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Redundancy (language)

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Language: Linguistics · Semiotics · Speech

In language, redundancy is the use of duplicative, unnecessary, contradictory or useless wording.

It most often takes the form of tautology: phrases which repeat a concept with different words. Common examples in American English: "an added bonus", "and plus", "end result", "free gift", "furture plans", "hot water heater", "unconfirmed rumor", "killed him dead", "past history", "safe haven".

A subset of tautology is "RAS syndrome" (for "Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome"): "ATM machine", "HIV virus", "PIN number" (these phases expand to "Automated Teller Machine machine", "Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus", and "Personal Identification Number number", respectively).

A more general form or redundancy is pleonasm, which can be any unnecessary words (or even word parts). While it subsumes rhetorical tautology and RAS syndrome, it also includes dialectal usage of technically unnecessary parts, as in "off of" vs. "off", "onto" vs. "on", "know that it happened" vs "know it happened", 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?", 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 obfuscating, tumid linguistic constructions in vocally or graphically expressed communications (as in that phase, which could be more simply expressed as "being longwinded") is also a form of redundancy, with many names. Two rather formal names for it are prolixity and logorrhea. It is often done with manipulative intent, e.g. to confuse and mislead the audience, to disguise the actual nature of a position or fact, or persuade politically. In such cases it is often also fallacious. Comedian George Carlin is famous for critizing the politically and socially motived abuse of logorrhea to hide the truth or manipulate public perception.

Finally, a borderline type of construction that could be considered redundancy (in that it is an extension of pleonasm) is the oxymoron, or self-contradictory expression, in which the unnecessary verbiage is not simply deadwood but undermines the meaning intended to be conveyed. A common example is "irregardless", a double-negative that technically means the opposite of the intended real words "regardless" and "irrespective" that have become confused to yield "irregardless". Oxymorons usually involve more than one word, however, as in "almost exactly", "centered around", and "genuine replica". Like prolixity, oxmorons are often used to mislead or euphemise, though most often they are simply the product of muddled logic and poor writing.

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.

See also Edit

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