Level 4 material: rhetorics and grammar

"A Definition of Rhetoric

This book is thus oriented toward the cultivation of public speaking as a rhetorical art much in the way that the Greeks understood it to be. The modifier “rhetorical” is meant to distinguish the subject from the broader category of public speaking, which involves any situation in which one speaks in a public setting.

Rhetorical public speaking is the art of addressing pressing public concerns by employing deliberate persuasive strategies before a public audience at a specific occasion in order to transform some aspect of a problematic situation by encouraging new forms of thought and action. In other words, rhetoric involves us in the social and political struggle over meaning, and, hence, over power. It is about how people use language and symbols to transform the way a society or community thinks, feels, and behaves.

Rhetoric is ultimately about how people act as agents of social change, using whatever symbolic power they can harness to move people from this place to that place.

This definition can be broken down into the following parts:

1. The art: Referring to rhetoric as an art distinguishes it from a mere instinctual or unreflective talent. Art thus does not mean an intuitive creativity or genius lacking in method. Quite the opposite, art requires the application of rational concepts and methods in the creative process of guiding situated judgment.

2. of addressing pressing public concerns: Except for matters of idle curiosity, the only reason we voluntarily expose ourselves to rhetorical discourse is because it speaks to a shared concern that is in the forefront of our consciousness. We listen to rhetoric with the hope that the person speaking might be able to suggest a path out of our current predicament or a solution to our current problem.

3. by employing deliberate persuasive strategies: Persuasion is often accidental or a product of sheer luck. This does not alter its function as a persuasive message, but it does change how we evaluate it in terms of art. In contradistinction to rhetorical criticism, which can evaluate anything that strikes us as persuasive, the productive art of rhetoric concerns itself with improving how something is produced, and one cannot improve accident or luck.

4. before a public audience: The public character of the audience means that it addresses an audience of relative strangers who come together to address areas of common concern. Persuading an audience of friends may still employ rhetoric, but that rhetoric generally appeals to the unique bonds of those friends rather than their shared characteristics as part of a larger public.

5. at a specific occasion: This aspect addresses the situated character of rhetoric as a form of public speaking and not simply a genre of persuasion. One can, of course, create rhetorical discourse in the form of a written or visual medium. The use of the Internet has certainly led to an explosion of attempts at long-distance persuasion. But rhetorical public speech more narrowly refers to rhetoric delivered in the physical presence of others.

6. in order to transform some aspect of a problematic situation: Rhetoric seeks to change some aspect of the natural or social environment that is felt to be problematic by members of a public. This shared experience of uncertainty, anxiety, and urgency focuses people’s attention on a speech and thus gives it a unique power. Absent such a situation, the same speech might be experienced not as rhetoric, but as a form of poetry, news, or entertainment. It is not the speech itself that determines its character, but the total context in which it is spoken.

7. by encouraging new forms of thought and action: The means by which rhetoric transforms that environment is by symbolic persuasion—by the use of symbols which encourage other people to change their attitudes toward objective things in the world. Rhetoric is thus an indirect form of action. It makes changes by changing what people think and do with hope that their behaviors might resolve some shared problem.

Because rhetoric becomes rhetoric only within urgent contexts of judgment, rhetorical public speech is a fundamentally ethical activity insofar as it forces one to take a stand about what “good” we should pursue and how we should pursue it. Paradoxically, however, the very problematic aspect of the rhetorical situation often throws into question the conventional ethical standards that had guided pre-vious action. Thus, rhetorical public speakers must do more than seek mere tactical “success”; they must also determine what success would look like in such a situa- tion and then justify that vision on the basis of a reflective ethical judgment. And to do that successfully means constructing an argument using the tools of reason (logos), credibility (ethos), emotion (pathos), and style (lexis) capable of challeng-ing and transforming some aspect of public sentiment in the face of opposition."

(The Canons of Rhetorics, 2-3)

"Figures and Tropes Whereas concrete words attempt to use clear language that conveys ideas that cannot be mistaken for any others, figures and tropes exploit the capacity for signs to take on multiple meanings and to convey multiple feelings. A figure is a series of signs designed to produce emotional interpretants based on an appeal to the ear (e.g., alliteration: “The day dawned with delight”). A figure uses language that departs from its conventional structure for the purpose of integrating.

