AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms

Glossary of Important Grammatical, Literary, and Rhetorical Terms

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Nordquist, Richard. "AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 6). AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365 Nordquist, Richard. "AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365 (accessed October 18, 2017).
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On this page, you'll find brief definitions of grammatical, literary, and rhetorical terms that have appeared on the multiple-choice and essay portions of the AP* English Language and Composition exam. For examples and more detailed explanations of the terms, follow the links to the expanded entries in our Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms.

*AP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which neither sponsors nor endorses this glossary.

  • Ad HominemAn argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case; a logical fallacy that involves a personal attack.
  • AdjectiveThe part of speech (or word class) that modifies a noun or a pronoun.
  • AdverbThe part of speech (or word class) that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb.
  • AllegoryExtending a metaphor so that objects, persons, and actions in a text are equated with meanings that lie outside the text.
  • AlliterationThe repetition of an initial consonant sound.
  • AllusionA brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event--real or fictional.
  • AmbiguityThe presence of two or more possible meanings in any passage.
  • AnalogyReasoning or arguing from parallel cases.
  • AnaphoraThe repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.
  • AntecedentThe noun or noun phrase referred to by a pronoun.
  • AntithesisThe juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.
  • Aphorism(1) A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion. (2) A brief statement of a principle.
  • ApostropheA rhetorical term for breaking off discourse to address some absent person or thing.
  • Appeal to AuthorityA fallacy in which a speaker or writer seeks to persuade not by giving evidence but by appealing to the respect people have for a famous person or institution.
  • Appeal to IgnoranceA fallacy that uses an opponent's inability to disprove a conclusion as proof of the conclusion's correctness.
  • ArgumentA course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood.
  • AssonanceThe identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.
  • AsyndetonThe omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses (opposite of polysyndeton).
  • CharacterAn individual (usually a person) in a narrative (usually a work of fiction or creative nonfiction).
  • ChiasmusA verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.
  • Circular ArgumentAn argument that commits the logical fallacy of assuming what it is attempting to prove.
  • ClaimAn arguable statement, which may be a claim of fact, value, or policy.
  • ClauseA group of words that contains a subject and a predicate.
  • ClimaxMounting by degrees through words or sentences of increasing weight and in parallel construction with an emphasis on the high point or culmination of a series of events.
  • ColloquialCharacteristic of writing that seeks the effect of informal spoken language as distinct from formal or literary English.
  • ComparisonA rhetorical strategy in which a writer examines similarities and/or differences between two people, places, ideas, or objects.
  • ComplementA word or word group that completes the predicate in a sentence.
  • ConcessionAn argumentative strategy by which a speaker or writer acknowledges the validity of an opponent's point.
  • ConfirmationThe main part of a text in which logical arguments in support of a position are elaborated.
  • ConjunctionThe part of speech (or word class) that serves to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences.
  • ConnotationThe emotional implications and associations that a word may carry.
  • CoordinationThe grammatical connection of two or more ideas to give them equal emphasis and importance. Contrast with subordination.
  • DeductionA method of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises.
  • DenotationThe direct or dictionary meaning of a word, in contrast to its figurative or associated meanings.
  • DialectA regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, and/or vocabulary.
  • Diction(1) The choice and use of words in speech or writing. (2) A way of speaking usually assessed in terms of prevailing standards of pronunciation and elocution.
  • DidacticIntended or inclined to teach or instruct, often excessively.
  • EncomiumA tribute or eulogy in prose or verse glorifying people, objects, ideas, or events.
  • EpiphoraThe repetition of a word or phrase at the end of several clauses. (Also known as epistrophe.)
  • Epitaph(1) A short inscription in prose or verse on a tombstone or monument. (2) A statement or speech commemorating someone who has died: a funeral oration.
  • EthosA persuasive appeal based on the projected character of the speaker or narrator.
  • EulogyA formal expression of praise for someone who has recently died.
  • EuphemismThe substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.
  • ExpositionA statement or type of composition intended to give information about (or an explanation of) an issue, subject, method, or idea.
  • Extended MetaphorA comparison between two unlike things that continues throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph or lines in a poem.
  • FallacyAn error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.
  • False DilemmaA fallacy of oversimplification that offers a limited number of options (usually two) when in fact more options are available.
  • Figurative LanguageLanguage in which figures of speech (such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole) freely occur.
