Archive for the ‘aposiopesis’ Category

Aposiopesis: Reflection

December 6, 2011 1 comment

The three rhetorical texts analyzed throughout this project, which includes the song “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, A Knight’s Tale (movie), and the “Columbia” tragedy speech, all use aposiopesis to serve different functions.  These functions have specific effects on the texts where they were located, including placing emphasis, creating emotions, allowing time to think, listen, and reflect, transform spoken words into a physical form, and even allowing the speaker to express his or her own feelings about a subject without actually describing them.  This brings us back to the research question, which is “How does the use of Aposiopesis affect the text in which it is found?”  The prediction was that aposiopesis is utilized to draw emphasis towards a specific feeling in each example.  As the previously mentioned effects of aposiopesis reveal, there are actually many different functions for this rhetorical device.  For anyone who appreciates the many forms and uses of silence, this topic is very interesting and helpful.  Where most of the concepts/devices are about being strategic in some kind of speech or communication, aposiopesis is the lack of speech.  It is very interesting how much meaning can be drawn from just a brief moment of silence.

Aposiopesis: Example 3

December 6, 2011 1 comment

The final uses of Aposiopesis being analyzed are in a speech given by former president George Bush titled “Columbia.”  This speech is about the space shuttle tragedy that occurred on February 1, 2003.  Throughout the speech, there are many times that president Bush uses Aposiopesis.  While the fact that the speech is a tragedy is a primary reason why he would use silence throughout it, he also uses the silence to his advantage.  Being able to pause frequently allows him to be more careful while giving the speech.

The first instance of aposiopesis to be analyzed in this text is the initial announcement of what specifically has happened.  “The Columbia is lost… there are no survivors… On board was a crew of seven.”  There were two intentional effects of this application of aposiopesis: for Bush to convey to the audience that he personally felt grief over the situation and wanted to express this in order to connect with the audience on a personal level, and to allow the audience a moment to hear and take in what was being said.  Bush was very strategic to place emphasis on these moments of silence, and aposiopesis played an excellent role of creating an emotional atmosphere that was appropriate for delivering such tragic news.

George W. Bush: The Space Shuttle “Columbia” Tragedy Speech to the Nation

“George W. Bush: The Space Shuttle “Columbia” Tragedy Speech to the Nation.” American

Rhetoric: Online Speech Bank. American Rhetoric, n.d. Web. 1 Dec 2011.


Aposiopesis: Example 2

December 6, 2011 2 comments

The presence of Aposiopesis in the movie A Knight’s Tale displays several ways that this device can be utilized. describes this movie;  “After his master dies, a peasant squire, fueled by his desire for food and glory, creates a new identity for himself as a knight.”  Near the beginning of the movie, Geoffrey Chaucer introduces the main character, William Thatcher, to an audience using a decorative, elaborate speech.  Throughout the speech, Chaucer constantly uses aposiopesis, even from the first few words.  Here is the first of three different examples of aposiopesis in this text to be briefly analyzed.

He begins with “My lords, my ladies… and everybody else here not sitting on a cushion.”  Between the words “my lords” and “my ladies,” there is a brief pause that serves to give respect to the “lords” in the audience.  This is quite different from other uses of aposiopesis, where it is usually used for placing emphasis or creating some sort of emotion.  The same purpose is applied during the pause between the word “ladies” and the rest of the sentence.  Chaucer gives the royalty in the audience the respect that is customary, while also surprising the audience by acknowledging the lower class portion of the audience.

Another example of aposiopesis in A Knight’s Tale is when Chaucer continues to introduce Thatcher’s (fake) history.  He does this in the following lines;  “…For I have the pride, the privilege, nay the pleasure of introducing to you a knight sired by knights. A knight who can trace his lineage back… before Charlemagne.”  The pause between “back” and “before” serves two purposes: it further captivates the audience’s attention, and it creates suspense and interest for the audience.  By postponing a chunk of the sentence that obviously needs to be finished, Chaucer builds up anticipation, which is a very effective manipulation of speech through aposiopesis.

