individual body parts rather than a coherent whole. This practice is especially common in the Petrarchan sonnet, where the idealised beloved is often described part by part, from head to toe.

Insults often assign a body part to a person. An insulting, undesirable, irritating or annoying person may be referred to as an "asshole," probably due to its considered dirtiness. A worthless or contemptible man may be referred to as a "dick," a slang word for a penis, although the term "dick" can also be used in another, non-insulting, non-synedoche use as slang for a detective, such as in the W. C. Fields motion picture The Bank Dick. The equivalent word "prick" or the Yiddish language term "schmuck" are also used as insults in place of "dick."[citation needed]

It is also popular in advertising. Since synecdoche uses a part to represent a whole, its use requires the audience to make associations and "fill in the gaps", engaging with the ad by thinking about the product.[13] Moreover, catching the attention of an audience with advertising is often referred to by advertisers as "getting eyeballs", another synecdoche.[14] Synecdoche is very common in spoken English, especially in reference to sports. The names of cities are used as shorthand for their sports teams to describe events and their outcomes, such as "Denver won Monday's game", when more accurately, a sports team from the city was victorious.[14]

Kenneth Burke (1945) declared that in rhetoric the four master tropes, or figures of speech, are metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. Burke's primary concern with these four master tropes is not simply their figurative usage, but with their role in the discovery and description of the truth.[15] He described synecdoche as “part of the whole, whole for the part, container for the contained, sign for the thing signified, material for the thing made…cause for the effect, effect for the cause, genus for the species, species for the genus".[16] In addition, Burke suggests that synecdoche patterns can include reversible pairs such as disease-cure.[17] Burke proclaimed the noblest synecdoche is found in the description of microcosm and macrocosm, “since microcosm is related to macrocosm as part to the whole, and either the whole can represent the part or the part can represent the whole".[17] Burke also compared synecdoche with the concept of "representation", especially in the political sense, where an elected representatives stand in pars pro toto for their electorate.[15]

Examples[edit]

A part referring to the whole (pars pro toto)
  • Referring to people according to a single characteristic: "the gray beard" representing an older man or "the long hair" representing a hippie
  • Describing a complete vehicle as "wheels"
  • Referring to people by a particular body part. For example, "head count" or "counting noses"
  • Saying "bubbles" to refer to Champagne or any other sparkling wine
  • Using "Arabian sands" to refer the Arabian deserts
  • Using "ivories" to refer to a piano (particularly in the phrase "tickling the ivories", meaning to play the piano), by a pair of synecdoches: the piano designated by its part, the keys, which in turn were historically made of ivory
  • Using "grocery" (=product) to refer to a grocery shop.
A general class name used to denote a specific member of that or an associated class
  • Saying "Wiki" to mean "Wikipedia"
  • Using "the good book" or "The Book" for the Bible ("Bible" itself comes from the Greek word for "book")
  • Describing any four-wheel drive vehicle (including long-haul trailers, etc.) as a "truck"
  • In the phrase, "He's good people", the word "people" is used to denote a specific instance of people (a single person)
  • "The pill" is commonly used to refer to a birth-control pill
A specific class name referring to a general set of associated things
The material that a thing is (or was, or is supposedly) made of, referring to that thing
A container is used to refer to its contents
  • "barrel" for a barrel of oil
  • "keg" for a keg of beer
  • "He drank the cup", to refer to his drinking of the cup's contents

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ from the verb ἐκδέχομαι "to take or receive from another" (simplex δέχομαι "to receive"). "συνεκ-δοχή , ἡ, A. understanding one thing with another: hence in Rhet., synecdoche, an indirect mode of expression, when the whole is put for a part or vice versa, Quint.Inst. 8.6.19, Aristid.Quint. 2.9, Ps.-Plu.Vit.Hom. 22." Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1940.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary- synecdoche, University of Pennsylvania. N. R. Clifton (1983). The Figure on Film. University of Delaware Press. pp. 173–. ISBN 978-0-87413-189-5. Retrieved 19 May 2013. . Definition of Synecdoche, St. Edward's University. Synecdoche - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  3. ^ Examples of Synecdoche from day to day life
  4. ^ Glossary of Rhetorical Terms, University of Kentucky
  5. ^ Jakobson, Roman & Morris Halle (1956). Fundamentals of Language. The Hague: Mouton. p. 95. ISBN 117871814X. 
  6. ^ Figurative Language- language using figures of speech, University of West Georgia
  7. ^ Lanham, Richard A (1991). A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: A Guide for Students of English Literature, Second Edition. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: California University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-520-07669-9. 
  8. ^ Political Metaphors: http://www.politicalmetaphors.com/tag/synecdoche/
  9. ^ Burke, Kenneth. The Kenyon Review. Vol. 1. Gambier: Kenyon College, n.d. 426. New Ser. Vol. 32. Jstor. Ithaka. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4332286?seq=4>
  10. ^ Enelow, David. "The Four Master Tropes." Untitled Document. Head-Royce School, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://faculty.headroyce.org/~denelow/English%2011/rhetoric/Mastertropes.html>
  11. ^ Burke, Kenneth. The Kenyon Review. Vol. 1. Gambier: Kenyon College, n.d. 426. New Ser. Vol. 32. Jstor. Ithaka. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4332286?seq=4>
  12. ^ Enelow, David. "The Four Master Tropes." Untitled Document. Head-Royce School, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://faculty.headroyce.org/~denelow/English%2011/rhetoric/Mastertropes.html>.
  13. ^ Chandler, Daniel, Semiotics: the Basics. Routledge, New York, 2007. (132-133): http://books.google.com/books?id=utd_AgAAQBAJ&lpg=PT126&ots=IoMhYPzloj&dq=Barthes%201974%2C%20162%3B&pg=PT126#v=onepage&q=Barthes%201974,%20162;&f=false
  14. ^ a b Synecdoche: The Art of Getting Eyeballs, Liz Bureman: http://thewritepractice.com/synecdoche/
  15. ^ a b Burke, Kenneth (1945). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice Hall. p. 503. 
  16. ^ Burke, Kenneth (1945). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice Hall. pp. 507–508. 
  17. ^ a b Burke, Kenneth (1945). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice Hall. p. 508. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Monateri, Pier Giuseppe (1958). La Sineddoche. Formule e regole nel diritto delle obbligazioni e dei contratti. Milano: Giuffré. 

External links[edit]