Information and Persuasion

Studies in Linguistics, Literature, Culture, and Discourse Analysis

by Maria-Ionela Neagu (Volume editor) Domnita Tomescu (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 274 Pages


This transdisciplinary study gathers research papers that reveal the multifarious facets of the concept of «persuasion». It is argued that regardless of its degree of intentionality, the act of persuasion underlying each information item prompts the interlocutors to cross the borders of political, historical, linguistic, narrative, psychotherapeutic, and even marketing configurations. The contributors’ contention is that political thinking and ideology-grounded linguistic patterns act as a form of social control, both informing and shaping the sense of identity of the manipulated masses and of the oppressed.
«Taking a sociolinguistic turn, this volume of interesting scholarly works addresses matters of ideological loadings in a variety of genres, contributing to the development of new research paradigms.» – Bledar Toska, University of Vlora «Ismail Qemali»

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Persuasion Matters (Maria-Ionela Neagu / Sky Marsen)
  • I. Persuasion: From Structure to Discourse
  • Les verbes persuasifs en roumain (Domniţa Tomescu / Monica Busuioc)
  • L’embrayage temporel au niveau de la séquence textuelle et son rôle argumentatif/persuasif (Diana Costea)
  • Approximation as a means of persuasion in Romanian written press (Silvia Krieb Stoian)
  • Consumption and myth in advertising (Loredana Stoica)
  • Classroom code-switching: between information and persuasion (Ioana Jieanu)
  • Conceptualizing emotions Fear, love, anger, and the Holocaust (Maria-Ionela Neagu)
  • Dramaturgies de la persuasion dans le theatre français des xviie et xviiie siecles (Ioana Galleron)
  • Sandra Cisneros and Jhumpa Lahiri in dialogue on culture (Anca Dobrinescu)
  • II. Ideology: Between Information and Persuasion/Manipulation
  • Manipulated memory: censuring the Romanian Holocaust under Ceauşescu and its aftermath (Arleen Ionescu)
  • Communist propaganda: Representing the Communist activist in the novels published during Ceauşescu’s dictatorship (Mihaela-Claudia Trifan)
  • Anne Frank – un symbole du trauma produit par la guerre (Diana Rînciog)
  • Early empowerment and discursive agency: teenage users on the Internet (Raluca Petre)
  • Revealing words in psychotherapy (Anca Spiridon)
  • Manipulating written media consumers (Alexandra Codău)
  • Notes on contributors

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An Appreciation of, and a Tribute to Prof. Gabriela Duda

By engaging in this scientific endeavor, the authors would like to pay homage to Professor Gabriela Duda, a renowned researcher, pedagogue and academic mentor whose writings and teaching activity have greatly influenced the work and career of numerous researchers and teaching staff. As colleagues or former students themselves, the contributors wish to express their gratitude by publishing this book on a topic which has been of major interest to Professor Duda throughout her long and fruitful scientific and teaching career.

Professor Gabriela Duda has distinguished herself amongst her peers. She graduated with honors from both the Romanian Language and Literature Faculty (1969) and the Philosophy Faculty (1981), University of Bucharest. She became an assistant lecturer at the Department of Pedagogic Methods and Teaching Practice (The Psycholinguistics Laboratory) of the Germanic Languages and Literatures Faculty, as well as an assistant lecturer at the Modern Languages Department of the Technological Faculty, within the University of Bucharest (1973–1989).

Encouraged by her former tutors, Gabriela Duda transferred to the University of Ploiesti (1990) where she organized and directed the newly founded Department of Philology. She embraced her responsibilities with dedication and efficiency, leading the department until the date of her retirement. Not only did Professor Gabriela Duda assemble a team of highly-capable teaching staff, but she also developed an undergraduate and a master’s program which have since trained generations of teachers at all levels in the Romanian Education System. The present-day accomplishments of the Philology Department owe much to Professor Gabriela Duda’s efforts, dedication and fine example of scientific rigor.

