Language, reason and education

Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti

by Giovanni Gobber (Volume editor) Andrea Rocci (Volume editor)
©2014 Others VIII, 330 Pages
Series: Sciences pour la communication, Volume 113


Language as reason represents the unifying theme of this multifaceted reflection on Eddo Rigotti’s scientific contribution offered by his students and colleagues on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Spanning argumentation theory, linguistics, psychology, semiotics and communication sciences, the volume reflects Rigotti’s generous personality and his trajectory of semiotician, philosopher, linguist and specialist in argumentation studies. Language as an instrument of communication with semiotic peculiarities is considered at different levels in which it manifests traces of reason at work. This means considering how reality reveals itself by means of language and how the semiotic character of language structures is used by people to enable joint actions and change the natural and social world. Particularly in focus is the realm of argumentation, that is of those joint actions where people exchange reasons in various communities, fora and markets in view of understanding and practical deliberation. To argumentation Eddo Rigotti devoted all his research efforts in recent years, with a keen sense of its intrinsic educational value and a sincere care for fostering the development of the argumentative mind.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Preface
  • Lorenzo Cantoni, Stefano Tardini: Listening and silence in communication: reflections on two texts
  • Italo Carta: The evocative and transformative power of words
  • Sabine Christopher, Bruno Moretti, Elena Maria Pandolfi, Barbara Somenzi: Intercomprehension and receptive skills in Italian for enhancing the individual’s multilingual repertoire in quadrilingual Switzerland
  • Sara Cigada, Sara Greco Morasso: Good reasons for good manners. An argumentative foundation of courtesy in Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo
  • Carlo Cipolli: The narrative structure of dreams
  • Marcel Danesi: Metaphors and metaforms: interconnecting language, culture and cognition
  • Frans H. van Eemeren: Analyzing contextualized argumentative discourse: strengthening the relationship between Rigotti’s aspirations and pragma-dialectics
  • Maria Cristina Gatti, Andrea Rocci: Arguments for forgiveness. A pragmatic-argumentative note on apologies
  • Giovanni Gobber, Rudi Palmieri: Argumentation in institutional founding documents. The case of Switzerland’s Foedus Pactum
  • Georges Lüdi: Do languages “really” exist or are they mere discursive constructions?
  • Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton: Argumentation schemes and topical relations
  • Sabrina Mazzali-Lurati, Peter Schulz: Attention in context: from Ancient rhetoric to contemporary communication sciences
  • Guido Michelini: About the functions of the passive
  • Jacques Moeschler: Causality and non-iconic order
  • Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont, Stéphanie Breux, Sara Greco Morasso, Céline Miserez-Caperos: Children and knowledge-oriented argumentation. Some notes for future research
  • Louis de Saussure: Extending presuppositions to discourse: a tribute to Eddo Rigotti
  • Boris Uspenskij: A possible reflection of the painter (Jan van Eyck) in the Ghent Altarpiece
  • Jakob Wüest: Argumentation, causality and narrativity in Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean

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Ad multos annos, Eddo!
Многая лета, Эддо!

This volume is an offering of esteem and gratitude for Eddo Rigotti, who celebrated his seventieth birthday on May 25th this year. Young students and friends from Switzerland, and less young from Italy, have been joined by a group of distinguished international scholars in the fields of argumentation, linguistics, psychology, semiotics and communication sciences at large. We hope that the book reflects such a generous and strong personality of a semiotician, a philosopher, a linguist, a specialist in argumentation studies.

Eddo’s personality can be best understood if we consider his academic and scientific experience. He attended the high school in Trento, where he acquired an excellent knowledge in Classical languages and cultures. In those years, Greek and Latin, but also German and Russian became familiar to him before he was admitted to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, where he earned a M.A. degree in Philosophy with a thesis on Soviet semiotics. His first research program concerned the semiotic foundations of Russian and Soviet theoretical linguistics and the results were published between 1969 and 1974. The young Assistant professor was soon recognized as a specialist in the field. In 1980 he was promoted to Professor at the Calabria University and in 1981 went back to Milan. In the Nineties he was involved in the foundation of the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the “Università della Svizzera italiana” in Lugano, where he founded the Institute of Linguistics and Semiotics, later renamed Institute of Argumentation Linguistics and Semiotics. In 1996 he moved to Switzerland and in 2013 he became a Swiss citizen.

Already in the late Seventies his profound interest in the semiotic dimensions of language use brought about a decisive change in his research orientation. Reconsidering the traditional semiotic perspective, he criticized the then popular structuralist idea that signs and sign systems shape the world as we understand it and void the role of ← 1 | 2 → experience in understanding reality. He turned his attention to discourse analysis and text linguistics. He investigated text grammar and functional syntax, but felt unsatisfied with the traditional descriptions that he found unable to explain the relation between the logical and the communicative components of discourse structure.

