The Argumentative Structure of Persuasive Definitions



In this paper we present an analysis of persuasive definition based on argumentation schemes. Using the medieval notion of differentia and the traditional approach to topics, we explain the persuasiveness of emotive terms in persuasive definitions by applying the argumentation schemes for argument from classification and argument from values. Persuasive definitions, we hold, are persuasive because their goal is to modify the emotive meaning denotation of a persuasive term in a way that contains an implicit argument from values. However, our theory is different from Stevenson’s, a positivistic view that sees emotive meaning as subjective, and defines it as a behavioral effect. Our proposal is to treat the persuasiveness produced by the use of emotive words and persuasive definitions as due to implicit arguments that an interlocutor may not be aware of. We use congruence theory to provide the linguistic framework for connecting a term with the function it is supposed to play in a text. Our account allows us to distinguish between conflicts of values and conflicts of classifications.


Values Emotive words Persuasion Approval Condemnation Argument from values Definitions 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversità Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Reasoning, Argumentation and RhetoricUniversity of WindsorOntarioCanada

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