The following 2 definitions of anaphora are from the Oxford Living Dictionaries.

1 Grammar

The use of a word referring back to a word used earlier in a text or conversation, to avoid repetition, for example the pronouns he, she, it, and they and the verb do in I like it and so do they.

2 Rhetoric

The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses.

Why does the "grammatical anaphora" do the opposite of what the "rhetorical anaphora does"? In other words, why does the "grammatical anaphora" avoid "a carry back" (etymological meaning of 'anaphora') when rhetorically it carries back words, phrases or clauses?

"repetition of a word or phrase in successive clauses," 1580s, from Latin, from Greek anaphora "reference," literally "a carrying back," from anapherein "to carry back, to bring up," from ana "back" (see ana-) + pherein "to bear," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry." (Online Etymology Dictionary)

  • 1
    The idea that the linguistic anaphora does the opposite to the rhetorical anaphora (repetition) is not one that I share. I think it's your interpretation, or an interpretation. The anaphor in the linguistic anaphora refers back to a previous antecedent. The rhetorical anaphora refers back to previous words to reuse them. That's another way of looking at it. They're both Greek for "carrying back". – Zebrafish Oct 1 '18 at 20:46

In the first place, it's not at all uncommon for terms based on metaphors like this to have quite different meanings in different contexts.

In the second place, prepositions and prepositional affixes are notoriously flexible in meaning. Note that the Latin translation of anaphor-, refer- uses the (etymologically) identical stem, but re- where the Greek has ana-. I don't know whether ana- is as flexible, but re- can mean either back, in the opposite direction or once more—the two notions are very closely related (another example of refer-), because the motion is conceived as metaphorically cyclic.

So there's really no contradiction here: the grammatical meaning carries you back ("refers" you) to a prior instance (the "referent") to recognize its significance, and the rhetorical meaning carries you back to the previous instance of the construction to grasp its rhetorical significance.

  • 'Ana, conveniently for English speakers, means again, and against. So, anamnesis, (again) 'memory;' and ana potamon (against) upstream. – Hugh Oct 1 '18 at 20:27
  • As a preposition, ανα ana is either distributive ('in the midst') or spatial ('up') [Daniel B Wallace Beyond the Basics 1996 p364]. My understanding is that the prefix ανα, ana prompts the concept of something arising ('up'). Or, as we say, 'coming up (again)'. The Greek preposition (and prefix) παλιν palin is the one that bears the meaning of going over the same ground twice in different directions (as in 'palindrome'.) – Nigel J Oct 1 '18 at 22:14

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