An Introduction to Parataxis

Parataxis (a transliteration of the Greek etymon παράταξις, “a placing side by side”), is a syntactic and stylistic structure in which clauses Opens in new window and sentences Opens in new window are strung together either without conjunctions or combined with coordinate conjunctions Opens in new window.

Parataxis contrasts with HypotaxisOpens in new window (a complicated syntax employing phrases or clauses arranged in dependent or subordinate relationships), and shares quite the same similarity with AsyndetonOpens in new window (omission of numerous conjunctions) wherein it tends to omit conjunctions to produce a hurried rhythmic effect in the sentence.

AristotleOpens in new window names the paratactic style “a running style”. To understand the sense in paratactic style, readers are required to establish causational links implied by the paratactic syntaxOpens in new window which are made implicit by writers, whereas writers who employ hypotaxis make such links explicit.

Examples of Parataxis
  • “A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office”
  • — (The Tell-Tale Heart, [5: 93])

    This passage is without conjunctions: Imagine how the addition of conjunction ‘and’ and other connectors would have slowed the pace of the passage.)
    Here is another paratactic construction excerpted from “The Premature Burial”:
  • “She presented all the ordinary apperarances of death. The face assumed the usual pinched and sunken outline. The lips were of the usual marble pallor. The eyes were lusterless. There was no warmth. Pulsation had ceased”
  • — (The Premature Burial, [5: 257]).
Important Hint! 

Parataxis involves phrases or independent clauses set one after the other without subordination and often without coordinating conjunctions (such as ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘or.’). Parataxis also compares with asyndetonOpens in new window — a scheme of omission involving unlinked independent clauses side by side without subordination or interlinking conjunctions.

Note that paratactic sentences are also linear (they depend on the normal word order of subject-verb-object).

Further Readings:
Brett Zimmerman, Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style | Poe's Stylistic Versatility (p8/9) Opens in new window
Wikipedia | ParataxisOpens in new window
Aristotle, (Rhet. 3.9);
Aejmelaeus 1982;
Schwyzer 1950 – 71, 2.631 -34.