Figures and Tropes Whereas concrete words attempt to use clear language that conveys ideas that cannot be mistaken for any others, figures and tropes exploit the capacity for signs to take on multiple meanings and to convey multiple feelings. A figure is a series of signs designed to produce emotional interpretants based on an appeal to the ear (e.g., alliteration: “The day dawned with delight”). A figure uses language that departs from its conventional structure for the purpose of integrating poetic style and a musical sense of rhythm, which usually produces feelings of pleasure and harmony that we associate with beautiful works of art. By contrast, a trope is a series of signs designed to produce complex logical interpretants based on appeal to the mind (e.g., metaphor: “The year began with a sigh”). Whereas a figure seduces and calms the ear, a trope stimulates and challenges the mind to discern the logical meaning behind on ironic play of signs. In this case, the mind knows that a year cannot literally begin by exhaling a great deal of air once; it therefore uses the emotional interpretant of “sigh” (being a state of sadness, exhaustion, and resignation) and uses that as the proper sign to interpret the beginning of the year. Figures are valuable to speeches because they provide a sort of “musical accompaniment” to the speech, thereby setting the tone for the occasion as well as placing the audience in a certain frame of mind to receive the message. It is a commonly known fact that messages tend to be recalled with greater clarity and emotional weight when they have a sense of rhythm and rhyme. The fact that complex song lyrics are easier to remember than clear but abstract definitions indicates the power of figures to leave a lasting impression. The same message conveyed without figures has a far greater chance of being forgotten than the one that was composed by a speaker who took the time to listen carefully to the sound of language with a musical ear. Following are listed some of the most important figures that appear in rhetoric."

(Ibid., 37-38).

We study rhetorics since we will find ourselves in situations where we will need to discuss, debate or negotiate with other people. Will you debate on the events of the past? You discuss with your friends who to vote for during the next election. You debate the pros and cons of eating meat and whether or not you want to become a vegetarian. You negotiate with a classmate and agree to sell your computer for a concert ticket. You negotiate with your partner about what you should eat for dinner. You stipulate your rights in court. Which are better - cats or dogs? Can boys wear skirts or not? Is the death penalty a reasonable option instead of incarceration or should we have more friendly, theurapeutical prisons?

A debate is "a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote." (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/debate). A negotiation is "Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement." (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/negotiation). Both are kind of discussions where two parties are met, present their differing arguments, points-of-view, opinions, ideas or other thoughts.

The negotiation process (Up In The Air 2009)

In society, we negotiate a debate in structured and less structured forms. Our politicians debate in a controlled manner while a group of friends could erupt into a debate over dinner. Whether one side “wins” or not could have either significant impact on our lives, such as changing laws or policies which will control society, while deciding where to eat is less impactful. Negotiations or debates decide what kind of ideas will rule and are thusly powerful decision makers. If the political climate changes, a friend might turn into foe and vice versa. Similarly, media can also execute powerful changes upon society. Media may decide what information is available to us, which is one way to influence a debate and have power over what we know about the world. As the American civil-rights activist Malcolm X once said:

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” - Malcolm X.

In order to put these debates and negotiations in context, you will listen to recordings and watch videos of famous speeches, debates and negotiations that are available to us through media. Consequently, we will apply a critial approach when studying these speeches and how those speakers have changed our world as we know it. Moreover, you will learn about the way their spoken language, their great effect, and how they can affect people to reach a certain outcome. One such effect was described by the philosopher Artistotles from ancient Greece who wrote in his Rhetorics 4th century BCE about the Models of Persuasion (also called the Rhetorical appeals). These are:

  • Ethos. Credibility to the speaker and knowing the topic.

  • Pathos. Speaking to the audience’s emotions.

  • Logos. Using logical proof and reasoning.

