Literature

Asyndeton

Within the world of rhetoric, there are figures of speech, which are important for modifying the form or sound of words or the syntactic construction of sentences. The asyndeton is one of these rhetorical diction figures that seeks to generate greater dynamism in the message by suppressing the number of connectors in the sentences and marking short pauses with the use of the comma.

Asyndeton

Related topics

Anastrophe, hyperbaton, hyperbole

What is asyndeton?

The asyndeton is a rhetorical diction figure that is generated by eliminating or omitting conjunctions or nexuses, replacing them with a comma in order to generate greater fluidity in the sentence or text. It is widely used in juxtaposed sentences, because the nexus is removed, and a comma or other punctuation mark is placed.

This rhetorical resource can also be observed in juxtaposed compound sentences, where neither nexuses nor conjunctions are used to join two sentences or phrases.

Etymology

The word Asyndeton has a Greco-Latin origin and means “untied”. This word is formed by three words, which are: a (prefix meaning “without”), sin (meaning “with”) and “deton” (meaning “to bind”). From there comes the idea of union without nexuses or connectors, which in written language are generally represented by conjunctions.

Characteristics of asyndeton

The following are some of the asyndeton’s characteristics. These are:

Uses

The asyndeton is a literary resource used to express more quickly an idea, giving agility to the rhythm of communication often generating the feeling of passion or dynamism, which contributes to creating a drama effect and intensity in the message you want to convey.

In the juxtaposed sentences this rhetorical figure is used a lot, since these are compound sentences that do not have linking words and are only joined by means of punctuation marks. For example: “Come with me, the library taught you. As you can see in this example, the “y” connector is not used, but a comma. It is important to mention that although there is no nexus that introduces or links them, if there is a specific relationship between them.

Examples of asyndeton

Below are some types of asyndeton in phrases, poems and songs

The asyndeton in phrases

Example 1

“I came, I saw, I conquered”

Latin phrase of Julius Caesar “Veni, vini, vici”.

As you can see, the comma in this sentence replaces the conjunction “y”.

Example 2

“The government of the people, by the people, for the people”

Abraham Lincoln

In this example, the comma replaces the verb to be and the conjunction “y” (the government of the people, is by the people and is for the people.

Example 3

“I like all women: tall, short, thin, fat… all of them!”

In this sentence, it can be observed that the lack of connectors gives more dynamism to the phrase.

The asyndeton in poems

Example 1

Misguided, sick, pilgrim,

in a dark night, with uncertain foot,

the confusion treading on the desert,

voices in vain he gave, steps without sense.

Luis de Góngora

In this poem by Luis de Góngora, you can appreciate the asyndeton in many phrases, which generates strength and emotion to the verses and without hindering the rhyme.

Example 2

He passed, I passed; he looked, I looked; he saw;

he showed signs of wanting, I did the same;

He winked, winked; he coughed, coughed; follow her;

He went to his house and, without taking off his cloak,

raised, arrived, touched, kissed, covered,

leave the money and go like a saint.

Francisco de Quevedo

This poem presents many examples of the use of the asyndeton because many connectors are suppressed, except in the last verse where the conjunction “y” is used.

As can be seen by the terminations of the verbs that are two people and many actions that are developed in a few lines, which gives a dynamic and sentimental narrative effect.

Example 3

Fainting, daring, being angry

rough, tender, liberal, elusive,

encouraged, deadly, deceased, alive

loyal, traitor, cowardly and courageous.

Lope de Vega

In this poem by Lope de Vega, adjectives are linked by commas, in order to describe, without the use of connectors. In this sense one can see a descriptive effect when using the rhetorical figure of the asyndeton.

Asyndeton in songs

Example 1

“I love, I cry, I sing, I dream

with passion carnations, with passion carnations.

I love, I cry, I sing, I dream

to decorate the manes blondes

of my lover’s colt.”

Song: “Alma Llanera” Author: Rafael Bolivar Coronado

This musical work makes use of the asyndeton to describe actions and give musicality to the piece.

Example 2

“Nice, everything looks nice to me

The sea, the morning, the house, the shade,

The land, the peace and the life that goes by

Nice, everything looks nice to me

Your calm, your sauce, the stain in the

Back, your face, you win the weekend.”

Song: Bonito Author: Jarabe de Palo

In this song, a group of words is presented that seem to have only one common nexus (they are all beautiful for the singer), however the grammatical union that is made of them is through the comma. Here the rhetorical figure of the asyndeton gives speed to the musical piece as well as intensity.

Example 3

“I’m short of breath,

the strength, the dough, the desire to see you,

the charm, the sauce, the light of my eyes,

my ace of the sleeve,

your little red eyes,

I’m missing, I’m missing.”

Song: “I’m short of breath”. Author: Estopa

This description of sensations and images described by the singer takes strength, speed and drama thanks to the use of the asyndeton. This favors the rhyme in the music and its effect of acceleration when singing verses.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.
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