AP Lang Toolbox Terms 1-6

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a verbal description, the purpose of which is to exaggerate or distort, for comic effect, a

person's distinctive physical features or other characteristics.

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Litote (Little tee)

a form of understatement that involves making an affirmative point by denying its

opposite. Litote is the opposite of hyperbole. Examples: "Not a bad idea," "Not many," "It

isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain" (Salinger, Catcher in the Rye).

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When one kind of sensory stimulus evokes the subjective experience of another. Ex: The

sight of red ants makes you itchy. In literature, synesthesia refers to the practice of

associating two or more different senses in the same image. Red Hot Chili Peppers' song

title,"Taste the Pain," is an example.

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Insincere or overly sentimental quality of writing/speech intended to invoke pity.

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A statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed.

("Susan walked in, and out rushed Mary.")

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The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to the literal meaning. In some for example, an author may intend the characters to personify an abstraction like hope or freedom. The meaning usually deals with moral truth or a generalization about human existence.

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A direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known, such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art. Examples: historical, literary, religious, topical, or mythical. The use of this can have multiple layers

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A terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle. (If the authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a folk proverb.) Can be a memorable summation of the author's point.

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A figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or a personified abstraction, such as liberty or love. It is an address to someone or something that cannot answer. The effect may add familiarity or emotional intensity.

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The repetition of sounds, (like "she sells sea shells"). Can reinforce meaning, unify ideas, supply a musical sound, and/or echo the sense of the passage.

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A similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them. Can explain something unfamiliar by associating it with or pointing out its similarity to something more familiar. Makes writing more vivid, imaginative, or intellectually engaging.

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The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun.

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The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage.

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The use of slang or informalities in speech or writing. Not generally acceptable for formal writing; give a work a conversational, familiar tone. Includes local or regional dialects.

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The non-literal, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning. May involve ideas, emotions, or attitudes.

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A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb. An independent, or main, clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence. A dependent, or subordinate clause, cannot stand alone as a sentence and must be accompanied by an independent clause. The point that you want to consider is the question of what or why the author subordinates one element should also become aware of making effective use of subordination in your own writing.

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A figure of speech using deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. Hyperboles often have a comic effect; however, a serious effect is also possible. Often, hyperbole produces irony.

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Related to style, diction refers to the write's word choices, especially with regards to their correctness, clearness, or effectiveness. For the AP exam, you should be able to describe an author's diction (for example, formal or informal, ornate or plain) and understand the ways in which diction can complement the author's purpose. Diction, combined with syntax, figurative language, literary devices, etc., creates an author's style.

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Generic Conventions

This term describes traditions for each genre. These conventions help to define each genre; for example, they differentiate an essay and journalistic writing or an autobiography and political writing. On the AP language exam, try to distinguish the unique features of a writer's work from those dictated by convention.

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Extended Metaphor

A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work.

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The major category into which a literary work fits. The basic divisions of literature are prose, poetry, and drama. However, genre is a flexible term, within these broad boundaries exist many subdivisions that are often called genres themselves. For example, prose can be divided into fiction (novels and short stories) or nonfiction (essays, biographies, autobiographies, etc.) Poetry can be divided into lyric, dramatic, narrative, epic, etc. Drama can be divided into tragedy, comedy, melodrama, farce, etc. On the AP language exam, expect the majority of the passages to be from the following genres, autobiography, biography, diaries, criticism, essay and journalistic, political, scientific, and nature writing.

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Figure of Speech

A device used to produce figurative language. Many compare dissimilar things. Figures of speech include apostrophe, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, metonymy, oxymoron, paradox, personification, simile, synecdoche, and understatement.

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This term literally means "sermon," but more informally, it can include any serious talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice.

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From the Greek for "good speech," euphemisms are a more agreeable or less offensive substitute for a generally unpleasant word or concept. The euphemism may be used to adhere to standards of social or political correctness or to add humor or ironic understatement. Saying "earthly remains" rather than "corpse" is an example of euphemism.