From his genuine pragmatic point of view, the old (but still widespread) idea that meaning can be attached to language units in a sort of zero-context could not be maintained. In Eddo’s neo-Bühlerian view, meaning can be represented as the result of a sign exchange (Zeichenaustausch) between people sharing a common ground. A new analysis was needed to understand language use.

So, he developed an unified account of both the semantic and the pragmatic aspects of speech event, in which a particular logical symbolism is used to represent the hierarchical organization that links together the factors involved in a concrete instance of speech. This account would later be known as Congruity Theory – interestingly, a name that Rigotti did not invent but rather accepted, as the branding and marketing of theories was rather foreign to him. The account is based on the assumption that the elements (both linguistic and non-linguistic) of a speech event are organized by means of a pragmatic connective predicate that indicates which requirements each factor must meet to become one of its arguments. The pragmatic connective predicate is taken to represent the way reason works in everyday communication. Reason is a sort of “sixth sense” endowed with the abilities of all the five physical senses. Human communication is reasonable in that people can “see”, “feel”, “hear”, “smell” and “taste” the world through words: reason is an organon – a tool that helps people discover the world. And logos is the name of language used by people acting according to reason.

Starting from the second half of the Nineties, his research has increasingly turned towards argumentation theory and practice. According to a Ciceronian definition dear to Eddo, argumentum est ratio, quae rei dubiae facit fidem (Cic. Top. 2, 7): arguments are then rational devices granting trustworthiness to an hitherto uncertain proposition. The possibility and nature of rational and reasonable persuasion opens a new chapter in Eddo’s reflection on reason, language and communication. ← 2 | 3 → Here his work has typically drawn insight from the Ancient and Medieval logical, dialectical and rhetorical traditions integrating them in the analytic and normative frameworks of contemporary Argumentation Theory. His main contribution in this area concerns the inferential dimension of argumentation. An attempt to persuade can count as reasonable persuasion only if it works by proposing to the dialogue partner a rational inference. Of the modes and rationality of inferences in ordinary arguments Eddo sought to provide an account through the so-called Argumentum Model of Topics (AMT). This time he did name the theory himself, and he did so after the title of an online course (Argumentum) on which he was working at the time in an enjoyable collaboration with students and Swiss colleagues. The AMT provides an account of the inferential functioning of enthymemes in ordinary discourse that draws extensively from the Aristotelian tradition of the Topics and combines it with contemporary research on argumentation schemes.

During the same years Eddo sought to establish the study of argumentation as a discipline relevant for communication sciences, focusing on mass media, public institutions and financial markets as prominent contexts of application.

Given these interests it seemed natural and fitting that a collection of essays devoted to Eddo Rigotti should focus on language as reason. Language as an instrument of communication with semiotic peculiarities has been considered here in its multifaceted dimensions in which it shows how reason is at work. This means considering how reality reveals itself by means of language and how the semiotic character of language structures is used by people to create communicative events. Particularly in focus are those communicative events where people exchange reasons in various communities, fora and markets to build a common understanding of the world as it is, and to deliberate actions meant to bring about a more desirable world.

The word education may seem less obvious. If we look at Eddo’s main publications this topic is not very prominent. He is no education scholar. We do find an interesting paper with the intriguing title “On Semiosis, Human Freedom and Education” in the proceedings of a Canadian conference on Semiotics (Rigotti 2000) and a more recent book ← 3 | 4 → published in Italian without much fanfare, on “Knowledge and Meaning. Towards a responsible pedagogy” (Conoscenza e Significato. Per una didattica responsabile, Rigotti 2009). However, the profound connection between Eddo’s scientific engagement with communication and reason and his daily commitment and passion for education – for letting reason grow and bloom in other minds – can be fully appreciated only by those (and there are luckily many) that have conversed with him as students or as partners in an educational endeavor – be it co-teaching a two hour lecture, creating collaboratively an on-line course of linguistics, writing a grammar book for the school or building a new faculty of communication sciences in a new university.

We are particularly grateful to the editors of the book series “Sciences pour la Communication” for accepting this volume in the series. We find it particularly fitting that this tribute to a linguist who devoted a considerable part of his career to the development of communication sciences in Switzerland is published in a book series launched many years ago in Switzerland by linguists and other scholars who wanted to foster interdisciplinary dialogue among all forms of research devoted to human communication, including – according to the intentions of the series’ founders – linguistics, psychology, sociology of language, all semiotic disciplines and logic1.

