Colon (rhetoric)

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Colon (plural: kola; ancient Greek κῶλον kōlon , German 'limb' ) is the rhythmic elementary unit of one or more words in rhetoric . For the concept of the colon in verse doctrine, see metric colon . Through caesura (slight breathing pauses or noticeable cuts when speaking) the kola are formed and form a structured speaking act . A sequence of kola forms the period . Within a colon, commas can separate the smallest, dependent speaking acts. Thus the colon stands between the superordinate period and the syntactically completely dependent commas.

Colon lengths

In quantitative linguistics as well as in quantitative stylistics , it was examined whether the frequency with which kola of different lengths appear in texts can be shown to follow a law of language . Karl Knauer provides corresponding data on Marmontel, Rousseau and Voltaire under the term “rhythmic group”. For two text excerpts by Marmontel, a regular distribution of the colon lengths could be demonstrated as well as for the other two authors.

The Kolonlängen in the first two chapters of Pushkin's Queen of Spades the displaced can negative hypergeometric distribution are adjusted:

x n (x) NP (x)
3 47 52.80
4th 95 175.64
5 426 348.62
6th 568 529.54
7th 663 671.71
8th 757 739.05
9 663 715.83
10 615 609.95
11 473 449.82
12 237 275.92
13 142 128.69
14th 47 35.44

Where x is the number of syllables per colon, n (x) is the observed number of colas with x syllables (absolute values); NP (x) is the number of kola with x syllables that is calculated by fitting the shifted negative hypergeometric distribution to the observed data. Result: The shifted negative hypergeometric distribution with C = 0.0156 is a good model for the observed conditions (C is understood as acceptable if C ≤ 0.02).

See also


  • Wolfgang Kayser: The linguistic work of art. An introduction to literary studies. 11th edition. Francke, Bern / Munich 1965.
  • Heinrich Lausberg : Elements of literary rhetoric. 6th edition. Hueber, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-19-006508-X .
  • Adolf DuMesnil: Concept of the three art forms of speech. Comma, colon, period, according to the teaching of the ancients . Frankfurt / Oder 1894.

Web links

Wiktionary: Colon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Knauer: An artist of poetic prose in French pre-Romanticism: Jean-François Marmontel. Habilitation thesis . Printing: Heinrich Pöppinghaus, Bochum-Langendreer 1936.
  2. ^ Karl-Heinz Best: Karl Knauer (1906–1966). In: Glottometrics 12, 2006, pages 86-94 (PDF full text ).
  3. The observational data were compiled by the Russian literary theorist Boris V. Tomaševskij in the 1920s and are given as percentages in: Peter Grzybek, Emmerich Kelih: On the prehistory of quantitative approaches in Russian linguistics and literary studies. In: Reinhard Köhler, Gabriel Altmann, Rajmund G. Piotrowski (eds.): Quantitative Linguistics - Quantitative Linguistics. An international manual . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015578-8 , page 23-64, table and graph on p. 45. Grzybek was able to convert the percentage values ​​into absolute values ​​based on Tomaševskij's remarks and to use this data to convert the shifted negative hypergeometric values Adjust distribution. (Personal communication with email to Karl-Heinz Best from October 20th, 2013) Peter Grzybek: Kolonlänge. In: Reinhard Köhler, Peter Grzybek, Sven Naumann (eds.): Formal and Quantitative Linguistics. Dictionaries for Linguistics and Communication Studies Volume 9. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston (= Dictionaries for Linguistics and Communication Studies - Online) Not verified yet.
  4. More detailed explanations of theory and procedures using the example of the distribution of word lengths that can be transferred to other linguistic units in: Karl-Heinz Best: Quantitative Linguistics. An approximation . 3rd, heavily revised and expanded edition. Peust & Gutschmidt, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-933043-17-4 , p. 27 ff.