The last example of aposiopesis in A Knight’s Tale is within the speech about even more false history about Thatcher;  “In Greece, he spent a year… In silence…  Just to better understand the sound… of a whisper…”  All of these examples of aposiopesis are also very effective because, like the last example, they build anticipation of what words are about to come, but also use the silence throughout his spoken words to create a physical form for the actual silence of which he speaks.  This helps the audience to connect with Chaucer, as well as to easily understand and actually feel the emotion that Chaucer is attempting to portray through his story.

Helgeland, Brian, dir. A Knight’s Tale Powerful Speech HD. HDCinemind, 2011. Web. 1 Dec

2011. <;.

Aposiopesis: Example 1

December 6, 2011 1 comment

The first example of Aposiopesis being analyzed is in a song that was written and performed by Imogen Heap, titled “Hide and Seek.”  The song, according to an interview with Imogen Heap at, is about “losing something very dear to me and how much of an impact that person had on my life and about maybe how when something awful happens to somebody else, how other people react to it.”

Because the song is of a very sensitive subject, Imogen Heap slowed it down and made it very emotionally stimulating.  To do this, she uses several different effects, one of them being aposiopesis.  Throughout the song, silent pauses between segments of words are implemented strategically to invoke specific feelings in the listener.  Towards the beginning of the song, she uses many long pauses.  In this section, the lyrics are quiet and slow.  She uses a large amount of imagery, and the meanings of the lyrics are not clear.  At this point, where there are pauses is when Imogen Heap intends for listeners to concentrate on the lyrics in attempt to decipher them, while simultaneously experiencing their own stirred emotions.

As the song progresses, there are fewer pauses, and the pace of the song quickens.  The lack of the pauses, as well as a change of sound in the song, intends to display emotions of impatience or frustration.  At this point, the lyrics become more apparent, and there are no more moments of reflection for emotions, but now only fast-paced singing and the closing of the song.

Another affect being achieved by aposiopesis in this text is amplification.  In most texts, the primary purpose of rhetorical devices is to amplify certain words of the text.  With aposiopesis, what’s actually being emphasized is the silence itself.  The time period of each moment of silence serves as a moment for the audience to absorb the previously mentioned emotions, which in turn amplifies the emotional relationship between the audience and the rhetorical text.

“IMOGEN HEAP LYRICS.” AZLyrics., 2011. Web. 1 Dec 2011.


Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek. Youtube, 2009. Web. 1 Dec 2011.


Aposiopesis: Overview

December 6, 2011 3 comments

Aposiopesis is referred to as “becoming silent” in Lanham’s text, and is also more clearly defined as “stopping suddenly in midcourse, leaving a statement unfinished; sometimes from genuine passion, sometimes for effect.”  It is present in countless contemporary rhetorical texts, such as speeches, movies, books, TV shows, music, and video games.  Aposiopesis is an extremely effective concept in rhetorical texts, and it is not always the most obvious concept to spot.  For this rhetorical concept project, several texts are analyzed that are not only interesting, but also utilize aposiopesis.  One example of this concept in use is in the film Star Wars: A New Hope when Darth Vader says:

“I sense something… a presence I haven’t felt since…” (

The pause at the end is one way that Aposiopesis can be applied.  The line comes to an abrupt stop, allowing the audiences to fill in the blanks.

The analyzation of this concept could prove to be very interesting and useful, which is why this concept is perfect for this project.  Throughout the project, observations are made in attempt to answer this research question: “How does the use of aposiopesis affect the text in which it is found?”  The prediction is that Aposiopesis draws emphasis towards a specific feeling or emotion in each example that will be analyzed.  To answer this question, observations are made about how applications of aposiopesis are strategically placed throughout the rhetorical texts, how they transform certain meanings and areas of the texts, and how the appeals affect the texts overall.  Although there are many rhetorical texts that utilize this concept, the primary focus is on three specific ones.  These are: the song “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, A Knight’s Tale (movie), and the “Columbia” tragedy speech.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist Of Rhetorical Terms. Univ of California Pr, 1991.

“Star Wars: A New Hope Script.” IMSDb, Jan1976. Web. 4 Dec 2011.