Parenthesis (Gk meaning ‘put in beside’) is a rhetorical figure in which a word or words are intercluded within a clause; in written/printed texts parentheses (such as this one) are usually indicated by lunulae, dashes, or commas.
The rhetorical figure dates from classical antiquity, but the practice of marking only from 1399, when lunulae were invented for the purpose. Grammarians from the 16th c. to the present have frequently asserted that parentheses are subordinate and/or extraneous, and (esp. in the 18th c.) have judged them to be inelegant or indicative of stylistic incompetence, but both assertion and judgment are mistaken. Conventional Renaissance uses of the parenthesis include not only the indication of vocatives and attributions of speech (which are commonly subordinate), but also of sententiae and comparisons (including metaphors and similes), the cruxes of arguments by authority and analogy – and in these instances parenthesization is a form of visual emphasis and not of grammatical subordination. In satire also, while parentheses may be grammatically subordinate, they are almost always satirically emphatic.
The popularity of parentheses has varied over time and offers an interesting stylistic index of the preoccupations of the age. In Renaissance, 17th c., Romantic and 20th c. writing parentheses are common; in 18th c. and mid-Victorian work (with the exception of satire) relatively much rarer.
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Also read; Eclogue; definition and examples