Yesterday’s entry about anagrama/anagram seems to call for a follow-up about anáfora/anaphora, another compound beginning with the Greek ana that means ‘back up.’ The second component is from pherein ‘to carry,’ the Greek cognate of the native English verb bear that likewise means ‘carry.’ Taken as a whole, Greek anapherein meant literally ‘to bring back,’ or, in this case, ‘to repeat.’ In an anaphora a speaker or writer repeats a word or phrase for rhetorical effect. Here’s what William Chauncey Fowler had to say on the subject in his English Grammar of 1855:

The Spanish-language Wikipedia article on anáfora gives this example by Miguel Hernández from “Elegía por la muerte de Ramón Sijé”:

Temprano levantó la muerte el vuelo,
temprano madrugó la madrugada,
temprano estás rodando por el suelo.

No perdono a la muerte enamorada,
no perdono a la vida desatenta,
no perdono a la tierra ni a la nada.

The etymological ‘carry back’ sense of anáfora/anaphora has led to a second sense of the term, this time in linguistics, where it means ‘the use of a word or phrase to refer back to another one.’ The referring word is often a pronoun, as in these examples (with the Spanish one coming from Wikilengua):

Steve asked Eve to make him some of her great empanadas.
«¿Dónde viste a Ana?» «La vi en el cine».

Curiously, this second type of anaphora (for which English also uses the slightly shorter anaphor, stressed on the first syllable) can prevent an occurrence of the first type of anaphora.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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