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Ellipsis

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Ellipsis

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Ellipsis is omission of words from a sentence or phrase without losing the essential meaning.

Example

John, that way; Jane, there. (vs. 'John go that way; Jane stay there.').

Good meeting. (vs. 'It was a good meeting)

When ready. (vs. 'You can start when you are ready')

Discussion

There is a lot of redundancy in language and it can be surprising how much can be left out without losing much meaning, particularly when there are contextual clues as to the real meaning.

Sluicing ellipsis is the removal of the end of a sentence, typically when it would mean repeating previous words, such as She ran, but I don't know why, which should more correctly She ran, but I don't know why she ran.

Verb-phrase ellipsis is the removal of a verb and associated words, such as I like it. You too?, which should be I like it. Do you like it too?

Noun-phrase ellipsis is removing nouns and associated words, such as I have six dogs, whilst Mike has two. (Mike has two dogs, of course).

Absolute ellipsis is where a significant amount of of information is omitted, such as Caesar's last words 'Et tu, Brute'.

Relative ellipsis is where a missing word is supplied by the context, for example I'm the small supplier. He's the big, or where there is a reference back to a previous item using words like 'it' or 'he'.

An ellipsis that omits all verbs from a sentence is called scesis onamaton. For example Me Tarzan, you Jane.

Ellipsis can be deliberately nudged into ambiguity to cause confusion and hence attention or distraction.

Ellipsis comes from the Greek meaning 'to leave'.

Classification: Omission.

See also

Confusion principle, Enthymeme

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