Aposiopesis

Aposiopesis

[ap-uh-sahy-uh-pee-sis]
Aposiopesis (from Classical Greek, ἀποσιώπησις, "becoming silent") is the rhetorical device by which the speaker or writer deliberately stops short and leaves a statement unfinished to be supplied by the imagination, giving the impression that he/she is unwilling or unable to continue. A common example is the threat "Get out, or else—!" It often portrays the speaker as being overcome with passion (fear, anger, excitement) or modesty. To mark the occurrence of aposiopesis with punctuation editors use an em dash or an ellipsis.

A classical example of aposiopesis in Virgil occurs in Aeneid 2.100. Sinon, the Greek who is posing as a traitor to deceive the Trojans into accepting the Trojan Horse within their city wall, tells about how Ulixes spread false rumors at Sinon's expense. Ulixes does not stop his malicious gossiping until he causes Sinon's ruin with the help of the seer Calchas. The whole story is a lie that Sinon tells with consummate artistry in order to convince the Trojans that he deserted the Greeks to escape Ulixes's enmity. To ensure the effect of his elaborate lie, Sinon at one point leaves a crucial statement unfinished (Aen. 2.97-100):

hinc mihi prima malis labes, hinc semper Vlixes
criminibus terrere nouis, hinc spargere uoces
in uulgum ambiguas et quaerere conscius arma.
nec requieuit enim, donec Calchante ministro—

''This was the time when the first onslaught of ruin began for me.
Ulixes kept terrifying me with new accusations,
kept spreading ambiguous rumors among the people,
and kept looking for quarrel.
Nor did he in fact ever stop, until with the help of Calchas—

A more modern example of aposiopesis occurs in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer: “Well, I lay if I get ahold of you I'll—.”

Another modern example occurs in Star Wars: A New Hope in which Darth Vader says of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “I sense something; a presence I have not felt since—”, referencing the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

A biblical example is found in Psalm 27, verse 13. The Hebrew, written by King David (c. 1005–965 BCE), says in English: "Unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . . " The implication is that David does not know what he would have done.

In syntax, an aposiopesis arises when the 'if- clause' or protasis of a condition is stated without an ensuing 'then- clause' or apodosis.

References

  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-36250-0.
  • Lanham, Richard A. (1991). A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07669-9.

ja: 頓絶法

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