A Comprehensive Analysis Of Ellipsis / What Is An Elliptical Sentence And When Is It Used?

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Rose Leaves, Ellipsis

Anatomy Of An Ellipsis In Written Languages

→ We say an ellipsis, but many ellipses(Ellipsis in singular form, but Ellipses in plural form)
Ellipsis, has two meanings as far as linguistics is concerned. Some linguists or writers might argue that it has like 3 or 4 meanings. But I’m convinced that it has only 2 main meanings and the rest are just derivatives, or different styles, as I will show you.

star First Definition Of Ellipsis

In any written form, (like English, French, polish or Chinese), the common reference attributed to an ellipsis is:
An ellipsis comprises a set of three consecutive dots (without any spaces between them)

Those 3 dots can be further broken down to the following:

1) To show a deliberate silence to stress an emotion or feeling

I am Sorely vexed

- Here the author would remain silent after speaking and looking to his opponent with a severe face expression

2) To indicate or show the omission of a word or groups of words.
The words are omitted simply because the first set of words would give a clear indication of those [omitted] words.

It is raining heavily

- The full intended sentence would be: “It is raining heavily today
- Today‘ is the omitted word because the verb ‘is‘, which is in the present tense, clearly shows that the action is happening now!

star Second Definition Of Ellipsis / What Is An Elliptical Sentence?

→ In written English language, an ellipsis refers to the omission of a word or set of words from a sentence.
→ The idea of simply omitting words in a sentence, makes that ‘sentence’ to be referred as an Elliptical Sentence.

E.g:
a) Either Chelsea or Man Utd will win the English Barclays Premier League this season.

- The full intended meaning of the sentence is:
Either Chelsea will win the English Barclays Premier League
Or Man Utd will win the English Barclays Premier League

b) Wakish does not often write articles, but he does it is a blogging explosion.

- The full intended meaning of the sentence is:
Wakish does not often write articles
but when he does write articles it is a blogging explosion

→ As you can deduce from the above, an elliptical sentence undoubtedly avoids repetition of words which can otherwise be read ‘in between the lines’.
Intelligent usage of ellipses greatly enhances the structure of a sentence and thus conveying a clear meaningful message.

Pitfalls Of Elliptical Sentences

Don’t try to force a sentence to be elliptical, it will convey an incorrect grammatical meaning.

E.g:
Alesha neither has nor will go to Pubcons

- Here obviously, the reader will be confused in understanding that sentence
- The writer intended to say:
Alesha neither has go
nor will go to Pubcons

exclamation mark This is completely wrong, so be careful with such incorrect elliptical sentences

Final Notes On Ellipsis

→ I have precised that I’m defining ellipsis as pertained in ‘Written Language’. But ellipses also have different meanings in other types of languages, namely: mathematical languages, programming languages or computer languages.

→ In written language, ellipses vary slightly in their position in a sentence depending on their specific ‘governing linguistic bodies‘; whether to include a space at the beginning or end of the ‘3 dots‘ or/and to enclose them within square brackets..etc. Usage of an ellipsis in Japanese is different from that in Polish. For instance, in the U.S, writers abide by a ‘guide‘ known as the ‘Bluebook‘.

Readers’ Short Exercises On Ellipsis

1) Can you think of other (derived) meanings of ellipses?
2) Can you try to think of sentences which could make a wrong usage of an ellipsis?



Posted in: English Language Basics

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