Tautology (language)

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Tautology (from ancient Greek ταὐτό = τὸ αὐτό to autó 'same' as well as λóγος lógos 'speaking, speech') describes a rhetorical figure in stylistics and rhetoric in which a content repetition, i.e. semantic redundancy, is used. An opposite term to tautology is the oxymoron . Conscious tautologies are shaped in so-called " twin formulas ".

A related term is pleonasm . The terms “tautology” and “pleonasm” are sometimes used synonymously , sometimes with different meanings. The distinction largely depends on terminological decisions and is the appropriate context ( context ) can be seen.

Linguistic use

“Tautology” can mean, on the one hand, that the same thing (the same thing, the same state of affairs) is said again with an expression that is identical or related.

  • Examples: "already", "quietly and quietly", "completely", "never and never", "[...] in this way served an ant as food".

Tautology in this sense of a “reproduction of the same facts through several synonyms” should be the rule.

On the other hand, it is also possible that the same expression is used.

  • Examples: "Game is game", "War is war", "Business is business"
  • Example: "The rose is a rose is a rose"

The saying “service is service and schnapps is schnapps” is a special case. Two tautologies are used to represent the overall meaning, namely the view that work and private life should be kept as separate as possible. In this respect, the proverb represents a Hendiadyoin consisting of two tautologies .

What at first glance looks like a simple tautology (in the logical sense) - and is sometimes based on a slip of the tongue - can, when used as a stylistic or rhetorical device, serve to reinforce and emphasize the meaning ( emphasis ). One then speaks of apparent tautologies .

In rhetoric, expressions are usually called "tautologies", in which an adjective is added to a noun, the meaning of which is already contained in the noun. Examples are "black black horse", "old man" and "dead corpse". The expression "white mold " is the classic school example of a pleonasm . However, this example is less suitable, since “mold” is also used for young horses of any coat color , which later turn white due to genetic determination.

In another terminological tradition, “tautology” is differentiated from pleonasm as the case of “synonymous words of the same part of speech ”. Accordingly, expressions like “dead corpse” and “inner feeling” are not tautologies, but pleonasms.

A similar distinction is made if one does not focus on the identity of the part of speech, but on a subordinate or superordinate order (then pleonasm) or assignment (then tautology).

“Tautology” and “pleonasm” continue to be differentiated in a judgmental manner, which in turn is a question of terminological arbitrariness, without a fixed linguistic usage being discernible. The tautology should then be a “doubling for the purpose of rhetorical reinforcement”, while the pleonasm, on the other hand, should be a “superfluous accumulation that is sometimes perceived as deviating”. Tautologies in the sense of “synonymous words of the same part of speech” (“angst and bange” etc.) “are considered rhetorical stylistic devices and are therefore superior to any linguistic criticism.” However, the stylistic sublimity of tautologies apparently has limits. Often tautologies arise from not understood terms or foreign words ("the La Ola wave", "the guerrilla war ", "the jet ", "the salsa sauce", "the front line ") or are used in the form of redundant acronyms , as with "HIV virus" ( HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus ), "ABM measure" (ABM = job creation measure ), "ABS system" (ABS = anti-lock braking system ), "ISBN number" ( ISBN = international standard book number), " LCD display" (LCD = Liquid Crystal Display) or "IGeL services" (IGeL = individual health service ). If one qualifies these expressions as tautologies, the redundancy they contain is actually based on misunderstandings or misunderstandings, which, however, have become stylistically harmless through extensive lexicalization.

A tautology is also hidden in the “ Synodal Way ” of the German Bishops' Conference. (Synod already means “common path”.) Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Gerhard Müller pointed this out.

See also


  • Elmar Besch: repetition and variation. Investigation of their stylistic functions in contemporary German. Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern, inter alia, 1989, ISBN 3-631-41620-2 (= European university studies. Series I, German language and literature, at the same time dissertation at the University of Saarbrücken 1988).

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . G. Freytag Verlag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  2. a b c Regenbogen, Meyer: Dictionary of philosophical terms . 2005, ISBN 3-7873-1738-4
  3. a b Ulrich: Basic Linguistic Concepts . 5th edition, 2002
  4. ^ Heinz Erhardt : Die Made , V. 5-6.
  5. a b Homberger: Subject dictionary for linguistics . 2000.
  6. dtv lexicon . 1992, ISBN 3-423-05998-2 .
  7. a b Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 .
  8. See also Duden - The Foreign Dictionary . 5th edition, 1990, ISBN 3-411-20915-1 .
  9. Duden - German Universal Dictionary , 5th edition, 2003, ISBN 3-411-05505-7 .
  10. a b Bastian Sick: Twofold, doubly mocked , in Der Spiegel , on September 28, 2005, accessed on December 31, 2009.
  11. List of grammatical terms. A glossary of grammar, style and linguistics . In: http://www.quote.net/glossar.html#alphe , quoted from Lexikon der Linguistik ( Memento from February 11, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  12. [1] of July 27, 2019
  13. [2] of December 23, 2019