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Rhetoric, Greek

Laurent Pernot

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

Place Southern Europe » Greece

People Aristotle

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The word “rhetoric” comes from the Greek rhêtorikê , which means “the art of speech,” “the art of speaking”: the etymology shows the role played by the ancient Greeks in the field which constitutes the subject of this article. The art of speaking exists in many civilizations, but Greek antiquity has given it a distinctive, rigorous, and rich theoretical underpinning. The most common definition in antiquity consists of characterizing rhetoric as the “power of persuasion” or the “art of persuasion.” This means that rhetoric aims to win the approval of others by means of speech (→  Rhetorical Studies ). The basis of Greek rhetoric is →  persuasion: the enigma of persuasion (→  Rhetoric, Argument, and Persuasion ). How do we explain the frequent yet mysterious phenomenon that consists of making others freely think something they have not thought before? Rhetoric was invented in order to answer this question. Fundamentally, it aims at understanding, producing, and influencing persuasion. The word “art” ( tekhnê in Greek) does not limit itself to what modern languages mean by artistic creation, and it also gives the idea of a reasoned approach, of a system of rules for practical usage, and of a technical production. In its full sense (which was that of the ancients), the word “rhetoric” covers both the theory and the practice of speech; that is to say, treatises, manuals, and abstract ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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