Definition and Examples of Synchoresis

Synchoresis (from the Greek, literally “a concession” ), is a figure which prevails when we grant or yield up an argumentOpens in new window or some point in order to gain a point, which otherwise, we could not so well secure without it.

This figure with respect to its execution, seems the reverse of ProlepsisOpens in new window. For in that, as we must commence in an open, elevated tone, and drop into a low and firm one, so in this, we must pronounce the concessive part of the figure in a low, light tone, as if what we allowed our adversary was of no great importance, and then assume the argument in a strong elevated tone, as if we had acquired a double force from the concession we had made.

Thus CiceroOpens in new window, in pleading for FlaccusOpens in new window, to invalidate the testimony of the Greeks, who were witnesses against his client, allows them every quality but that which was necessary to make them credited.

  • This, however, I say concerning all the Greeks, - I grant them learning, the knowledge of many sciences; I do not deny that they have wit, fine genius, and eloquence: nay, if they lay claim to many other excellencies, I shall not contest their title: but this I must say, that nation never paid a proper regard to the religious sanctity of public evidence; and are total strangers to the obligation, authority, and importance of truth.

The first part of this passage, which forms the concessionOpens in new window, should be spoken in a slight, easy manner, and in a tone rather below that of common conversation; but the assertion in the latter part (in italics) should rise into a somewhat higher tone, and assume a strength and firmness expressive of the force of the argument.

It may not be improper to remark to those who undderstaund the two inflections of the voice, that the several members of the concession seem to require the rising inflection. For nothing confounds an adversary than the fate to grant him his whole argument, and at the same time either to show that it is nothing to the purpose, or to offer something else that may invalidate it, as in the following example:

  • I allow that nobody was more nearly related to the deceased than you; I grant that he was under some obligations to you; nay, that you have always been in friendly correspondence with each othe: but what is all this to the last will and testament?

The concession in this passage must be pronounced in a moderate, conciliating tone of voice: but the question at the end must rise into a higher, louder, and more forcible tone. There is an uncommon force in a passage of Cato’s speech concerning the punishment of the traitors in Catiline’s conspiracy, which manifestly arises from the figure upon which we are treating.

  • Let them, since our manners are so corrupted, be liberal out of the fortunes of our allies; let them be compassionate to the robbers of the public treasury: but let them not throw away our blood, and, by sparing a few abandoned villains, make way for the destruction of all good men.

In this example, the tone of voice, with respect to height, is nearly the same throughout: but the second member assumes a much stronger and firmer, though rather lower tone, and necessarily ends with the rising inflection.

Adapted from John Walker's manual, titled,A Rhetorical Grammar: In which Improprieties in Reading and Speaking are [...] (Accessibility of this work is coutesy of Google's Digitized Technology) | SynchoresisOpens in new window