These Modes of Persuasion are ways that a speaker can persuade her audience to agree with her arguments, rebbutals or overall discussion. A rhetoric master will know how to use all three together to have the audience believe in her knowledge and prowess, in understanding the listeners' wills and to use fact to support her arguments. Simultaneously in a negotiation or a debate, it is also important to understand one’s own and your counterpart’s logic and attitude.

Your attitude also shapes your inclination towards the topic and how express yourself. Given your stance, you can either be positive or negative in your approach. Our emotions and thoughts are varied and as such attitudes can be of any combination.

  • He is happy about the high prices of Apple products since it makes them exclusive.

  • She is confident that she will ace the test.

  • Even though he has never considered moving from Sweden, he dreads the winter cold.

Your atittude can also change your style. Style influences how you express yourself, mostly concerning formality. A formal style is academic and well-structured with sources and logical arguments. It is also grammatically correct, does not use slang or curses. Jargon or theoretical language is common, especially in the an academic, political or science context. An informal style is more personal and allows for rule-breaking for dramatic effect. It is commonly grammatically incorrect, uses abbreviations, slang and curses. Informal contexts are personal interactions, private platforms such as social media or letters, art or drama. Indeed, both are accepted as part of spoken English although their styles fit different contexts.

Figures of speech (also called rhetorical devices)

Allow us to look at another topics related to rhetorics. Rhetorical devices are ways of using your language to increase the persuasive effect. Rhetorical devices are linguistical methods they are built upon. We study these to understand how you can use the devices in a verbal exchange with another person. Examples are:

  • Anaphora - repetition of a phrase at the beginning of paragraphs. ("I have a dream")

  • Epistrophe - Repetition of the last words or phrase in a sentence. ("I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”)

  • Euphemism - To change a rude or unpleasant expression into another with a more agreeable or softer image. Toilet = restroom, die = pass away, you look unique = ugly.

  • Antimetabole - Repeating phrases but in the reverse order. A-B-B-A. (“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”) John F. Kennedy

  • Epizeuxis - Immediate repetition of the final word in a sentence.(See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil)

  • Simile. Compare two things - "Like or as. Blind as a bat. Life is like a box of chocolates."

  • Analogy. Compare two things - often more lengthy.

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called…"

(William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)

(Meaning: A rose will still smell sweet even if it goes by another name, her love for Romeo is the same even if he changes his name.)

  • Hyperbole. Exaggerating. "I am so hungry that I could eat a horse."

  • Metaphor. Compare two things - Compare things that are not alike. Direct statement. "You have a heart of gold. Kirsi is a walking encyclopedia." (not literally)

Although Artistotles Modes of Persuasion might feel ancient they are formidable tools in any speakers debate or negotiation arsenal. You will encounter debates and negotiations in your everyday life. You will both be the speaker and the listener in situations where you will persuade or be persuaded. Whether it will be negotionations with your fellow man, debates or leading lectures, discussing ethical topics or conversations that feel like deal with the Devil, you will find these skills essential. Nevertheless, how much one tries to keep a debate or negotiation rhetorically correct, one must develop a flow to conversation.

You may increase your conversational flow by using two advanced grammatical units: discourse markers and question tags. Discourse markers are short words or phrases used to signal the relationship between things that you talk about. Similar to the linking words that we studied during Level 2, discourse markers add information, an argument, contrast or sequence ideas. Discourse markers, however, are used to make our conversations smoother and have an informal tone to them.

The Negotiation process "Up in the Air" script

And when I talk about a strategy packet, hand them one of those.

Sounds great.

So although I wish I were here with better news, the fact is that you and I are sitting here today because this will be your last week of employment at this company.

Why me?

What am I supposed to do now?

Am I supposed to feel better that I'm not the only one losing my job?

This is ridiculous!

I have been a fine employee for over 10 years and this is the way you treat me.

How do you sleep at night, man?


How's your family?

They sleeping well at night?

Electricity still on?

Heat still on, a refrigerator full of food?

Gas tank full of gas?

Going to Chuck E. Cheese this weekend or something?

Not me.

No, my kids, we're not gonna do anything.

What do you suggest I tell them?

Perhaps you're underestimating the positive effect that your career transition can have on your children.

