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Rhetorical StyleThe Uses of Language in Persuasion$
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Jeanne Fahnestock

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199764129

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199764129.001.0001

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(p.239) 11 Series
Rhetorical Style

Jeanne Fahnestock

Oxford University Press

Continuing the attention to options in sentence construction, this chapter focuses on series, the use of three or more consecutive items to fill a single sentence slot, e.g., three or more adjectives or objects or prepositional phrases. By virtue of their grammatical placement, items in a series always become members of an implicit or announced category. Since antiquity, rhetorical style manuals have lavished attention on series, even specifying the kinds of categories and arguments they can construct, whether naming the parts of a whole (partitio), species of a genus (diaeresis), or features and adjuncts (enumeratio; a special exception was the congeries, a series of synonyms). By virtue of categorizing, series have the argumentative effect of bracketing, of equating their items by character and value. The order of items in a series can also be important. A listing can simply follow the principle of end weight, with the longest item last, or a series can order items according to some increasing or decreasing shared aspect (incrementum); sequential item-to-item linkage can even be suggested with overlapping phrasing (gradatio). The role of conjunctions in series is also important; the extreme cases omit all conjunctions (asyndeton) or place conjunctions between each item (polysyndeton). In their length, order, and use of conjunctions, series can serve arguments by suggesting an open-ended set or a complete and final listing.

Keywords:   series, partitio, diaeresis, enumeratio, incrementum, gradatio, end weight, polysyndeton, asyndeton

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