  • Figures of SpeechThe various uses of language that depart from customary construction, order, or significance.
  • FlashbackA shift in a narrative to an earlier event that interrupts the normal chronological development of a story.
  • GenreA category of artistic composition, as in film or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.
  • Hasty GeneralizationA fallacy in which a conclusion is not logically justified by sufficient or unbiased evidence.
  • HyperboleA figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect; an extravagant statement.
  • ImageryVivid descriptive language that appeals to one or more of the senses.
  • InductionA method of reasoning by which a rhetor collects a number of instances and forms a generalization that is meant to apply to all instances.
  • InvectiveDenunciatory or abusive language; discourse that casts blame on somebody or something.
  • IronyThe use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is directly contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.
  • IsocolonA succession of phrases of approximately equal length and corresponding structure.
  • JargonThe specialized language of a professional, occupational, or other group, often meaningless to outsiders.
  • LitotesA figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.
  • Loose SentenceA sentence structure in which a main clause is followed by subordinate phrases and clauses. Contrast with periodic sentence.
  • MetaphorA figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.
  • MetonymyA figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty").
  • Mode of DiscourseThe way in which information is presented in a text. The four traditional modes are narration, description, exposition, and argument.
  • Mood(1) The quality of a verb that conveys the writer's attitude toward a subject. (2) The emotion evoked by a text.
  • NarrativeA rhetorical strategy that recounts a sequence of events, usually in chronological order.
  • NounThe part of speech (or word class) that is used to name a person, place, thing, quality, or action.
  • OnomatopoeiaThe formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.
  • OxymoronA figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.
  • ParadoxA statement that appears to contradict itself.
  • ParallelismThe similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
  • ParodyA literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.
  • PathosThe means of persuasion that appeals to the audience's emotions.
  • Periodic SentenceA long and frequently involved sentence, marked by suspended syntax, in which the sense is not completed until the final word--usually with an emphatic climax.
  • PersonificationA figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.
  • Point of ViewThe perspective from which a speaker or writer tells a story or presents information.
  • PredicateOne of the two main parts of a sentence or clause, modifying the subject and including the verb, objects, or phrases governed by the verb.
  • PronounA word (a part of speech or word class) that takes the place of a noun.
  • ProseOrdinary writing (both fiction and nonfiction) as distinguished from verse.
  • RefutationThe part of an argument wherein a speaker or writer anticipates and counters opposing points of view.
  • RepetitionAn instance of using a word, phrase, or clause more than once in a short passage--dwelling on a point.
  • RhetoricThe study and practice of effective communication.
  • Rhetorical QuestionA question asked merely for effect with no answer expected.
  • Running StyleSentence style that appears to follow the mind as it worries a problem through, mimicking the "rambling, associative syntax of conversation"--the opposite of periodic sentence style.
  • SarcasmA mocking, often ironic or satirical remark.
  • SatireA text or performance that uses irony, derision, or wit to expose or attack human vice, foolishness, or stupidity.
  • SimileA figure of speech in which two fundamentally unlike things are explicitly compared, usually in a phrase introduced by "like" or "as"
  • StyleNarrowly interpreted as those figures that ornament speech or writing; broadly, as representing a manifestation of the person speaking or writing.
  • SubjectThe part of a sentence or clause that indicates what it is about.
  • SyllogismA form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
  • SubordinationWords, phrases, and clauses that make one element of a sentence dependent on (or subordinate to) another. Contrast with coordination.
  • SymbolA person, place, action, or thing that (by association, resemblance, or convention) represents something other than itself.
  • SynecdocheA figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part.
  • Syntax(1) The study of the rules that govern the way words combine to form phrases, clauses, and sentences. (2) The arrangement of words in a sentence.
  • ThesisThe main idea of an essay or report, often written as a single declarative sentence.
  • ToneA writer's attitude toward the subject and audience. Tone is primarily conveyed through diction, point of view, syntax, and level of formality.
  • TransitionThe connection between two parts of a piece of writing, contributing to coherence.
  • UnderstatementA figure of speech in which a writer deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.
  • VerbThe part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being.
  • Voice(1) The quality of a verb that indicates whether its subject acts (active voice) or is acted upon (passive voice). (2) The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or narrator.
  • ZeugmaThe use of a word to modify or govern two or more words although its use may be grammatically or logically correct with only one.
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 6). AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365 Nordquist, Richard. "AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-english-language-exam-terms-1692365 (accessed October 18, 2017).