Parenthesis is a rhetorical stylistic device used in texts of every kind and literary genre. As a parenthesis, the interruption of a sentence is designated by the insertion of another sentence. In this case, the inserted sentence is placed in dashes, brackets, or commas, and is grammatically complete and independent.
The term parenthesis finds a correspondence in the Greek (παρένθεσις ~ parénthesis) and can be translated into approximately with insertion. This translation shows quite precisely what is the main theme of this stylistic figure: the insertion of a sentence [into another sentence]. Let’s look at an example.
I am, grant me the request, In your covenant the third!
The above example comes from Friedrich Schiller’s Ballad Die Bürgschaft. In order to clarify the figure, we have chosen two verses from the last stanza of the work, and gave up the request for the actual upheaval after the parenthetical insertion. Thus, the style figure clearly emerges.
The parenthesis grants me the request is syntactic and grammatically independent. This means that the insert could also stand alone and thus would not be wrong. Moreover, it means that the starting sentence would get along without him (proof: “I am the third in your covenant”).
One day – it was in the middle of winter – there was a hail of cold chunks
In this example, too, we find the parenthesis. In this case, it is clearly marked by dashes. Through this insertion, what is said is certainly put into the foreground, which may seem to be emphasized because we stumble upon it when we read it.
Note: Since the parenthesis is separated by dashes, commas, or parentheses from the enclosing sentence, these signs are sometimes themselves referred to as parenthesis. It is therefore advisable to check exactly what is meant by the respective identifier.
Further examples of the parenthesis
A stylist can best be illustrated by numerous examples. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to other, but uncommented, examples.
We highlighted the respective inserts. It should be clear that this is syntactically and grammatically self-sufficient and thus can be separated from the “rest” without the sense of the whole being distorted or the correctness endangered.
Uncomended examples for the use of the parenthesis
So I begged-it was a mistake, nothing more-
For this swift action you pardon.
The Social Democratic Party – let me say this very clearly –
is opposed to such projects, even if they are implemented by means of direct democracy
to this house, always resist!
It was also not possible in your midst.
– and personally I would have to do as his friend with special movement –
to talk about the great designs of his soul.
Master, she said-never before that evening had she given him this name;
for at first she used to call him master and then father-
Master! we have escaped a great danger.
I would like to ask her, ladies, to come along.
Effect and function of the parenthesis
It is not always useful to ascribe a function or effect to a stylistic figure. If we do that, we run the risk of breaking down the stylistic device every time. Nevertheless, the application has an effect on the reader or viewer.
And of course we can describe this effect. It is important, however, that we do not lose sight of the fact that a stylistic device can also be used contrary to our expectations and then, of course, something quite different in the receiver.
Overview of effect, function and effect of the parenthesis
Parentesis is a grammatically independent subdivision into a sentence which interrupts its context without changing the syntactic order. Such an insert is either placed in brackets or placed between dashes or commas.
The parenthesis has the effect that it can provide us with additional information about the respective facts and also emphasizes the inserted word group.
This emphasis is based on stumbling over the parenthetical section as it interrupts the order of the sentence. This can of course be used to reinforce the pushed-in or to move to the center.
The hyperbaton has a similar effect on the reader. There too the usual order is broken. However, the known structure is completely changed here.