Non Sequitur: Definition, Useful Examples in Spoken Language and Literature

When studying the English language, you may have come across the concept of non sequitur, you may also have wondered what this is. In this article, we are going to explore exactly what non sequitur is and how it can be applied to both spoken and written language. We will do this by looking at some examples of non sequitur in use, which will aid us in gaining a greater understand of how it functions.

What Is Non Sequitur?

In the most simple terms, non sequitur is a conclusion to a previous statement which does not have anything to do with the statement or provide a logical conclusion to it. For the most part, non sequitur is used to add a sense of humour and comedy to a piece of writing, TV show, movie or other media.

Interestingly, the term non sequitur comes from the ancient language of Latin and directly translates to mean something that does not follow. This ties in with the non sequitur sentence being completely misaligned from the original statement.

The features of a sentence which is seen to be non sequitur are as follows:

  • The statement does not provide any information in relation to the question or statement that came before.
  • The statement is almost nonsensical.
  • The statement may be being used to add an air of comedy to the conversation or situation.

Non Sequitur Examples

Examples of Non Sequitur In Spoken Language

You may have quite often come across the use of non sequitur in your day to day conversations and not even realised it. When used as a figure of speech, non sequitur is added to bring about confusion to a conversation or, as we mentioned before, for comedic effects. In some instances, the non sequitur statement may be a false statement, for example in the sentence “Barbara like Lettuce. She should love to eat beef.” The second sentence is non sequitur and does not have any truth based on the first sentence, nor does it bring a conclusion. We are now going to look at some other example of non sequitur used in spoken language.

  • In a group of sentences where one does not have any relation to the other, this is an example of non sequitur, “Work is work, and a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee.”
  • In popular internet memes, we see many examples of non sequitur, one of these is often read as follows “Unicorns are amazing, I am amazing, therefore I am a unicorn.”
  • Non sequitur can be used as a way to deny the antecedent, a good example of this is the following sentence. “If I am Chinese, that means I am Asian. I am not Chinese, therefore I am not Asian.”
  • Non sequitur can also be used in order to affirm the consequent, an example of this would be a sentence such as this. “If you are right, then I am right. As I’m right, then you are right.” As you can see, the second sentence brings about confusion and does nothing for the original statement.
  • My vacuum is broken, I had better finish the gardening this weekend.” These two statements have nothing in common and the second statement does not have any relation to the first.
  • I read about a dog attack in the newspaper. My friend has a dog. My life must be in danger.” The concluding statement can be seen to be false, just because there was a dog attack and the friend owns a dog, that does not mean that the speaker is in danger, making this a non sequitur.

Examples of Non Sequitur In Literature

As we mentioned earlier, non sequitur is often used as a literary device in order to add humour to the piece of writing. This allows the writer to bring about mild confusion to the reader, which can make for a more creative piece of writing. Over the years, many writers have employed the use of non sequitur in their work, whether that be poetry, fiction, theatre or song. Let’s take a look at some examples of this.

  • In Girl Interrupted written by Susanna Kayson, we see an excellent example of non sequitur being used in the following passage. “It’s a spring day, the kind of day which gives hope to people, soft wind and the warm smell of earth; suicide weather.” The statement suicide weather has no relation to the description of the day.
  • Max Barry makes use of non sequitur in his work, Lexicon. Let’s take a look an an excerpt from this, “She said, ‘I love you‘ She moved closer, running her hand up the back of his neck. The wind picked up. “Don’t hurt me.” he spoke. “I won’t.” As you can see, the second part of this passage does not relate to the first, more tender part of the passage.
  • In The bizarre letters of St John Morris, written by an author of the same name, we see a very confusing statement which is classed as non sequitur. “Beetroot Cosins moved to Kuala Lumpar where she had died of pie and lethargy.”
  • In Alice’s adventures in wonderland written by Lewis Carroll, we see an excellent example of non sequitur in the following conversation between Alice and the mad hatter. “You ought to learn to not make personal remarks.” said Alice quite severely. “It is so rude.” The mad hatter widened his eyes on hearing this, but he simply said “Why is raven like a writing desk?” The remark made by the mad hatter does not reply or conclude the original statement made by Alice, it is completely irrelevant.

Conclusion

Non sequitur is quite simply a way of adding a comedic sentence which does not conclude or bring any logic to the statement or question which it follows. It can be used as a literary device, and has been in many examples of written work. Aside from this, non sequitur is also used in conversation and spoken language such as TV shows and movies in order to add humour and confusion.

Non Sequitur Infographic

Non Sequitur

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