Re: [Synoptic-L] Re: Litotes (was *Ornatus* and the Synoptic Problem)
- In a message dated 12/5/2003 3:59:35 AM Pacific Standard Time, eric.eve@... writes:
I confess my understanding of the meaning of litotes is pretty much in
agreement with Richard Anderson's. This is also how the Oxford English
Dictionary understands it:
" A figure of speech, in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative
of the contrary; an instance of this.
Examples of litotes are: ‘A citizen of no mean city’; ‘When no small
tempest lay on us.’ "
I'm afraid the (online) OED doesn't even acknowledge your definition!
I still think the Poirier understanding of litotes has not a little merit and foundation. The aspect of understatement is not necessarily incompatible with the above definition and I think frequently occurs in the figure, if it is not indeed part of its essence. It is also interesting how much more "natural" and common litotes is in the classical languages than it is in English, such that a translation of a Latin or Greek text will most often not reproduce a litotes in the original. Earlier today I was reading Vatican II's document on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio, and came across two examples of litotes in a single paragraph, neither of which survives the standard English translation of the conciliar decrees I happen to have in my possession. After speaking of the schisms of Christianity in the earliest times, bemoaned by Paul in 1 Cor, the Council goes on to observe: "But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church...". The phrase beginning "and large communities.." reads in Latin: "et Communitates haud exiguae a plena communione Ecclesiae catholicae seiunctae sunt...". Later in the paragraph, the document speaks of the differences between these communities and the Catholic Church which create many obstacles ... to full communion. The Latin has: "plenae ecclesiasticae communioni opponuntur impedimenta non pauca...".
Blessed John XXIII National Seminary