Professor Duda’s academic career benefited from a series of teaching abroad programs (a Fulbright scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, Department of Romance Philology and a scholarship financed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communications to the International Center for Literary Translators in Arles, as well as to the Bretagne-Sud University in Lorient). Professor Gabriela Duda has taught various courses in fundamental disciplines for the undergraduate program, such as: Introduction to Literary Theory, Romanian Language Stylistics, The Literary Canon and for the master’s program: Romanian Culture in Communism, Information and Manipulation in Mass Media, Popular Culture in the Contemporary Romanian Society. Along her academic career, Professor Duda’s scientific rigor, outstanding teaching and administration ← 7 | 8 → skills have acknowledged her as one of the most respected and renowned members of the teaching staff at the Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti and also as one of the most appreciated members of the administrative ranks of the university.

As a researcher, Professor Duda’s reputation has been endorsed by her scientific activity which resulted in the publication of fundamental monographs in the fields of stylistics, literary theory, and discourse analysis, as follows: Introducere în teoria literaturii [Introduction to Literary Theory] (1996, 2006), Literatura românească de avangardă [Romanian Vanguard Literature] (1997, 2005), Analiza textului literar [Literary Text Analysis] (2000, 2006), Metafora în poezia românească simbolistă. Reflecţii asupra formelor analogice [Metaphor in Romanian Symbolist Poetry. Reflections on Analog Forms] (2002), Stilistica limbii române. Stilistica lingvistică şi stilistica textului literar [Romanian Stylistics. Linguistic Stylistics and the Stylistics of the Literary Text] (2003), Clişeul verbal şi discursul public [Verbal Cliché and Public Discourse] (2016), and of over a hundred articles on political language, poetic language, and media discourse. Having also participated in many research projects, taking part in countless prestigious scientific conferences and being a board member on numerous scientific committees, Professor Gabriela Duda has established an impeccable scholarly reputation in national and international academic circles.

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An edited volume represents a great endeavor, involving both courage and sacrifice. Several researchers representing various fields ventured to approach the topic of persuasion once again drawing on well-grounded scholarly work in the attempt to highlight new perspectives, new lines of thinking. This enterprise involved a lot of sacrifice, which is why the editors would like to express their gratitude to all the contributors in this volume.

Special thanks are due to Sky Marsen and Ioana Galleron, as well as to our colleagues Alina Rosca, Mihaela Duma and Loredana Netedu for the time invested in proofreading and copyediting some of the chapters.

We are truly indebted to the editorial team at Peter Lang, particularly to Ute Winkelkötter, Commissioning Editor, and Elisabeth Hanuschkin, Editorial Assistant for their tremendous patience and excellent support throughout the preparation of this book.

Last but not least, we express our deep love and appreciation to our families who join us every time we embark on a new publishing adventure. ← 9 | 10 →

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Maria-Ionela Neagu
Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti

Sky Marsen
Flinders University

Introduction: Persuasion Matters

What does it mean to be persuasive and in what ways is persuasion linked to information? Are we persuasive only when we communicate “information”, and does being informative entail being persuasive? These seemingly innocuous questions have actually occupied much of philosophy since antiquity and have been considered from different disciplinary perspectives, including linguistics, literary theory and psychology. Rhetoric has convincingly shown, over millennia, that persuasion depends on the rhetorical context: it depends on the relationship between interlocutors, which includes matters of status, educational background and attitude, as well as on the purpose of the communication. One can persuade only if one makes use of signs that are in some way meaningful to the audience and can trigger an emotional and cognitive response. The information value of the utterance per se, detached from audience features, is insufficient for persuasive impact.

In addition to the rhetorical context, persuasion is affected by genre and mode. Particular genres carry expectations of content and mode. Annual reports of companies, for example, present information on the company’s performance during the year, but they are also promotional texts that emphasize achievements and downplay failures. Therefore, the persuasive aspect of the annual report is formed not only through its informational content but also through its promotional mode.

Language theorists on the whole agree that information communicated outside a specific context is meaningless. Some disagreement exists, however, on whether context is created in the utterance or by the utterance and on how much meaning we draw from an utterance and how much we attribute to it through interpretation. For example, speech act theory has shown that language has the power to regulate social relationships and implement changes in the material world. Much of this power comes from the function of the linguistic sign, which is to create links between the utterance as system and the physical world outside that system. These links are created through the interpretative process of decoding that takes place in the act of listening or reading, when the listener/reader attaches meaning to the text through his/her understanding of the denotative and connotative ← 11 | 12 → aspects of the linguistic signs. At the same time, however, there are compositional elements through which writers and speakers intentionally or unintentionally, use lexical choice to represent aspects of the world from a specific point of view in order to influence or persuade an audience.

