Asyndeton

Description

Asyndeton is a figure of speech where conjunctions are omitted from a series of related clauses.

Example

I came, I saw, I conquered. (Julius Caesar)

…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender… (Winston Churchill)

I will buy you a drink; you do not deserve it.

Discussion

Conjunctions join clauses into complete sentences and include words such as although, and, as, after, before, because, but, if, nor, since, that, until, unless, yet. They send signals about how the clauses work together. When then are omitted, they cause a certain amount of confusion, forcing the person to review what was just said. Asyndeton can thus be used as a form of light emphasis.

Where the conjunction is omitted there may well be a pause, which appears in written text as a comma or semicolon. This may act as a signal to the listener or reader to think again about the meaning.

You cannot just omit any conjunction. If you take the sentence ‘I’ll see you when you get home’, omitting ‘when’ leaves nonsense. The clauses must stand alone and the listener must be able to make sense of how they are connected.

One of the most common forms of asyndeton is the omission of the word ‘and’ in a list. This creates surprise as the word ‘and’ is usually a signal that the list is about to end.

In grammar, syndetic means ‘connected by conjunctions’. Related figures are syndeton (the use of a conjuction) and polysyndeton (the use of multiple conjunctions).

Asyndeton is popular in speeches, where the ‘and’ in a list is often missed out. It is also used in poetry and literature to add terseness.

Asyndeton is also known as brachylogia.

Classification: Omission

See also

Using Conjunctions, Confusion principle

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