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Rhetorical Studies

Robert N. Gaines and Bruce E. Gronbeck

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Aristotle, Cicero

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The rhetorical impulse may be conceived as the desire to express one's thoughts in a way that affects the thoughts of others. Such an impulse is universal among humans, and historical evidence exists for its cultivation in ancient civilizations of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas ( Lipson & Binkley 2004 ). Early instances of theoretical inquiry concerning rhetorical communication have been documented in China (c. eighth century bce ), Egypt (c. eleventh century bce ), India (c. fourth century bce ), and Greece (including Magna Graecia, c. fifth century bce ; →  Rhetoric in East Asia: China and Japan ; Rhetoric, Pre-Socratic ; Rhetoric in South Asia ). Arguably, each of these regional developments gave rise to a different tradition and trajectory of indigenous rhetorical studies. However, as a historical matter, the European tradition was most closely related to the emergent discipline of communication; accordingly, it receives emphasis here. Within the European tradition of rhetorical studies, self-conscious attempts to theorize persuasive speaking were initially concerned with speech organization and elaboration of subject matter (early theorists included Tisias, Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon, and Theodorus; see Cicero, Brutus 46–48). Theoretical studies of rhetoric soon became abstract, with a focus on functions of speakers and types of speeches (see, e.g., Isocrates, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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