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From the Greek, didactic literally means "teaching." Didactic words have the primary aim of teaching or instructing, especially the teaching of moral or ethical principles.

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figurative language

Writing or speech that is not intended to carry literal meaning and is usually meant to be imaginative and vivid.

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The strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or color.

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The sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions. On a physical level, imagery uses terms related to the five senses; we refer to visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, or olfactory imagery, On a broader and deeper level, however, one image can represent more than one thing. For example, a rose may present visual imagery while also representing the color in a woman's cheeks and/or symbolizing some degree of perfection (It is the highest flower on the Great Chain of Being). An author may use complex imagery while simultaneously employing other figures of speech, especially metaphor, and simile. In addition, this term can apply to the total of all the images in a work. On the AP exam, pay attention to how an author creates imagery and to the effect of this imagery.

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A term from the Greek meaning "changed label" or "substitute name," metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it. A news release that claims "the White House declared" rather that "the President declared" is using metonymy. The substituted term generally carries a more potent emotional impact.

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From the Greek for "pointedly foolish," an oxymoron is a figure of speech where in the author groups apparently contradictory terms to suggest a paradox.

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Also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure, this term comes from Greek roots meaning "beside one another." It refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity. This can involve, but is not limited to, repetition of a grammatical element such as a preposition or verbal phrase. A famous example of parallelism begins Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity... " The effects of parallelism are numerous, but frequently they act as an organizing force to attract the reader's attention, add emphasis and organization, or simply provide a musical rhythm.

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The contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant. The difference between what appears to be and what actually is true. In general, there are three major types of irony used in language; (1) In verbal irony, the words literally state the opposite of the writer's (or speaker's) true meaning. (2) In situational irony, events turn out the opposite of what was expected. What the characters and readers think ought to happen is not what does happen. (3) In dramatic irony, facts or events are unknown to a character in a play or piece of fiction but known to the reader, audience, or other characters in the work. Irony is used for many reasons, but frequently, it's used to create poignancy or humor.

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This term has two distinct technical meanings in English writing. The first meaning is grammatical and deals with verbal units and a speaker's attitude. The indicative mood is used only for factual sentences. For example, "Joe eats too quickly." The subjunctive mood is used to express conditions contrary to fact. For example, "If I were you, I'd g another job." The imperative mood is used for commands. For example,

"Shut the door!" The second meaning of mood is literary, meaning the prevailing atmosphere or emotional aura of a work. Setting, tone, and events can affect the mood. In this usage, mood is similar to tone and atmosphere.

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A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer inspection contains some degree of truth or validity. Macbeth.

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A figure of speech in which natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of words. Simple examples include such words as buzz, hiss, hum, crack, whinny, and murmur. If you note examples of onomatopoeia in an essa passage, note the effect.

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an emotionally violent, verbal enunciation or attack using strong, abusive language

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A sub-type of parallelism, when the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or sentences. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

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From the Greek meaning "to tear flesh," sarcasm involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something. It may use irony as a service, but not all ironic statements are sarcastic, that is, intended to ridicule. When well done, sarcasm can be witty and insightful; when poorly done, it's simply cruel.

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The use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some might be omitted.

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Lack of conjunctions

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A succession of clauses of approximately equal length and corresponding structure

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Point of View

In literature, the perspective from which a story is told.

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One of the major divisions of genre, prose refers to fiction and nonfiction. including all its forms. In prose the printer determines the length of the line; in poetry, the poet determines the length of the line.

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A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or ridicule. As comedy, parody distoris or exaggerates distinctive features of the original.

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From the Greek for "orator," this term describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently, and persuasively.

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The opposite of anaphora, repetition at the end of successive clauses. "They saw no evil, they spoke no evil, and they heard no evil."

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A work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule. It can be recognized by the many devices used effectively by the satirist: irony, wit, parody, caricature, hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm The effects of satire are varied, depending on the writer's goal, but good satire, often humorous, is thought provoking and insightful about the human condition.

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The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development, their connotations, and their relation to one another.

