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69 Cards in this Set

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Ad Hominem Argument
From the Latin meaning “to or against the man,” this is an argument that appeals to emotion rather than reason, to feeling rather than intellect.
Allegory
The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an
abstraction in addition to the literal meaning. In some allegories, for example, an author may
intend the characters to personify an abstraction like hope or freedom. The allegorical meaning
usually deals with moral truth or a generalization about human existence.
Alliteration
The repetition of sounds, especially initial consonant sounds in two or more
neighboring words (as in “she sells sea shells”). Although the term is not used in the multiplechoice section, you can look for alliterations in any essay passage. The repetition can reinforce
meaning, unify ideas, and/or supply a musical sound.
Allusion
A direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known,
such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art. Allusions can be historical (like referring to
Hitler), literary (like referring to Kurtz in Heart of Darkness), religious (like referring to Noah
and the flood), or mythical (like referring to Atlas). There are, of course, many more
possibilities, and a work may simultaneously use multiple layers of allusion.
Ambiguity
The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase,
sentence, or passage.
Analogy
A similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between
them. An analogy can explain something unfamiliar by associating it with or pointing out its
similarity to something more familiar. Analogies can also make writing more vivid, imaginative,
or intellectually engaging.
Antecedent
The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun. The AP language exam
occasionally asks for the antecedent of a given pronoun in a long, complex sentence or in a group
of sentences.
Aphorism
A terse statement of known authorship, which expresses a general truth or moral
principle. If the authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a folk
proverb.) An aphorism can be a memorable summation of the author’s point.
Apostrophe
A figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or
personified abstraction, such as liberty or love. The effect may add familiarity or emotional
intensity. William Wordsworth addresses John Milton as he writes, “Milton, thou shouldst be
living at this hour: England hath need of thee.”
Atmosphere
The emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly
by the setting and partly by the author’s choice of objects that are described. Even such elements
as a description of the weather can contribute to the atmosphere. Frequently, atmosphere
foreshadows events.
Clause
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. Examine this sample sentence: “Because I practiced hard, my AP scores
were high.” In this sentence, the independent clause is “my AP scores were high,” and the
dependent clause is “because I practiced hard.”
Colloquial/Colloquialism
The use of slang or informalities in speech or writing. Not generally
acceptable for formal writing, colloquialisms give work a conversational, familiar tone.
Colloquial expressions in writing include local or regional dialects.
Conceit
A fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising
analogy between dissimilar objects. A conceit displays intellectual cleverness due to the unusual
comparison being made.
Connotation
The nonliteral, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning.
Connotations may involve ideas, emotions, or attitudes.
Denotation
the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or
color.
Diction
Related to style, diction refers to the writer’s word choices, especially with regard 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 he ways in
which diction can complement the author’s purpose. Diction, combined with syntax, figurative
language, literary devices, etc., creates an author’s style. Note: this term frequently appears in the
essay question’s wording. In your thesis avoid phrases such as, “The author uses diction…”
Since diction, by definition, is word choice, this phrase really says, “The author chooses words to
write…” which is as redundant (and silly) as claiming, “A painter uses paints to paint.” At least
try to put an adjective in front of the word “diction” to help describe it, such as “stark diction” or
“flowery and soft diction.”
Didactic
From the Greek, didactic literally means “teaching.” Didactic works have the primary
aim of teaching or instructing, especially the teaching of moral or ethical principles.
Euphemism
From the Greek for “good speech,” euphemisms are a more agreeable or less
offensive substitute for generally unpleasant words or concepts. The euphemism may be used to
adhere to standards of social or political correctedness, or to add humor or ironic understatement.
Saying “earthly remains” rather than “corpse” is an example of a euphemism.
Extended Metaphor
A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or
throughout a work.
Figurative Language
Writing or speech that is not intended to carry literal meaning and is
usually meant to be imaginative and vivid.
Figure of Speech
A device used to produce figurative language. Many compare dissimilar
things. Figures of speech include, for example, apostrophe, hyperbole, irony, metaphor,
metonymy, oxymoron, paradox, personification, simile, synecdoche, and understatement.
Generic Conventions
This term describes traditions for each genre. There conventions help to
define each genre; for example, they differentiate between 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.
Genre
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 such subcategories as lyric, dramatic, narrative, epic, etc. On the AP
language exam, expect the majority of the passages to be from the following genres:
autobiography, biography, diaries, criticism, essays, and journalistic, political, scientific, and
nature writing.
Homily
This term literally means “sermon,” but more informally, it can include any serious
talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice.
Hyperbole
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
at the same time.
Imagery
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. An author, therefore, 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 images in a work. On the AP exam,
pay attention to how an author creates imagery and to the effect of that imagery.
