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Rhetoric, Discourse and Knowledge

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Edited By Maria Załęska and Urszula Okulska

The authors of this volume explore rhetorical and discursive strategies used to negotiate and establish legitimate knowledge and its disciplinary boundaries, to make scientific knowledge interesting outside academic settings as well, and to manage (c)overt knowledge in different social and political contexts. The volume focuses on the cultural concept of knowledge society, examining diverse linguistic means of knowledge transmission from the perspective of the complex interplay between knowledge and persuasion. The contributors discuss both sociological and philosophical issues, as well as textual processes in different genres that aim to communicate knowledge.

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Inception: How the unsaid may become public knowledge (Christian Kock)

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Christian Kock

University of Copenhagen

Inception: How the unsaid may become public knowledge

Abstract: Applying the combined rhetorical and pragmatic framework, the author analyzes three types of mechanisms that allow political speakers to suggest some apparently shared ‘public knowledge.’ The study shows that presupposition is a convenient pragmatic and rhetorical device for manipulating the alleged ‘public knowledge’ used by politicians to make citizens accept their seemingly justified decisions.

1. Introduction

Arguably, the discipline of rhetoric can be defined as the study of communication as it impacts on the minds of audiences. This paper will look at examples of one category of such an impact: it will study how utterances by a speaker may − more or less strongly − invite audiences to interpret them as conveying semantic content that is not explicitly expressed. In other words, some people in the audience take that content as part of what the speaker meant to say, yet it is not manifestly there in the speaker’s utterances.

It is of course a trivial insight that speakers’ utterances imply more than they explicitly state. There have been insightful studies of how politicians implicitly convey views they want their audiences to accept, as for example the rhetorician Sigrell’s (1995) study of persuasion ‘between the lines’ in modern political argumentation, or the discourse analyst van Dijk’s (2005) study of ‘political implicatures’ in Spanish Prime Minister Aznar’s rhetoric on his country’s participation in the Iraq...

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