Attitudinal semanticists would view a true-false distinction as inappropriate to linguistically constructed information, because even informational utterances are formed through subjective factors, such as point of view, and contextual markers, such as deixis (personal pronouns, phrases designating time and place, etc). For example, the meaning of an utterance would be modified if it were framed by the phrase “in my dream, I…” or “Hypothetically”, or if it were uttered without this framing. As Paul Saka points out “all expressions having point-of-view content raise questions about truth-conditions” (Saka 2007, 40). Similarly, for integrationists (for example Harris 1998), language is not a privileged system of signification, but only one such system out of many. The information produced by language is always complemented by a range of other activities in which language is integrated. In the words of Roy Harris, “to believe in invariant semantic values is to subscribe to the same kind of myth as the idea that the pound sterling is a monetary unit worth a guaranteed amount […] As in the case of money, value is not established a priori, but is what human beings create as the product of significant activity” (Harris 1998, 84–85).

For phenomenological approaches, meaning is created in the interaction between properties that are inherent to the perceived object, and attitudes, beliefs, and physical perceptive factors that pertain to the perceiving subject (Merleau-Ponty 1945, Marsen 2009). For phenomenologists, therefore, both information and persuasion can never be just linguistic phenomena. Rather they encompass the values, sensations and emotions that accompany the perception of an object in the phenomenal world. The phenomenological approach to meaning allows for an object to have different meanings for different individuals since the individual perceives properties of the object which may not appear to another individual. It also allows for the same object to have different meanings for the same individual in different contexts, since each context encourages particular properties of the object to appear.

Since persuasion is a meaningful activity that emerges in an individual’s interaction with the environment in particular contexts, the concept of embodiment is crucial. In fact, since the development of cognitive linguistics in the last 30 years or so, embodiment has generally been accepted as a major force in the meaning-making process. Cognitive linguists tend to agree that human conceptual forms are determined by the physical senses and embodied consciousness. For all such ← 12 | 13 → thinkers, how we assign meaning to a sign depends on how the sign corresponds to a physical or emotive state that we recognize. As Paula Niedenthal suggests, how “language corresponds to a physical comprehension relies in part on embodied conceptualizations of the situations that language describes” (Niedenthal 2007, 1005).

Actually, embodiment itself has persuasive value. Physical traits, gender, race, movement, shape and appearance are already invested with socially constructed meanings and are persuasive – regardless of the perceivers’ intentions. One of the traces of embodiment in language is the ubiquitous presence of metaphor. Cognitive linguists like Lakoff and Johnson (1999 and 2003), and Kovecses (1986) have argued that a large part of language is metaphorical and that most metaphors are in some way connected with perception and physicality, and have a universal pattern. For example, unrelated languages such as the Indo-European family, Chinese, Hebrew, and Thai describe physical states of rage, enthusiasm, and sexual stimulation with metaphors of heat, possibly because of the rise in body temperature that accompanies these states. This suggests that the physiological condition of the human species is the basis of many metaphorical concepts, although cultural values come into play in evaluating this condition.

This volume focuses upon the sociolinguistic significance of persuasion and its ideological implications, starting from the linguistic instances and patterns of its realization in English, French, and Romanian, as embedded in a variety of genres, such as media discourse (advertisements, commercials, newspapers), literary texts (novel, drama, diary/journal), political discourse, the discourse of education, and even psychotherapeutic discourse.

Broadly speaking, the topic of research is represented by identifying and explaining the linguistic patterns and argumentation strategies that serve to establish or conceal relations of power and dominance between interactants. The authors explore the techniques through which speakers/writers outline their individual positions while distancing themselves from their opponents’ views. They show how political thinking and ideology-grounded linguistic patterns act as a form of social control and they both inform and shape the sense of identity of the manipulated masses, on the one hand, and of the oppressed, on the other hand. Hence, the division of the volume into two parts: 1. Persuasion: from structure to discourse; 2. Ideology: between information and persuasion/manipulation.

We share with Andrew Heywood (2012) the idea that political thinking and ideology shape societies, acting either as a unifying impetus or as a divisive force. However, whereas Heywood provides a minute presentation of both traditional and ‘new’ ideologies from the historical and political point of view, the essays in ← 13 | 14 → this volume ensure a complementary, more language-oriented view, highlighting the way in which such ideologies are translated into words depending on the genre of the source texts under analysis.

