The Root "Epan" ("upon" and "again")
Bill Long 10/7/07
From Epanadiplosis to Epanorthosis
As I was studying the Greek New Testament today, in preparation for expositing a section of Scripture, I ran across a word which was used by the author as a moral exhortation but which I had first learned, years ago, as a rhetorical term. Searching out this word, epanorthosis, made me eager to study five other "epan" words which appear next to it in the OED. The purpose of this essay is to familarize us with all six words, and some allied words, so that we not only may make our speech more precise but may understand what makes speech powerful. Let's begin with the biblical usage and then go from there.
In II Tim. 3:15 the Apostle urges his hearer to have great regard for the Scripture, since it is useful for epanorthosis. A good translation of the word is "improvement." Literally, the word means "placing again upon the right (way)..." and so an improvement fits this rather well. But when we move to the world of rhetoric, it means "a figure in which a word is recalled, in order to substitute a more correct or stronger word" (OED). This can be an effective method of speaking because it draws the reader into the sentence by asking him/her to acquiesce in the speaker's old, and then new, choice of words. By continuing to listen, the hearer is, as it were, "buying in" to the new word. Several examples are possible; one author gives the following:
"I am angry--no, I am furious about the delay."
The Latin word correctio is an equivalent. I suppose Lincoln's famous sentence in the Gettysburg address would be an example of epanorthosis: "But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground." Each successive word is a bit more "holy" or "sacred" that the previous as the previous word is "withdrawn." By taking back and replacing, the essence of epanorthosis, we convince the reader to think deeply about the point we are making.
The OED defines epanadiplosis as a "doubling" (the English menaing of "diploid" is "doubled") and it gives the following example from Phillips' 1678 The new world of English words:
"a Rhetorical figure wherein a sentence begins and ends with the same word; as 'Severe to his servants, to his children severe.'"
A 1736 guide tells us that the Latin equivalent is the Inclusio. But here is where we run into difficulty. The OED also has anadiplosis, which it defines, along with Burton, as "the beginning of a sentence, line or clause with the concluding, or any prominent word of the preceding." Thus, it gives the impression that anadiplosis is a repetition in successive lines, while epanadiplosis is repetition within the same line. Sounds a little fishy to me, don't you think? In any case, its essence is a kind of doubling of the word for increased rhetorical effect.
This word literally means "upon the road again," just like the song! But it again is a complex term because it has picked up several affiliated meanings. I think its basic meaning is the returning to the thread of the argument that you left because you wanted to digress for another point. Thomas Hobbes, who among other things wrote a volume titled Rhetoric during his long life, defined epanodos as "turning to the same tune." But this definition of taking up the thread or the point where you left off, seems to have been complicated in the 19th century by the notion of epanodos as "speaking first, to the latter of two propositions; afterwards, to the former.." Puttenham, in the late 16th century, calls it the 'figure of retire,' which means that the theme is given and then it is "withdrawn..." (only to be joined again when the time is right). Let's conclude that it carries the notion of taking up the theme that was said earlier. It is a powerful rhetorical device because it shows the reader that you are committed to linking together your whole message.
It is with the word epanalepsis that we begin to see that we have more terms that serve a useful purpose. Burton defines it in the way that the OED defines epanadiplosis--i.e., the "repetition at the end of a line, phrase, or clause of the word or words that occurred at the beginning of the same line, phrase, or clause." The OED isn't much different, though it says "a figure by which the same word or clause is repeated after intervening matter." In fact, the literal meaning of the term is "taking up again..." and so we can see how it might have been introduced without any sense that it expands the world of rhetorical meanings. For example, Burton gives the following as an example of epanalepsis:
"In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.."
But this is "classic" epanadiplosis. Ah, me...
Epanaphora is said to be the same as anaphora, which is the repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses. While devices such as epanodos also talk about taking something up again, they do so for purposes of continuing the argument or picking up the original strand of the argument. In contrast, anaphora, lit. "carrying back," repeats a phrase in order to make sure the idea is firmly fixed in mind. Here are two examples, the first from 1589 and the second from the Psalms:
"To think on death it is a misery, to think on life it is a vanitie; to think on the world verily it is; to think that heare man hath no perfect blisse..."
"The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty; the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness."
Closing with Epanastrophe
The root of this word means "turning," and it means to suggest a figure by which the last word of one sentence becomes the first word of the next. But this is nothing other than anadiplosis, which we considered briefly above. Thus, we really don't need another word to describe the phenomenon.
There is a rhetorical device called anastrophe, which is quite different from epanastrope. Anastrophe means a "departure from normal word order for the sake of emphasis." Burton tells us that anastrophe is a synonym for hyperbaton. As Shakespeare has one of his characters say, "Why should their liberty than ours be more?" Or, an example of anastrophe:
"Glistens the dew upon the morning grass."
"She looked at the sky dark and menacing."
Such a device stops the reader/hearer short, and makes them focus on the meaning of the terms.
Thus we see that some rhetorical devices "slow down" the listener, some engage by withdrawing or intensifying words, some engage by permitting repetition. All in all, it is helpful to know and be able to use these devices--presuming, that is, that you want to communicate more powerfully and effectively.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long