The variety of topics addressed in this volume is coherent with these aims and with the complexity and richness of Eddo’s research interests. Each author has given a contribution that accounts for the piece of common ground shared with the teacher, scholar and friend. Guido Michelini develops a functional viewpoint on language structures in a study on how passive constructions relate to their functions. Jakob Wüest studies argumentation, causality and narrativity in the hierarchical structure of historiographic texts. Jacques Moeschler describes non-iconic causal relationships in discourse and explains them with both linguistic and pragmatic arguments. Louis de Saussure considers “presuppositions in a weaker sense” as a separate category of communicated contents besides explicit meaning, presuppositions proper and implicatures.

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Carlo Cipolli devotes his attention to dream reports and suggests that dreams have an own story-like structure that is governed by a high-level mechanism. Italo Carta, who recently followed the call home to the house of the Father, considers how words and their content can be used as tools for therapeutic processes.

The rationale in the semiotic organization of language emphasizes the role of silence as an absence opposed to something present (Lorenzo Cantoni and Stefano Tardini). This reasonable semiotic character not only concerns the instruments of communication, but the very way in which our experience of the world is structured. Marcel Danesi gives reasons to assume that a symbolic factor connects also verbal and non verbal forms of culture and cognition. Symbols enrich the experience of reality and its interpretation. Boris Uspenskij’s vivid analysis of a detail of van Eyck’s Altarpiece in Ghent shows the stratified and multi-functional organization of symbols in a work of art.

Production and reception are relevant for language learning, but in a multilingual context, in which a minority language can be dismissed in favor of a lingua franca, reception is relevant in that it enables the inclusion of that language in the mode of communication (Sabine Christopher, Bruno Moretti, Elena Maria Pandolfi and Barbara Somenzi). The term language is taken here to represent a conventional repertoire shared by the interlocutors. Variation is taken to represent one of its characteristic features and multilingual repertoires deserve particular attention. Moving from the observation of the rich varied linguistic landscapes that surround us in our daily lives, Georges Lüdi wonders whether the very existence of individual languages (Einzelsprachen) is a mere discursive construction.

Today’s people tend to forget the reasonableness of good manners. There are good reasons to reconsider Della Casa’s Galateo (Sara Cigada and Sara Greco Morasso) in which politeness is justified by an adequate means-end argumentation.

Eddo’s need for understanding how speech events can be decisive for changing one’s life and experience has motivated the turn from theoretical linguistics to Aristotle’s ῥητορική as a seminal pragmatic model of speech communication. The link between the Ancient Rhetoric and contemporary ← 5 | 6 → communication science is taken into account by Sabrina Mazzali-Lurati and Peter Schulz who investigate the role of attention in context.

Eddo’s efforts in the study of argumentation and his deep delving into the depths of Aristotle’s Τοπικά are well represented by the papers of international scholars like Frans van Eemeren (on the development of Pragma-Dialectics towards the study of argumentation in context) and Douglas Walton (on topical relations, with Fabrizio Macagno). The relevance of argumentation for education is the focus of a study on argumentation skills in children (Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont, Stéphanie Breux, Sara Greco Morasso, Céline Miserez-Caperos). Argumentation in context is also exemplified by two other contributions: Giovanni Gobber and Rudi Palmieri propose a new analysis of Switzerland’s Foedus Pactum; Andrea Rocci and Maria Cristina Gatti give a pragmatic account of apologies as arguments for forgiveness.

Dear Eddo, please forgive us as editors for the many things we did not and could not express in this short presentation. You are more than a teacher to us and our gratitude is too great to be represented in a written text only.

Lugano, Easter 2014
Giovanni Gobber, Andrea Rocci


Rigotti, Eddo (2000). On Semiosis, Human Freedom and Education. Semiosis versus inference and deixis, In: P. Colilli, M. Danesi, P. Perron, D. Santeramo (eds.), Semiotics as a Bridge between the Humanities and Sciences (pp. 220–234). LEGAS: University of Ottawa Press.

Rigotti, Eddo (2009). Conoscenza e significato. Per una didattica responsbile. Milano: Mondadori.

1 We paraphrase from the text describing the aims and scope of the series which appeared in older volumes of “Science pour la communication”.

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Listening and silence in communication: reflections on two texts


VIII, 330
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
psychology semiotics communication sciences argumentation theory linguistics
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 330 pp., 2 b/w ill., 5 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Giovanni Gobber (Volume editor) Andrea Rocci (Volume editor)

Giovanni Gobber studied Germanic and Slavic Linguistics. He is professor of German Linguistics and General Linguistics at the Catholic University of Milan. His research interests include the meta-theory of syntax, comparative functional linguistics and pragmatics. Andrea Rocci studied Italian Linguistics, Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis. He is associate professor of Language Sciences at the University of Lugano. His research interests include argumentation, the semantics-pragmatics interface, media discourse and financial discourse.


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