The positive effect?

I make about 90 grand a year now.

Unemployment is what -

250 bucks a week?

Is that one of your positive effects?

We'll get to be cosier cause I'm not gonna be able to pay my mortgage on my house.

So maybe we can move into a nice fucking one-bedroom apartment somewhere.

And I guess without benefits, I'll be able to hold my daughter as she, you know, suffers from her asthma that I won't be able to afford the medication for.

Well...tests have shown that children under moderate trauma have a tendency to apply themselves academically...

..as a method of coping.

Go f**k yourself.

That's what my kids will think.

Your children's admiration is important to you?


Yeah, it was.

Well, I doubt they ever admired you, Bob.

Hey, asshole, aren't you supposed to be consoling me?

I'm not a shrink, Bob.

I'm a wake-up call.

You know why kids love athletes?

I don't know. Cause they screw lingerie models?

No, that's why we love athletes.

Kids love athletes because they follow their dreams.

Well, I can't dunk.

No, but you can cook.

What are you talking about?

Your resume says that you minored in French culinary arts.

Most students, they work on the fryer at KFC, but you bussed tables at Il Picador to support yourself.

Then you get out of college and then you come and you work here.

How much did they first pay you to give up on your dreams?

27 grand a year.

And when were you going to stop and come back and do what makes you happy?

Good question.

I see guys who work at the same company for their entire lives, guys exactly like you.

They clock in, they clock out, and they never have a moment of happiness.

You have an opportunity here, Bob.

This is a rebirth.

If not for you, do it for your children.

Feke's model: analysing a negotiation

"Dear audience, this is an analysis of a scene from "Up in the Air 2", an American comedy-drama from 2009. In this scene, we follow the main character Ryan Bingman and his colleague Nathalie through a series of professional dismissals. One of the dismissals turns into a negotiation and provides with a great example of how rhetorical language, style and attitudes affect the negotiation. To further understand the context of the video, we need to understand both the main contents and essential details in the example. This will help us recognise the attitudes, styles and rhetorica devices. We begin with summarising.

To begin with, the main contents of the video are a set of interactions between an employer, his collague and staff which is going to get fired. Here we are introduced to the first main idea as the main character says "So although I wish I were here with better news, the fact is that you and I are sitting here today because this will be your last week of employment at this company" indicating the roles of power that the main character has over the employees.

Moreover, most of the dismissals show the employees receiving the news in distress and one in particular employee - Bob - is given extra attention. In this scene, the junior employer Nathalie attempts to use two rhetorical appeals. Ethos - credibility to the speaker and knowing the topic. - and logos - using logical proof and reasoning - both fail. She attempts to save the situation by saying:

Nathalie: Perhaps you're underestimating the positive effect that your career transition can have on your children. /---/ Well...tests have shown that children under moderate trauma have a tendency to apply themselves academically... ..as a method of coping. "Well...tests have shown that children under moderate trauma have a tendency to apply themselves academically...as a method of coping."

Bob: "Go f**k yourself."

Ryan enters and successfully uses pathos - speaking to the audience’s emotions. - in winning over Bob.

Ryan: "Your children's admiration is important to you?"

Bob: "Yeah. Yeah, it was."

Ryan: "Well, I doubt they ever admired you, Bob."

Bob: "Hey, asshole, aren't you supposed to be consoling me?"

Ryan: "I'm not a shrink, Bob. I'm a wake-up call."

This example illustrates how Ryan speaks to Bob's emotions. From these details, we understand how the employer negotiates with the distressed employee and getw them to see how being fired - a initially negative experience - is beneficial to them. This ultimately leads us to ask: why is pathos successfull? Because Bob is upset and Ryan understands his feelings, Ryan speaks to Bob's emotions. Therefor, pathos triumphs by appealing to Bob's feelings where the other rhetorical techniques failed.

Consequently, we can understand that there are examples of all three rhetorical appeals but that pathos is most prominent. The last quote, “I'm not a shrink, Bob. I'm a wake-up call” is also an example of the rhetorical device metaphor. A methaphor compares one object with another. When Ryan calls himself a "wake-up call” it does not literally mean that he is a living wake-up call. Monetarily, Ryan functions as someone who shakes Bob "awake", making him aware of his past and a potential future. Therefore, the metaphor is that Ryan helps to wake Bob up and realise that his dismissal is indeed positive to his future.

