July 15, 2024

By Moshood Alabi

Language becomes more interesting to use when one captures a message in few words. Writing or speaking through the use of verbosity or redundancy can look like creativity when first introduced, but can later become boring and uninteresting to readers or listeners.

Using too many words where a word can capture the whole message makes communication ineffective. This is because being as straightforward as possible is one of the 7 C’s of communication.

Here are the 7 C’s


What then is TAUTOLOGY?

The word tautology has a Greek root. It is from two words: Tautos(identical) + logos(identical).

Tautology is usually referred to as redundancy in the English Grammar. It is just a needless repetition. It is like trying to occupy a space that is not vacant. A word has already captured the meaning that another word is about to introduce. In the interpretation of such a sentence,the meaning of the redundant word will not reflect as it is already present.

Tautologies occur, according to Semantics, at two levels.

The first one is Lexical TAUTOLOGY. A Lexical tautology is a repetition of the same idea in one word. A word usually used side by side with another word that introduces a particular meaning which is present in the word before it.

These are some examples:

Past history

4th year anniversary

Grateful thanks

Free gifts

The word HISTORY, in the first example, has captured the meaning of past. This is because history is already in the past. Therefore, the use of past with history is needless. In the expression, 4th year anniversary, the word anniversary has the meaning annually. The use of year becomes redundant because annual has already expressed that meaning. It should be the 4th anniversary.

Also, in the expression “Grateful thanks”, being grateful has already suggested being thankful. The word thanks is said to be redundant because its meaning already exists in the word grateful. A gift is already free and the word free is redundant when used with word gift because a gift is already free.

Here are other examples of Lexical tautology

Quack doctor

Shut up your mouth

Medical check up
Usual habit
Raise/Rise up
Voice out
No other alternative
Mix things together
Can be able
Repeat it again
Reverse/Return back
New innovation
New invention

It is believed that you know why those expressions are tautogous.

In addition, some legal and religious jargon are not left out in this matter.

Let’s examine these:

Lift up
Rise up
Join together
Null and void

Another aspect of tautology occurs in acronyms and initialism.

Here are the examples:

HIV Virus
PIN Number
BVN Number

The second category of Tautology is Structural Tautology. A structural Tautology is a needless repetition of an idea and a word within a sentence.

Let’s examine some:

“One other factor does not really help at 11pm Radio divides up, and the remainder of The World Tonight is consigned to the long and medium waves, and falls victim to a very horrid loss of sound quality” — David Wade, The Times.

The word UP as used in divides up is redundant.

Here is another example: “The actual fact is that I began this book impulsively and wrote it continuously” — Joseph Conrad

The adjective, actual is redundant because the meaning is present in fact.

Another one, “…the two ideas happened to merge together….” Emma Tennant in an interview in The Literary Review.

To merge together also contains Tautology

Other illustrations of structural tautology can be found in these sentences:

The reason for my absence was because I was busy.

“Reason” and “because* are used together

Although he is brilliant but he still failed the examination.

“Although” and “but” are used together.

However, the following expressions are not examples of Tautology

Reason why
Extreme end
Stand up
Sit down

In sum, creativity is an aesthetic quality of any language, but whenever creativity becomes verbosity; it brings boredom to the recipient of the message.


Alabi,M(2012) _Communication Skills_ Lagos: JJ Publishers

Boroditsky,G(2003) _Linguistic Relativity_ Nature Publishing Group
Bringing,L.(2000) The Structure of Modern English. John Benjamin’s

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