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amplification

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Definition:

A rhetorical term for all the ways that an argument, explanation, or description can be expanded and enriched.

A natural virtue in an oral culture, amplification provides "redundancy of information, ceremonial amplitude, and scope for a memorable syntax and diction" (Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 1991).


See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin "enlargement"

Examples and Observations:

  • "In amplification, writers repeat something they've just said, while adding more details and information to the original description. . . .

    "The main purpose of amplification is to focus the reader's attention on an idea he or she might otherwise miss."
    (Brendan McGuigan, Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers. Prestwick House, 2007)


  • "A massive tree centuries old holds out against the odds here across from my mother's house, one of the biggest trees in Pittsburgh, anchored in a green tangle of weeds and bushes, trunk thick as a Buick, black as night after rain soaks its striated hide. Huge spread of its branches canopies the foot of the hill where the streets come together. Certain times of day in summer it shades my mother's front porch. If it ever tore loose from its moorings, it would crush her house like a sledgehammer. . . ."
    (John Edgar Wideman, "All Stories Are True." The Stories of John Edgar Wideman. Random House, 1996)


  • Dickens on Newness
    "Mr. and Mrs. Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their friends were new, all their servants were new, their place was new, . . . their harness was new, their horses were new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were as newly-married as was lawfully compatible with their having a bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he would have come home in matting from Pantechnicon, without a scratch upon him, French-polished to the crown of his head."
    (Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, 1864-65)


  • Blackadder's Crisis
    "This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you've got a moment, it's a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis.' A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two pencils and a pair of underpants."
    (Rowan Atkinson as Captain Blackadder in "Goodbyeee." Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989)


  • "More Light!"
    "Goethe's final words: 'More light.' Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry: 'More light.' Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home--Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come. Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light."
    (Chris Stevens, Northern Exposure, 1992)


  • Selective Amplification
    "Judgment is to be exercised in deciding what thoughts require amplification and what do not. A greater degree of expansion is necessary in oral than in written discourse; and in popular works than in purely scientific. A brief exposition may be sufficient for those who have some acquaintance with the subject, while in addressing those of less intelligence a greater fullness of details is necessary. It is always a most serious fault to dwell on what is unimportant, trivial, or what can be supplied by the reader; it indicates a want of the power of just discrimination on the part of the writer."
    (Andrew D. Hepburn, Manual of English Rhetoric, 1875)
Pronunciation: am-pli-fi-KAY-shun
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