English Terminology – Part 1

Everyone knows (or should know) the basic English techniques and terminology – metaphor, simile, alliteration, exaggeration.

But what about the more…obscure ones? Like absurdism, non-linear, tracking, syntax, contraction (which I’ll go through today)?

This is Part 1 of a series, where in each part, I will be explaining and giving examples of 5 English terms or techniques that you may not know.

1. Absurdism

Refers to the philosophy that life is ultimately meaningless and human efforts to find meaning are “absurd”.

Playwrights that expressed this philosphy in the mid 20th Century were known was the Theatre of the Absurd (eg. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). Fiction that expresses this philosophy is known was absurdist fiction (eg. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland).

Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist play that explores the notion that human life may ultimately be meaningless…

2. Non-Linear

Describes texts (usually stories) that do not follow the usual “linear” structure of beginning, complication and end. They may start at the end instead, or jump all over the place etc. They often use flashbacks and flashforwards.

For example, websites are non-linear. Non-linear narratives include Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Memento, and even the TV series Lost.

Nolan’s non-linear narrative in The Prestige allows the parallel plots, of that in the “past” and that in the “present” to be told simultaneously.

3. Tracking

Is the reference in film techniques, where the camera follows the action. This usually involves putting the camera onto a crane, or the back of a truck. This can give the audience a view of the action from the point of view of the character, or of an outsider watching from above or next to the character.

For example, this clip from Kill Bill.

Tarantino uses fluid tracking shots to allows audiences to view the action as if they were walking around the setting themselves.

4. Syntax

This refers to the order and arrangement of words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs. Poetry often uses unusual syntax.

For example, in Emily Dickinson’s A narrow fellow in the grass, she uses unusual syntax in the following lines:

You may have met him – did you not,

His notice sudden is.

A very well known example would be the way Yoda in Star Wars speaks.

The use of unusual syntax indicates that Dickinson is a quite contemporary and unconventional poet.

5. Contraction

Refers to putting 2 words together using an apostrophe. This is often used in colloquial language.

For example, can’t, she’ll, I’m.

The character’s use of contractions adds to the colloquialism of their dialogue.

1 comment for “English Terminology – Part 1

  1. sino
    August 6, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Good job on this series! Ive been thinking of examples of these techniques in my studied texts, and its opened up many new, advanced ideas to me. Thank you.

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