Mary M. Gill

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Wayne E. Hoogestraat


As early as 350 B.C. Aristotle was cultivating concepts of language usage. It addition to the principles of clarity, accuracy, appropriateness and vividness, he developed concepts on the uses of the metaphor as a stylistic tool. The study of style and its adaptation continued to the Roman Age and the early study of rhetoric in England. During the eighteenth-century various rhetoricians began analyzing style more closely. Francis Bacon noted "the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. "He analyzed words and word combinations and their effect on interpretation. Adam Smith instructed that style was the common element present in all communication. He believed that style should have an established position as a canon of rhetoric. He summarized the progress of language and warned against an excessive reliance on tropes and figures of speech. Hugh Blair, at the University of Edinburgh presented a series of forty-seven lectures, fifteen of which dealt with style. Blair believed "style has always some reference to an author's manner of thinking. It is a picture of the ideas which rise in his mind, and of the manner in which they rise there. "Blair insisted that the tropes and figures of speech be suited to the subject matter addressed and that subjects not be elevated through the use of figures of speech that were not appropriate to the content. During the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, the study of style and the use of the figures of speech continued. John Genung, a professor at Amherst College, in The Working Principles of Rhetoric, included teachings on the appropriate use of various language choices and the figures of speech. He, like the earlier rhetoricians, set forth guidelines for employing these devices and warned against the overuse or use that is contrary to content. Since the early nineteenth century, it seems that the analysis of the figures of speech as a rhetorical tool has diminished. Ten Fundamentals of Speech and Public Speaking textbooks published between 1979 and 1981 were analyzed to determine the extent to which figures of speech were discussed. Of these ten, four made no mention of the figures of speech. The treatment of the figures by the remaining six varied in emphasis. Three included the figures of speech in language choice. James R. Andrews in Essentials of Public Communication identified six figures of speech--metaphor, alliteration, irony, antithesis, personification, eptamorthosis--as they pertained to the speaker's choice of interesting language. Consequently, the origin of this study also stemmed in part from a desire to extend the scope of individuals studied in terms of rhetorical methods used.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Falwell, Jerry -- Oratory
Figures of speech



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University