The contradictio in adiecto is a rhetorical stylistic means and is formed of an adjective and a noun which mutually exclude each other. The contradictio in adiecto is therefore a special form of the oxymoron, which links two concepts which fundamentally contradict or even rule out. The stylistic is also related to the paradox.
Contradictio in adiecto is Latin and can be translated with contradiction in the appendix. As a result, the translation already reveals what is at stake here: a contradiction between a concept and a word that is attached to it (adjective). Let us look at an example.
Your violence is only a silent cry for love (The doctors, band)
A cry is, according to Duden, a “shrill sound of a living creature,” while mute by definition means that someone has not the ability to produce [speech] sounds. The adjective mute and the noun cry are thus contradictory, which is why we can designate the directed connection of both words as contradictio in adiecto.
Black milk early in the morning we drink them in the evening
we drink them at noon and in the morning we drink them at night
we drink and drink
The three verses are from the first stanza of the fatal death of Paul Celans. In the lines of verse we find an anaphor (we drink) and also the contradictio in adiecto, which arises from the contradictory connection of black and milk. After all, milk is known to be white.
Note: The two examples of the contradictio in adiecto have in common that we “stumble” when reading about them, whereby the style figure can put a statement more prominently in the foreground.
Contradictio in adiecto and oxymoron
The contradictio in adiecto is a special form of oxymoron, since it combines two contradictory concepts. However, not every oxymoron is a contradictio in adiecto.
This means that the oxymoron can be a composite noun or a contradictory connection of other types of words. The contradictio in adiecto, however, always means a contradiction between noun and attached adjective → oxymoron, examples of the oxymoron
Note: It is also interesting that a speaker must consciously use the style figure, so that we can talk about a style figure. If he does this out of ignorance, this is not interpreted as stylistic means, but rather as a stylistic mistake. Example from the everyday life: Hallfreibad.
Examples of the Contradictio in adiecto
The best way to illustrate a stylistic device is by means of examples. For this reason, we would like to give you some examples of the style figure.
An eloquent deep silence
A hiding place that lies open,
Totally pouring, only peculiar,
A surrender, never defeated.
The above example is a stanza from a love poem by Clemens Brentano. We have highlighted the contradictions between the adjective and the noun. Clearly, the contradictions between eloquence / silence, hiding / open and yielding / never defeated.
Other loose examples of styling
Effect and function of contradictio in adiecto
In principle, it is difficult to ascribe a unique function to a style figure. Then we run the risk of breaking them down to this function and not paying attention to the overall context. Nevertheless, there is often a reason for the use.
Effect, function and effect of contradictio in adiecto
Through the use of the Stilfigur, a statement can be amplified enormously, as we “stumble” and perceive it more strongly when reading the contradiction.
Furthermore, the stylistic device covers the extremes of a state of affairs and can thus refer to the double or even ambiguity of an event. All the pages of a case are thus expressed in lyric and prose. This extends the linguistic image.
However, combining contradictory words can also be funny. An example of this is the poem “Dark was the moon shone bright” written throughout Oxymora. This poem can be found in the main article on Oxymoron