Juxtaposition – What is it, concept, origin, types and examples

We explain what juxtaposition is, the origin of the term and its meaning in art. Also, the juxtaposition in grammar and examples.

In a juxtaposition the elements are together, coordinated, annexed or integrated.

What is juxtaposition?

By the word juxtaposition we generally refer to the addition or association of two terms or elements, in such a way that they form one. This term, used in very different spheres, which comes from two different Latin voices: iuxta, translatable as “next to”, and i will put, “place”. Thus, the things that are juxtaposed are in some way coordinated, annexed, integrated or simply one placed on top of the other.

It is common to find this word as a description of a relationship between two elements, be they real and concrete or mental and abstract. For example, geology uses it to call the mode of increase or “growth” of minerals, consisting of adding and adding particles of the same element on their surface (unlike living beings, which assimilate them inside their bodies , that is, they grow by intussusception).

In other areas, such as philosophy or sociology, there is talk of juxtaposition to refer to the overlap of two cultures or two traditions, different from hybridization or fusion, which makes up a new culture from several originals.

Juxtaposition in grammar

In grammar, three processes of construction of compound sentences are distinguished from several simple ones: coordination (using links and keeping sentences at the same hierarchical level), subordination (subjecting one sentence to the other in importance), and finally, juxtaposition.

This last consists of overlapping sentences, without having to add links as a bridge between one and the other, although they do use punctuation marks (comma, semicolon).

In this way, it is an inexpensive, fast mechanism, although not very precise, since it allows a certain margin of ambiguity that can distort the meaning of what has been said. It is very common in the colloquial language, although it can also be used as a stylistic device in a literary work.

Some examples of juxtaposition in this sense would be the following:

  • “My brother-in-law speaks English, plays tennis, composes poems.”
  • “Maria came from Stockholm; now we are going to listen to good stories ”.
  • “The police appeared, the vendors disappeared.”
  • “Buy me shoes, I need them.”

Juxtaposition in art

In the art world, and generally in the visual arts, juxtaposition is understood as the coexistence of two different elements, not necessarily antagonistic, that when coming together make up a new meaning or they mutually alter their meanings, producing grace, irony, and so on in the viewer.

It can be said, for example, that two colors in a painting cause, when juxtaposed, a tension, an expressive force that they would not have on their own; or we can refer rather to the union of two different traditions (religious, cultural, aesthetic, etc.) in the same piece. At the same time, collages are a perfect example of juxtaposition, in which different images are superimposed to build a new one.