To ‘Be’ or Not to ‘Be’: Towards an Ontology of Rhetorical Figures

Word Tree

By Sarah Hertz

While Jakub Gawryjołek has built a tool1 to detect figures of repetition and one trope (oxymoron); and Claus Strommer has developed a software program to detect epanaphora; the Inkpot research team at UWaterloo has compiled a database of figures and an associated wiki as part of their Rhetorical Figure Ontology Project. In 2010, the database contained 1,000 entries, including definitions, examples, and bibliographic information on the figures. A Python-based application running on top of a Google App Engine, Inkpot’s Rhetfig will be entirely web-based, allowing anyone capable of standard web-browsing to access the online platform (Kelly 3).

Read more

  1. Called JANTOR; see previous post. []

Process Talk: Introducing the Taxonomy of Rhetoric


By Maria Jaramillo

The first meeting of the Zeugtern took place on a sunny Thursday afternoon. With an equally sunny disposition, we came bearing lovingly annotated documents, prepared to discuss the rhetorical figure we would begin with–that is, a simple, repetitive scheme that our algorithm would be trained to recognize. Quickly enough, however, our conversation soon digressed into an energetic dialogue about our individual goals for The Zeugmatic, ranging from target audiences to the visualization of our soon-to-be text analysis tool as a Renaissance Rubik’s Cube. 

Read more

From Decimals to Decahedrons: Renaissance Rubik’s Cubes

By Sarah Hertz

Zeugmatic Files: Week 2, Spring 2013

~ We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Picture a Shakespearean sonnet: fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, knotted with a rhyming couplet:

Sonnet 98

Take out a pen and annotate it, chisel the sonnet and slice it into layers: one for anaphora, two for brachylogia, three for climax or gradatio. Peel each layer of annotations from your paper and examine them as transparencies; overlay them, one upon the other, in a diaphanous stack. Shakespeare’s Sonnet, you realize, has ‘depth’ not just metaphorically, but metrically, as well, with each separate colour (or layer of annotations) designating a specific rhetorical figure. Pull out the third transparency and examine it, as a scientist would a specimen under a microscope—flicking through the sonnet like a card catalogue—from Anaphora to Zeugma:

Read more


By Michael Ullyot

My project for Summer 2013 is to design a text-analysis algorithm capable of recognizing Shakespeare’s rhetorical figures. For instance, this1 repetition of “farewell” in Othello is called an anaphora:

2013 03 28 12 39 39

That’s a pretty straightforward anaphora, and is just the kind of linguistic feature that a pattern-recognizing algorithm could detect. I could show you more complicated examples, but first let’s imagine the higher-order interpretations that this algorithm would enable.

Read more

  1. Wales, Katie. “An A-Z of Rhetorical Terms.” in Sylvia Adamson, Lynette Hunter, et al. (eds.) Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language: A Guide. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2001. 271-301; 278. Photo with Crossprocess (app) by the author. []