Monday, August 20, 2007


The hypophora is a rhetorical and literary device we were all likely enamoured with in the earliest stages in our academic careers, but have probably not ever been able to identify by name. Simply put, it is a figure of speech where the speaker poses a question and then answers it. The answer or discussion of possible answers (no matter how lengthy, you thesis writers) may be referred to as anthypophora.

I always like to think of hypophora as "Hyper Paragraphs" (a useful mnemonic since I am not too fond of the device). However, the use of the self-answered question is well documented in ancient Greek and has quite a historic literary fan club including Cicero, Quintillian, and Paul the Apostle and one can't really make it through an anti-war protest without its familiar trappings (When do we want change? We want it now!).

So instead of asking, "Is that a rhetorical question?", you may try "Hypophoras are traditionally answered by the speaker" (Just try to be as snotty as possible during delivery). Just be wary of using hypophora too often in a domestic argument, (Did you put away the dishes? No. Did you vacuum like I asked? No.) You may find that over use could mean a wearing out of the hypophora's welcome as well as your own.

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