The sociolinguistic perspective on ideology and its interconnection with media discourse has been explored in Sally Johnson and Tommaso M. Milani’s work (2010). This mutual dependency has been highlighted by the authors in this book as well, the difference residing in the genres approached. While Johnson and Milani’s edited volume analyzes media discourse that ranges from television series and BBC news items, to radio programs and computer game discourse, the authors of this book offer a thorough analysis of advertisements and commercials, newspaper articles, teenage discourse of early empowerment, and therapeutic discourse.

We support the view that “the persuasion process is affected by the situational and socio-cultural context in which it takes place” (Halmari and Virtanen, 2005: 3–4). However, whereas these authors focus mainly on media discourse, political discourse, and professional discourse (business negotiations and legal documents), we extend the linguistic analysis by opening up a new line of research that explores persuasion in terms of ideology and social representation.

The structure of the volume

While the first part of the volume Persuasion: From Structure to Discourse highlights the persuasive role of certain linguistic patterns, the second part seeks to address their ideological dimension and to deepen an understanding of the way in which the act of persuasion, of convincing the interlocutor may turn into manipulation of thinking and behavior. The two languages (English and French) of the essays unite several scholars belonging to different institutions and different fields of research that have been offered the freedom to express their views in the language of their preference in order to feel more … persuasive.

Domniţa Tomescu and Monica Busuioc’s research of persuasive verbs concerns, on the one hand, the general typology of the verb in Romanian relying on various criteria, and, on the other hand, the particular use of these verbs in different discourse types, especially in the argumentative discourse. The paper’s theoretical premises account for persuasion and its role at speech act level, as well as for the interlocutors’ need to employ the adequate persuasion strategies, among which persuasive verbs are of paramount importance.

The proposed typology allows for the systematic classification of the persuasive verbs from both a semantic perspective and a pragmatic one. According to the semantic criteria, persuasive verbs can be divided into two main categories: those ← 14 | 15 → that define and express persuasive acts (a persuada/to persuade, a convinge/to convince, a influenţa/to influence, a îndupleca/to coax, a manipula/to manipulate, a determina/to determine), respectively those that perform the act of persuasion, highlighting the intentional act (a atrage/to attract, a ademeni/to entice, a tenta/to tempt, a ispiti/to lure), the discursive act (a argumenta/to argue, a orienta/to guide, a îndruma/to supervise), as well as the strategic act (a dirija/to conduct, a captiva/to enthral, a fascina/to fascinate, a fermeca/to charm, a vrăji/ to bewitch, a încânta/to enchant). Even though persuasive verbs also draw our attention onto their opposites, dissuasive verbs (a desuada/to dissuade, a respinge/to reject) are poorly instantiated in Romanian. In addition, the authors adopt a pragmaticist standpoint as well, further grouping and investigating persuasive verbs under the headings of performative verbs, perlocutionary verbs, and causative verbs.

Diana Costea’s chapter aims to explore in more detail the temporal anchorage at the level of the textual sequence and its role in argumentation/persuasion because the way in which the “anchors” (connectors, temporal expressions, tenses) are selected, depending on their semantic and syntactic compatibility or incompatibility, leads to assigning an aspectual and temporal interpretation to the sentence. The corpus is compiled of narrative texts, presented in argument mode, inviting the reader to accept them.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (September)
Emotion Manipulation History Ideology/Propaganda Media Communication
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017, 274 pp.

Biographical notes

Maria-Ionela Neagu (Volume editor) Domnita Tomescu (Volume editor)

Domnita Tomescu is Professor at the Philology Department, Faculty of Letters and Sciences, Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti. She is also a doctoral coordinator at Ovidius University of Constanta, and a researcher at "Iorgu Iordan-Al. Rosetti" Institute of Linguistics, Bucharest. Her major research and teaching interests focus upon Romanian Linguistics. Her publications include conference papers on the morpho-syntactic analysis of grammatical patterns exhibited by the Romanian language, as well as monographs and dictionaries published in collaboration with other reputed researchers. Maria-Ionela Neagu is Associate Professor at the Philology Department of Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti and a committed researcher whose major fields of study range from English Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Argumentation Theory and Cognitive Semantics to Applied Linguistics and ELT Methodology. She has published widely in reputed academic journals and volumes of national and international conferences.


Title: Information and Persuasion