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> 英语语法 > 英语修辞与写作 >  第33篇

英语修辞与写作·12.2 Understatement

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2021年10月18日

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12.2 Understatement

12.2A Understatement的含义与形式

Understatement,汉语称之为“低调陈述”,也叫“含蓄陈述”,是与夸张法对应的一种辞格。其表现形式主要有两种:

1) 以反说代替正说,即通常以否定形式表示肯定的内容。这种形式也叫“曲言法”(Litotes)。例如:

That's no laughing matter.

试比较:That's a serious matter.

She was not without ambition.

试比较:She was quite ambitious.

This boy was undoubtedly a difficult pupil, for he had a strong independent mind, and was impatient of accepted rules and conventions.

试比较:... mind, and hated / disliked ...

2) 以弱说代替强说,即用形容词或副词比较级或用程度副词(如:almost, hardly, kind of, rather, scarcely, something of, sort of, 等)减弱语气。这种形式也叫“弱陈法”(Meiosis)。以下两例分别摘自电视台记者同一位观众的对话和一篇体育述评:

(a) TV Reporter: Do you think all the programs are good?

One of the audience: Well, some are interesting, some could be better, and some are almost sort of rubbish.

(b) During last year's Central Park Bicycle Race, five of the racers were attacked and had their bikes stolen while the race was in progress. This is something of a handicap in bicycle race.

(Caskie Stinnett)

12.2B Understatement的使用

1) 低调陈述不像夸张法那样夸大其词,而是正话反说,重话轻说,含蓄内敛,形式上迂回,其目的同样在于增强语言力度,提高表达效果。例如:

It's great being with my sister and my friend, Ann. I'm a real tourist now, and things here are the finest of the world: Food I've never tasted, scenery one could hardly tear themselves away, and music even Beethoven would admire ... It's by no means not a pity, however, that you're not with us!

(Laura's letter)

信中使用一连串夸张词语之后,突然笔锋一转,来个低调陈述,其强调效果更为突出了。

2) 由于低调陈述的语气婉转,人们在表示态度、提出看法时显得灵活和留有余地。例如:

Sorry, this is in fact more than I can promise.

若直说“I can't promise.”,虽然干脆利落,但会给对方造成不必要的刺激。又如:

This piece of work is nothing to be proud of.

若直说“It is disgraceful.”,就会显得粗了些,不易被别人接受。又如:

If this regime is out of power, no tear is to be shed.

这是外交辞令,若直说“We expect this regime to be out of power.”,就有失风度了。

3) 低调陈述具有很强的讽刺和幽默功能。有时客观事实骇人听闻,其恐怖程度难以用文字表达,于是作家使用低调陈述法,尽量以简明、直叙的笔法向读者展现那触目惊心的事件,或以“黑色幽默”形式进行揭露和控诉。这里的“低调陈述”和前面11.1B所讲的“反语使用”是相通的。例如:

(a) They shot the cabinet ministers at half-past-six in the morning against the wall of the hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard. There were wet dead leaves on the paving of the courtyard. It rained hard. All the shutters of the hospital were nailed shut. One of the ministers was sick with typhoid. Two soldiers carried him downstairs and out into the rain. They tried to hold him up against the wall but he sat down in a puddle of water. The other five stood very quietly against the wall. Finally the officer told the soldiers it was no good trying to make him stand up. When they fired the first volley he was sitting down in the water with his head on his knees.

(Ernest Hemingway)

(b) Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how it altered her appearance for the worse.

(Jonathan Swift)

值得一提的是,据说曾有人认为上述作者“残酷”和“缺乏同情心”,实际上是由于粗浅的读者只停留在文字表面,没有读进去,因而产生了误会。然而,这也告诉我们,在使用低调陈述时,应把文章的内容和对象考虑进去,力求使这种修辞技巧发挥预期的作用。

 


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