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# Tautology

• By definition, a requirement is necessary.

"Over-exaggerate"

• This doesn't mean anything different from "exaggerate."

"Nuclear weapons of mass destruction"

• By definition, nuclear weapons create mass destruction.

"Died from a fatal wound"

• By definition, fatal wounds kill.

To avoid tautologies in your own writing, check yourself as you write. You might use a tautology on accident.

A contradiction expresses mutually exclusive ideas as true.

John, who doesn't understand math, has solved yet another complex math problem.

By definition, to "solve" something, you have to understand it. There's a minuscule chance John guessed the correct answer to the math problem, but he couldn't possibly explain how he arrived at that answer — a requirement to actually solve the problem.

While some information in a contradiction might be true (maybe John doesn't understand math!), the result is incorrect. On the other hand, a tautology is not strictly incorrect; it's simply pointless.

Here's a tautology that includes similar information:

John solved a math problem using math.

This statement is redundant because, as you know, solving a math problem requires math by definition. Therefore, the above statement serves no useful purpose. It could as easily be, "John solved a math problem."

This covers the main kinds of tautology in linguistics and how to tell them apart from other concepts.

## Tautology - Key Takeaways

• A tautology is an expression of the same thing twice.
• Often, a tautology describes something as itself.
• A self-eliminating tautology presents two alternatives that include every possible option.
• A pleonasm is the use of superfluous words to create redundancy in a sentence. The definition of pleonasm focuses on superfluous words, while the definition of tautology focuses on the repetition of ideas.
• A tautology differs more drastically from a contradiction than it does from a pleonasm. A contradiction expresses mutually exclusive ideas as true.

A tautology is an expression of the same thing twice. Often, a tautology describes something as itself.

An example of tautology is: "John solved a math problem using math." This is redundant because solving a math problem requires math by definition.

A tautology is an expression of the same thing twice. A pleonasm is the use of superfluous words to create redundancy in a sentence. The definition of pleonasm focuses on superfluous words, while the definition of tautology focuses on the repetition of ideas.

Depending on how you use it, a tautology can be a rhetorical device, a figure of speech, or a stylistic error.

A contradiction expresses mutually exclusive ideas as true. On the other hand, a tautology is an expression of the same thing twice.

## Final Tautology Quiz

Question

Which might a tautology contain?

Denotative meaning

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Question

This is the use of superfluous words to create redundancy in a sentence.

Pleonasm

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Question

This presents two alternatives that include every possible option.

Self-eliminating tautology

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Question

It expresses mutually exclusive ideas as true.

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Question

It is an expression of the same thing twice.

Tautology

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Question

Often, it describes something as itself.

Tautology

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Question

Depending on how you use it, a tautology can be a:

Rhetorical device

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Question

Although a tautology contains no denotative meaning, what can it contain?

Connotative meaning. Consider "It is what it is." Connotatively, people know it means, "I (or you) must accept this situation."

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Question

_____ is essential in defining a tautology.

Proximity

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Question

Which is not a tautology?

True crime

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Question

What is the following?

"You either fight, or you don't."

A self-eliminating tautology

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Question

A self-eliminating tautology is pointless.

True or false?

False. Self-eliminating tautologies can add emphasis to a situation. For example, one boyfriend might say to the other, "We love each other, or we don't," to draw attention to the problems in their relationship.

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Question

A tautology is totally distinct from a pleonasm.

False

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Question

Is this better described as a tautology or a pleonasm?

"The gentle breeze has a soft quality."

A tautology because, by definition, something "gentle" possesses a soft quality.

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Question

Is this better described as a tautology or a pleonasm?

"The bright and radiant sun burned our eyes."

"Bright and radiant" is a pleonasm because the description is redundant; however, the overall sentence expresses something original.

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Question

What is the difference between denotative meaning and connotative meaning?

The denotative meaning of something is its "by the book" or dictionary meaning. The connotative meaning of something is its social or contextual meaning.

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