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Rhetoric and Language

Cornelia Ilie

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Plato

Key-Topics language

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


“Language is itself the collective art of expression, a summary of thousands upon thousands of individual intuitions” ( Sapir 1921 , 246). When exploring rhetoric in relation to language we usually have in mind the nature and functions of the communication systems used by humans in different times and in different parts of the world. Some of the first important theoreticians of language were in fact rhetoricians, as well as philosophers. A major point of departure in exploring rhetoric is the rhetorical role played by language as a conceptualizing and persuasive tool, as a means of communication and as a bearer of values ( Dumarsais 1825 ; Fontanier 1968 ; Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca 1969 ; Groupe µ 1976 ; Barthes 1988 ). Rhetoric has always been difficult to define, since the term has multiple denotations and connotations. Dictionary definitions most often describe rhetoric as the effective use of language to persuade or as the study of the elements of style and structure in writing or speaking. Typical definitions clearly point to a dualistic nature of rhetoric as understood for much of the past 2,500 years: “rhetoric is the process of using language to organize experience and communicate it to others. It is also the study of how people use language to organize and communicate experience. The word denotes, as I use it, both a distinctive human activity and the ‘science’ ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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