Inference/Infer
To draw reasonable conclusion from the information presented. When a
multiple-choice question asks for inference to be drawn from a passage, the most direct, most
reasonable inference is the safest answer choice. If an inference is implausible, it’s unlikely to be
the correct answer. Note that if the answer choice is directly stated, it is not inferred and is
wrong.
Invective
An emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language.
Irony/Ironic
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 is 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.
Loose Sentence
A type of sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first,
followed by dependent grammatical units such as phrases and clauses. If a period were placed at
the end of the independent clause, the clause would be a complete sentence. A work containing
many loose sentences often seems informal, relaxed, and conversational.
Metaphor
A figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the
substitution of one for the other, suggesting some similarity. Metaphorical language makes
writing more vivid, imaginative, thought provoking, and meaningful.
Metonomy
A term from the Greek meaning “changed label” or “substitute name,” metonomy is
a figure of speech 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 than “the
President declared” is using Metonomy. This term is unlikely to be used in the multiple-choice
section, but you might see examples of Metonomy in an essay passage.
Mood
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 for
a doubtful or conditional attitude. For example, “If I were you, I’d get another job.” The
imperative mood is used for commands. For examples, “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.
Narrative
The telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events.
Onomatopoeia
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. This term
is not used in the multiple-choice section. If you identify examples of onomatopoeia in an essay
passage, note the effect.
Oxymoron
From the Greek for “pointedly foolish,” an oxymoron is a figure of speech wherein
the author groups apparently contradictory terms to suggest a paradox. Simple examples include
“jumbo shrimp” and “cruel kindness.” This term does not appear in the multiple-choice
questions, but there is a slight chance you will see it used by an author in an essay passage or
find it useful in your own essay writing.
Paradox
A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense, but
upon closer inspection contains some degree of truth or validity. The first scene of Macbeth, for
example, closes with the witches’ cryptic remark “Fair is foul, and foul is fair…”
Parallelism
Also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure, this term come from
Greek roots meaning “beside on 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 a grammatical element such as a preposition or a verbal phrase. A famous
example of parallelism begins Charles Dicken’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. Other famous examples include Julius
Ceaser’s “I came, I saw, I conquered,” or, as Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses” claims, “To strive, to
seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Parody
A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of
comic effect and/or ridicule. As comedy, parody distorts or exaggerates distinctive features of
the original. As ridicule, it mimics the work by repeating and borrowing words, phrases, or
characteristics in order to illuminate weaknesses in the original. Well-written parody offers
enlightenment about the original, but poorly written parody offers only ineffectual imitation.
Usually an audience must grasp literary allusion and understand the work being parodied in order
to fully appreciate the nuances of the newer work. Occasionally, however, parodies take on a life
of their own and don’t require knowledge of the original.
Pedantic
An adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly,
academic, or bookish.
Periodic Sentence
A sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end. This
independent clause is preceded by a phrase or clause that cannot stand alone. For example,
“Ecstatic with my AP scores, I let out a loud shout of joy!” The effect of a periodic sentence is to
add emphasis and structural variety.
Personification
A figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals,
or inanimate objects by endowing them with human attributes or emotions. Personification is
used to make these abstractions, animals, or objects appear more vivid to the reader.
Point of View
In literature, the perspective from which a story is told. There are two general
divisions of point of view and many subdivisions within those.
1. The first-person narrator tell the story with the first-person pronoun, “I,” and is a
character in the story. This narrator can be the protagonist (the hero or heroine), a
participant (a character in a secondary role), or an observer (a character who merely
watches the action).
2. The third-person narrator relates the events with the third-person pronouns, “he,”
“she,” and “it.” There are two main subdivisions to be aware of: omniscient and
limited omniscient. In the “third-person omniscient” point of view, the narrator, with
godlike knowledge, presents the thoughts and actions of any or all characters. This
all-knowing narrator can reveal what each character feels and thinks at any given
moment. The “third-person limited omniscient” point of view, as its name implies,
presents the feelings and thoughts of only one character, presenting only the actions
of all remaining characters. This definition applies in questions in the multiple-choice
section. However, on the essay portion of the exam, the term “point of view” carries a
different meaning. When you’re asked to analyze an author’s point of view, the
appropriate point for you to address is the author’s attitude.
Predicate Adjectives
One type of subject complement – an adjective, group of adjectives, or
adjective clause that follows a linking verb. It is in the predicate of the sentence, and modifies or
describes the subject. For example, in the sentence “My boyfriend is tall, dark, and handsome,”
the group of predicate adjectives (“tall, dark, and handsome”) describes “boyfriend.”
