Hypotaxis, Parataxis

Subject: Hypotaxis, Parataxis
From: Bob Seitz <bseitz -at- WELL -dot- SF -dot- CA -dot- US>
Date: Sat, 4 Jun 1994 14:34:40 -0700

Rich, I'd like to meet you at the Berkeley meeting.

You asked about hypotaxis and parataxis. I'm not versed
in rhetoric; all I have are dictionaries. Here are two
of them:

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., 1993:

hy po tax is n [NL, fr. Gk, subjection, fr. hypotassein to
arrange under, fr. hypo- + tassein to arrange] (1883): syntactic
subordination (as by a conjunction)

para tax is n [NL, fr. Gk, act of placing side by side, fr.
paratassein to place side by side, fr. para- + tassein to
arrange] (ca. 1842): the placing of clauses or phrases one
after another without coordinating or subordinating connectives

Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary of the English
Language, Second Edition, Unabridged, (c) 1934 (1949):

hy po tax is, n. [NL., fr. hypo- + -taxis.] Gram. Subordinative
expression of the syntactic relation between main and qualifying
elements; -- opposed to parataxis. -- hy po tac tic, adj.

par a tax is, n. [NL., fr. Gr. parataxis a placing beside, fr.
paratassein to place beside.] 1. Arrangement without logical
connection. 2. Gram. a Co-ordinative ranging of propositions
one after another, without other expression of their syntactic
relation (he laughed; she cried); -- opposed to hypotaxis.
b A construction paratactic in form but hypotactic in meaning
(try and go). 3. Psychol. Emotional maladjustment.

(End dictionary; begin my comments)

What most interested me in your posting was what appeared to be the
possibility of using "hypotaxis" or "parataxis" to cover the whole
style of writing for the parrot (novice) as opposed to writing for
the system administrator. I think the professor you mentioned
extended the meanings of the words. However, I don't think
"hypotaxis" and "parataxis" really fit the parrot-vs.-sysadmin

I do agree that there are many problems without absolute answers
and that knowing your audience is important.

Bob Seitz
Copy Editor, Active Voice
SF Chapter, STC
bseitz -at- well -dot- sf -dot- ca -dot- us

>From TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu Fri Jun 3 22:37:03 1994
>Date: Fri, 3 Jun 1994 12:40:01 PDT
>Subject: Enter vs. Type and various other stuff

>Many of the issues I've seen beaten to death during my first week on the
>whorl list (whorl, as in vortex) do not have absolute answers. One of the
>keys to doing [whatever it is] the right way is to Know Your Audience.

>Say you have a software product where the endusers may be, well, clueless.
>the User Guide, you might see this passage:

>"When you click on the X button, [productname] displays the Y dialog box.
>Your cursor will appear in the Z field; this field displays a default
>You can change this value by typing in a new value. Once you have entered
>correct value, TAB to the next field and enter [whatever]. You must
>all fields before [productname] can process the information in this dialog
>box. To accept the information displayed, press the ENTER key. To return
>the previous screen without processing any of this information, press the

>[Whew, that was a lot of typing (I did this on the fly, so don't read too
>into it--I'm just making a point).]

>Now if the same process was described in, say, the System Admin guide,
>the audience was made up of savvy computer-literate types:

>"When you click on X, the Y dialog prompts you for Z. Accept the default
>type in a new value. All fields in this dialog are required."

>Though they describe the same thing, each type of passage may be
>for their intended audience. I had a professor once describe this as
>peritaxis (letting the reader make their own connections so they think
>what they're doing) vs. hypotaxis (writing everything down so as to leave

>By the way, I've never seen the terms peritaxis and hypotaxis in a
> Has anyone encountered these before? Are they used in some arcane field
>knowledge? I've seen other words used for this concept, but can't recall
>they were. Anyone on the list versed in Rhetoric?

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