The attitudes range from neutral to negative: the employers attempt to have a neutral attitude while the employees are (not surprisingly) negative during the interaction. In general, the conversational style is formal but has several informalities. Ryan and Nathalie who are firing the employees attempt to keep a formal tone while the employees respond informally by cursing, using abbreviations and using slang such as ending sentences with "man".

Student example "The Power of Unity"

Pre-summary reading: this text is an argumentative text written by a high school student with the aim of presenting arguments in favor of and opposed to a topic. The student addresses nationalism from a historical point of view to the present and attempts to argue for positive and negative aspects.

  1. Prediction: what do you think the text will cover?

  2. Read the text aloud taking turns, one sentence at a time.

  3. Clarifying vocabulary or concepts: what words, concepts of parts of the text do we find new or confusing?

  4. Questioning: what do I need to know more about in order to fully understand the text?

  5. Summarise: What are the main points in the text? Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?

  6. Comment: depending if you agree or disagree with the author, come up with an argument based on either ethos, pathos or logos.

  7. Write down your answers and prepare to share it with the class.

You may cooperate with another student.

Advanced: try to explain yourself using a rhetorical device, discourse markers and question tags.

The power of unity

We frequently talk about the beauty of a united country with a united people. We think this is a huge part and reason to bring peace to the world. But when a country or its citizens feel united they can also constitute a great danger and threat. Within the good feeling of affinity it lays a great power that can easily be used wrong. In this essay I am going to discuss what nationalism actually can render.

Throughout history nationalism has been an important basis. It was in the 19th century as nationalism became a common phenomenon. Due to Europe’s progress through the industrialization the living got significantly better for the people. The United Kingdom was the country where industrialization was born and they also were one of the first countries to expand their land during the era of imperialism and colonialism. As for the time of industrialization the whole society changed in most of the European countries and so did the politics. From that time on, politics was available for more people to have their opinions heard. The new society led on to a new era of countries seeking their greatness. Countries expanded and took new land areas and so the time for imperialism was born. Colonialism was an operative part to achieve power and glory as a country. Today we know that during the time that colonialism went on, many people suffered, especially among the indigenous people.

Nationalism has since the 19th century emerged several times throughout history and we can also see that nationalism has been a foundation for many great wars. World War Two is an extraordinary example to compile the power of nationalism. This method was Hitler’s finest tool he had. First of all, he used his power of speaking to infest his thoughts among the party members. Secondly, when he “was” the government, he spoke to and for the people of Germany. He got the German population under his control by his promises and praise that was based on nationalism thoughts. He blamed the hard times they had on the Jews to bring the people together. To bring the German people, the so called superior race, together against the faults, the Jews. Nationalism does also base its ideas on culture such as traditions and language. Among the first countries Hitler took control over were therefore Austria and Poland.

It is terrifying, in hindsight, to try to understand the cruelty that happened during this year’s. What Hitler was aiming for was approximately the same that they tried to do back in the 19th century. They wanted to introduce their own country as a great power in the world. Both times it got wrong and based on nationalism. From this we can see the great danger nationalism can include. World War Two was a tremendous and awful war where many innocent people were oppressed and killed. Wars like World War Two leave huge traces and in this case it also led to another war, the Cold War. This war has ended but we regularly see on the news that the USA and Russia stands on opposite sides from each other as they support and stands for different things. They often attend in the same conflicts or suchlike but on reverse sides. For example we have the up to date crises in Ukraine where USA stands on one side and Russia on the other. Probably it will continue like this because both of the countries want to be great powers in the world.

Of course I also see the beauty that lies within a united country and people. Nationalism can bring the people together and from a society of equality can be born. But as a conclusion does unity and nationalism constitute a great power. If the wrong person, party or organization gets control over the power it can be a very dangerous weapon. We can see that throughout history, today and probably in the future as well.