Redundancy (linguistics)  

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In linguistics, redundancy is the construction of a phrase that presents some idea using more information, often via multiple means, than is necessary for one to be able to understand the idea.

Often, redundancies occur in speech unintentionally, but redundant phrases can also be deliberately constructed for emphasis, to reduce the chance that a phrase will be misinterpreted. In rhetoric, the term "redundancy" tends to have a negative connotation and may be perceived as improper because of its use of duplicative or unnecessary wording (and some people expand the definition to include self-contradictory wording, similar to double negation); however, it remains a linguistically valid way of placing emphasis on some expressed idea. Through the use of repetition of certain concepts, redundancy increases the odds of predictability of a message's meaning and understanding to others.

Redundancy typically takes the form of tautology: phrases that repeat a meaning with different though semantically similar words. Common examples are: "a variety of different items", "an added bonus", "to over-exaggerate", "and etc.", "end result", "free gift", "future plans", "unconfirmed rumor", "to kill, murder, or electrocute someone to death", "past history", "safe haven", "potential hazard", "completely surrounded", "false pretense," and so on. There is also the self-referential "joke organization" called "The Redundancy Society of Redundancy", also rendered as "Society of Redundancy Society".

A subset of tautology is RAS syndrome in which one of the words represented by an acronym is then repeated outside the acronym: "ATM machine", "HIV virus", "PIN number", "ITN news" and "RAID array". These phases expand to "automated teller machine machine", "human immunodeficiency virus virus", "personal identification number number", and "redundant array of independent disks array", respectively. "RAS syndrome" is itself a tongue-in-cheek example of the RAS syndrome in action; it expands to "Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome". Another common one used especially by teenagers is the phrase "i ily you", an 'msn speak' phrase which literally means "i i love you you".

On the phonological level, the redundancy of phonological rules may clarify some vagueness in spoken communication; "a speaker may know that 'thisrip' must be 'this rip' and not 'thi srip' because in English the initial consonant cluster 'sr' is illegal" (Pinker, 1994, p. 178). Also, certain phrases such as "ice cream sundae" and "capitol building" are considered redundant when written, but when spoken can clarify ambiguities due to homophones.

It is this feature of redundancy that has been saidTemplate:Who to be important in allowing humans to acquire a complex grammar system. A child acquiring language must abstract away grammatical rules based on the input which they hear. Redundancy in language allows the child's inductions to be more stable by presenting more salient evidence upon which these inductions are based. Redundancy therefore provides the sufficient stimulus needed to acquire a complex grammar system.

A more general classification of redundancy is pleonasm, which can be any unnecessary words (or even word parts). Subsuming both rhetorical tautology and RAS syndrome, it also includes dialectal usage of technically unnecessary parts, as in "off of" vs. "off", "onto" vs. "on" etc. Pleonasm can also take the form of purely semantic redundancies that are a part of the de facto standard usage in a language and "transparent" to the user (e.g., the French question "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" meaning "What's that?" or "What is it?", which translates very literally as "What is it that it is?"). The term pleonasm is most often, however, employed as synonymous with tautology.

The use of confusing, tumid linguistic constructions in vocally or graphically expressed communications (as in that phrase, which could more simply be expressed as "being longwinded") is also a form of redundancy, with several names. Two rather formal names for it are prolixity and logorrhoea. It is often done with manipulative intent, e.g. to confuse and mislead the audience (obfuscation), to disguise the actual nature of a position or fact (euphemism), or to persuade in politics or religion. In such cases it is often also fallacious. Comedian George Carlin was famous for criticizing the politically—and socially—motivated abuse of logorrhoea to hide the truth or manipulate public perception.

All of these forms of redundancy can be used intentionally, for positive artistic or rhetorical effect, frequently for humorous purpose, and for a number of other non-manipulative purposes, so their appearance in speech or writing is not automatically a fault. For example, duplicative language used as parallelism can have a strong rhetorical effect. Deliberate redundancy is sometimes used as a device in film and television, for instance in the BBC motoring series Top Gear, James May once referred to "...the Italian city of Lucca, which is in Italy", using one of the show's common grammatical tropes ("the X of Y which is in Z").

See also


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