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From the Greek for "reckoning together," a syllogism is a deductive system of formal logic that presents two premises (the first one called "major" and the second, "minor") that inevitably lead to a sound conclusion.

Ex.: major Premise: All men are mortal.minor premise: Socrates is a man. conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

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an artful variation from expected modes of expression of thoughts and ideas.. a use of he word in a sense other than its proper or literal one. Common types include: metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, hyperbole, litotes, irony, oxymoron, onomatopoeia, etc.

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The ironic minimizing of fact...presents something as less significant than it is.

The opposite of hyperbole, but like it in creating emphasis.

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the opposition or contrast of ideas; the direct opposite.

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a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole or,

occasionally, the whole is used to represent a part. Examples: To refer to a boat as a "sail";

to refer to a car as "wheels"; to refer to the violins, violas, etc. in an orchestra as "the

strings." **Different than metonymy, in which one thing is represented by another thing that

is commonly physically associated with it (but is not necessarily a part of it), i.e., referring

to a monarch as "the crown" or the President as "The White House."

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In modern usage, intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. A witty

statement is humorous, while suggesting the speaker's verbal power in creating ingenious

and perceptive remarks.

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A play on words that often has a comic effect. Associated with wit and cleverness, A writer

who speaks of " the grave topic of American funerals" may be employing an intentional or

unintentional one. The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word,

phrase, sentence, or passage.

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A term used to point out a characteristic of a person. (Swift-footed Achilles) Can be abusive,

or offensive, but are not so by definition. (The Rock, Jake "the Snake")

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the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is appropriate to only one

of them or is appropriate to each but in a different way, as in to wage war and peace or On

his fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

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5 canons of rhetoric

Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, Delivery

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The author's subtle shift in perspective, a new way of looking at something

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Order of ideas that are placed in a purposeful and strategized way

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ability to access knowledge already had

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ability to manipulate rhetorical devices, (diction, syntax, strategies)

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genre of a presentation (article/essay/speech)

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accepted belief of a system (understanding topic concepts)

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circumstance or situation of a topic (Occasion section in SOAPSTONE)

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"why?" what the author wants the intended audience to learn, view, or do

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levels of diction

formal, standard, and informal

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analysis of sentence construction (how it contributes to or enhances text meaning)

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the author's attitude toward the subject - expressed with sentence structure and adjectives

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telling a story, recounts a sequence of events, uses descriptive elements

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narration examples




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- show the reader instead of tell- used to establish mood, and evoke empathy from audience- appeals to 5 senses

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providing examples to illustrate or clarify a concept

- illustrates an abstract idea

- strengthens a claim with examples

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compare and contrast

finding similarities and differences between 2 things

- analyzing info carefully and discuss subtleties

- how subjects are alike and diff

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classification and division

- sorting info into major categories

- breaking a subject into parts and finding unique ways to organize infobreaks complex subjects and organizes large material

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explaining a word, or idea to where reader knows EXACTLY what the writer means

- may cover denotation and connotation

- 1st step in a debate or argument

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process analysis

breaking a process into smaller parts with transitions or a sequence of steps- explains something beginning to end and evaluating the efficiency of a procedure

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cause and effect

analyzes the causes that lead to a certain effect or the effects that result from a cause

- traces a chain or events between cause and effect

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ad hominem (personal attack) 

claim that discredits your opponent’s opinion by directly attacking their character

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appeal to false authority

claim based on expertise of  someone who lacks appropriate credentials

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claim based on popularity and/or trends

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Either or Fallacy 

Simplifying an argument by giving only two options

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Hasty Generalization 

claim based on a general assumption/ stereotype of people or institutions

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Moral Equivalence 

Draw comparisons between different, often unrelated things, to make a point that one is just as bad as the other or just as good as the other

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Red Herring

An irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue.

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Scare tactics 

A strategy using fear to influence the public’s reaction; coerces a response based upon fear

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Slippery Slope 

When significant events lead to another significant events; course of action that could potentially lead to something disastrous

Exaggerating the consequences of an action 

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Stacking the deck

Ignoring examples that disprove the point, and listing only those examples that support the case

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Straw Man 

When a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position

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