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Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of Rhetorical Texts: The Case of Barack Obama in Cairo with Dima Mohammed

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Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA,volume 24)

Abstract

The theory of pragma-dialectics has been developed largely with respect to dialectical argumentation, with dialogue between two interlocutors as a model. Rhetorical argument is significantly different, in that it is heterogeneous, large, and non-interactive. If the tools of pragma-dialectics can also be applied to the analysis of rhetorical texts, then the potential reach of the theory is broadened considerably. This possibility is explored through examination of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009. Special attention is given to audience commitments, standpoint analysis, and strategic maneuvering. Results suggest that pragma-dialectics can be applied to rhetorical texts, although it is not always the most efficient or productive approach.

This essay originally appeared in Keeping in touch with pragma-dialectics, a festschrift to Frans van Eemeren upon his retirement (E. Feteris, B. Garssen, and F. Snoeck Henkemans, Ed.) (pp. 89–102), published in 2011. It is reprinted by permission of John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Keywords

  • Pragma-dialectics
  • Barack Obama
  • Cairo speech
  • U.S.-Muslim world relations
  • Standpoint analysis
  • Strategic maneuvering
  • Argument diagrams

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-05485-8_20
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Within what counts as a composite audience, van Eemeren makes a distinction between mixed audiences, in which the audience is heterogeneous with respect to the starting points of its members, and multiple audiences, in which the audience is heterogeneous with respect to the positions its members adopt (van Eemeren 2010, p. 110).

  2. 2.

    In their textbook, van Eemeren et al. (2002) distinguish among three argument structures: multiple, coordinative, and subordinative arguments (pp. 63–78). Multiple arguments contribute to the standpoint independently of one another. Therefore, there are many points of possible connection. This structure should be especially attractive to Obama because it provides a heterogeneous audience with many different routes to acceptance of the standpoint. The analysis makes clear why this is a good choice under the circumstances.

References

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Zarefsky, D. (2014). Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of Rhetorical Texts: The Case of Barack Obama in Cairo with Dima Mohammed . In: Rhetorical Perspectives on Argumentation. Argumentation Library, vol 24. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05485-8_20

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