Predicate Nominative
A second type of subject complement – a noun, group of nouns, or noun
clause that renames the subject. It, like the predicate adjective, follows a linking verb and is
located in the predicate of the sentence. For example, in the sentence “Abe Lincoln was a man of
integrity,” the predicate nominative is “man of integrity,” as it renames Abe Lincoln.
Occasionally, this term or term predicate adjective appears in a multiple-choice question.
Prose
One of the major divisions of genre, prose refers to fiction and nonfiction, including all its
forms, because they are written in ordinary language and most closely resemble everyday
speech. Technically, anything that isn’t poetry or drama is prose. Therefore, all passages in the
AP language exam are prose. Of course, prose writers often borrow poetic and dramatic
elements.
Repetition
The duplication, either extract or approximate, of any element of language, such as a
sound, word, phrase, clause, sentence, or grammatical pattern. When repetition is poorly done, it
bores, but when it’s well done, it links and emphasizes ideas while allowing the reader the
comfort of recognizing something familiar.
Rhetoric
From the Greek for “orator,” this term describes the principles governing the art of
writing effectively, eloquently, and persuasively.
Rhetoric Modes
This flexible term describes the variety, the conventions, and the purposes of
the major kinds of writing. The four most common rhetorical modes and their purposes are as
follows:
1. The purpose of exposition (or expository writing) is to explain and analyze
information by presenting an idea, relevant evidence, and appropriate discussion. The
AP language exam essay questions are frequently set up as expository topics.
2. The purpose of argumentation is to prove the validity of an idea, or point of view, by
presenting sound reasoning, discussion, and argument that thoroughly convince the
reader. Persuasive writing is a type of argumentation having the additional aim of
urging some form of action.
3. The purpose of description is to re-create, invent, or visually present a person, place,
event, or action so that the reader can picture that being described. Sometimes an
author engages all five senses in description; good descriptive writing can be
sensuous and picturesque. Descriptive may be straightforward and objective or highly
emotional and subjective.
4. The purpose of narration is to tell a story or narrate an event or series of events. This
writing mode frequently uses the tools of descriptive writing.
These four writing modes are sometimes referred to as modes of discourse.
Rhetorical Question
A question that is asked merely for effect and does not expect a reply. The
answer is assumed.
Sarcasm
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 device, but not all ironic
statements are sarcastic, that is, intending to ridicule. When well done, sarcasm can be witty and
insightful; when poorly done, it’s simply cruel.
Satire
A work that targets human vices and follies, or social institutions and conventions, for
reform or ridicule. Regardless of whether or not the work aims to reform humans or their society,
satire is best seen as a style of writing rather than a purpose for writing. It can be recognized by
the many devices used effectively by the satirist, such as 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.
Simile
An explicit comparison, normally using like, as, or if. For example, remember Robbie
burns’ famous lines, “O my love is like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June. / O, my
love is like a melody, / That’s sweetly played in tune.”
Style
The consideration of style has two purposes:
1. An evaluation of the sum of the choices an author makes in blending diction, syntax,
figurative language, and other literary devices. Some author’s styles are so idiosyncratic
that we can quickly recognize works by the same author (or writer emulating that
author’s style). Compare, for example, Jonathan Swift to George Orwell, or William Faulkner to Ernest Hemingway. We can analyze and describe an author’s purpose. Styles
can be called flowery, explicit, succinct, rambling, bombastic, commonplace, incisive, or
laconic, to name only a few examples.
2. Classification of authors to a group and comparison of an author to similar authors.
By means of such classification and comparison, one can see how an author’s style reflects and
helps to define a historical period, such as the Renaissance or the Victorian period, or a literary
movement, such as the romantic, transcendental, or realist movement.
Subject Complement
The word (with any accompanying phrases) or clause that follows a
linking verb and complements, or completes, the subject of the sentence by either (1) renaming it
or (2) describing it. The former is technically called a predicate nominative, the latter a predicate
adjective. See predicate nominate and predicate adjective for examples of sentences. This term
is occasionally used in a multiple-choice question.
Subordinate Clause
Like all clauses, this word group contains both a subject and a verb (plus
any accompanying phrases or modifiers), but unlike the independent clause, the subordinate
clause cannot stand alone; it does not express a complete thought. Also called a dependent
clause, the subordinate clause depends on a main clause, sometimes called an independent
clause, to complete it’s meaning. Easily recognized key words and phrases usually begin with
these clauses—for example: although, because, unless, if, even though, since, as soon as, while,
who, when, where, how, and that.
Syllogism
From the Greek for “reckoning together,” a syllogism (or syllogistic reasoning) 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. A frequently cited example
proceeds as follows:
 Major premise: All men are mortal.
 Minor premise: Socrates is a man.
 Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
A syllogism’s conclusion is valid only if each of the two premises is valid.
