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The Parataxe ( Greek  παράταξις parátaxis "assigning to, addition order, coordination") is in the grammar , the peer series of main blocks in general, or, in a broader sense, even a peer succession of groups of words. The opposite of paratax is hypotax , an intermediate form between the two is asymmetric coordination .

A compound sentence whose sub-clauses are main clauses in paratactic relation is called main clause series in German grammar . The term paratax is also used not only for the process of linking two main clauses, but also for the result, the main clause series itself.

Parataxes are used both in grammar when classifying grammatical structures and in literary studies when characterizing a stylistic feature of entire texts. Although the term “paratactic style” for the latter is based on the grammatical term, the underlying terms of parataxe are not completely identical.

Paratax as a sentence link in grammar

In the grammatical sense, the paratax is an equal connection of two sub-clauses, either through coordinating conjunctions such as and, or, but, because (ie “syndetic” ) or without connecting words ( “asyndetic” ) but with punctuation marks such as commas or Semicolon . In this respect, the paratax or series of sentences is still a sentence, just a compound one.

• Die Kinder sind krank, ich muss zuhause bleiben.  /  Die Kinder sind krank und ich muss zuhause bleiben.
• Lateinisch: Veni, vidi, vici „Ich kam, sah und siegte.“

This type of peer-to-peer clauses is in contrast to the dependent status of a subordinate clause in its connection to a main clause. This is often conveyed through subordinate conjunctions such as that, whether, because ... etc.

However, it is also possible to place two subordinate clauses in an equal relationship to one another, for example in a coordination with and - they are then embedded together. This can also be referred to as a paratactic link between the two subordinate clauses, as in the following example from a grammar textbook:

„Er liegt plötzlich da
      [ohne sich erheben zu können, 
      getroffen von harten Lichtstrahlen und entblößt jeder Waffe und jeden Muts für den neuen Tag.]“

Here are the Partizipkonstruktionen with met ... and bares ... satzwertige constructions in adverbial function, so they function as two equally important clauses in sequence - that is, in para tactical link.

"Paratactic style" in literature

Rhetorical effects

Parataxes from simple main clauses are used in texts that only focus on the essentials of the content. This can give the impression that it is simply and truthfully told. Or references would be listed with a wealth of material ("dropping facts and names", English fact and name dropping ). But also the opposite impression of an undifferentiated, undialogical sequence of mere assertions can arise. On the one hand, the paratactic style appears dry and differentiated, but on the other hand it offers the possibility of presenting a linear argument in a very compelling manner.

Examples can be found in the texts of Franz Kafka , but especially in the literature of realism and the poetry of early expressionism . In post-war literature, the paratactic style was preferred in order to string together a large number of contradicting, unprocessable or open-ended impressions and problems. So z. For example, in Uwe Johnson's novel Conjectures about Jakob, the paratactic style expresses the incomprehensibility, mysteriousness, insolubility, where the one joins the other unconnected and misunderstood.

A famous example is also the beginning of Genesis :

Am Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde. Und die Erde war wüst und leer, und es war finster auf der Tiefe; und der Geist Gottes schwebte auf dem Wasser. Und Gott sprach: Es werde Licht! Und es ward Licht.

Comparison with the grammatical paratax term

The examples just mentioned explain a “paratactic style” that can be defined via a “significant accumulation of parataxes, ie a (...) sentence structure that connects at least two simple sentences (...).” In this interpretation is "Paratactic" is the name for a style that is not only characterized by paratactic connection in the grammatical sense, but also by the consistent use of simple sentences . "The unstructured main clause dominates."

The grammatical concept of a paratactic link , however, does not include this additional factor of an absence of subordinate clauses. Rather, paratactic links of entire sentence structures are also possible; The example of grammatical parataxe quoted above was initially a partial quotation; in its complete form it also contains a further part; these two are in turn linked paratactically:

„Eines Morgens wacht er auf, an einem Tag [den er vergessen wird]
liegt plötzlich da [ohne sich erheben zu können], [getroffen von harten Lichtstrahlen] und [entblößt jeder Waffe... (etc.)]“

Despite the presence of paratactic links in several places, the stylistic classification would result in a " hypotactic style ", defined as a "significant accumulation (...) of sentences from grammatically dependent sub-clauses" (dependent sub-clauses are marked in the example with square brackets) .

In any case, this would apply as a stylistic feature if the type of sentence structure shown characterizes an entire text. The concept of paratactic style is also different in that it is located on the text level. It therefore essentially also refers to sequences of separate sentences between which the sentence syntax no longer defines a relationship.


  • Karl-Dieter Bünting, Henning Bergenholtz: Introduction to Syntax. 2nd, revised edition. Athenaeum, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-610-02194-2 , section / chapter Hypotaxe and Parataxe p. 14, 116-119.
  • Wilhelm Havers : Handbook of the explanatory syntax. An attempt to research the conditions and driving forces in syntax and style. Winter, Heidelberg 1931, on "Parataxis" pp. 45–47, passim.
  • Theodor Lewandowski: Linguistic Dictionary 2 . 4th, revised edition. Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg / Wiesbaden 1985, ISBN 3-494-02021-3 , keyword “Parataxe”.

Web links

Wiktionary: Parataxe  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: sentence series  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: sentence connection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Walter Flämig gives the latter definition: Grammar of German. Introduction to structure and effect relationships. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-05-000686-2 , p. 251.
  2. Maria Averintseva-Klisch: text coherence. 2nd Edition. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2018. p. 25
  3. cf. Averintseva-Klisch (2018), p. 25: "Sentence sequence (Parataxe), in which several sub-clauses, often main clauses, are connected with one another."
  4. ^ Maria Thurmair, Mechthild Habermann, Gabriele Diewald: Duden - Basic knowledge of grammar. Bibliographisches Institut, Berlin 2019. Chapter 4, solution to exercise 4b (no page counting in the online preview ).
  5. These are apparently causal or modal adverbials that modify the verb daliegen , so an asyndetic paratax to the infinitive clause without ... to ... would also have to be added. In the source given, the participle constructions are instead analyzed as an even deeper subordinate clause level that depends on the non- infinitive. To raise an adverbial relation of meaning or to without ... is however difficult to establish.
  6. Harald Fricke, Rüdiger Zymner: Practice in literary studies: Parodying is about studying. 5th edition. UTB / Schöningh, Paderborn 2007. p. 43.
  7. Basic literary terms online: Hypotaxe / Parataxe accessed 23 May 2020.
  8. Fricke & Zymner (2007), p. 43