An ellipse is a stylistic device of rhetoric. The ellipse describes the fact that a sentence is grammatically incomplete and thus shortened. Accordingly, unimportant portions of the set are omitted to effect a gain, the content being clearly understood. The figure is typical for a fast word combat (see Stichomythie) as well as the Brachylogie, which achieves the maximum of meaningfulness with minimal word effort and works of Sturm und Drang.
The term is derived from the Greek (ἔλλειψις ~ élleipsis) and translates in approximately with absence, lack or also omission. Thus the translation already refers to what is involved with the style-figure: namely the omission of sentence components. Let’s look at an example.
The sooner the farewell, the shorter the torment.
The above example is elliptical. The missing components were placed here in square brackets, in order to make clear that the verb is missing, in other words, the predicate. Nevertheless, the statement The earlier the farewell, the shorter the torment for the reader to open up the content. It is thus clear what is meant, although a grammatical building block is missing. This circumstance is called ellipse.
First [comes] the work, then [comes] the pleasure.
The above example is a speech, but the missing verb is placed in brackets. Here, too, the statement is stiffened and the expression is shortened. Typically such ellipses are thus not only for stylistic nuances, but also for the language of communication, in order to crush the sentence. Thus, the important is highlighted and the drumherum is reduced. Yet another example.
What are we doing now?
In this example, even several words were deleted. Nevertheless, the fundamental statement of the proposition, that is, the question of what is to be done next, is clearly evident in every case; grammatically, however, the sentence remains incomplete. The following examples are uncommented.
Further examples for the ellipse (clicks on!)
Special form of the ellipse: Aposiopese
Aposiopese is a special form of the ellipse. In this case, a component of the sentence is also added. However, this is the essential statement of the theorem. However, the sentence remains conclusive in its meaning and is accessible to the recipient.
Aposiopesis is an increase in expression, whereby the recipient of such a statement must guess what is meant. The speaker is either really missing the words in order to complete the sentence, or he only pretends it and trusts that the listener knows what is meant. Let’s look at an example.
If I get you in your hands […]
This does not say what exactly will happen, the speaker should actually get the addressees in the fingers. Nevertheless, the latter can conclude that something unpleasant flourishes. The sentence is incomplete, with the most important missing. Nevertheless, it is clear what is meant. Another example.
Caesar came, saw and […]
This example refers to a famous climax of the Roman statesman Caesar. This is said to have veni, vidi, vici, so I came, saw and conquered. The crucial element, that is, the victory, is missing in the sentence. The essential statement of the proposition is missing and the whole can be interpreted as ellipse and aposipese.
Note: The ellipse therefore means any sentence that is grammatically incomplete. This can be used for shortening and gathering, as well as for being excited. In the special case of the Aposiopese, however, the essential statement of the theorem is not only missing but one component. This must be guessed by the reader.
Effect and function of the ellipse
In principle, it is very difficult to ascribe to a stylistic device an effect or function which in any case appears appropriate. Nevertheless, each style figure has, of course, an effect on the reader, which can be described. For this reason, we would like to give some hints, which should always be checked in the respective text for their correctness and applicability.
Overview: Features, use and effect of the Stilfigur
The ellipse describes a sentence that is grammatically incomplete. Each component may be missing to be considered elliptical. If the essential statement of the theorem is missing, we have to do with the special form of apostasis. The ellipse, however, is always understandable.
The style figure is always used when something is to be shortened, that is, shortened. In this way, what is immaterial can go into the background, while the most important is the focus. However, ellipses are also often found in the press, since headlines are often shortened (eg “We are Pope!”, “I can Chancellor!”).
The stylistic device is characteristic in dramatic as well as eager word-fighting, expressing excitement and passion. Furthermore, ellipses are found in the language of conversations, whereby they usually occur as a simplified language simplification.
The insert can be hectic as well as moved, whereby the meaningfulness is increased, since the essential is the center point. The ellipse is the concentration of feelings and speech.
Pleonasmus can be regarded as a stylistic counterpart. This figure gives information that is superfluous, while ellipses omit some words – sometimes important ones.
Note: In the narrative theory, the term means something else. As ellipses, this means information gaps, whereby the narrator either intentionally or unintentionally conceals the information from the reader. This is typical of the crime scene.