Exposition II.

By Nicole Renee

This is a revision of the previous article I wrote on 'exposition'. That article is seriously lacking in quite a few areas. My intent was for this article to focus on processing more than presentation so I structured it in the following way: the first section is etymology research, the second section is definition research, and the third section is my processing of information and the formation of a new definition of the word exposition. I did this so that I could see how much I was writing in the processing section as well keep my thoughts focused.

1. Etymology of the word exposition:

- Etymonline sourced the word exposition from the the Latin words: expoitionem (meaning explanation and interpretation), expositio (a setting or showing forth; narration, explanation), and exponere (put forth; explain; expose).

Also mentioned is that in 1851 the word was first used as a term for a public display for the Crystal Palace 'Exposition' and in 1963 the abbreviation expo first appeared.

- Wiktionary provides that the word originates from exposicioun (middle English), esposicion (old French), and exponere (Latin).

- Collinsdictonary gives the following for American English: ME exposicioun < OFr exposition < L expositio < expositus, pp. of exponere < Fr and for British English: from Latin expositiō a setting forth, from expōnere to display.

- Findwords.info used Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary as the provider of their paragraph on exposition. Upon further research, 'Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary' is in fact just Etymonline.1 Therefore, I am not going to repeat what has already been said.

- Dictonary.com tells us that the origin of exposition comes from the 1300–50; (middle English) exposicioun, Latin expositiōn (stem of expositiō), equivalent to exposit(us).

Other than Etymonline, no other website actually defines the words that they list as sources for the word exposition. I tried to look up each of the words provided by wikitonary individually and still found that esposicion isin't listed. I struggled to find multiple sources for the etymology of exposition and had to change the search terms multiple times to find the list that I did. That being said and despite doing the work, honestly it feels as though I am still using only one source for this portion of the task. Although its the best source I can find, it is still weaak sauce.

2. Definitions of the word exposition:

- Merriam Webster gives the following as a definition: a setting forth of the meaning or purpose (as of a writing), discourse or an example of it designed to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand, the first part of a musical composition in sonata form in which the thematic material of the movement is presented, the opening section of a fugue, and a public exhibition or show.

- Lexico tells us that exposition is: a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory, the part of a movement (especially in sonata form) in which the principal themes are first presented, a large public exhibition of art or trade goods, and the action of making something public.

- Macmillan dictionary provides: a public event or show of industrial products or technology, a detailed explanation of something such as an idea or process, or the action of giving such an explanation.

- Cambridge dictionary: a clear and full explanation of an idea or theory, a big public event in which the goods of many different companies or organizations are shown, (in a written work) the passages which explain where events take place, what happened before the story begins, and the background of the characters.

- Dictionary.com has various definitions: a large-scale public exhibition or show, as of art or manufactured products. The act of expounding, setting forth, or explaining. Writing or speech primarily intended to convey information or to explain; a detailed statement or explanation; explanatory treatise. The act of presenting to view; display. The state of being uncovered, revealed, or otherwise exposed; exposure. The first section of a fugue or a sonata form, in which the principal themes normally are introduced. Dialogue, description, etc., that gives the audience or reader the background of the characters and the present situation.

Based off of the etymology of the word exposition, I would think that the definition from the above list which is most accurate is: a setting forth of the meaning or purpose (as of a writing), discourse or an example of it designed to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand.

The definition follows the lineage of the word (expoitionem, expositio, exponere) whereby it tells us that the word is a given explanation that exposes something to the audience. Necessarily, if something is being explained then it is not easy to understand so I agree with that portion as well (although it's redundant). If you are showing something to the reader then I can also follow the bastardization of the word into the meaning of putting something physical on show/display. I think an essential component of the etymology of this word are the phrases 'to put forth' and 'show forth'. In my mind, this is important as it eliminates the possibility of the reader needing to guess what may be going on. You are quite literally giving them the information needed.

I think its worth mentioning that when defining words it can be confusing when the definition includes examples of the word being defined, here is an example from the Cambridge dictionary definition: (in a written work) the passages which explain where events take place, what happened before the story begins, and the background of the characters. This at first and without proper knowledge seems like a definition but it's really just examples of what an exposition can be, which is enraging and eye opening. This is how people get into the position of thinking they know what a word means but then when questioned can't produce an actual definition. The Cambridge dictionary had the worst definition of all that I researched. Either it's an example as a definition or a definition that is so far from the actual origin of the word.

What I really don't follow are the definitions that are in reference to music. 'The first section of a fugue or a sonata form, in which the principal themes normally are introduced' With my admittedly limited knowledge of music, it seems as though the themes would become self apparent as the music plays and therefore wouldn't need an exposition. If you are exposing the audience to characters, dialogue, or some necessary information then that is not the theme of the writing (although the theme may be found in the dialogue or description of characters...etc). Following the etymology, a theme also is not purely an explanation nor a setting. I may be missing something but I can't follow the crossover of this word into a musical meaning.

Now the second definition I provided in channel is closer to the definition of theme than an exposition:

nicoleci: im struggling a little bit but what i have for exposition is - the purpose of the writing that may not be easily inferred by the reader
nicoleci: also yes! re to entertain, sell,...etc.

The big difference between my definition and the actual definition is that if you are providing an exposition then you do not want the reader inferring their own meaning from that portion of the writing. The exposition is the author providing clear information for the reader.

My first definition was much closer than the second and I'm not sure why/how I developed the second one to be so far from the first. I think possibly I had little confidence in my answer and then changed multiple things that I thought were wrong as opposed to tweaking the definition in a systematic way.

nicoleci: an exposition is an explanation or showing of something

The 'or' part of this statement really changes the definition. I would have been better (still wrong) to say that an exposition is the explanation being shown. Although 'show' really doesn't fit here - does it? The phrase showing of something fits much more with the definition of exposition (expo) that relates to physical items.

Let's try to work through defining this word a third time and start with how to properly define a word:

'A definition consists of the proximate genus and
its specific difference within the same.'

Now keeping the parameters of a definition in mind, I started the creation of my definition with this: a given explanation that exposes something to the audience. I then modified that to: An explanation which is put forth in order to expose the audience to information that is relevant to the rest of the writing. I don't really like how the rest of the writing sounds and I think relevant is sort of meaningless used this way. With those changes, this is the final definition that I am proposing for exposition:

An explanation which is put forth in order to expose the audience to information that is required to understand the writing.

With all of that being said, my guess from the previous
article remains as is:

My guess is that she asked for the meaning of exposition (at the start of our conversation), to expose if I knew the information required to understand what will follow.

Kinda like how you may need an exposition at the beginning of a piece of writing in order to make sense of the story that's being told. What do you think? Am I way off? It wouldn't be the first time.

The hardest part of writing this article was coming up with a definition that fits the form of how a definition should go. I think this is because not knowing many words makes it challenging when one is trying to define a word. Before I started writing, my thoughts were self defeating in that I thought whatever definition is given in the internet dictionaries would be better than something I could come up with due to my lack of knowledge. However, since doing this assignment I can clearly see the flaws of those very definitions and I'm interested in seeing what flaws may be in mine.

  1. It's anyone's guess as to why they would not refer to the website by its actual name and also with a link. []

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