Function, Type and Translation of Repetition

As a figure of speech, repetition has the following major literature functions. Firstly, repetition can emphasize effectively. Secondly, repetition can make the expression intuitive and clearly, leaving deep impression on readers. Last but not the least, repetition can present atmosphere and render specific effect.

Some scholars divided repetition in English into the following types:

1. Epizeuxis: combine some word or phrase one by one, with no other words between them.

Young gentlemen, Never give up! Never give up! Never! Never! Never! Never!


2. Anadiplosis, the same as 顶针 in Chinese.

This, it seemed to him, was the end, the end of a world as he had known it…


As the huge differences in English and Chinese expression, it is quite difficult to make equivalent translation. Thus, translators have to be left with nothing better than the second choice. But the Chinese literal translation for this sentence can also achieve the effect of source sentence.

3. Anaphora. A good example is a well-known sentence in I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.



我梦想有一天,甚至连密西西比州 — 一个非正义和压迫的热浪逼人的荒漠之州,也会改造成为自由和公正的青青绿洲。

4. Epistrophe.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us. (Emerson)


5. Mesodiplosis.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed… (Second Epistle to the Corinthians)


6. Diaphora: repetition of a title or name. The second appearance is the supplemental instruction of the former name or title.

Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having. (Wilde, 1997:18)


Read Also: Translate or Not: Repetition in Literary Translation