Symbol/Symbolism
Generally, anything that represents or stands for something else. Usually, a
symbol is something concrete—such as an object, action, character, or scene—that represents
something more abstract. However, symbols and symbolism can be much more complex. One
system classifies symbols in three categories:1. Natural symbols use objects and occurrences from nature to represent ideas commonly
associated with them (dawn symbolizing hope or a new beginning, a rose symbolizing
love, a tree symbolizing knowledge).
2. Conventional symbols are those that have been invested with meaning by a group
(religious symbols, such as a cross or Star of David; national symbols, such as a flag or
an eagle; or group symbols, such as skull and crossbones for pirates or the scales of
justice for lawyers).
3. Literary symbols are sometimes also conventional in the sense that they are found in a
variety of works and are generally recognized. However, a work’s symbols may be more
complicated as is the whale in Moby Dick and the jungle in Heart of Darkness. On the AP
exam, try to determine what abstraction an object is a symbol for and to what extent it is
successful in representing that abstraction.
Syntax
The way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Syntax is
similar to diction, but you can differentiate the two by thinking of syntax as referring to groups
of words, while diction refers to individual words. In the multiple-choice section of the AP
language exam, expect to be asked some questions about how an author manipulates syntax. In
the essay section, you will need to analyze how syntax produces effects. When you are analyzing
syntax, consider such elements as the length or brevity of sentences, unusual sentence
constructions, the sentence patterns used, and the kinds of sentences the author uses. The writer
may use questions, declarations, exclamation s, or rhetorical questions; sentences are also
classified as periodic or loose, simple, compound, or complex sentences. Syntax can be tricky for
students to analyze. First try to classify what kind of sentences the author uses, and then try to
determine how the author’s choices amplify meaning, in other words why they work well for the
author’s purpose.
Theme
The central idea or message of a work, the insight offers into life. Usually, theme is
unstated in fictional works, but in nonfiction, the theme may be directly stated, especially in
expository or argumentative writing.
Thesis
In expository writing, the thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that
directly expresses the author’s opinion, purpose, meaning, or proposition. Expository writing is
usually judged by analyzing how accurately, effectively, and thoroughly a writer has proven the
thesis.
Tone
: Similar to mood, tone describe the author’s attitude toward his or her material, the
audience, or both. Tone is easier to determine in spoken language than in written language.
Considering how a work would sound if it were read aloud can help in identifying an author’s
tone. Some words describing tone are playful, serious, businesslike, sarcastic, humorous, formal,
ornate, and somber. As with attitude, an author’s tone in the exam’s passages can rarely be
described by one word. Expect that it will be more complex.
Transition
A word or phrase that links different ideas. Used especially, although not
exclusively, in expository and argumentative writing, transitions effectively signal a shift from
one idea to another. A few commonly used transitional words or phrases are furthermore,
consequently, nevertheless, for example, in addition, likewise, similarly, and on the contrary.
Understatement
The ironic minimalizing of fact, understatement presents something as less
significant than it is. The effect can frequently be humorous and emphatic. Understatement is the
opposite of hyperbole.
Wit
In modern usage, wit is 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. Wit usually uses terse language that makes a pointed statement. Historically,
wit originally meant basic understanding. It’s meaning evolved to include speed of
understanding, and finally (in the early seventeenth century), it grew to mean quick perception
including creative fancy.
Attitude
A writer’s intellectual position or emotion regarding the subject of the writing. In the
essay section, expect to be asked what the writer’s attitude is and how his or her language
conveys that attitude. Also be aware that, although the singular term “attitude” is used in this
definition and on the exam, the passage will rarely have only one attitude. More often that not,
the author’s attitude will be more complex than that, and the student who presents this
complexity – no matter how subtle the differences – will appear more astute than the student who
only uses one adjective to describe attitude. Of course, don’t force an attitude that has no
evidence in the passage, but rather understand that an accurate statement of an author’s attitude is
not likely to be a blatantly obvious idea. If it were that simple, the test committee wouldn’t ask
you to discuss it.
Concrete Detail
Strictly defined, “concrete” refers to nouns that name physical objects – a
bridge, a book, or a coat. Concrete nouns are the opposite of abstract nouns (which refer to
concepts like freedom and love). However, as used in the essay portion of the AP test, this term
has a slightly different connotation. The directions may read something like this: “Provide
concrete detail that will convince the reader.” This means that your essay should include detail in
the passage; at times, you’ll be asked to provide detail from your own life (reading, observation,
experience, and so forth).
Descriptive Detail
When an essay used this phrase, look for the writer’s sensory description.
Descriptive detail appealing to the visual sense is usually the most predominant, but don’t
overlook other sensory detail. As usual, after you identify a passage’s descriptive detail, analyze
its effect.
Devices
The figures of speech, syntax, diction, and other stylistic elements that collectively
produce a particular artistic effect.